In which countries can you see the northern lights? The northern lights can be seen from many countries in the northern hemisphere, some with more success than others. Depending on weather, darkness, cloud cover, and solar wind activity (among other natural factors) the northern lights can be seen in some surprising places.
The Auroral Oval
Perhaps the most interesting factor depends on the country’s location from the auroral oval. The auroral oval refers to the ring where the lights appear, which circle the north magnetic pole. The ring covers several continents, with the most frequent lights being seen around the center. Though the oval fluctuates daily, there are forecasting resources, like the Ovation map, that predict where the lights will be most visible. Here, they show the chance by percentage of the northern lights being seen in each country. Beyond statistics, certain countries typically have the best luck for catching the aurora.
Countries Where You Can See the Northern Lights:
America & Canada: Since the auroral oval is situated above northern Canada, this ensures prime visibility during the winter months in regions like the Northern Territories. Stateside, Fairbanks, Alaska is the most popular spot in the U.S. to see the northern lights, due to low cloud cover and light pollution. However, the aurora has been occasionally spotted as far south as Idaho, Maine and northern Michigan when the weather is right. Ultimately, the further north you go, the more likely it is that you’ll catch the aurora.
Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland & Sweden: Head to Scandinavia for a stunning landscape, snowy winters and a culture fascinated with the northern lights. Outside of the cities, much of these countries are sparsely populated with pristine wildlife, making perfect conditions for seeing the northern lights. Though seeing the aurora is never guaranteed, the most likely destination is the Finnish Lapland, where the lights can be seen 200 nights out of the year. However, keep in mind that prices for tours, hotels and living expenses can be expensive in these countries.
Elsewhere in Europe
Russia & Scotland: Though not as widely marketed, the northern lights have been seen in areas of Europe outside Scandinavia as well. Russia’s extreme north, marked by a rugged arctic wilderness, is very close to the magnetic north pole. Specifically, the Kola Peninsula and Severodvinsk are well known destinations for seeing the aurora. Further south, northern Scotland has been known to catch some stellar displays as well. Though the lights may appear hazy under the typically cloudy skies, there are many sightings during the winter months, especially in remote areas and islands away from city lights.
See the Northern Lights in Alaska
On Gondwana’s Northern Lights Ecotour, we have created an economical, fun and environmentally friendly way to see the aurora near Fairbanks, Alaska. By taking the work out of planning your vacation, you’ll be able to relax while enjoying cultural wonders during the day, and natural wonders at night. Learn more about the inclusions on the Northern Lights Ecotour.