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One of the world’s most dazzling natural phenomenons, few travel experiences can top witnessing the Northern Lights. Also known as Aurora Borealis, this is mother nature’s most impressive light show, and something almost every traveler has at the top of their bucketlist. Where to see 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 the arctic skies. Countries lying in the far-northern latitudes are most likely to catch the spectacle, which occurs predominantly between late September and late March, often close to midnight.”

Though you may not have to travel as remotely as you think in order to catch a glimpse. While most of the following destinations are close to the Arctic, you can often expect sightings as far south as the United Kingdom, or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, catch the equally as impressive Southern Lights in Australia instead. Where to see the Northern lights in Europe. 

It’s important to note that there is no exact science to seeing the Northern Lights, and that there’s never any guarantee. Though from the northernmost fjords of Norway to the snow-enveloped wilderness of Alaska, here are some of your best bets. Where to go to see the Northern lights. 

The Best Places to See the Northern Lights

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Norway

As far as making your way north goes, you can’t get much further north than Svalbard. This is a spit of land and ice tucked away far to the north of Norway next to Greenland in the Arctic Ocean. The Northern Lights make appearances here from November through February, though between mid-November to the end of January travelers can experience an additional natural phenomenon: the Polar Night. Where to see the Northern lights in Norway. 

The Polar Night refers to the three months Svalbard goes without daylight. This perpetual eerie blue twilight means you have the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights, though do keep in mind that you have better chances of spotting wildlife like reindeer, walrus and polar bears after this lifts (ie when you can see). Best places in Norway to see the Northern lights. 

British Airways offers flights to Oslo from the UK, and from there you can catch a flight to Svalbard’s capital Longyearbyen. Fun fact: this is the world’s northernmost town. Where can the Northern lights be seen?

Other destinations in Norway for catching the Northern Lights include Tromsø, Alta, and Finnmark. where is the aurora borealis seen?

Greenland

Greenland is the final frontier for many travelers, and while its icy interior is the optimal location for viewing the Northern Lights, you can see them from most parts of the country. The south and east are more accessible, and great viewing locations include Kulusuk and Ammassalik. See Northern lights in Greenland. 

Fun fact: Greenland’s Inuit population believed the lights came from spirits of ancestors playing soccer with the skull of a walrus.

Lapland, Finland

Finland is one of the best and most accessible countries for viewing the Northern Lights, with them making an appearance about 200 nights per year (of course I happened to travel to Finland on one of the 165 days they didn’t show!). Where to see the Northern lights in Finland.

And when in Finland, you don’t even have to get out of bed; at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland, you can Aurora gaze from the comfort of your own glass igloo. At the Hotel Aurora in Luosto you’ll be handed an “Aurora Alarm” upon arrival that beeps whenever the northern lights appear. (The Northern Lights Research Center in the nearby town of Sodanklya relays the signal to the hotel.) When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?

Though if you do enjoy the outdoors there are plenty of unique ways to view the lights too. Join a reindeer safari or a dog sled tour through the wilderness one night, or rent some walking skis to explore the National Parks the next.

The best viewing locations in Finland for the Northern lights are Luosto, Nellim, Utsjoki, Ivalo, Kakslauttanen. Where to go in Finland to see the Northern Lights. 

Sweden

The best places to view the Northern Lights in Sweden are Kiruna, Abisko, and. Swedish Lapland. The village of Jukkasjärvi in the Kiruna region is particularly popular with tourists, as every year 100 + artisans meticulously create the Ice hotel, using ice harvested from the Torne River here in Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. The Northern Lights suite has a light installation mimicking the natural wonder. Best places to see the Northern Lights in Sweden. 

Northern Lights tours leave from Jukkasjärvi by night, and you can head out on snowmobiles, chairlifts, or even by horseback. And it’s absolutely possible to see the Northern Lights in Sweden on a budget.

The best places to view the Northern Lights in Sweden are Kiruna, Abisko, and. Swedish Lapland.

Iceland

When the Northern Lights hit Iceland (late September to early April) you can see them throughout most of the country. Though it’s best to make your way out of the city limits and into the countryside for the least amount of light pollution. Head to Þingvellir National Park for some really spectacular views; this is a UNESCO Heritage Site where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet to cause a rift valley. Places to see the Northern lights in Iceland. 

“Closer to Reykjavik, the Ion Hotel’s Northern Lights Bar features dimmed lighting and wraparound windows, so guests can watch the aurora inside, with drinks in hand.” If you’re considering the trip to Greenland, you can fly there from Reykjavik. Where to go in Iceland to see the Northern Lights. 

Alaska & Northern Canada

For those traveling through North America, the best places to see the Northern Lights include Calgary, Ontario, Yukon Territory, and Manitoba in Northern Canada, and Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali in Alaska.

Manitoba, Canada, is a particularly terrific spot for viewing the northern lights, as it experiences aurora activity more than 300 nights per year. In Churchill, Canada, you can watch the lights dance over a family of polar bears from the comfort of your mobile sleeper car.

Those in Alaska can use the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast to help schedule your viewing trip. As with Iceland, you’ll find better viewing the further you are away from city lights. While the lights can sometimes be seen from the US / Canada border, it’s best to stick to the wilderness for front-row seats.

Scotland, United Kingdom

The northern lights in Scotland are known by a distinctively more British name: the Merry Dancers. They appear in the U.K. during autumn and winter, and can sometimes be seen as far south as England’s Kent and East Anglia. But your best bet is to head for the northernmost parts of the Highlands or the Shetland Islands in January. Does Scotland get the Northern Lights?

The best locations in Scotland for viewing the Northern Lights are Aberdeen, Isle of Skye, Northern Highlands, and Dunnet Head. Sign up for the AuroraWatch UK before you go for text alerts about viewing conditions so that you never miss a sighting. Can I see the Northern Lights in Scotland?

Tasmania for the Southern Lights

The Northern Lights get all the press, though Australia has a natural light show which is just as spectacular. The Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) are elusive, and as such a sighting is incredibly rare, though one of the world’s most impressive spectacles where brilliant luminescent light dances across the night sky, it’s definitely worth attempting to time your visit to Tasmania to align with the Southern Lights. Where to see southern lights. Australia’s southern lights.

Theoretically speaking September is usually the best time for viewing the Southern Lights, and you can track them on smart phone applications like Star Walk (an interactive astronomy guide), by watching real-time maps via Aurora Forecast or by joining the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group which has postings of real-time alerts. Where are the Southern lights?

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits: Pinterest Image & Finnish Lapland photos by Visit Finland. Northern lights in Norway by Tor Even Mathisen. Northern lights in Sweden by Tor Even Mathisen. Northern lights in Iceland by 杰一 陈. Northern lights camping by Jason Ahrns. Polar Bear by Emma. Northern Lights Alaska by Beverly.

    34 Comments

  1. We were in Iceland a couple week ago and finally had luck seeing the Northern Lights our last night in Þingvellir National Park. It was a pretty incredible experience!
    Valerie recently posted…Driving the Golden Circle in WinterMy Profile

    • That’s awesome Valerie! I’m so glad you got to experience witnessing the lights! Þingvellir National Park is a really good spot for it when in Iceland 🙂

  2. I enjoyed northern lights i n Greenland and in Norway (Kirkenes), such a wonderful experience! 🙂

    • Awesome Mia! Such an incredible experience right! I’ll have to hit you up for Greenland travel tips at some point soon – we’re hoping on making the trip next year 🙂

  3. Hi Megan,

    Great idea for a post, the northern lights as anybody who has witnessed them will attest, are one of natures great sights.

    I will vouch for Alaska, I have spent many a year working there on ships and have witnessed the northern lights many times. The light pollution in Alaska is so minimal, it makes the spectacle even more vibrant.

    Always like your posts but this one and the one about eating Thai food under the Northern lights have really re-sparked my interest in natures beauty.

    Thanks again

    • Hi John

      So glad we could re-spark your interest in nature! There are some pretty incredible natural scenes out there, I’m totally obsessed with exploring the natural world 🙂 Though mother nature truly out did herself with the Northern Lights. I’m not sure any other sight can measure up!!

      I can imagine working in Alaska would have been such a fantastic experience – we recently visited and spent time exploring overland, though I would love to head back and take in a cruise to hit the smaller and more remote islands that are a bit harder to reach with a car.

      Thanks for following our blog … so glad that you enjoy our posts.

      Happy Easter!

  4. I just spend 4 weeks in Pyhä near Luosto, Finland.
    And have seen some amazing Northern lights.
    Some weeks where cloudy but on the clear days it was there almost every night

    • Nice one! Can’t believe I was in Finland on the one night it decided not to come out lol, I spent a couple of nights in Rovaniemi in February of 2007. Was so hoping to see them there but it wasn’t meant to be. Thinking it would be great to re-visit though and head for those glass igloos – they’re on my list 😀

  5. IDK why, but I had been obsessed with seeing the Northern Lights since I can remember! We went to Norway….with no luck. Then did another trip to Iceland and voila!!!! They weren’t real bright, weren’t “dancing” and it was cold as crap, but it was PHENOMENAL!
    LeAnna recently posted…Family Friendly Hostels- Should we even bother?My Profile

    • One of those phenomena’s which make the journey to see them and standing out in the cold completely worthwhile! If you’re ever heading through Finland in winter definitely check out the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort; won’t be so cold because you can enjoy watching them from bed :D!

  6. Would you know when the best time to catch it in Northern Canada and Iceland ? I’m going latter part of this year and hopefully I catch it in one of those places. Fingers crossed.

    • The best season to see the northern lights in Iceland is from September to mid-April. In Canada it’s August through April.

      Good luck!

  7. I so want to see the Northern Lights! I had been researching Tromso but its good to know there are some other options in the area! I’m not sure If I’m going to be able to get so far north before the cycle starts to fade – so I might focus on the southern lights instead!
    Vicki recently posted…Europe By Rail in 25 Days: Itinerary & CostsMy Profile

    • Definitely consider Tasmania if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere – they’re a little more rare than the Northern Lights so there’s probably less of a guarantee, but do check out the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group or the Aurora Forecast and these will help you track any sightings 🙂

  8. I experienced it in Kiruna Abisko last year and would love to see aurora dance again. But this time Iceland! Awesome photos of the northern lights. My photos look nowhere close to yours hahaha.
    Carla Abanes recently posted…Your Ultimate Planning Guide for Tokyo JapanMy Profile

    • Ooooh you’ll absolutely love your time in Iceland! We were there in the summer, and the midnight sun was an amazing experience, though would love to get back in the winter to spend time under the Northern Lights. I have many friends who have come back with photos of the lights from their time in Iceland, and each was more spectacular than the next 🙂

      Happy travels!

  9. Thank you for this awesome list Megan.

    I have never seen northern lights so I think I’ll go to either Iceland, Finland or Norway. The reason is, I haven’t been to any one of them. Well, I haven’t been to Alaska as well. 🙂
    Nisha recently posted…Sand Art in JordanMy Profile

    • You’re welcome Nisha! Have a wonderful time visiting the Arctic this year; Iceland specifically was our favorite, though we’re spending time next year on a cruise throughout the arctic circle in Norway so we may have a new favorite destination coming soon :D!

  10. I’ve been to nearly all of these places and only saw the aurora once, very lightly. Too bad it just has to be a coincidence but I’ve given up trying to see it anyway 🙂 maybe then the magic will happen some day haha

    • I’m sure one day the magic will happen when you least expect it! It’s sad that there is no exact science to seeing them and never any guarantee. I guess that’s what makes them even more special when they do come out though!

      Keep your eyes open if you find yourself in any of these destinations throughout winter though 🙂

  11. You’ve laid out so many places to see them. I had no idea there were so many great locations to try to catch a glimpse. We tried our luck in Iceland but it wasn’t a great showing during the days we were there. Next time I’ll go in search of that polar bear!

    • Yes, Canada is a great spot to combine two once in a lifetime experiences; seeing Polar bears and the Northern Lights!

      Sorry to hear that they didn’t come out while you were in Iceland; sounds like you have a great reason to return though! Iceland was one of my favorite countries despite not seeing the lights. We went in summer and opted for the midnight sun instead, so I’m hoping to have the chance to revist but in winter sometime soon 🙂

  12. So many places I would love to visit, Lapland and Iceland are particularly high on my bucket list, as is seeing the Northern Light. Frankly, I wouldn’t really care which country I would be in, as long as I would get to see this amazing phenomenon I would be perfectly content;-). Great post and beautiful pictures, thanks Meg!
    Lotte recently posted…23 Photos That Show Why I Love New Zealand So Much!My Profile

    • I agree with you – I don’t think it really matters which country you’re in when you see the Northern Lights. Nothing else really matters when you’re standing there transfixed!!

      Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

  13. i think the photos you posted of the lights in Finland are the most beautiful I’ve seen so far! The Aurora alarm is such a cool invention to have, I’m a little jealous of the locals who get to enjoy this phenomenon from their homes. Here in Singapore we have a ton of man made entertainment, but its the natural ones I feel the most amazed by 🙂
    Mar Pages recently posted…Art Deco, riverside luxury and Thai antiques at The Siam HotelMy Profile

    • I agree with you that natural phenomena’s out do man made entertainment every single time, and totally there with you re being jealous of the locals who get to enjoy this every night! I would absolutely install a massive skylight or a glass roof if I lived in one of these locations :D!

      Aurora alarm was a brilliant idea for tourism; something I wouldn’t mind being woken up in the middle of the night for!

    • Trying my best to optimize my posts for those who like to pin to Pinterest … so I try to style everything to vertical photos. So glad you like them!

      Greenland is a great choice – one of the final frontiers! Hope you have the chance to get there soon 🙂 Happy travels Trisha!

  14. This is a really useful Northern Lights guide. Interesting to know Svalbard is the northernmost point! I saw the aurora in Lofoten Islands. The weather is unpredictable in Lofoten Islands, but when it clears up, it’s such a dramatic scenic place for aurora photography! Now that Northern Lights is done, perhaps I should hunt the Southern Lights next, haha… =p
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted…Your Complete Guide to Northern Lights: Where, When, HowMy Profile

    • Awesome to hear you enjoyed the post Andrew 🙂 And nice one on seeing the Northern lights in the Lofoten Islands! I haven’t made it there myself yet, but the photos I see, regardless of season, are always incredible!!

      Can totally recommend the Southern Lights … and Tasmania is one of the most beautiful destinations in Australia (I’m bias as I was born there, but still a fact :D)

    • Absolutely – Canada is definitely on the top of my list for that exact reason!

  15. Hi Megan,

    How do you quantify what the best places are? I find the information about the best places in Finland interesting as you don’t even mention the village of Kilpisjärvi, which is actually recommended by the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Smells like undisclosed advertising to me.

    Sebastian.

    • Hi Sebastian, thanks for the tip on Kilpisjärvi. Our lists are put together with information we collect from talking to locals while traveling, aided by research. I’m sure there are many, many locations throughout each of the above mentioned countries which offer great viewing for the northern lights, but not all of them are going to make it onto every list.

      Nice attempt trying to “call me out”, but there is no undisclosed advertising here. No company is going to pay a website or blog to advertise for them if it doesn’t include a link. Should probably get that sense of smell checked.
      Meg Jerrard recently posted…The Best Christmas Markets in EuropeMy Profile

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