Named by Roman myths and medieval times, the phenomena of the Northern Lights is caused by collisions between particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. Also known as the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights are one of the most beautiful wonders of the world. The most common color you’ll see is a yellowish-green and can be found above the magnetic poles in both hemispheres. So, where should you be viewing the Northern Lights?
There are a few things to consider when planning your trip to view the Northern Lights. You should avoid scheduling your getaway during the summer, not only for clearer skies but also for more darkness. Locations in the auroral zone will have far less light during these non-summer months and you’ll need dark skies to better witness the lights. Don’t forget to dress warmly and keep an eye on the forecast as well. Here are some of the best locations to view the Northern Lights around the world.
With its proximity to the North Pole and incredibly dark skies, Fairbanks is one of the most popular spots for viewing the Northern Lights. Located nearly 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle, it’s also in close proximity to an international airport and several hotels if you’re looking for a more accessible destination. We recommend checking out the Chena Hot Springs Resort to stay warm and relaxed while viewing this beautiful phenomenon. Take a dip in their hot springs while looking up at the lights, sleep under the sky in one of their guest rooms, or book one of their many Aurora tours. You’ll have the best luck between August and April when the lights are more regular in the early hours of the morning. Fairbanks, Alaska is also home to Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska so you can receive its forecast on viewing conditions.
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
As the largest national park in Britain, Cairngorms National Park is the perfect place to camp under the skies while viewing the Northern Lights. Scotland is located along the same latitude as Alaska and other viewing spots so you’re sure to catch a great glimpse. Because of its lack of light pollution, you’ll enjoy the open sky and darkness in all directions. Known as the “merry dancers” in Scotland, the Northern Lights can be viewed for several months out of the year. Parts of Cairngorms National Park were even recently awarded “Dark Sky Park” status. We recommend camping out in your very own caravan to enjoy the lights from the comfort of your own vehicle. Just be sure you’re looking north, pack enough blankets and clothing to stay warm, and track their forecast for better luck!
Since the season lasts nearly eight months in Finland, you’ll have about 200 nights for viewing the Northern Lights in Saariselka. With a variety of accommodations and activities, there’s a perfect viewing spot for nearly every traveler. We recommend booking a stay at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, located just north of the Arctic Circle. The resort boasts its own collection of glass igloos so you can gaze up at the skies right from your bed. Trying to stay warm during your getaway? Check out their log chalets, each with their own sauna and fireplace. Other great viewing locations in Finland include Utsjoki, Ivalo, and Nellim.
Viewing the Northern Lights is popular for many travelers, but it does require some planning to find the right time and place. From Alaska to Scotland and Finland, you’ll want to choose the perfect location with the darkest skies. Looking for more beautiful places to add to your bucket list this year? See our list of top national wonders to see in your lifetime for some truly breathtaking destinations.