There is something magical about watching mother nature’s many charms unfolding before your eyes; waves caressing the shores, a gentle breeze rustling the flower petals, sun setting behind tall mountains, snowfall, raindrops & many more. However, of all the world's most dazzling natural phenomena, few can top the northern lights, or aurora borealis.
Every traveler's life list should include viewing the Northern Lights. Created by solar winds interacting with charged particles in the Earth's magnetic field, the lights appear as otherworldly streaks of green, red, yellow, and purple dancing across arctic skies. Countries in the far-northern latitudes, optimally between 10 and 20 degrees from the magnetic North Pole—the so-called "northern lights oval"—are most likely to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, which occurs predominantly between late September and late March, often close to midnight. You can see this most impressive light show--lasting from a few minutes to several days--in the regions close to the Arctic.
We have put together the top 10 spots for you to see the Northern Lights. Take a look.
Alaska: Alaska's location guarantees the spectacular light displays. Fairbanks region in Alaska is situated within a ring-shaped region around the North Pole called the auroral oval. This location provides a terrific balance of occurrence, frequency and activity. Plus, the continental climate offers many more clear nights than you would find in a coastal area. While intensity varies, the most common yellow-green glow occurs heavily between late August and April. Prime viewing time is late evening through the wee hours of the morning.
Denmark: The Faroe Islands are a great location and are most likely the best place in Denmark from which to view the Northern Lights. Lights season falls between September and March. Differences in altitudes and gases create a variety of colours, but green is still the most common aurora.
Scotland: The best place in the UK to see the Northern Lights is undeniably Scotland. The northern reaches of the country and northern isles, around the Caithness coast and the Orkney Isles, are prime spots to see this fascinating light display. Shetland and The Outer Hebrides are also ideal locations for trying to see the Northern Lights as they have very low light pollution due to the low levels of population. The best time to spot the Aurora Borealis is generally considered to be in January, however it's also possible to see the Northern Lights on most cold, clear nights throughout the autumn and winter months.
Canada: Areas around pristine Lake Superior in Ontario and Northern Canada's tundra back-country are prime viewing spots. Head to the town of Whitehorse within the Yukon Territory to best see the swirling lights. Sometimes, the glowing sky can be seen as far south as the American border, but stick to Canada's vast wilderness for your front row seats.
Greenland: The airport settlement of Kangerlussuaq is best place to view northern lights in Greenland. Uniquely located inland in lee of mountains and ice, Kangerlussuaq can boast of having more than 300 clear nights a year. The season for watching the northern lights in Kangerlussuaq is from the end of September to the middle of April. Heading out on the only gravel road in Greenland leading directly to the Ice Cap, the opportunities for seeing the northern lights is at their best, as there is hardly any man made “pollution light” to speak of, even after travelling just a short stretch on the road. Although the situation is pretty unique in Kangerlussuaq, the northern lights are none-the-less a common sight in the night sky many places in Greenland. Even with all the many street lamps in the capital city of Nuuk, the northern lights are clearly visible and will often make people stop, pause and look up at the sky on their way home from work.
Finland: Finnish Lapland has a great Aurora record. Finland is right there in the heart of the auroral zone which means chances of spotting the aurora are very high. Head to Luosto in Northern Finland to the Aurora Chalet where, upon arrival, you'll be handed an "Aurora Alarm" which beeps once Northern Lights appear. In the nearby town of Sodanklya, the Northern Lights Research Center relays your message via the hotel. On chilly cloudless nights, you're also bound to catch the lights shimmer in the skies over the town of Nellim, close to Lake Inari--Finland's third largest lake.
Iceland: Leave the bustling nightlife of the capital city and head out into the wide open plains of Þingvellir National Park--a UNESCO Heritage Site where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet to cause a rift valley. Under clear dark skies on a freezing night in early March was where I first witnessed the lights dance across the Icelandic sky. Though the show only lasted for 12-15 minutes, it felt like an hour.
Norway: For the best chances to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis, head to Northern Norway or Svalbard between late autumn and early spring. The northern town of Tromsø teems with Aurora Borealis activity when those extended summer days are long gone. Its location above the Arctic Circle, and within the Northern Lights zone, makes it one of the top places to view shimmering green lights. The town also boasts the world's most northerly university, brewery, and planetarium. You can cruise Norway's fjord-lined coast aboard a Hurtigruten ship and get wake-up calls to head out on the deck when the lights appear.
Russia: Perhaps one of the lesser-visited northern lights regions, Russia is the go-to place if you want the wilderness to yourself, with a mammoth stretch of the country lying close to the Arctic Circle and almost all of the northern regions offering great views. The Kola Peninsula, snaking towards Scandinavia in northwestern Russia, is one of the principal lights-watching areas, thanks to its prime location on the northern lights' belt and a number of guided excursions that run from the Arctic city of Murmansk. Get there in December or January and you'll be gifted with pitch-black days and nights, as the sun disappears from view for around six weeks. Alternatively, Severodvinsk is renowned for having some of the brightest lights in Russia, with red and green glows even visible from inside the city. And Salekhard, the world's only city located on the Arctic Circle, is firmly inside the superior viewing zone.
Sweden:Each Scandinavian country has its own stake in northern lights tourism, but Sweden boasts its own unique claim to fame. Visit the legendary Aurora Sky Station, where you can take a chairlift up to the summit, explore the special Northern Lights Exhibition, and watch the night sky from the open-air observation deck. There are plenty of other prime spots, too—the Tornedalen region, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Laponia, and the far northern town of Luleå are all popular choices. Time your visit for the darkest part of the year, between November and February. If you're lucky enough to catch the sky ablaze, make sure you keep quiet—local Sami mythology dictates that it's bad luck to make a noise during the aurora borealis.
Come on then, wrap up warmly, pick a crisp, clear night, and cross your fingers, for this is Mother Nature’s most spectacular light show. When do you plan to witness it?
Team Veena World