Where is the best place to see the aurora borealis?

10 Best Places to See the Aurora Borealis

Where is the Best Place to See the Northern Lights?

In a nutshell, there are many locations in the northern hemisphere to see the aurora borealis. However, as you travel closer to the magnetic north pole, the more likely it is that the lights will be visible. Beyond forecasting, local weather considerations still apply, since clouds, time of year and city lights can interfere with visibility. With that said, here are some of our favorite destinations for the northern lights:

Where is the best place to see the northern lights?

No Filter Needed… Photographing the Aurora

To fully experience the beauty of the northern lights, or aurora borealis, you’ll want to visit destinations near the Earth’s magnetic north pole with minimal light pollution and clear skies. Here’s an expanded list of some top locations, along with unique reasons to visit each:

And the Winners Are…

Fairbanks, Alaska:

Alaskas Northern LightsGondwana’s personal favorite, Alaska is the best place in the United States to see the Aurora because of it’s proximity to the north pole. Interior Alaska has a high number of clear nights, which is crucial for seeing the aurora. By staying in Fairbanks for 3 days, there is an 80% chance of seeing the Northern Lights. During the day, enjoy dog-sledding, hang out with locals in Fairbanks, and enjoy the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Fairbanks, Alaska, offers a combination of favorable geography, clear skies, and unique experiences, making it one of the top destinations in the world for viewing the Northern Lights. Here’s an in-depth look at what makes Fairbanks such a remarkable spot for aurora borealis enthusiasts and what you can do during your visit:

Why Fairbanks for the Northern Lights?

  • Location: Fairbanks lies just 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle, placing it directly under the auroral oval, the region where the northern lights are most active. This proximity to the North Pole greatly increases the likelihood of aurora sightings.
  • Clear Skies: Interior Alaska, where Fairbanks is located, tends to have a high number of clear nights during the aurora season. The combination of location and clear skies makes Fairbanks one of the most reliable places to see the Northern Lights in the United States.
  • Aurora Season: The best time to visit Fairbanks for aurora viewing is from late September through early April. These months offer longer nights and higher chances of clear skies, with peak activity generally in March.

Reykjavík, Iceland:

Visitors flock to Iceland because of its natural wonders, from geothermal hot springs to stunning mountains. What’s more, it’s a prime spot to see the northern lights between October and March. They even have a Aurora museum: Aurora Reykjavík Northern Lights CenterReykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, is a captivating destination known for its unique combination of vibrant urban life and breathtaking natural landscapes. It is also a prime spot for witnessing the northern lights during the aurora season, which extends from October to March. Here’s an expanded overview of what makes Reykjavík an attractive place for northern lights seekers and other activities to enjoy during your visit:

Why Reykjavík for the Northern Lights?

  • Location: Reykjavík is located in southwestern Iceland, giving visitors access to a variety of viewing spots within a short drive from the city. Its northern latitude places it within the ideal range for aurora activity.
  • Aurora Season: The best time to visit Reykjavík for the northern lights is from October to March, with peak activity typically occurring around the winter solstice in December. During this time, the long nights and frequent clear skies increase the likelihood of aurora sightings.
  • Accessibility: Reykjavík’s compact size and well-developed infrastructure make it easy to explore the surrounding areas. Visitors can quickly escape the city’s light pollution to find excellent locations for northern lights viewing.

Yellowknife, Canada:

While most of Canada lies under the auroral oval, the best views will be seen in remote locations. Yellowknife is the capital of the Northern Territories, which is teeming with nature and culture. 22% of the population are part of Indigenous tribes. Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, is one of the premier destinations for experiencing the northern lights. Situated on the northern shore of Great Slave Lake, this remote city offers a unique combination of clear skies, minimal light pollution, and rich cultural heritage. Here’s an expanded overview of what makes Yellowknife a top spot for viewing the aurora borealis and other highlights to explore during your visit:

Why Yellowknife for the Northern Lights?

  • Auroral Oval: Yellowknife is located directly under the auroral oval, the ring-shaped region around the magnetic north pole where aurora activity is most frequent. This location gives Yellowknife an advantage over other places in terms of aurora visibility.
  • Clear Skies: Due to its location in Canada’s subarctic region, Yellowknife tends to have more clear nights than other aurora-watching locations. This feature significantly increases the chances of seeing the northern lights during the peak viewing season, which extends from mid-August to mid-April.
  • Minimal Light Pollution: Yellowknife’s small size and remote location mean there is minimal light pollution, allowing for a clearer view of the auroras. Many tour operators take visitors to even more remote areas for an uninterrupted aurora experience.

Nuuk, Greenland:

With 75% of the country covered by a giant ice sheet, this is one of the most remote places in the world. This sparsely populated country is a truly unique, pristine destination. Fly into the capital, Nuuk, to see the aurora borealis in the city (yes, they can even be seen with city lights) and outside regions. Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, offers a unique combination of rugged landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and one of the best places in the world to witness the aurora borealis. With 75% of the country covered by an enormous ice sheet, Greenland is among the most remote and pristine destinations you can visit. Let’s dive into why Nuuk is a fantastic spot for aurora seekers and other attractions to experience in this captivating Arctic city.

Why Nuuk for the Northern Lights?

  • Location: Nuuk is situated on Greenland’s southwest coast, offering unobstructed views of the night sky with minimal light pollution. Its proximity to the Arctic Circle and geographical position make it a prime spot for aurora borealis sightings.
  • Aurora Season: The best time to visit Nuuk for northern lights viewing is between late September and early April, when the nights are longest and the skies are darkest. Although Nuuk has some city lights, they are minimal compared to larger cities, allowing for a clear view of the auroras even within the city limits.
  • Weather Conditions: Greenland’s cold climate and generally clear winter skies contribute to ideal conditions for aurora viewing. While it’s essential to dress warmly, the rewards of a spectacular light show are worth it.

Abisko National Park, Sweden:

northern lights above snow covered rocks winter 1Many places in Sweden are great for seeing the northern lights, but perhaps the best spot is Abisko National Park. The legendary “Blue Hole” over Lake Torneträsk has it’s own micro-climate with no clouds, meaning that seeing the aurora is even more likely and colorful. Abisko National Park, located in the northern part of Sweden, is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, unique micro-climate, and exceptional conditions for viewing the northern lights. Here’s a deeper look into why Abisko is considered one of the best places in the world to witness the aurora borealis, along with other attractions and activities you can explore within this stunning national park.

Why Abisko National Park for the Northern Lights?

  • Location: Abisko National Park is situated within the Arctic Circle, near the town of Kiruna in Swedish Lapland. This location is right under the auroral oval, making it a prime spot for consistent northern lights activity.
  • The “Blue Hole”: Abisko’s unique micro-climate is often described as the “Blue Hole” over Lake Torneträsk. This phenomenon occurs because the surrounding mountains tend to block clouds, creating a region of clear skies even when other parts of Swedish Lapland are overcast. This increases the chances of seeing the aurora borealis with minimal interruption from cloud cover.
  • Aurora Season: The best time to visit Abisko for northern lights viewing is from late September to early April, with peak activity usually between December and March. The long nights during this period provide ample opportunity to witness the dazzling displays of the auroras.

The Kola Peninsula, Russia:

Situated in Russia’s extreme north, this region is home to unique wildlife like rare whales, dolphins, fish, birds, and mammals. Kola is also a great place to see the northern lights due to it’s proximity to the north magnetic pole, especially during the freezing winter months. The Kola Peninsula, located in Russia’s extreme northwest within the Murmansk Oblast, is a vast and remote region known for its dramatic landscapes, rich biodiversity, and excellent northern lights viewing opportunities. Here’s an in-depth look at what makes the Kola Peninsula a compelling destination for aurora seekers and other attractions to explore in this Arctic area.

Why the Kola Peninsula for the Northern Lights?

  • Proximity to the North Magnetic Pole: The Kola Peninsula’s northern location near the Barents Sea places it within the auroral oval, where northern lights activity is most frequent and intense. This proximity to the north magnetic pole creates an ideal environment for vibrant aurora displays.
  • Aurora Season: The best time to visit the Kola Peninsula for northern lights viewing is from late September to early April. During the freezing winter months, the long, dark nights offer the perfect backdrop for witnessing the auroras. The extreme weather also contributes to clear skies, enhancing the chances of seeing the northern lights.
  • Minimal Light Pollution: The Kola Peninsula is sparsely populated, with much of the region’s wilderness untouched by urban development. This lack of light pollution makes it easier to spot the aurora borealis, whether you’re in a remote area or one of the smaller towns.

Faroe Islands, Denmark:

This remote chain of 18 islands is truly a natural wonder. Entertainment for visitors involves exploring nature and learning about the local culture and handicrafts. On a clear night, head down to the coast to see the northern lights reflecting on the water. The Faroe Islands, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, consist of 18 rugged, volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. Known for their dramatic cliffs, lush landscapes, and unique culture, the Faroe Islands offer a truly remote and breathtaking environment. When the night skies are clear, visitors have the chance to witness the northern lights, often reflected in the surrounding waters. Here’s a deeper look into why the Faroe Islands are an excellent destination and what visitors can do while exploring these islands.

Why the Faroe Islands for the Northern Lights?

  • Remote Location: The Faroe Islands’ remote location, far from the bustling cities and light pollution, makes it an ideal spot for stargazing and aurora viewing. This pristine environment ensures minimal interference from artificial lights.
  • Aurora Season: The best time to visit the Faroe Islands for northern lights viewing is between October and March, when the nights are longest and the skies are darkest. Given the frequent cloud cover typical in the region, a clear night provides a perfect opportunity to see the aurora.
  • Natural Settings: The coastal locations across the islands provide stunning backdrops for northern lights viewing. On clear nights, the aurora borealis can often be seen reflecting on the ocean’s surface, creating a breathtaking spectacle.

Shetland, Scotland:

Despite typically cloudy skies, the aurora can be seen in Scotland. The best bet lies on the Shetland Islands, which are largely unpolluted by city lights. Beyond the Aurora, this island is rich with prehistoric history and archaeology, including structures like the Broch of Mousa. Shetland, a group of islands located in the far north of Scotland, offers a unique blend of rugged landscapes, rich history, and a favorable location for spotting the northern lights. Although Scotland is generally known for its cloudy weather, the remote location and minimal light pollution in Shetland increase the chances of seeing the aurora borealis. Let’s take a deeper look into what makes Shetland a fascinating destination for northern lights seekers, along with other attractions to explore.

Why Shetland for the Northern Lights?

  • Northern Latitude: Shetland’s position in the northernmost part of the UK places it within the range of the auroral oval, making it one of the best spots in Scotland to see the northern lights. The northern lights season in Shetland typically runs from late September to early April.
  • Minimal Light Pollution: The Shetland Islands are sparsely populated, with only a few small towns and villages. This lack of urban development and city lights creates an ideal environment for stargazing and aurora viewing.
  • Clear Views: Shetland’s rugged coastline and high points offer clear views of the northern horizon, providing a good vantage point for aurora spotting. The best locations are often on the coast, where you can see the northern lights reflecting on the water.northern lights aurora borealis 1

Lapland, Finland:

“The Northern Lights are visible on roughly 200 nights a year – or every other clear night – in Finnish Lapland.” With the aurora on display from August ‘til April, visiting the Lapland increases the odds of seeing the lights. For snow bunnies, little can compare to the snowshoeing, igloos and winter sports available in this region. Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland, is a winter wonderland and one of the best places on Earth to experience the northern lights. The region is famous for its pristine wilderness, unique cultural heritage, and a wide range of winter activities. Here’s an expanded look at why Finnish Lapland is a top destination for seeing the aurora borealis, along with other attractions and activities to enjoy during your visit.

Why Lapland for the Northern Lights?

  • High Frequency of Auroras: Finnish Lapland is located well within the auroral oval, leading to roughly 200 nights of aurora visibility per year. This high frequency, combined with long, clear nights, significantly increases the odds of seeing the northern lights during a visit.
  • Aurora Season: The aurora borealis is visible in Finnish Lapland from August to April, with peak activity between December and March. This extended season offers plenty of opportunities to witness the stunning light displays, especially during the darkest winter months.
  • Minimal Light Pollution: Much of Lapland consists of vast wilderness areas, with only a few small towns and villages. This means minimal light pollution, allowing for spectacular views of the auroras even from close to populated areas.

Alta, Norway:

Known for it’s clear skies, Alta has been appropriately nicknamed “Town of the Northern Lights.” In addition to a dedicated aurora museum, visitors should check out the ancient rock carvings at Alta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alta, located in Norway’s northern Finnmark county, is a town that has earned its reputation as the “Town of the Northern Lights.” With a favorable location, consistent clear skies, and unique cultural attractions, Alta is an excellent destination for experiencing the aurora borealis. Here’s a deeper dive into why Alta is such a special place for northern lights enthusiasts and what other activities you can explore during your visit.

Why Alta for the Northern Lights?

  • Clear Skies and Geographical Location: Alta’s geographical position within the Arctic Circle and its frequent clear skies make it one of the most reliable spots in Norway to see the northern lights. This combination results in consistent aurora activity, particularly during the aurora season from September to March.
  • Aurora Museum: Alta is home to the Northern Lights Cathedral, which features an Aurora Borealis Observatory and an interactive museum dedicated to the science and history of the northern lights. This museum provides visitors with insights into aurora forecasting and photography tips, making it an ideal starting point for your northern lights adventure.

See the Northern Lights with Gondwana Ecotours

So where is the best place to see the northern lights? As with most travel, it’s best to fit the destination to your comfort level. Many of the locations above are very remote and require lots of planning to set up the trip. On GGondwana’sAlaskan Ecotour, we do the planning for you. Our dedicated guides will keep an eye on the aurora’s activity so you can enjoy your vacation and the lights.

Read more about how keeping Alaska weird the state’s unique and quirky culture, celebrating its eccentricities and individuality. From offbeat festivals like the Talkeetna Moose Dropping Festival to unconventional roadside attractions such as the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska embraces its distinctiveness with pride. This attitude fosters a sense of community and acceptance, making Alaska a fascinating and welcoming place for both residents and visitors alike.

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