by Jessica Bisesto
Are you hoping to catch a view of the stunning northern lights this year? Also known as the aurora borealis, this natural phenomenon can only be seen from certain parts of the world during certain parts of the year, making it an elusive part of many bucket lists. Clear skies, dark surrounding,s and late nights are some of the overlapping requirements for witnessing these surreal colors.
Alaska falls within the perfect northern lights viewing zone, meaning that travelers are almost guaranteed a glimpse. Get away from the city lights of Fairbanks or Anchorage and into the wilderness of Denali or Yukon Territory for better viewing opportunities. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska issues northern lights forecasts, making it easier for people chasing the lights to know ideal viewing times and locations.
Head to the Great White North to experience the northern lights at their most spectacular. Stunning viewing areas can be found as far south as Lake Superior, and all the way up to Yellowknife and beyond. Trek into Canada's gorgeous wilderness for fantastic views away from crowds and city lights. Offering many camping destinations, luxury resorts, and affordable accommodations paired with reasonably priced short-haul flights, Canada is a fantastic location to watch the aurora borealis.
The Faroe Islands lie between Iceland and the United Kingdom. These 18 rugged islands offer all the peace and quiet an aurora borealis chaser could desire. Waterfalls, Nordic culture, and plenty of puffins await visitors who make the journey to these remote islands. Inexpensive and direct flights are available to the Faroe Islands from Denmark, England, and Norway year-round.
Although the northern lights can sometimes be spotted from Helsinki, it's worth heading north to lovely, snowy Lapland to get the full scope of the aurora borealis. The lights are visible nearly 200 nights a year in Finland, and glass igloo accommodations are readily available for overnight guests looking to sleep beneath the stars. Rovaniemi is another great alternative, offering views of the northern lights between August and April.
Although you can only see the northern lights during specific times of the year from most of the other countries on this list, the aurora borealis can be viewed year-round in Greenland, with the exception of summer's midnight sun. Enjoy a tour of nearby glaciers, fjords, and stunning national parks before finding a spot under the stars to watch the night sky.
Iceland remains a top destination for travelers looking to see the northern lights. This compact island country is filled with natural wonders, such as glaciers, waterfalls, and volcanoes. The aurora borealis can be seen just a few miles outside of Reykjavik for those who want to stay close to town during their Icelandic escape.
Norway offers many comfortable places to view the northern lights. Head north—way north—for the least amount of light pollution and greatest chances of seeing the aurora. Tromsø, an Arctic town famous for its unique culture, is a fantastic and romantic place to spend a few days chasing the lights, as well as snowmobiling, husky sledding, and eating at trendy restaurants. For those interested in smaller towns, head to Alta or Kirkenes for quieter and possibly brighter experiences.
Head to the Scottish Highlands or to islands off the northern U.K. coast between October and March for a chance to see the Northern Lights in a less-crowded destination. The Galloway Forest Park is the largest forest park in Scotland, with over 300 square miles of wilderness, and plenty of spacious skies to enjoy peace and quiet alongside incredible views of the aurora borealis. Those who prefer to stay in the south should head to Moffat, Europe's first "Dark Sky Town," which has specially designed lights to decrease light pollution.
The Swedish Lapland is an incredible location to bear witness to the northern lights. Head to the town of Abisko, where visitors have an 88% chance of seeing the lights every 72 hours. Take the chairlift to the Aurora Sky Station, which offers the perfect conditions for viewing the phenomenon. ICEHOTEL, rebuilt each year in the tiny town of Jukkasjärvi, has unique accommodations and provides a winter wonderland atmosphere for overnight guests.