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THE BEST DESTINATIONS TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS

Finland  |  Norway  |  Iceland  |  Michigan, USA  |  Scotland  |  Canada  |  Russia

Northern Lights Aurora Boreas

The Northern Lights is also known as Aurora Borealis.

In Greek, the term for the north wind is Boreas. The Northern Lights is named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora.

One of nature’s most spectacular wondrous light shows (a result of particles expelled by the sun) can be seen when there is a strong solar activity.  It is best visible when the night sky is dark.

Northern Lights forecasts across Europe

There is no guarantee you will see Aurora dancing. But, there are tools on the internet to increase your chances of viewing the incredible Aurora Borealis. For instance, Service Aurora provides an aurora forecast using several data inputs to make Kp-index predictions.

Finland

A beautiful and impressive country, but also one of the most expensive countries in the euro area. That said, Finland is a relatively easy country to explore by public transport if you don’t have your own car. 

“According to Finnish folklore, a mystical arctic fox is running in the north and touching the mountains with its fur causing sparks to fly off into the sky.”

In Finnish Lapland, you can see the Northern Lights almost every other clear night, which is around 200 nights a year.

The further North the better. For instance, Kakslauttanen and Rovaniemi.

The Northern Lights can be viewed in a range of purpose-built spaces from glass igloos to luxury suites.

Temperatures vary between 37.2 °C and –51.5 °C (99.0 °F and –60.7 °F).  

Northern Lights Inari Finland
Inari, Finland

Norway

Scandinavia’s best viewing is in Norway, known for its dramatic scenery as Aurora dances above spectacular fjords and waterfalls. 

Nature's most spectacular light show is best viewed in late September, October, February, and March.

Norway makes for some pretty viewing in the daytime too.

Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights.

Known as 'the capital of the Arctic', Tromsø is effortlessly charming.

Another option is Kirkenes. Sometimes the lights are in plain sight. Sometimes you'll have to hunt them. 

Temperatures vary between 35.6 °C and –51.4 °C (96.1 °F and –60.5 °F).

Northern Lights Tromso Norway
Tromso, Norway

Where to view the Northern Lights in Finland and Norway

Iceland

The collisions of the sun’s electrically charged particles entering the earth’s atmosphere never cease to amaze, energize, and astounds.

The best time is from late September to late March. Usually, Iceland is dark after 6 pm, which should increase your chances of seeing the dancing lights.

  • Þingvellir National Park. 
  • Grótta lighthouse, on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula in Reykjavik.
  • Seltjarnarnes, Reykjavik.
  • Thingvellir (Drive past the tourist information centre. After about 10 minutes you'll reach a hill overlooking the national park. Find safe parking and enjoy the view.)
  • Jökulsárlón. 
  • Reynisfjara black sand beach. 
  • Seljavallalaug. 
  • Threngsli, near the town of Thorlakshofn.
  • Seljavallalaug Pool, the oldest pool in Iceland.
  • Kirkjufell, one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland.
  • Siglufjörður, a pretty little town in the north.
  • Perlan ("The Pearl") is the best you'll get if you're in the downtown area.

Temperatures vary between 30.5 °C and –39.7 °C (86.9 °F and –39.5 °F).

Aurora Lights Borealis Northern Night Sky Iceland
Iceland

Michigan, USA

Known as “aurora borealis’ in the north and “aurora australis” in the south, the bright dancing lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

Your best chances to see Aurora in Michigan is on a clear, crisp, cold night in April, October, or November. 

Similar to most countries, the farther north you are, the better chance you have to view the phenomenon.

When it comes to viewing the Northern Lights, there are two important considerations. Namely, latitude and relatively low light pollution. Northern Michigan has a favorable latitude. Blessed with a rather lengthy shoreline along the south shore of Lake Superior, The Upper Peninsula is relatively low in light pollution.

  • The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Mackinaw City. 
  • Port Crescent State Park, Port Austin.
  • Brimley, Whitefish Point, Pictured Rocks, Autrain, Marquette, Big Bay, Skanee, Eagle River, Eagle Harbor, Copper Harbor, in the Upper Peninsula.

Michigan's average winter high temperatures are around -4.4°C (24°F)  to 2.8°C (37°F). The average low temperatures are around -12.8°C (9°F) to -3.9°C (25°F).

Mackinac Bridge Northern Lights Michigan Lights
Mackinac Bridge, Michigan

The best of Iceland’s Northern Lights

Scotland

Known as Mirrie Dancers, the Northern Lights also provide entertainment in Scotland.

The greener the color, the closer Aurora is to you. The deeper red means the further it is away from you.

Best viewing is generally during the darkest months of the year. In Scotland, that occurs between December and February.

The most northerly parts of the country are the best locations to experience the ethereal light show.

  • Aberdeenshire and the Moray Coast.
  • Orkney, Shetland, and Caithness.
  • Caithness
  • Galloway Forest Park – the only Dark Sky Park in Scotland.
  • Isle of Coll
  • Isle of Mull
  • Rannoch Moor and Perthshire
  • Skye
  • The Cairngorms
  • The Isles of Lewis and Harris

Temperatures vary from an average low of around 0 °C (32 °F) in winter, to an average high in summer of around 15–17 °C (59–63 °F).

Scotland Aurora Isle Of Mull Beach Shore Night 1
Isle of Mull, Scotland

Canada

No two light shows are the same in color and patterns. Different types of gas particles produce different colors.

The most visible color is a pale yellow-green followed by pink and a mix of red and green.

You’re very lucky to view a pure blue, or red, light as it is very rare. This scarcity is the result of high-altitude oxygen at heights of up to almost 322 km (200 miles) above planet earth.

Aurora dances in the skies on cold, clear evenings from October through March. Occasionally, you may view the Northern Lights during other months.

  • Fort McMurray, Alberta (Alta).
  • Melfort, Sask.
  • Manitoulin Island, Ontario.
  • Nunavik, Quebec.
  • Whitehorse, Yukon.
  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
  • Iqaluit, Frobisher Bay.

Aurora dances up to 240 nights a year in the Northwest Territories.

Temperatures vary between  20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F) to mid-upper 30s (90s) in summer. Winter (January and February) sees averages from -5 to -15°C (23 to 5°F) to as low as -30 to -40°C (-22 to -40°F).

Northern Lights Canada
Canada

Russia (“Pоссия”)

No matter which country you choose to view the colorful light show, you will need a decent camera. To our naked eye, the auroras are relatively dim. However, you may have a better sighting when watching it through a long-exposure camera.

Russian winters are from December to February. The best viewing is during January and February when the nights are generally frosty and clear.

  • Murmansk (Мурманск), Kola Peninsula.
  • Petrozavodsk (Петрозаводск), located on the western shores of Lake Onega.
  • Arkhangelsk (Архангельск) on the banks of the Dvina River.
  • Salekhard (Салехард) located under the Auroral Oval.
  • Naryan-Mar (Нарьян-Мар), on the Barents Sea.
  • Novaya Zemlya.
  • Kirovsk (Кировск) is a perfect winter snow sports holiday destination. Enjoy the several mountain resorts during the daytime, while the night the Aurora casts her magic spell.
  • Taimyr Peninsula (Таймырский полуостров) is the furthest North you can go.
  • Vorkuta (Воркута), Komi Republic.
  • Yakutsk (Якутск), Siberia.
  • Yamal.

Temperatures in Moscow vary between –11 °C to 24 °C (12°F to 76 °F).

northern lights russia
Russia

Northern Lights Tours in Canada

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

5* Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Hunts for the Russian Northern Lights

Click here to view Viator’s tour
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dress the part

  • Dress in layers.
  • Buy winter boots one size up, to allow for your winter socks.
  • A combination of waterproof softshell trousers with thermal leggings are more windproof than your jeans.
  • Make sure your jacket comes with a hood and pockets.
  • Instead of gloves, get mitts because the latter will be more effective against the cold.