Photo credit: Finnish Lapland, Pixabay
Is chasing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) at the top of your travel bucket list? Trippy user, Valerie Axworthy has it on hers, and she asked:
Chasing the Northern Lights, where should I go and when?
It is at the top of my bucket list to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), and I want to start planning my trip. Where are the best spots to view Mother Earth’s light show and when is the best time to go?
What exactly are the Northern Lights?
Per the Library of Congress:
The Northern Lights, one of several astronomical phenomena called polar lights (Aurora Polaris) are shafts or curtains of colored light visible on occasion in the night sky.
Notice the word “occasion”?
Although Northern Lights are visible from September to early April from countries located on Latitude 66 North (Arctic Circle) and above, there must be a right combination of atoms, wind, magnetic force, solar activities and weather conditions to see these steady glows of mystical lights.
In short, the Northern Lights, often seen in green and sometimes in hues of blue, violet, yellow and or red may not appear on the day of your tour in seven of these places listed:
1. Tromso, Norway
Veronica Ng from Singapore wrote:
I’ve personally done more than 30 Northern Lights chases myself and have an 85% success rate of seeing the Northern Lights. Your best bet is to (1) stay for at least a week in Tromso, and (2) join a good tour operator who relies on science to find the best viewing spots each night. The great tour operators will take you even to Finland or Sweden within the same night to see the Northern Lights if that’s where the chances are highest.
Renting a car to go Northern Lights hunting is also an option, but one I would not recommend as the weather condition around Tromsø is very volatile, and the chances are high that you may have to drive in snow storms and on icy roads. Besides, finding the best place for the Northern Lights in volatile weather is not easy unless you know what you’re doing. You could very well be driving in the wrong direction on icy, windy mountain roads for hours.
Per Visit Tromso’s official tourism website, Tromso is right in the middle of the Auroral Oval, which means you will get the highest probability of seeing the lights regardless of the sun’s cycles.
— Motorhome Norway (@MotorhomeNorway) October 4, 2017
If you don’t get to see the lights you can enjoy the lively Tromso city, explore the Arctic wilderness and landscape. A Trippy user, Rory Watt from Taupo New Zealand said:
If you’re only going for two nights you’d need a fair bit of luck on your side. It can snow a lot in Tromso around that time, and if it’s snowing hard you won’t see anything.
However, Tromso is statistically one of the best places to see the aurora, so if you’re going to be anywhere, then this is as good a place as any (I spent 6 months in winter further South in Voss and only saw them once). They do have a domed planetarium in Tromso which gives you an indoor aurora experience…not quite like the real thing, but cool nonetheless.
But Tromso is a good place to visit even without the aurora, and will give you a different flavor of Norway compared to Oslo.
2. Reykjavik, Iceland
Hjörtur Smárason from Copenhagen has this to say about Iceland:
I see you are from New York. If you’re flying Icelandair to Europe, you can make an extra stop in Iceland at no extra cost (except for the stay of course, but no extra flight cost). There you also have a fairly good chance of seeing the Northern Lights and they go overboard in Christmas decorations and go mad on New Years Eve with the fireworks. Everyone can buy and use fireworks so it’s an experience like nothing else. Worth considering in your itinerary 🙂
That means, you can combine an Iceland’s Northern Lights chase with a Scandinavian destination that is serviced by Icelandair. You get two destinations without needing to pay extra for airfare.
3. Abisko, Sweden
Magnus Klasson from Sweden recommended:
Best place is far up in the north of Sweden. As far as you can get above the Arctic Circle. I know that hotels in both Kiruna and Abisko got plenty of events for spotting the Aurora.
Abisko National Park in the Swedish Lapland is 100 km west of Kiruna. Its location in the Arctic Circle is within the auroral oval, making it one of the best places to chase the lights.
4. Kakslauttanen, Lapland, Finland
In Finland, you can enjoy the lights in the comfort of glass igloos or luxury suites. According to Visit Finland, Northern Lights is visible in Finnish Lapland for about 200 nights a year. Those on a budget or prefer adventure can opt for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, using a snowmobile or go on a dog sled tour while hunting the lights.
Also visit Rovaniemi located in the Arctic Circle, the capital of Finnish Lapland and Santa Claus’ hometown.
5. Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Whitehorse is one of the best places in Canada to see the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights Trading Post, a custom-built viewing facility is a place to go for a comfortable light viewing night. It’s about a 20-minute drive north of Whitehorse.
Dogsledding snowmobiling, snow shoeing, ice fishing are activities you can include in your tour of Whitehorse, Yukon.
Most of Greenland is hard to get to during the winter months but according to Visit Greenland, Kangerlussuaq, located near the airport is the most accessible place to view the northern lights in Greenland.
— Julio Maiz (@maiz_julio) October 11, 2017
The entire Greenland including Nuuk presents an opportunity for hunting the lights when there are favorable conditions from September to the middle of April. For the highly fit and adventurous, there are traditional Inuit dog sledding and northern lights tour on Ammassalik Island in East Greenland.
7. Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks is the most reliable spot for chasing the Northern Lights in Alaska, according to Alaska Tourism Board. It’s under the auroral oval and for even better chances, the tourism board recommends going on the Arctic Circle Aurora Drive Adventure with Northern Alaska Tour Company from late August to late April.
— Explore Fairbanks (@explorfairbanks) September 25, 2017
Igloos in Kakslauttanen photo and article by Claudia Looi