For many years, people have been travelling far and wide in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the mysterious Northern Lights. They are found in the northern hemisphere and can be spotted in several countries...
When to go?
The Northern Lights covers several countries, all near the top of the planet, but it’s not as simple as just going to one and seeing them. Timing is important and heading to the right location, at the right time of the year, is key to seeing them in the flesh. The best chances of seeing the aurora at its brightest are from August through until April, which is a pretty wide window. Many experts believe the peak times are between late September and late March. That is when the sky is the darkest, and the lights are the most visible.
Where are the Northern Lights?
Several of the Scandinavian countries are perfect for viewing them, but spectators have also witnessed the Northern Lights in Alaska, northern Canada and even Russia. Think of somewhere exceptionally cold in the winter, and you’ll probably be thinking of a country where you can see the Northern Lights.
Finland has one of the best spots for visiting the Northern Lights - Lapland. Between the peak time, from September to March, the lights can be expected to be seen from between 10 and 20 nights per year. The most important condition for seeing them is for the sky to be clear of clouds. On a clear night, if you can see the stars in Lapland, the Northern Lights shouldn’t be too far behind. It is best to stay for a week or so though, to ensure you maximise your chances.
One of the best places to start looking for the Northern Lights is Sweden. While parts of the country are in touch with mainland Europe, the land spreads far enough north to allow people a sight of the aurora. While many other locations to see the aurora are bitter cold, Sweden perhaps offers a milder climate than other places to see the Northern Lights. Heading anywhere north of Jokkmokk in Sweden will give you the greatest opportunity of seeing the aurora. Places in particular to visit are the Abisko National Park, which typically has a clear sky more often than not, and Jukkasjärvi, if only for its ice bar.
Maybe you want to combine a trip to the United States with seeing the aurora but have been wondering where to see Northern Lights in America. You can live the American dream down in the warmer southern states and still see nature’s most beautiful skylight up in the north. The farther north you go in Alaska, the greater the chances of seeing the Northern Lights, and Fairbanks is noted for being one of the most successful spots. There are several tours offered in Fairbanks, and some hotels will even provide wake up calls to its guests.
If you don’t want to see the Northern Lights in what feels like complete isolation then Seltjarnarnes near the Reykjavik area of Iceland might be the place for you. You’re close enough to Iceland’s capital that you can be in touch with the world, but far enough away that your view isn't going to be spoiled by any light pollution. One thing to consider when visiting Iceland, and any country to see the Northern Lights, is to check on the moon cycle. In a full moon there will be more glow, which will reduce the chances of seeing the aurora in all its glory.
So if you've been wondering “Where are the Northern Lights?” visiting these locations should give you the best opportunity to see them for yourself and witness perhaps nature’s greatest phenomenon. While these places give you the best chance of viewing them, they are not a guarantee and seeing them is heavily dependent on the weather conditions in your chosen spot. Maximise your chances by staying more than a couple of days and soaking up all these wonderful destinations have to offer.
By Olli Kolade11 January 2019