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Where to see the Northern Lights

By JoThursday 31st January 2019

Seeing the bright dancing lights and hypnotic movements of the aurora borealis appears on many people’s bucket lists, with the naturally occurring phenomenon visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The northern lights appear in many different forms, from scattered patches of light to rippling arcs of colour that can even be seen from space.

Like any natural phenomena, the aurora is as elusive as it is awe-inspiring. The northern lights are most frequently visible in Northern Scandinavia, while in the southern hemisphere the southern lights are known as aurora australis and can be seen in Australia and New Zealand. This illuminating guide looks at the top five destinations you need to visit on your northern lights cruise for a front row seat to one of greatest shows on earth.

Finland
Northern lights in Finland

Finland is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights, as the stunning spectacle is visible around 200 nights a year. Head to the city of Rovaniemi, where the low density population and minimal light pollution means you don’t have to search too hard for a clear view of the lights, or sit below the aurora oval itself in the small village of Muonio for an unparalleled performance.

While it’s possible to view the aurora from Helsinki, the conditions must be perfect to combat the capital’s snowy weather, dense population and heavy light pollution. It’s important to plan your trip at the right time of year, as the lights are more visible during the colder dark half of the year. Late autumn and winter are the best times to see the aurora borealis and possibly early spring if you’re willing to stay up late on clear nights.

Even if you’re not lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the northern lights on your trip, there’s still plenty to do in Finland. Snuggle up with a loved one beneath the stars in a world famous glass igloo, stroll around one of Helsinki’s old wooden districts, or hike in one of Finland’s 40 national parks. To experience the breath-taking views and captivating culture of the Land of a Thousand Lakes, browse our Finland Cruises today.

Sweden
Northern lights in Sweden

If seeing the northern lights is high up on your to-do list, Sweden is a good place to start. The aurora is most visible from Sweden’s northern reaches that lie closer to the ‘auroral zone’ - a ring that stretches around the globe around 200-300 km from the shifting magnetic pole. Take in the lights and mountainous landscape of Abisko National Park from the Aurora Sky Station, or soak in the indigenous Sámi culture in the northern town of Jokkmokk.

Aurora season in Sweden runs from the end of September until the beginning of April, with between 9pm and 2am the best time of night to catch the lights. If there’s a good amount of solar activity, clear skies and low light pollution, it may even be possible to see the Aurora as soon as it gets dark in the evening.

While you wait to catch a glimpse of the aurora, spend your holiday indulging in some of the country’s exhilarating activities: dare to go dog sledding, admire the medieval architecture in Gamla Stan, visit the famous Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, or go thrill-seeking at the Liseberg amusement park. To soak in the snowy scenery of the Land of Blue Lakes, take a look at our Sweden Cruises today.

Norway
Northern lights in Norway

Head to the Arctic Circle to catch the dazzling northern lights in Norway, where the aurora appears at high latitudes on dark nights. The further north you travel, the better chance you have of catching the phenomenon; take in the sparkling skies of Lyngenfjord to see the lights dance above the mountaintops, watch the aurora in Alta, or enjoy some sensational polaris activity from the Varanger Peninsula, located in the middle of the Northern Lights Oval.

For the best chance of seeing the lights, visit Norway between October and March when the nights are long and dark. While it’s possible to see the aurora in summer, the sun barely sets over the horizon in June, July or the beginning of August. Autumn is the earliest season each year where you might see the northern lights in Norway, but this depends on the weather conditions and light pollution.

There’s plenty of other things to do in Norway besides seeing the northern Llights - particularly if you’re a fan of the great outdoors. Feel at one with nature as you find one of the country’s 1000 fjords, traverse one of the 46 idyllic national parks, or uncover Norway’s viking culture through wooden stave churches. If you want to explore the sensational scenery of the Land of Midnight Sun, find your ideal Norway Cruise today.

Iceland
Northern lights in Iceland

There are many different ways to experience the northern lights in Iceland, as they are visible for up to eight months a year. The capital city Reykjavik is one of the most popular places in the world to see the aurora due to its clear sky, dark nights, minimal cloud cover and low light pollution. For an optimal viewing experience, take a guided tour out into the relatively uninhabited Seltjarnarnes peninsula or visit the expansive Thingvellir National Park.

It’s important to pick the right time of year to visit Iceland, as the country is located at a high latitude, meaning that there is no darkness from mid-April until mid-August each year and the northern lights cannot be seen. November to February are the darkest and longest months, but are prone to lots of rain and snow. To get the best odds of seeing the lights, it’s recommended that you stay for a minimum of seven nights during the winter months.

Witnessing the northern lights isn’t the only thing to do in Iceland. As one of the most volcanically active destinations in the world, you can relax in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon on the Reykjanes Peninsula or soak in the sizzling steam baths at Myvatn, before discovering the black sand Diamond Beach. To be enthralled by The Land of Fire and Ice, check out our Iceland Cruises.

Alaska
Northern lights in Alaska

If you fancy venturing beyond Europe to hunt down the northern lights, Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the famous light show. Wrap up warm and watch the sky light up in Fairbanks, situated just below the Arctic Circle, observe the aurora above the mountains in Coldfoot Camp, or venture to St. Elias National Park - the largest protected reserve in the United States.

While you can see the lights from the capital city Juneau, you’ll need to head further north for a better chance to catch the dramatic display. Since the lights are more vibrant at night, you’ll want to visit Alaska from September until late April when there’s the most darkness, clear skies and generally mild weather. Peak auroral activity is between 10pm and 2am during winter, but you can often catch the lights around an hour after sunset on clear nights.

While you’re adventuring in Alaska, speed through Juneau’s snowy scene on an exhilarating dog sled ride, delve into copper mines, or experience the world’s largest year-round ice environment at the Aurora Ice Museum. To enjoy the glittering waters and wondrous wildlife of The Last Frontier, find your perfect Alaska Cruise today.

With so many dazzling destinations and awe-inspiring activities to experience alongside the aurora, there’s so much to do on a northern lights cruise. So what are you waiting for - kickstart your once-in-a-lifetime adventure today...

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