The alien beauty of the Northern Lights has captivated generations of travelers. But what exactly are the Northern Lights, and how can you see them up close? Read on to find out how you can witness this amazing natural light display.
Catch the Northern Lights during the winter months in Northern Canada or Alaska, or venture over to Europe and see them in Iceland, Norway, The Faroe Islands, or Finland, just to name a few!
The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is a multicoloured light display that occurs in places close to Earth’s poles. The name “aurora borealis” comes from the Greek words “aurora”, meaning sunrise, and “boreas” meaning wind. This natural phenomenon, which often appears as long wavy curtains of pink or greenish light, is caused by charged particles from the Earth’s atmosphere colliding with gas particles from the sun’s atmosphere.
These collisions produce the dazzling lights, which can range in color from the more common greenish hue to a deep red, depending on the types of gas particles involved. The Northern Lights play a role in many folklore stories in northern communities, where they were often believed to be both good and bad omens for future events.
Since northern areas tend to experience long, dark nights as the days grow colder, winter is one of the best times to see the Northern Lights. If you take your Vacation in winter, you’ll be much more likely to have a number of clear, dark nights to choose from for your aurora viewing.
While there are auroras in both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres, many of the most well-known places to witness this fantastic light display are in the north. In Europe, Iceland and Norway are popular spots to check out the Northern Lights, while in North America, aurora seekers tend to head for the northwest of Canada and Alaska. The best places to see the Northern Lights will be far from light-polluted areas like big cities.
Dress warmly to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska because, for example, in the Anchorage area, they can be seen between September and March. The ideal conditions for this are a clear and cold night and a hut outside the city to have as little light pollution as possible. The light of the full moon can also limit the luminosity of the dancing lights in the sky. The Eagle River Nature Center is a popular viewing spot. Accommodations in the northern lights active zone are for example the Matanuska Lodge or the Sheep Mountain Lodge. With cross-country skis or snowmobiles you then go into the wilderness to observe and marvel at the natural spectacle.
Many come to Iceland to see the otherworldly Northern Lights, the yellow-green and purple-hued smoky columns of light that appear in the night sky. The lights, caused by the clash of particles between the Earth’s atmosphere and the sun, are best seen in late summer and early fall. If you visit in the summer, you won’t get to see the aurora borealis, but you will get to experience the legendary midnight sun. From May to July, the skies hardly darken, meaning you can continue your outdoor activities far into the night.
Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights in Finland? In a remote place away from artificial light sources and air pollution. Kakslauttanen is located in the wilderness of the northern Lapland region, not far from one of Finland's largest national parks, Urho Kekkonen National Park. The surrounding area is one of the most unspoiled areas in the world. The chance of observing the Aurora Borealis here is very good. When is the best time to visit to see them? Between September and March!