The Northern Lights, also known by their scientific name Aurora Borealis, are one of the most sought-after winter bucket list travel sights. Thankfully, the lights can be seen in numerous different countries across the globe….you just have to be far enough north!
Aurora Borealis is caused when charged particles from the sun clash with atoms found in the earth’s atmosphere. The atoms’ electrons then move to a higher-energy state. When they drop back down again, they release a photon (also known as light), which produces the beautiful waves of green light in the night sky. Regardless of how it’s caused, the Northern Lights have captivated northern audiences for centuries. Many instances of the lights can be found in myths and legends from all over the world. The Romans believed Aurora Borealis was the coming of the goddess of dawn, Aurora. Some Inuit tribes of North America believed the lights to be the spirits of deceased ancestors playing a game with a Walrus skull, while other indigenous tribes believed them to be the spirits of friends and ancestors trying to communicate with those still on Earth. Whatever your religious beliefs, the Northern Lights are one of our planet’s most captivating and awe-inspiring natural phenomenons.
Check out our list of the top five places across the globe to view the Northern Lights.
Iceland is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in the world for all things outdoor-related. Viewing of the Northern Lights is no exception.
The best time of year to see the lights in Iceland is from late September to March, on a clear, dark night. This also means you should try and avoid nights near the full moon, as well. The Northern Lights can be visible all over the country when conditions are right, but the farther north you are, the better your chances. Additionally, the further away from the bright lights of Reykjavick you are, the more likely you are to catch a glimpse of nature’s light show.
Finland is another great place in Northern Europe to view the Aurora Borealis. Finland’s well-known province of Lapland is the best spot to view the lights, visible for around 200 nights a year! One of the most popular ways to view the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland is to rent a glass igloo for the night, cozy up in blankets, and take in the view from your bed. Talk about luxury!
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is from September to April, in Fairbanks or locations above the Arctic Circle. There are numerous tour groups run out of Fairbanks that offer a variety of Northern Lights viewing experiences, from chasing the lights across the Arctic Circle in specialized vehicles to viewing parties with a warm cabin and bonfire. There is something for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts!
When conditions are right, the Northern Lights can be seen all over Scotland, but chances are greatest in the more northern parts of the country. The Scots call the lights “Mirrie Dancers” or “Merry Dancers,” particularly in the Shetland region. Plan a Scottish adventure in the fall or winter and head to northern climes to catch a glimpse of the Aurora dancing across the sky.
Northern Lights season runs from September to April in Sweden. There are plenty of tour companies in Sweden that can plan the perfect Aurora adventure for you. One of the most popular spots is in the town of Abisko, where an entire industry has grown up around viewing the Northern Lights. There’s even an “Aurora Sky Station” atop a mountain to provide viewers with the most spectacular experience possible.
Have you seen the Northern Lights? We’d love to know where and what your experience was like.
Planning a trip to see the Northern Lights? Check out this post from our friends at Modern Trekker with more expert tips to get the most out of your Aurora Borealis experience.
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