When & where to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

During the months of October to March when the Arctic Circle experiences dark nights, charged particles from the Sun are drawn earthward over the magnetic pole and interact with electrons in the upper atmosphere.

Up to a trillion watts of electricity is released, creating the visible aurora, a fantastic display of colour dancing across the night in front of your eyes… you have just experienced the phenomena of aurora borealis – the northern lights!

My suggestions on this blog are based on personal travels around the Nordic and Arctic region creating both summer & winter holidays for the UK market as a tour operator. It was tough having that much fun for 3 years!

Where is visibility best?
As a general rule, the further north you travel into the nordic region and Arctic Circle the better your chance of seeing them in full glory.

You need a clear, dark sky, so city lights will limit the visibility greatly. Being remote in the wilderness is ideal, though taking an excursion away from the city lights to a nearby mountain top will often be enough, as it was for me in Reykjavik.

The ultimate experience would be sleeping in a glass igloo under the stars to marvel at them all night long…

So which destinations are popular or just a good excuse to visit and experience the lights?
Based on my travels around the Arctic region…
The Finnish Lapland hubs of Saariselka & Rovaneimi, where you can combine a visit to Santa himself with a wide variety of winter activities from gentle Reindeer sleigh rides for all the family to winter rally driving for the ultimate adrenaline rush.

northern lights

Iceland’s vibrant capital Reykjavik, where the excursion to a nearby mountain top away from city lights did the trick. Excursions and overnight trips from the city offer a very exciting range of winter activies with Glacier snowmobiles and Super Jeep adventures with Geysers, mud pools & lava fields unfazed by the onset of winter.

Illulisat on Greenlands west coast, deep in Inuit culture, really is a new frontier as you fly over the Inland Ice Cap the size of many European countries combined, arriving at a mountainous coastline boasting glacier mouths running into frozen fjords and the magnificent sight of towering icebergs held by the frozen sea, bar sea channels to the outside world.

Swedish Lapland’s Ice Hotel includes the winter activity range with the unique experience of sleeping in possibly the most famous ice hotel in the world. With rooms and suites on offer, combined with adjacent warm chalets, this is a truly unique destination only a short flight from hub cities in the region.

Norway’s northern Lofoten Islands and Tromso, which are often enjoyed as part of the Norwegian Coastal Voyage, have flights during the winter offering a faster journey to these stunning coastal town settings, while Tromso is also where I departed for my flight to Spitsbergen, half way between the northern tip of Norway and the North Pole!

Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, in Svalbard’s mountainous archipelago 3/4 of the way from the UK to the North Pole, reached via flight from Norway, is protected Polar Bear country and where spectacular ice caves are just a rope ladder beneath the glacier’s surface.
This is largely a science focused town with Norwegian academics using top of the world satellites for tracking the world beyond. Snowmobile adventures will take you into Polar Bear country with emergency equipment in tow…

Please contact us for any tailored holidays in the Nordic & Arctic region.