Majestic and awe-inspiring, the Northern Lights are one of the most captivating natural wonders in the world. Travelers from around the globe have put a trip to see them high on their bucket lists, as nothing compares to watching these spectacular bands of atmospheric light dance and undulate across the Arctic sky. Some displays consist of a few pale green streaks hovering gloriously overhead, while others explode into a brilliant array of the spectrum’s colors, inspiring a sense of reverence and wonder in all who see them. This phenomenon can’t be witnessed year-round, however, and every winter, savvy travelers are constantly searching for the best locations to catch a view of the famed Aurora Borealis. Here are some of the top destinations for people wanting to witness the unmatched beauty of the Northern Lights, with clarity and style.
Northern Lights tourism is a thriving industry in this quaint, yet breath-taking island nation, located just below the Arctic Circle. Every year, adventurers from all over the world hop on bus tours to the outskirts of Icelandʼs capital city to watch the Northern Lights unfurl and perform before their eyes. The country is also full of world-class accommodations, charming cafes, cozy bars, live music performances, and starkly-beautiful landscapes, making it an ideal place for a ritzy Aurora-centered excursion.
Pro tip: If you go, plan for at least a week-long stay. From September to April, Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, so travelers will want to allow ample time for any inclement conditions to pass. If you arrive at the right time, however, the views are the most spectacular in the world.
Americans who donʼt want to cross borders to view the Northern Lights should take a flight to Fairbanks, Alaska. During the wintertime, this hotspot boasts regularly clear, boundless skies, the perfect stage for observing the Northern Lightsʼ brilliant show of colors. Aside from the rugged Alaskan wilderness, Fairbanks is a perfect location for a romantic getaway. The area is home to several hot springs and luxury accommodations, which allow guests to sip wine, curl up by a fireplace, and breathe in the fresh air of unspoiled nature. Visiting Fairbanks gives visitors a chance to escape from the grind of everyday life and commune with the natural world, under a spectacular canopy of stars and lights.
Natureʼs firework display can be seen most clearly in the northernmost wildernesses of Scandinavia, and the Swedish Lapplands are no exception. A trip to the sparsely-populated town of Kiruna from October to March presents numerous opportunities to watch the Aurora take over the skies. Moreover, a trip to this off-the-beaten-path outpost is a dream for outdoorsy types, who love ice fishing, hiking, biking, or spending time sweating their cares away in a Swedish sauna. A trip to the Luleå archipelago is also a highly-recommended venture; there, you can watch or participate in husky dog sledding, as you wait for the Northern Lights to appear in the crisp, open skies. In Jukkasjärvi, check into the ICEHOTEL where you can spend an unforgettable one-of-a-kind getaway with your partner.
Secluded and serene, Greenland—which is an independent territory of the Danish kingdom—rests at the top of the Earth, boasting a small population of less than 60,000 people. The world’s largest island, Greenland is home to rich natural beauty and desolate landscapes that inspire the imagination with their ruggedness and splendor. If you’re looking for the perfect spot to view the Aurora Borealis, this island destination at the edge of the world is ideal, its mountainous, icy terrain serving as a stunning backdrop for nighttime photographs. Visitors can fly into the capital city of Nuuk and travel to the west coast toward Ilulissat, an isolated town with clear skies and a host of fun touristy activities, like ice cave exploring and dogsledding.
Yukon Territory, Canada
Canada’s most sparsely populated territory, the Yukon is a dream destination for campers and hikers, who want to see the Northern Lights amidst the raw, untapped wilderness of western Canada. Here, the Aurora Borealis can be viewed starting around late-August/September timeframe, and due to the Yukon’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, they are visible even into the early spring. Filled with cultural history, the province is home to many First Nations tribal lands, and it is also the site of the Klondike Gold Rush, the spirit of which still exists in the territory’s mining industry. For travelers seeking a thrill outdoors, look no further than Canada’s idyllic wilderness. Just pack a tent and camping gear, grab a heavy coat and boots, and watch the brilliant Northern Lights appear gloriously in the wide-open sky.