Seeing the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, is a breathtaking experience. The colorful, dancing lights in the night sky are a spectacular sight. For the best chance of witnessing the northern lights in all their glory, here are some of the top places to see the aurora borealis.
Iceland is one of the premier destinations for aurora borealis viewing. Its location in the North Atlantic Ocean and sparse population mean very little light pollution, allowing for clear views of the night sky. Some of the best places in Iceland to see the northern lights include:
The Lake Mývatn region in northern Iceland is an ideal spot for aurora borealis viewing. The lake's still, icy waters reflect the dancing lights, doubling the effect. There are many secluded spots around the lake to set up a camera and tripod to capture stunning photos.
Þingvellir National Park
Iceland's first national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a perfect place to see the northern lights. The park is only a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik but feels a world away. There are hiking trails to secluded spots as well as open areas where you can get panoramic views of the night sky.
While the capital city of Reykjavik does have some light pollution, its coastal location still provides good views of the aurora borealis. Head to the harbor area or the city's outskirts for the best views. Many hotels and tour companies in Reykjavik also offer northern lights tours to areas outside the city with optimal viewing conditions.
The northern parts of Canada, especially the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, offer prime aurora borealis viewing. These remote, sparsely populated regions have little to no light pollution and are directly under the auroral oval, providing the best chances of seeing the northern lights. Some recommended spots include:
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
located directly under the auroral oval, so sightings are common. Head to scenic spots like Pilots Monument or the shore of Great Slave Lake for the best views. Many hotels and tour companies offer aurora viewing tours and excursions.
The capital of Yukon, Whitehorse, is another top destination for aurora borealis viewing. It's located in a remote area with minimal light pollution and clear night skies. Drive 30 minutes outside the city to the Tombstone Territorial Park for the best views. The park's rugged mountains and pristine lakes provide a dramatic backdrop for the northern lights.
Canada's northernmost territory offers prime viewing of the aurora borealis. Almost the entire region lies within the auroral oval, so sightings are very common, especially in more remote areas. Some of the best spots are Qausuittuq National Park on Bathurst Island and Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island. The extremely isolated locations mean no light pollution and unobstructed views of the night sky.
Northern Norway sits directly under the auroral oval, providing optimal viewing conditions for the northern lights. Some of the best spots include:
Tromsø is known as the "Gateway to the Arctic" and is a popular destination for Aurora hunters. It is located 350 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, and its position makes it an ideal location to spot the Northern Lights. The city has plenty of attractions to keep visitors entertained, including the Polar Museum, where you can learn about Arctic history and culture. You can also visit the Arctic Cathedral, which has a beautiful stained glass window depicting Arctic nature.
The town of Alta in Finnmark County is considered the "City of the Northern Lights" due to the frequency of sightings. It's located in a remote area with little light pollution. For the best views, head to mountain tops like Mount Dundret or drive along the Alta Fjord.
Between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard archipelago provides stunning views of the aurora borealis. The extremely remote islands have no permanent human inhabitants, so there is virtually no light pollution. Viewing spots include the town of Longyearbyen as well as remote fjords and beaches.
Located in the Swedish Lapland, Abisko is another prime location to see the Northern Lights. It is a small village with a population of around 85 people, and it is known for its clear skies and low light pollution. The Aurora Sky Station, located on Mount Njullá, is a great place to experience the Northern Lights, and it offers guided tours where you can learn about the science behind the phenomenon. In addition to the Northern Lights, Abisko is also a great place for winter sports, such as skiing and dog sledding.
The Finnish Lapland is a vast wilderness that offers a unique Northern Lights experience. The region is home to the Sami people, who have a rich culture and tradition that revolves around reindeer herding. In addition to the Northern Lights, visitors can go on a sleigh ride pulled by reindeer or huskies, and even stay in an igloo hotel. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is a popular destination for Aurora hunters, and it offers unique options such as glass igloos and snow igloos.
Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights
- Check the Aurora forecast: The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and they are not guaranteed to appear every night. Check the Aurora forecast to increase your chances of seeing the Aurora.
- Dress warmly: The Northern Lights are best seen in the winter when the nights are long and dark. Make sure to dress warmly, as the temperatures can drop well below freezing.
- Use a tripod: When taking photos of the Northern Lights, it's best to use a tripod to keep your camera steady and avoid blurry photos.
- Be patient: Sometimes the Northern Lights may appear for only a few minutes before disappearing. Be patient and wait for them to reappear.