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Best Northern Lights Viewing Spots

Viewing the Northern Lights

The northern lights, fickle inhabitants of the night sky are the subjects of many quests, vacations and travels. Though they have been visible as far south as Knoxville, TN, (a highly unusual conquest for them) their natural habit is much farther north. Where the air is northern, clear, and cold you are most likely to find activity. For the adventurous spirit, we have composed a short list of the best northern lights viewing spots. On Earth, anyway.

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Faroe Islands:

Technically a self-governing island territory of Denmark, these small islands northwest of Scotland are a seldom-visited destination of undeniable beauty. The Faroe islands are like tiny scandinavian oases with all the windswept fields, dramatic seas, and rugged coastlines we’ve come to expect. With a short tourist season during the summer, the winters are cold and create perfect conditions for seeing the lights. With a high latitude and such a small amount of light-pollution due to the small population, seeing the lights from the Faroe Islands is a thing of beauty. It’s easy to explore and get away from the biggest city on the islands, Torshvn, with a population of under 20,000.

Here are four reasons why the Faroe Islands are a remarkable destination for northern lights viewing and exploration:

  1. Pristine and Remote Location: The Faroe Islands are a remote archipelago located in the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of Scotland and midway between Iceland and Norway. This location places them in the perfect zone for aurora activity, while the islands’ isolated position means visitors can experience stunning natural beauty without crowds or excessive development.
  2. Minimal Light Pollution: With a total population of just over 50,000 people spread across 18 islands, the Faroe Islands have minimal light pollution. The small towns and villages, combined with vast areas of untouched wilderness, create ideal conditions for observing the northern lights. It’s easy to find secluded spots with clear views of the night sky, far from artificial light sources.
  3. Unique Landscapes and Rugged Coastlines: The Faroe Islands are known for their dramatic scenery, featuring windswept fields, towering cliffs, and rugged coastlines. This stunning backdrop enhances the northern lights experience, offering unparalleled views of the aurora reflecting off the ocean or illuminating the cliffs. Visitors can explore the islands’ numerous hiking trails and coastal viewpoints to find the perfect spot to watch the aurora borealis.
  4. Short Tourist Season and Authentic Culture: The Faroe Islands have a brief tourist season during the summer months, leaving the winter relatively quiet and allowing for a more intimate experience with the local culture. The winter weather creates ideal conditions for aurora viewing, and the smaller tourist numbers ensure a tranquil atmosphere. The capital city, Tórshavn, with a population of under 20,000, provides a charming base for exploring the islands, with easy access to the surrounding wilderness and cultural landmarks.
Viewing the northern lights in Faroe Islands

Viewing the northern lights in the Faroe Islands

Norway:

Norway doesn’t really need any introduction. We know Norway is a world-leader in sustainability, natural beauty, and generally being populated by tall-beautiful humans. Norway is an obvious choice for the best northern lights viewing spots. Though the lights are equally visible by its other Scandinavian neighbors, Norway wins a spot on this list for a few reasons. Firstly, there is just a crazy abundance of beauty in the countryside. So even if you miss out on the lights, there’s really no way to complain if you’re surrounded by sweeping hills and thrill-inducing. Secondly, Norway has “Brunost”, which is one of the best foods in the history of food. Admittedly, there are lots of variations of Brunost in Sweden and Finland, but it just can’t be beaten. If you are seeking quintessential Scandinavian beauty and friendly people, Norway is probably a good bet for northern lights viewing.

Here are reasons why Norway stands out as a top destination for northern lights viewing, among other Scandinavian countries:

  1. Spectacular Natural Beauty: Norway is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, featuring dramatic fjords, towering mountains, and pristine wilderness. The sheer abundance of natural beauty means that even if the northern lights are elusive on a given night, visitors are surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery. Whether exploring the fjords, hiking in the mountains, or skiing in the winter, Norway’s landscapes offer plenty to see and do.
  2. Abundance of Northern Lights Locations: Norway has numerous locations within the Arctic Circle that are perfect for aurora borealis viewing. Cities like Tromsø and Alta, as well as more remote areas like Svalbard and Lofoten, offer a range of northern lights experiences. The variety of environments—from city-based tours to remote wilderness lodges—provides visitors with flexibility and a high chance of witnessing the aurora.
  3. Rich Cultural Heritage and Food: Norway’s culture and cuisine add depth to the aurora experience. “Brunost,” a Norwegian brown cheese, is a unique and delicious treat that’s a must-try when visiting Norway. Beyond Brunost, the country’s culinary scene offers traditional dishes that reflect Norway’s history and connection to the sea. Norway’s vibrant cities, such as Oslo and Bergen, have rich cultural heritages, with museums, art galleries, and historical sites.
  4. Strong Focus on Sustainability: Norway is a world leader in sustainability and environmental consciousness. This focus on preserving nature ensures that northern lights tourism has a minimal impact on the environment. Sustainable practices, such as electric ferries, eco-friendly lodges, and responsible wildlife tourism, align with Norway’s commitment to conservation. Visitors can enjoy the northern lights while supporting a destination that values sustainability and environmental stewardship.
Landscapes of Norway

Valdresflya, Norway

Alaska:

Last, but obviously not least is the behemoth of Alaska. It is foolish to try and summarize the massiveness and uniqueness of Alaska in a short paragraph. However, this article would be much less-digestible if I wrote it over the course of the 900 or so pages it deserves. Alaska has the edge in “best northern lights viewing” locations for a few reasons. With rich culture and lore of the northern lights in native culture, intertwined with a mysterious American mysticism that pervades and a seemingly endless amount of space to explore, Alaska is the gift that keeps on giving. You could easily spend a lifetime unwrapping it and still only scratch the surface. Whether you’re spending the day dogsledding, seeking caribou in the boreal forests, or just meeting truly “American” Americans, seeing the lights from Alaska is like being inducted into a strange and beautiful club.

Here are four reasons why Alaska is a top destination for northern lights viewing:

  1. Vast and Diverse Landscapes: Alaska’s sheer size and diverse geography provide endless opportunities for aurora borealis viewing. From towering mountain ranges to expansive tundras and boreal forests, Alaska offers a variety of stunning backdrops for the northern lights. This diversity allows visitors to choose from a wide range of locations, from more urban areas like Fairbanks to remote wilderness lodges and national parks.
  2. Rich Indigenous Culture and Traditions: Alaska has a rich indigenous culture with a deep connection to the natural world, including the aurora borealis. The native peoples of Alaska, such as the Inupiat, Athabascan, and Tlingit, have long held the northern lights as a significant part of their lore and traditions. Visiting Alaska provides an opportunity to learn about these cultures and their interpretations of the aurora, adding a profound sense of history and meaning to the experience.
  3. Remote Wilderness and Low Light Pollution: Alaska’s vast wilderness areas offer some of the darkest skies in the United States, making it easier to view the northern lights without interference from artificial light. The state’s remoteness allows visitors to escape city lights and find truly secluded spots for aurora viewing. This combination of pristine wilderness and low light pollution contributes to the high success rate of seeing the aurora in Alaska.
  4. Thrilling Outdoor Activities and Adventure: Alaska is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wealth of activities that complement the northern lights experience. During the day, visitors can go dogsledding, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing, immersing themselves in Alaska’s winter wonderland. The state’s unique wildlife, such as moose, caribou, and bald eagles, provides additional adventure opportunities. Exploring Alaska’s wilderness by day and watching the northern lights by night creates a truly unforgettable experience, reinforcing Alaska’s reputation as a place where adventure and natural beauty meet.

Read more about the Alaska Grizzly Lodge! It offers adventurers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the untamed wilderness of Alaska’s vast and rugged landscapes. Nestled amidst stunning scenery, the lodge provides a comfortable base for exploring the region’s abundant wildlife, including majestic grizzly bears, against the backdrop of awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Viewing the Northern lights in Alaska

Northern Lights Above Alaska

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