Have you ever seen the Northern Lights in person? I saw them frequently growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, and, sadly, I mostly took them for granted. Sure, I found them absolutely mesmerizing even then, but I didn’t realize how privileged I was to witness them until I was older and moved to the lower states.
Scientists with the Solar Cycle Prediction Panel are predicting, based on observations of solar activity, that the year ahead should have more intense northern lights activity than we’ve seen in a long time. The lights are expected to build to a peak by November of 2024, at which point they’ll steadily and slowly decline again.
It’s a breathtaking experience, and there are several fantastic places to witness this natural wonder during the winter months. Here are eight incredible places to see the Northern Lights this winter, along with reasons why they’re some of the best, suggestions for activities, accommodation, dining, and nearby attractions.
Tromsø is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Arctic” because of its location in the Arctic Circle and offers some of the most reliable Northern Lights sightings in the world due to its high latitude.
Stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel Tromsø or the Tromsø Ice Domes for a unique experience and amazing memories. The ice domes are rebuilt every year for the winter season and are generally open from mid-December to early April.
Try local seafood at Fiskekompaniet or enjoy traditional Norwegian dishes at Bardus Bistro.
Explore the Arctic Cathedral, visit the Polar Museum, go dog sledding, and take a fjord cruise.
To increase your chances of witnessing the Northern Lights, here are some popular spots.
You don’t have to venture far from Tromsø’s city center to see the Northern Lights, as they can often be visible within the city limits. Find a spot with minimal light pollution, such as Tromsøya Island or the outskirts of the city.
Take the cable car up to Mount Storsteinen for a panoramic view of Tromsø and the surrounding areas. This location offers a great vantage point for observing the Northern Lights.
This center is about a 25-minute drive from Tromsø and offers guided Northern Lights tours in a wilderness setting, away from city lights.
Abisko National Park’s location within a rain shadow and its clear skies make it an excellent place for Northern Lights viewing.
STF Abisko Turiststation or the Abisko Mountain Lodge.
Dine at the Abisko Mountain Lodge Restaurant for local cuisine.
Winter hike in Abisko National Park, take a chairlift up Nuolja Mountain, and visit the Aurora Sky Station.
Abisko, Sweden, is renowned for its excellent opportunities to witness the Northern Lights due to its remote location and clear skies. Here are some prime locations for experiencing the Northern Lights in Abisko.
Abisko National Park is the premier destination for Northern Lights viewing in Abisko. The park’s location in a deep, narrow valley helps block out light pollution, making it an ideal spot for seeing the Aurora Borealis.
The Aurora Sky Station in Abisko is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. It’s equipped with professional equipment and knowledgeable guides who can provide information about the phenomenon. You can reach the station by taking a chairlift or hiking, depending on the season.
The frozen Lake Torneträsk, which is close to Abisko, provides a picturesque setting for Northern Lights viewing. Its icy surface can create stunning reflections of the aurora.
Fairbanks offers frequent Northern Lights displays and has a wide range of accommodations and activities.
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge or the Chena Hot Springs Resort. I highly recommend Chena Hot Springs, which is just outside the city and will give you a variety of experiences beyond the Northern Lights.
Enjoy Alaskan cuisine at the Pump House Restaurant.
Explore the Chena Hot Springs, look for wildlife, visit the Ice Museum, try some snowshoeing and take a dog sledding tour.
Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the top destinations in the world for observing the Northern Lights due to its location within the Auroral Oval, where auroras are frequently visible. To maximize your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, consider the following locations.
Chena Hot Springs, located about an hour’s drive from Fairbanks, is a popular destination for aurora viewing. The resort has natural hot springs, and you can relax in warm pools while gazing at the Northern Lights during the winter season. They also offer guided tours and aurora wake-up calls.
This is one of the best-known Aurora viewing spots near Fairbanks. Murphy Dome is a high point that offers a clear view of the night sky. It’s accessible by car but can be challenging to reach in the winter due to snowy conditions. Be sure to dress warmly.
For a more accessible option within Fairbanks, Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge offers dark skies and is an excellent spot for aurora photography. Just be aware of any posted hours or regulations for the refuge.
Yellowknife boasts a high aurora activity and is one of the best places in North America to witness the Northern Lights due to its prime location under the Aurora Oval.
The Explorer Hotel
Try local fare at the Wildcat Café or the Dancing Moose Café.
Go ice fishing, visit the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and take a flightseeing tour.
Consider these locations for viewing the Northern Lights in Yellowknife.
Aurora Village is a popular destination for tourists seeking the Northern Lights in Yellowknife. It offers heated teepees overlooking a lake, viewing decks, and guided tours specifically designed for Aurora watching.
This is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike. It’s not far from Yellowknife and provides a dark and open area for Aurora viewing. Many tour operators offer trips to Vee Lake.
This park is located within Yellowknife and offers a peaceful natural setting for Aurora viewing. It’s a great option if you prefer to stay within the city.
Ivalo, in the Finnish Lapland, is a prime destination for witnessing the Northern Lights due to its location within the Arctic Circle.
Ivalo is located in Lapland, within the Arctic Circle, and provides excellent chances to see the Northern Lights, especially during the polar night.
Stay at the exclusive Aurora Village or the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort for glass igloo accommodations.
Try Finnish dishes at the Aurora Village Restaurant or the Aurora Sky Restaurant at Kakslauttanen.
Go reindeer sledding, visit the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos, and take a snowmobile safari.
To maximize your chances of experiencing this breathtaking natural phenomenon in Ivalo, consider the following locations.
Saariselkä is a resort village about 30 minutes from Ivalo. It’s surrounded by pristine wilderness and offers various activities such as husky sledding and snowshoeing, making it a great place to combine outdoor adventures with Northern Lights viewing.
This famous resort near Ivalo offers unique accommodations in glass igloos, which provide the perfect opportunity to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your own room.
This hotel in the heart of Ivalo has an Aurora viewing deck and offers accommodations that cater to Northern Lights enthusiasts.
Kiruna, located in the northernmost part of Sweden, is a prime location for witnessing the Northern Lights. The region’s high latitude and minimal light pollution make it an excellent place to view this natural phenomenon.
Kiruna’s location in the Swedish Lapland provides ample opportunities for Aurora sightings.
Stay at the Icehotel for a unique experience or at the Scandic Ferrum.
Dine at the Icehotel Restaurant or the SPiS Hotel & Bar.
Visit the Icehotel, explore the Kiruna Church, and take a tour of the LKAB iron ore mine.
Here are some top spots for seeing the Northern Lights in Kiruna:
Kiruna is home to the famous Icehotel, which offers unique ice and snow accommodations. Some of their cold rooms are equipped with glass roofs, allowing you to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed.
The Torne River offers a picturesque setting for Northern Lights photography, with its reflection on the water. It’s easily accessible from Kiruna and a great place to capture the Aurora in a serene environment.
Luossavaara, a mountain near Kiruna, offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. It’s a convenient spot for observing the Northern Lights if you want to stay close to the city.
Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland and located near the Arctic Circle, is a popular destination for witnessing the Northern Lights.
Rovaniemi provides fantastic opportunities for Northern Lights viewing as it is near the Arctic Circle.
Stay in a cozy cabin at Arctic Circle Wilderness Lodge or the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel.
Try Lappish delicacies at Nili Restaurant or Restaurant Roka.
Visit Santa Claus Village, go snowshoeing, and take a husky safari.
Here are some of the best spots for experiencing the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi:
While not a natural location, the Arktikum offers an indoor Northern Lights presentation that includes a simulated aurora experience. It’s a great place to learn about the science and folklore of the Northern Lights before heading out to see them in the wild.
Ounasvaara is a hill located just a short distance from the city center. You can hike up or take a ski lift to the top, which offers a clear view of the northern horizon. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists to observe the Northern Lights.
The banks of the Kemijoki River, which runs through Rovaniemi, can offer decent Northern Lights viewing opportunities. Find a quiet spot along the river away from the city lights for the best experience.
Iceland’s location near the Arctic Circle makes it one of the prime spots in the world to witness the Northern Lights. Most of the country is sparsely populated, which means you can escape light pollution and have a better chance of seeing the lights clearly.
Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, offers a variety of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Or you can consider staying in more remote areas like Hella, Vik, or Akureyri for a better chance of seeing the lights without light pollution.
The capital has a vibrant food scene with many restaurants offering Icelandic cuisine. Try dishes like lamb, fish, and the famous Icelandic hot dogs.
Visit the Blue Lagoon, take a Golden Circle Tour or go snowmobiling.
Here are some places to go to best see them.
A popular spot due to its proximity to Reykjavik and clear skies. It’s a designated Dark Sky Park.
Located in the southeast, this area offers minimal light pollution and stunning landscapes.
On the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, this park offers dark skies and a beautiful coastal setting.
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon, and their appearance can be unpredictable. Consider staying for several nights to increase your chances of witnessing the Auroras.
Monitor weather and aurora forecasts regularly during your stay. Clear skies and high aurora activity increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Consider joining a guided Northern Lights tour led by experienced professionals who know the best spots and can provide valuable information about the lights.
The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the winter months when the nights are longest, and the skies are darkest. January, February and March seem to be the best time to see them, but certainly not the only time. You can also see them in Autumn, and the chance of clear skies is often greater at that time.
Dress in warm layers, including thermal clothing, to stay comfortable during your aurora adventure.
Practice your photography skills in advance, on the stars and milky way. This way you can make the most of your time with the Northern Lights!
The Northern Lights are an absolutely breathtaking sight that captivates the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to witness them. This natural phenomenon paints the night sky with vibrant hues of green, purple, pink, and sometimes even red, creating a celestial display that seems otherworldly. It is, without a doubt, a once-in-a-lifetime magical experience that you will never forget.
Have you ever seen the Northern Lights and where were you at the time? Would you take a trip just to see them again? Would you stay in an igloo?