One of the most spectacular natural sights in the world, the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, have been enthralling travellers for centuries.
The Northern Lights are created when solar winds react with the earth’s magnetic fields, which are strongest around the poles, and this reaction is visible as swirling beautiful colored lights in the night sky. September/ October, and February/ March are generally the best time to see northern lights shows in and around the Arctic circle, but there are a large number of external factors affecting their visibility. You need to know where to see northern lights, a clear night, to be away from areas of light pollution, and of course a little bit of luck to catch a good showing, but when you do there are few natural sights more spectacular.
Looping curtains of green, pink, and blue light, swirling around the amazing scenery that can be found around the edges of the Arctic- what could be more spectacular?
If you are planning a trip to catch mother nature’s light show, here are 5 destinations where can you see the northern lights.
1. Yukon, Canada
Yukon Canada (Arthur Chapman / Flickr)
This small territory in the north west of Canada is regarded as perhaps the best place to see northern lights in the whole world. As with the other locations on the list a sighting is not guaranteed, but the times when the lights are most likely to be visible in Yucon are the months of January to March. Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, makes an excellent base for a wide range of wilderness activities, and visitors can take part in activities including dog sledding and ice hole fishing, or take a tour on a snow mobile. Yukon is also home to the Northern Lights Centre, Canada's research base into this polar phenomenon, which is open at nights and welcomes visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the magnificent Aurora Borealis. ## 2. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik Iceland (Esthr / Flickr)
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is the nearest capital city to the Arctic circle, making it the ideal destination for a trip which can combine a city break with a good chance of catching the Northern Lights. Many tour companies based in the centre of Reykjavik offer trips out of the city to the best spots for catching the lights, and most operate on a system where if you are not lucky enough to see the Northern Lights they will give you a voucher for another tour to try again. The great thing about travelling to Iceland in search of the lights is that the lights do not have to be the entire reason for your trip. With whale watching tours, geothermal spas, geysers, and spectacular scenery in and around Reykjavik, it would be a waste of a trip to not take advantage of some of the other fantastic experiences on offer in the Icelandic capital. Reykjavik also has a wide range of excellent restaurants, friendly cafes, and fun bars, making it a perfect location for those of you who want to experience both a wonder of nature and a fun filled city in one trip. ## 3. Svalbard, Norway
Svalbard Norway (Camilla Carvalho Fotógrafa / Flickr)
Polar bears, long and clear winter nights, and the knowledge that you are deep inside the Arctic circle - Svalbard provides all of this and more. It also answers a question of where to see aurora borealis. This island chain is one thousand miles north of Norway, and another thousand miles from the north pole, and is the perfect location for a completely unique polar adventure. Longyearbyen, Svalbard's capital, is the world's most northerly settlement, and tour companies offer 2 day snow mobile expeditions using the town as a starting point. December is the month most likely to provide a good showing of the Northern Lights, as being so far north Svalbard experiences completely dark winter days. December is also generally a dry month, reducing the chances of the sky being cloudy and blocking out the aurora. As a bonus to seeing the lights, there is also a very good chance that you could see some of the most famous Arctic residents- Svalbard's polar bears. ## 4. Abisco National Park, Sweden
Abisco National Park (Sipos Bálint / Flickr)
This remote national park in the north of Sweden gets spectacular views of the Northern Lights between December and March, thanks to a variety of essential factors which combine there. The park is far from major towns meaning that it is free from light pollution, has observation stations atop mountains and cable cars installed to get to them, and perhaps most importantly benefits from prevailing winds which help to keep the skies cloud free. Sightings of the Northern Lights from the sky station, atop the highest peak in the park, are frequent,and the observation station has a cozy bar and lots of information about the Aurora Borealis. To add to the appeal of a trip to the north of Sweden, you can also spend your time in the area by visiting the famous ice hotel, meaning that you can combine two Arctic experiences in one trip. This hotel is carved entirely from ice, and spending a night there is an unforgettable experience. ## 5. Oulanka national park, Finland
Oulanka National Park (purplespace / Flickr)
Oulanka national park is an excellent bet for people hoping to see the northern lights early or late on in the Aurora sighting season (October and November for early birds, or March and April for those looking to make a spring time expedition). The national park in the spectacular far north of Finland is set in a magnificently rugged landscape, covered with dense forests, and incredibly beautiful. It also offers the chance to try cross country skiing, snow shoeing and even igloo building. The park also contains some cozy log cabins for visitors to stay in, and can be used as a base to combine winter sports and outside activities with nightly chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Do you like the sound of trying out dog sledding by day, and watching one of the greatest wonders of nature by night? Then Oulanka national park could well be the holiday destination for you.