The Best Places for Northern Lights Holidays in Europe, Canada & Alaska
Planning Your Northern Lights Holiday
If you're thinking about taking a trip to see the northern lights and wondering where the best places to see them are then, welcome - you are in the right place! There's plenty of information here for the aurora chasers among you on where to travel in Europe, America or Canada to get the best view of the northern lights. Also covered are the best locations in Greenland, Iceland and Russia so there really is no excuse to not start planning your northern lights holiday straight away.
Catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis is never guaranteed but you can certainly increase the odds by going to:
- The Right Location (Anywhere in or near the Northern Aurora Belt)
- At the Best Time of Year (October, February or March)
- In the Right Moon Phase (During a New Moon)
The first thing to do when planning your northern lights holiday, is to identify the type of holiday you would like whether it be a cruise, a package tour or a DIY vacation. Then you'll need to consider the easiest country for you to travel to, to see the aurora borealis. Wherever you live, you are going to need to travel North to the arctic circle (the aurora belt. Below you'll find a list of the easiest cities to travel to to see the aurora borealis - and to help you, towns in or near the aurora belt with airports have been marked and the main airlines that fly to them are also stated. )
Of course if you are planning an Alaskan or Norweigan Cruise, then some of this information won't apply to you as aurora cruises are already planned at the best times of year to see the northern lights.
What's Covered in this Article
- Overview of the Aurora Belt and Earth's Magnetic Field
- Best Months to See the Aurora Borealis plus Other Considerations
- Types of Northern Lights Holidays
- Best Places to See the Aurora in the Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Lights are simply incredible and must be regarded as one of the most amazing natural phenomena that we have the opportunity to experience!
The Aurora Belt
You can catch the northern borealis basically anywhere in the northern hemisphere that sits within or just outside of the northern aurora belt. The aurora are created by the intereaction of the Earth's magnetism and the Solar wind. The aurora belt moves around a little, but in general it follows the edge of the arctic circle and is marked on the images below by the wide green band.
The Northern Aurora Belt
The Earth's Magentic Field
Best Months to see the Aurora Borealis
The best times of year to see the aurora in the northern hemisphere are October, February and March. This is because it's dark (the summer months have up to 24 hours of daylight) and there is not as much cloud cover as in the other Winter months. It's more complex than this and other factors include the tilt of the earth in relation to the sun and the exact whereabouts of the geophysical magnetic circle, but the months given are the best months to see the aurora borealis.
Other Considerations - Hours of Darkness, Moon Phases & Light Pollution
You can check the hours of darkness and daylight for any given month in any location around the globe here:
You can also use the website above to check the moon's phases before you book your trip and try to plan it during, or as close to, a New Moon as you can. A dark sky is one of the biggest factors affecting your ability to see the northern lights, so as well as going to your destination at the right time of year and in the correct moon phase you also need to think about light pollution. You can decide to stay outside of the main cities and towns or book aurora watching trips from your chosen location.
Types of Northern Lights Holidays
One of the most popular choices for a Northern Lights holiday is a Fjord Cruise or Alaskan Cruise. It's a luxury way of travelling to see the northern borealis and you can also do some whale watching and enjoy the wonder of the glaciers.
Dog Sled Tours
Dog sledding is an incredible experience and even if you don't go the whole hog of having a full 5 day dog sled tour it's definitely something to do on your northern lights holiday.
Northern Lights Guided Tours
There are some specialist tour companies who will arrange everything for you including, flights, accommodation, northern lights expeditions, and other arctic activities such as dog sledding, whale watching and cross country skiing.
There are northern lights city breaks available. Much like the guided tours the price will include flights, accommodation, board, transfers and possibly northern lights excursions (though these are usually extra).
This is my favourite way of holidaying and often works out a lot cheaper than other options, so it's good for those on lower budgets. Choose your destination - book your flights - book your accommodation and then book your activities when you get there. All of the places I've listed below are set up for northern lights chasers and will offer a range of activities to choose from.
Specialist Aurora Chasing Airflights
The last option for your northern lights holiday is to book a specialist aurora flight. Fly up above the clouds and hopefully see the aurora in all their glory!
The Aurora Belt Europe
The Best Places to See the Aurora Borealis
The following countries are the best places to see the northern lights in the Northern hemisphere. Check the aurora belt map to see where the towns and cities identified sit within it. The closer they are to the aurora belt, the better chance you have of seeing the northern lights.
If you're in the Europe, then the best places to see the aurora borealis are Northern Norway, Northern Finland, Northern Sweden and Iceland. Tromso Norway is the most famous town for aurora chasing in Europe and is right in the middle of the aurora belt. It's also very easy to get to.
Scotland has not been included in the list because the aurora need to be particularly strong to see them there and so the chances of seeing good show is less likely.
- Tromso (airport) Tomso is the top European destination for viewing the Northern Lights. It's very easy to get to from anywhere in Europe. Airlines flying to Tromso are SAS, Norwegian and Wideroe. From the UK then you can get a direct flight to Tromso from many UK airports through Norweigan airlines. If you saw the Joanna Lumley documentary on the Aurora Borealis then you may recognise the name of the city Tromso, as this was one of the places she travelled to - the other was Svalbad Island.
- Alta (The Ice Hotel is located here)
- Longyearbyen (Svalbad Island)
Finland is a stunning country that is worth a visit at any time of year, but for those wanting to see the northern lights then you will need to get as far north as possible. The following airports are in the north of Finland and are easily accessible by flying from Helskinki.
- Ivalo (airport) Flights available from Helsinki with Finnair, Blue 1, KLM and SAS
Sweden is another beautiful Scandinavian country where it's possible to see the northern lights if you go at the right time of year (see above for the best months to go). Kiruna is the most northern city in Sweden with an airport and is easy to get to via Stockholm.
- Kiruna (airport) Flights available from Stockholm with SAS, Norwegian and Golden Air.
Iceland (Northern and Western Areas)
Iceland is another top destination to see the aurora borealis and there is so much more to do in Iceland as well. With so many unique natural features to the island such as the Blue Lagoon (a volcanically heated lake), the active volcanoes and the glaciers there is plenty to enjoy. And then there is Reykjavic itself which is an extremely vibrant city.
- Reykjavic (airport) Flights avilable from IcelandAir, Air Iceland, SAS, Canadian Western Airlines, Atlantic Airways and Astraeus
- Grimsey (Island)
For those travellers coming from either within Russia or Asia, Murmansk may be the easiest destination to travel to to see the northern lights. Murmansk is very close to Finland and just outside of the central aurora belt.
- Murmansk (airport) Flights available from Aeroflot, UTair, Sky Express.ru, Rossiya Airlines and Aeroflot Nord.
- Kulusuk (airport) Flights available from Air Iceland and Air Greenland. The easiest way to get to Greenland seems to be to fly to Reykjavik and get a connecting flight form there.
Read more about the magic of Greenland - Written by fellow hubber Patty English, it gives an excellent overview of what Greenland is all about and what you can do there.
Towns in the Aurora Belt Alaska
Alaska is a favorite venue for those in the Americas to travel to to see the northern lights, either by taking an Alaskan Cruise (at the right time of year) or by flying directly to Fairbanks.
- Fairbanks (airport) - Flights to Fairbanks are available from Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines. There is also a daily train service from Anchorage, Alaska.
- Fort Yukon
- Prudhoe Bay
Towns in the Aurora Belt Canada
- Yellowknife (airport) Flights available from WestJet, Air Canada, FirstAir, and Canadian North. Flying from many of the main Canadian cities.
- Dawson City
- Fort Nelson
- Fort McMurray
Enjoy your Trip to the Northern Lights!
Seeing the northern lights is truly a magical experience and one never to be forgotten. However you decide to take your trip and wherever you choose to go to see the aurora - I hope you catch them!
More on Tromso Norway
- Aurora Borealis - Northern Lights - Tromso Norway
If you want to see the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in Europe then Tromso Norway, is the destination. Learn all about how to get there, where to stay, what to do and how much it will cost.