How to see the Northern Lights

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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!

NORTHERNLIGHTS (1) Northern Lights Finland

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.

Light

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.

Cloud Cover

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.

Timing

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.

Auroras borealis

Northern Lights at Jökulsárlón Glacier River lagoon (by HDRob).

Brooke Saward

Brooke founded World of Wanderlust as a place to share inspiration from her travels and to inspire others to see our world. She now divides her time between adventures abroad and adventures in the kitchen!

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28 Comments

  1. lennae87@hotmail.com'

    Lennae

    March 25, 2016

    Seeing the Northern lights is definitely something I would love to do one day. Love the post!

    Lennae xxx

  2. michaelsleen@gmail.com'

    Michael

    October 28, 2014

    My wife and I visited Tromso, Norway in March 2011 specifically to see the northern lights. Tromso is known as the “Northern Lights capital” and it did not disappoint. We went out back-to-back nights with two different companies in different areas around Tromso and were amazed at the way the lights danced across the sky. An unforgettable experience. http://leenhome.blogspot.com

  3. nancydavolio6@gmail.com'

    Best holiday destinations

    October 18, 2014

    nice experience I haven’t seen it. thanks for posting nice views.

  4. genevieveyam@gmail.com'

    genevieve @ gratitude & greens

    October 18, 2014

    You can see them in Scotland, too! I went to school in Scotland and they happened a few times. I unfortunately missed them both times they appeared (at around 2-3am, after I had gone to bed!) but the photos I saw of them were gorgeous. Still on my bucket list to catch them at some point in my life! I also know people who have seen them in Wisconsin, which is a pretty strange place, but they told me that it gets so dark in the wooded area there that it’s actually easy to see them there when the lights are out.

  5. desiree.attard@gmail.com'

    Des

    October 18, 2014

    These are some really useful tips! Is it true that most of the time the lights aren’t as clear or bright as most images show?

    Des – http://theanti-tourist.blogspot.com/

  6. valeriefidan@gmail.com'

    Valerie

    October 17, 2014

    Wow! Beautiful photos. The Northern Lights are still high on my bucket list!

  7. hello@thatjessebloke.co.uk'

    Jesse Owen

    October 16, 2014

    I’ve seen so many pictures – it would be amazing to see them in real life!

  8. alissaloxton@hotmail.com'

    Ali

    October 16, 2014

    Oh my gosh, I hope I get to see this one day… it would truly be a once in a lifetime experience!

    ——————————
    21 year old travel blogger
    http://the-living-spree.blogspot.co.nz/

  9. globalwayfarerblog@gmail.com'

    Nicole

    October 16, 2014

    Honestly one of nature’s greatest phenomenons! You are so lucky to have experienced this, it’s definitely one of my bucket list destinations.

    Thanks for another great post!

  10. Heather_Coldren@yahoo.com'

    Heather

    October 16, 2014

    Believe it or not, I witnessed them from Maine! I was a camp counselor new Poland Springs. They are amazing from Acadia national forest & this was in the summer!

  11. lioninthewild@gmail.com'

    Kiara King

    October 16, 2014

    I missed out on seeing them when I was in Canada, but it’s definitely on my list for when I return! Such an incredible natural phenomenon that I can’t help but have on my bucket list.

    http://www.lioninthewild.com

  12. christina@currentlyexploring.com'

    christina

    October 16, 2014

    amazing! saw your instagram that seeing them was a surprise… talk about life experience!

    ~christina
    http://www.currentlyexploring.com

  13. bettyj.ogburn@yahoo.com'

    Betty J. Ogburn

    October 16, 2014

    …It all looks splendid!!…

  14. christine.suffredini@gmail.com'

    Christine

    October 16, 2014

    I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights! The only time I’ve been to Scandinavia was during a summer trip, so unfortunately no lights. But Norway is gorgeous during May, so I don’t regret our timing.

    http://awayfromthesafeharbor.blogspot.com

  15. andreaffinati@gmail.com'

    Andrea @ GreenAndTurquoise

    October 16, 2014

    An aurora is one of the most spectacular wonders of the natural world, I can’t wait to see those lights! AMAZING pictures by the way.
    Happy travels Brooke!

  16. luckytravellermerja@gmail.com'

    Lucky Traveller Merja

    October 16, 2014

    I heard there were lots of Northern Lights in Finland yesterday, even in the South. Maybe this happened because the weather is definitely turning colder, I don’t really know, but the Lights are unusual at this time of the year.

  17. laneeger@gmail.com'

    Lee @ Modern Granola

    October 16, 2014

    This is the coolest thing. I first heard of it when I saw the movie, Balto, when I was little. Since then, I always thought it would be so cool to see this in person. Thanks for the tips!

  18. marieking32@gmail.com'

    Marie @ Marie Away

    October 16, 2014

    Seeing the Northern Lights in person seems like such a personal and almost spiritual experience. I currently live in northern Canada (though not that far north!) and am just trying to figuring out the best way to make seeing them happen. Thanks for the tips!

    http://www.marieaway.com

  19. randomreader07@gmail.com'

    Annie

    October 16, 2014

    When I went to Iceland, I was fortunate enough to see them! They weren’t as prominent as they usually were but there were still gorgeous! I’d love to get the chance to see them again! And go back to Iceland… still one of the favourite places I’ve ever been to.

  20. korin_t92@hotmail.com'

    korin

    October 16, 2014

    Northern lights have been on my bucket list for quite a while now. Now I live in Norway (specifically on the West coast) where there is a little possibility of catching a glimpse of the lights.. Personal id never seen it, until last night. Honestly one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen!.
    And yes timing is key!
    Great post 🙂

    http://korinsusanne.blogspot.no

  21. tayrosefields@gmail.com'

    Taylor

    October 16, 2014

    This is amazing!! I’m so jealous I hope to go so badly!! How did you get there is my question (and where did you stay while there?!)

    Thanks!

    xxTaylor
    http://www.callawayrose.com

  22. lc.lilly@gmail.com'

    MissLilly

    October 16, 2014

    It’s certainly on my wish list!

  23. endlesspostcards@gmail.com'

    Deepti @ Endless Postcards

    October 16, 2014

    Definitely one of my dreams to see the Northern Lights in person – the colors are absolutely stunning. Helpful post, thanks!

  24. rachel.bale@hotmail.com'

    Department of Wandering

    October 16, 2014

    This has got to be right at the top of my bucket list! I would just love to experience the Northern Lights in Norway over Christmas. How magical would that be? Great, helpful tips Brooke!

    http://www.departmentofwandering.com

  25. madelinefedmont@yahoo.com'

    Madeline Fedmont

    October 16, 2014

    To see the Northern Lights is on my Bucketlist.

    http://www.madelinefedmont.com/magnificent-paris/

  26. ivana.kardua@gmail.com'

    ivana

    October 16, 2014

    I would loooove to see them!

Comments are closed.