Aurora Borealis, or the famous Northern Lights, is a fascinating phenomenon of Mother Nature that has kept humanity gazing at the sky in fascination for centuries. In medieval times, before we knew the scientific explanation of Aurora Borealis, it was believed that the lights were an omen of war or famine. The Inuit concluded that the lights were the spirits of hunted animals, such as salmon, deer and whales. The dancing green, blue, red and even purple lights are loved and admired by mankind, which has been searching for the best spots to view this spectacle for years. Here, at last, is the definitive list – the very best destinations to view the Northern Lights.
This might sound surprising to some, but you don’t necessarily have to travel to the northernmost places in order to see the Northern Lights. Since Scotland lies at the same latitude as Stavanger in Norway and Nunivak Island in Alaska, you will be able to experience this breathtaking natural phenomenon without spending a fortune. If the correct conditions are met, you will see the Aurora from North Berwick or Galloway Forest Park, the only dark sky park in Scotland. If it is particularly strong, you might even catch a glimpse from Arthur’s Seat.
The best time to visit North Berwick or the Galloway Forest Park to see the Northern Lights is during the months of December to March.
Due to its proximity to the arctic circle that often ensures cold nights and clear skies, Iceland is one of the best places to experience the Aurora Borealis. Thingvellir National Park, one of the best spots to catch the Northern Lights is located about 45 minutes away from Reykjavík. Away from the light pollution of Iceland’s capital, chances are high that you will be able to witness this unique spectacle. Check out the Aurora Forecast from the Icelandic Meteorological Office to make sure you won’t miss it.
The best time to visit Thingvellir is between the months of September to mid-April.
Almost at the northernmost tip of Sweden lies the small town of Abisko, described as the best place to gaze at the Northern Lights. It’s protected by magnificent mountains, has clear skies and lies in the very centre of the Aurora Zone. There is even an Aurora Sky Station in the Abisko National Park (accessible by chairlift), where you can admire the Aurora Borealis from the tower or terrace, or enjoy the café, souvenir shop and exhibition center. There is a limited amount of tickets per night, so make sure you book in advance! If you prefer staying in central Sweden, you will still have the chance to see the Northern Lights. Sundsvall is probably one of the southernmost places to experience the Aurora, so this is your chance to witness the Northern Lights without traveling too far.
The best time to scout for the Northern Lights in Abisko or Sundsvall is during the months of November to March.
If the sky is clear, you will be able to experience the Aurora Borealis from this 1,400 km2 small island. Travel to the Faroe Islands if you want to see the Northern Lights in a place that is off the beaten track. Although not many travellers venture this far, the beautiful nature of Faroe (and the surprised faces of locals who certainly don’t expect tourists during the winter) are definitely worth the trip.
The best time to visit the Faroe Islands to see the Northern Lights is between the months of November to February.
Trondheim is known as the ‘Capital of Northern Lights’, which is why it sees constant throngs of tourists. Just 35 kilometres away from Trondheim, the island of Sommarøy is isolated and quiet, with just 400 inhabitants and a perfect view of the Northern Lights. There is one hotel where you can relax and comfortably watch the ballet of colours in the sky from your window or the terrace. During the fall you can even enjoy the sight of passing whales as they swim near the island.
The best time to scout for the Northern Lights in Sommarøy is during the months of September to March.
Just 9 kilometres from the Russian border lies the small village of Nellim. It only has a few stores, a small harbour and is mainly known for its hotel and, of course, the Northern Lights. It’s extremely isolated and has hardly any light pollution, making it a favourite spot for Northern Lights fans. There are Aurora Camps to be found in the most amazing spots, without anything obstructing the night sky. You can cuddle up around a campfire and wait for the spectacular show to begin.
The best time to scout for the Northern Lights in Nellim is during the months of September to March.
You might not expect to find this country on the list, but it actually has some great locations to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. One of the best places to visit is Whitehorse, located in the territory of Yukon. It’s an Aurora Borealis hotspot with plenty of choices from which to watch the night sky, such as cabins, tents, cottages and lodges that you can find near the lake. If you’re unlucky enough not to see the real thing, visit the Northern Lights Centre, where you can watch a state of the art panoramic video, meaning that you’re guaranteed to see the lights which dance in the sky on your visit Yukon, one way or another.
The best time to scout for the Northern Lights in Whitehorse is during the months of December to March.