Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?


Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?

The question that we get asked most by email is “Where is the Best place to see the Northern Lights”, in fact I wish I had a dollar for every time it has been asked. And to be honest that is probably how you ended up on our website and this page.

The best place for one person might be different to the best place for someone else. There are some areas and regions that definitely increase your risk of seeing the Polar Lights but these may come at additional expense. Picking the best destinations to witness the Aurora Borealis requires you to firstly consider a few factors.

One of the biggest attractions of the Northern Lights is the fact they are unpredictable and difficult to spot. Auroras are not rare however the conditions required to see them can be, If seeing the Aurora was an everyday occurrence then the do doubt the magical attraction of seeing them would fade. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the amazing light show in the arctic wilderness or sitting comfortably in your glass igloo.

What is the Auroral Zone?

Ovation Map

The “auroral zone” is a name given to a band that is located in the arctic and centered around the magnetic pole where the auroras are most likely visible. This band covers countries including Alaska and Canada as well as Scandinavian countries including Iceland, Finland, Greenland, Norway and Sweden. Northern Russia is also inside the auroral zone.

Depending on the strength of auroral activity they can sometimes be seen well south of this area however generally speaking the further north you go the better.

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What is your Budget?

If you have an unlimited budget then a month long Aurora tour through Scandinavia will guarantee you see the lights on multiple occasions. Is this realistic? Probably not for most people. The budget you would like to spend needs to be factored in when choosing your ideal location.

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Where are you Located?

If you live in London then a 2 hour flight into Scandinavia is easier and much cheaper than flying to Fairbanks, Alaska. Alternatively if you are based in the USA then Tromsø in Northern Sweden is probably not your best destination. Australians might prefer to try and catch the Aurora Australis which is based around the South Pole but harder to see due to the lack of landmass.

Remote areas usually offer the best conditions to see the Northern Lights, but unfortunately the remoteness also makes them harder and more expensive to get to.

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What are the weather conditions?

The conditions that create the aurora are constantly active however to see it with human eyes we need the correct conditions. These conditions include darkness and clear skies. In most of the areas where auroras are visible complete darkness is limited to the winter months.

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What is Light Pollution?

Brightening of the night sky that is caused by street lights and many other man-made sources is known as Light Pollution. The rule of thumb is the bigger the city or town the more light pollution it generates.

Light Pollution needs to be avoided when hunting the Northern Lights as the brightness affects the eyes ability to observe them, it also affects the view of stars and planets. Heading away from sources of light improve greatly your chances of seeing the Aurora. Your eyes also need time to adjust to the light conditions.

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10 Best places to see the Northern Lights?

We have created a list of the top 10 places to see the Northern Lights, we have tried to use a combination of the factors mentioned above. Please remember that in some instances the best option for you may differ. Please consider alternatives that suit your travel plans.

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Fairbanks Alaska

Borealis Basecamp in Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks is located within the auroral oval at 65° North and offers great Northern Lights views. The location makes it one of the most popular Aurora Borealis destinations for Americans.

Due to its popularity, there is a large number of accommodation options available in Fairbanks including the Bridgewater hotel, Sophie station suites and Bear Lodge at Wedgewood Resort. It also features the famous Borealis Basecamp. Alternatively, there are lots of great Airbnb options starting for as little as USD$60 per night. If this is your first time, use my referral link to get $50 off your first stay!

Besides the Northern Lights, the town also offers some great shopping, restaurants and attractions including Pioneer Park where you learn about the history of Alaska. Also, consider visiting the Fairbanks Ice museum which has beautifully carved ice sculptures and multimedia shows.Overall Fairbanks makes a fantastic option if you want to experience the amazing Northern Lights this winter.

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Yellowknife Canada

Yellowknife is located in central Canada and is the capital city of Canada’s Northwest Territories. Lying on the shore of Great Slave Lake at latitude 62° North, the city calls itself the “Northern Lights Capital of the World” and not many people would argue with the fact.

Yellowknife has long clear winter nights with the Aurora Borealis visible from November through to April, however more people are starting to witness them earlier in the season as the nights grow longer.

Yellowknife has a population of about 20,000 people and is easily accessible for North American visitors. Direct flights are available from Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa. West jet, Air Canada and a few other regional airlines offer services. By car it is an epic 19 hour journey from Edmonton through some spectacular scenery. We still recommend heading out of town as light pollution can sometimes be an issue.

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Rovaniemi Finland

Experience the Northern Lights at Snowman World Glass Resort, Rovaniemi, Finland

Rovaniemi is the unofficial capital of Lapland and located in northern Finland on the Arctic Circle at 66° North. Home to a population of approximately 60,000 the town is world famous for viewing the Northern Lights. Rovaniemi is also known as being the “official” home town of Santa Claus.

The Aurora Borealis is visible approximately 150 nights a year in this part of Finland and can be seen between mid-August and early April. The winter months also provide Polar Nights where the sun barely rises at all. In summer the midnight sun is also a popular attraction.

The Aurora is still best seen away from light pollution including house lights and street lights. Luckily the remoteness of Rovaniemi means you do not have to travel far to find pitch dark conditions ideal for Aurora hunting.

Some of the most popular areas to see the Aurora in Rovaniemi include the top of Ounasvaara Fell, the shores of Arktikum or Koivusaari Island. Each of these is an easy walk from town.  The lights most commonly appear between 10pm and 2am however they are sometimes seen as early as 7pm.

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Sisimiut Greenland

Experience the Northern Lights at Hotel Sisimiut Greenland

Sisimiut is a town located in western Greenland and 40 km north of the Arctic Circle at 67° North. The town has approx. 5600 residents which actually makes it the second largest town in Greenland after the capital Nuuk. The name Sisimiut translates to “the people living in a place where there are fox dens”. The surrounding area is a great place to see the Northern Lights which are visible in the sky above Sisimiut from late September to late March. Even though the town is small we still recommend going outside of the town for the best Aurora hunting. 

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Kirkenes Norway

Experience the Northern Lights at Kirkenes Snowhotel in Norway.

Kirkenes is located in north eastern Norway close to the borders of Finland ad Russia and inside the Northern Lights zone. Kirkenes is home to a population of about 6000 people and sits within the Arctic Circle at 69° north. The town is well known as a place to experience amazing views of the Aurora Borealis, it is said that if you stay in the town for at least 3 nights in winter you are almost guaranteed to see them.

The smaller population also means light pollution is less of an issue which some fantastic dark winter sky’s available. Kirkenes is well suited for tourists with flights available from Oslo, there are also a number of good hotels in the area and other accommodation available in a wide price range.

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Mývatn Iceland

Experience the Northern Lights from Dimmuborgir Guesthouse in Mývatn Iceland

Mývatn is a lake in northern Iceland that likes to refer to itself as the “Northern Lights capital of Iceland” and with good reason. The northerly location means that it is closer to the Arctic Circle than other parts of Iceland in including Reykjavik. It is located at 65° North.

The area also receives less rain and less cloud coverage resulting in more clear nights. The Mývatn area also is less populated and less light pollution that larger cities. It is recommended that you stay 2-3 nights in this area for a 70% chance of seeing the northern Lights during your stay. 

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Tromsø Norway

Experience the Northern lights in Tromso Norway

Tromsø is the largest city in Northern Norway and nicknamed the the gateway to the Arctic. Located inside the Arctic Circle at 70° north the city is one of the most popular destinations for seeing the Northern Lights. Tromsø is a bustling city located between mountains, fjords and islands and is one of the prettiest cities on the planet.

Tromsø is situated almost in in the middle of the auroral oval, which almost guarantees sighting of the Aurora Borealis. However sometimes the popularity of the city sometimes means the light pollution makes sighting them more difficult. Luckily you do not have to head far out of town to really increase your chances.

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Reykjavik Iceland

Experience the Northern Lights in the Icelandic capital reykjavik

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and located in the south of the country at latitude 64° North. This part of Iceland is below the Arctic Circle however it has become a popular destination to view the Northern Lights. The Aurora can be seen in Reykjavik from September to the mid of April, although you would be best traveling out of the city for the best opportunity. The popularity of the Icelandic capital stems from easy access with direct flights available from Europe and North America.

There are also numerous hotels that offer excellent food and a wide range of accommodation. Tours are popular that complete the golden circle around the nearby area. There are also a wide range of car hire companies available. Our preference in Iceland is Myvatn or other towns to the north, however if you are short on time the Icelandic Capital could be one of your better options to see the Northern Lights.

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Abisko Sweden

Abisko is a popular destination for Aurora Borealis hunters. Located in northern Sweden between the mountains and the shores of Lake Torneträsk at 68° North. The village is a magnet for anyone wanting to experience the Northern Lights. 

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Ballstad, Lofoten islands Norway

The beautiful Norwegian town of Ballstad on the Lofoten Islands has been a village and harbour for over 1,000 years. Located inside the arctic circle at at 68° North it is one of the most amazing places in Norway or the world to get a spectacular view of the Northern Lights. 

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