Aurora Borealis aka The Northern Lights

Sure. You’ve heard of the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, but have you seen it? If you have a bucket list make sure this one is on it. It’s that spectacular.

The northern lights are a natural lightshow that occurs in the northern altitudes, the higher the better. Charged solar wind particles floating in the earth’s atmosphere collide with atoms and cause the display of colorful lights that spread through the skies at high altitudes.The exhibit is nothing short of stunning and never fails to take your breath away each and every time it happens. It’s ethereal, other worldly and has the distinct ability to make us realize how very small we are in this big universe.

Northern Lights Tromso
Photo By Moyan Bren – Creative Commons

The best viewing times are from September through March under clear, dark skies from 5 p.m. till 2 a.m.. The further you are from artificial light the better chance you will have of being able to see clearly.  Keep in mind, December through February bring the longest nights. That gives you even more chances to get a good look.

You can see the northern lights from the high altitude places in the world. The very best views are in the auroral oval which sits above the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Canada are all easily accessible (relatively) destinations in the auroral oval.

There are many hotels, resorts, festivals and tours in these places dedicated to the natural phenomenon and enjoying it to the fullest. Check out any of the destinations below to see the northern lights in style.

Northern Lights In Sweden

The Swedish provinces near the Norwegian border are some of the very best destinations in the world to view the northern lights. Abisko National Park is a Swedish treasure that was preserved in order to keep a percentage of the unscathed Nordic territories in pristine condition for research and study. Hence, the Abisko Scientific Research Station was developed and it is here, at the world-renowned Abisko Sky Station, that one of the best sightings of the northern lights in the world happens.

Abisko is smack dab in the middle of the auroral oval. There is just no missing the northern lights here. It also helps that the air is so fresh and clear and there is hardly ever a cloud in the sky. These conditions make it possible to see some action out of the aurora borealis practically every night.

The sky station also uses amplifiers during the evening. Strange sounds occur during the aurora borealis which are hard to determine but these “voices from space” make the show that much cooler. Inside the sky station you’ll find special exhibits and displays to help you better understand how the northern lights happen and what they are. Many northern lights vacationers watch the amazing eruptions turn to the calmer, pulsating shimmers and then enjoy a stay at the Ice Hotel; the world’s largest hotel made of ice and snow.

The Ice Hotel offers guided tours each night to various spots to witness the show.

Northern Lights In Iceland

Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland is a perfect spot to see the northern lights in all their splendor. It is a popular travel destination in itself because of the amazing landscape. Mother Nature pulled out all the stops in this place, and that’s before you see the northern lights each night. There are volcanoes and lava fields near glaciers, waterfalls and cascades. The area is startlingly full of nature’s most amazing details.

Aurora Borealis Northern Lights
Photo by Image Editor – Creative Commons

The nearby fishing village of Budir has a secluded hotel with a vantage point to clearly see the northern lights each night. Hotel Budir has daytime activities like snowmobiling, 4-wheeling and skiing but if you plan to take advantage of those get there before solstice, when the polar lights occur, the sun doesn’t rise till 11.40am and is gone again by 3.15pm.

Imagine how amazing it is to watch the aurora borealis from your own private room each night. That would be a vacation worth waiting for.

Northern Lights In Norway

There is never any guarantee of seeing the northern lights anywhere, your best bet of seeing them in Iceland is between December and April when the days are longer but the nights are dry and cloudless. Earlier in the winter season brings a lot of wet weather and a lesser chance of active aurora borealis occurrences. Technically, you can see the northern lights all over Norway. However, even here some places are better than others. Lofoten, Norway and all the way up the coastal North Cape is the best place in Norway to see them.

Another really cool option in Norway is to check out the lights from aboard the cruise ship, Hurtigruten, which travels the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes. Not only are you able to check out an unobstructed view of the magnificent north lights but you can also enjoy all the other shipboard activities.

Northern Lights In Finland

Lapland, known as The North of Finland, has long been held as a perfect spot to see the northern lights. It’s also a great place to check out the phenomenon of the polar lights, or twilight, as its also called. It happens in the Arctic Circle during the winter months when the sun doesn’t cross the horizon. The barely filtering sunlight in those few hours seems magical.

While you’re waiting for night to bring the northern lights in Lapland there are lots of other things to do. Rent a log cabin or a heated glass igloo. Private saunas are available to heat up those chilled bones after aurora watching in the deep, cold night.

Northern Lights In Canada

Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada is an excellent viewing option on this side of the Arctic Circle. Canada is at the southernmost tip of the oval and some say gets the least clear view. It is easier and cheaper to get to than the northern destinations.

The amazing array of colors still ribbon across the sky. You get the same wide-eyed amazement of seeing something so brilliantly breath taking appear before you. You lose a little detail and the sightings are a tad farther between but for many that is a small price to pay.

There are several tours and many hotels and restaurants. There are local attractions and activities for fun during the daylight hours.

The northern lights are something too few of us get to see. An opportunity to see this spectacle is an opportunity to witness the wonders of nature and observe a miracle of the universe. This vacation will make memories unlike any other.

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