It’s the question of the century… or decade, at least. The Northern Lights [Aurora Borealis] have swiftly become the world’s most sought after travel experience… and it hardly takes much convincing for them to promptly make their way to the top of your travel list!
So, how do you see the Northern Lights? Or better yet – where can you go for the best chance to see the Northern Lights? Although it is often cited as an ‘unanswerable question’, it is indeed very possible to pinpoint the best locations to view the Northern Lights… and better yet, they appear more frequent than you might have thought!
How to See the Northern Lights
Where to view them?
The most common countries to view the Northern Lights are Norway, Sweden and Finland. Though you can also see the Aurora Borealis in Iceland, Southern Greenland, Northern Siberia, Alaska and Northern Canada.
Why is the Aurora Borealis viewed in this area? The Auroral zone corresponds with the Arctic Circle – meaning the lights are best viewed in these countries inside this area. So when someone poses the question Where is the best place to view the Northern Lights?, perhaps the most accurate answer would be to visit somewhere within this zone and consider the following:
Under what conditions?
Many travellers venture to Scandinavia in the hopes of seeing the Northern Lights during their stay. While the possibilities are likely, it can never be guaranteed – but why? The biggest influencing factors on whether or not you will view the Aurora Borealis during your stay are: light; cloud cover; and time concerns.
In order for you to view the Northern Lights, you need to have dark skies. Because the regions where you can view the Northern Lights are likely to be sparsely populated, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If you are in an area where there are many artificial lights in the evening (i.e. street lights), you will need to go to a darker area in order to see the light show.
You will also need clear skies with very little to no clouds, in order to view the Northern lights. Unfortunately this cannot be predicted in advance, so it really is luck of the draw when you arrive.
Sometimes the Northern lights will be on show for 15 minutes, sometimes for 3 hours… you just never know. A great way to check the possibility of the Northern lights appearing each evening is online – with websites like Auroras Now (Finland) providing predictions for that evening.
Another consideration to make is the time of year you are visiting. This is one of the most popular questions – When is the best month to visit the Northern Lights? While there is a possibility to view them throughout winter and autumn, the highest possibilities are especially January and February.
About the Northern Lights
Still want to know more?
You might be interested to know that the most common colour of the Northern lights is green. Less common are shades of red, purple, pink and blue.
Wondering how long they will last? Nobody ever knows. The most common viewing time is from 8pm through til 4am – so be sure to set aside some time to stay awake!
Heard about the Auroras Australis? Yes! There is also a similar light show in the South, which is known as the Auroras Australis.
Northern Lights at Jökulsárlón Glacier River lagoon (by HDRob).