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Winter Escapes: See the Aurora
Northern lights destinations offer up creative ways to enjoy the aurora's dazzling displays.
Seeing the aurora features on many people’s bucket lists, and winter’s long days create the best backdrop of darkness for this otherworldly light show. From Finland to Alaska to Iceland, each northern lights hot spot offers unique ways to enjoy the natural phenomenon. Whether you choose to view the northern lights from a Tesla, reindeer sled, or hot springs, your aurora experience is sure to be incredible. And if you do get lucky and see the northern lights, you’ll likely never forget how the glowing waves of greens and pinks shimmer and twirl through the sky above you.
The aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska: Chena Hot Springs
Your hunt for Alaska’s northern lights begins in Fairbanks. Here you’ll find ruggedly beautiful Alaskan wilderness and a hardy, pioneering spirit. There’s plenty to do here as you wait for the northern lights. You could adventure across the frozen Yukon River to watch the aurora from within the Arctic Circle or learn more about native Inuit culture at Chena Indian Village. Gaze at the green curtain of lights late at night from inside the luxurious geothermal Chena Hot Springs pools before retreating to your heated yurt.
Chase the aurora in Finland’s Lapland
Finland’s winter wonderland city, Rovaniemi, has an array of creative ways to view the northern lights. Take a reindeer sleighride to a reindeer farm or ride a snowmobile to a rustic campfire dinner. You can even wear a drysuit and watch the northern lights while floating in Lapland’s icy waters. For a more gourmet adventure, head to the Arctic Snow Hotel for a 3-course dinner in a toasty Lappish tepee. Rovaniemi has a ski resort in the middle of town, so you can view the northern lights from the slopes. Kids will love Santa Claus Village and Rovaniemi’s underground amusement park, Santapark.
Northern lights in a Tesla: Tromso, Norway
Start your northern lights viewing trip above the Arctic Circle in the small but sophisticated historic town of Tromso, Norway. Consider booking a guided tour with a professional northern lights tour guide who can lead you to the ideal spot to view the undulating lights. Tromso offers unique transportation options for viewing the northern lights, from a zero-emission Tesla Model X to a sailboat that takes you through Norway’s Arctic fjords. Enjoy a hot drink on board or in the car while you wait for the dancing lights come out to play.
Swedish Lapland: Watch the aurora in a dogsled
Leave the bright lights of Stockholm behind and head north to the dark side of Sweden. From your base in Kiruna, you can view the northern lights and explore Lapland, the traditional home of the indigenous Sámi people. Tour Lapland’s ruggedly beautiful scenery with a northern lights photography tour or take a husky-pulled sleigh ride across the tundra while you watch for the aurora. You can also embark on a Swedish wildlife safari or learn to drive a Lappish dogsled. Kiruna boasts Kiruna Kyrka, a gorgeous church with Sámi-inspired art, and an excellent tour of the active local iron-ore mine.
The aurora & volcanoes: Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland’s northern lights, epic volcanic landscapes, and Viking influences beckon adventurers and nature-lovers year-round. This winter, explore Reykjavik’s brightly painted buildings and Hallgrímskirkja Church. Venture out of the city to see nature’s neon lights show via Jeep tour or cruise. For a truly Icelandic experience, feast on locally sourced Icelandic food while you view the aurora from geothermal pools and steam baths near Laugarvatn. You’re sure to go home refreshed in body and soul.
Northern lights & wildlife: Whitehorse, Canada
Whitehorse is the only city in Canada’s magnificent Yukon territory. It’s also an ideal spot to view the northern lights. The quirky stores, friendly locals, and epic wildlife of Whitehorse will complement your magnificent aurora experience. When you’re not gazing at the northern lights, you can explore Canada’s vast frontier by dog sledding, viewing wild bison and moose, and soaking in the geothermal springs at Takhini Hot Pools. If you’re looking for a Canadian aurora adventure closer to the East Coast, Yellowknife also has good amenities and spectacular multi-day northern lights tours.
It’s impossible to predict the northern lights, because they’re caused by unpredictable solar flares. Cloudy nights can also interfere with your best laid plans. Here are some tips to optimize your northern lights trip:
Before You Book
- Moonless nights are best for viewing the aurora, so plan your vacation for nights with no moon.
- Try to book your stay for at least 4 days, and longer if possible.
Before You Go
- Download an app that lets you track the northern lights.
- If the northern lights make an appearance early on in your trip, drop everything and look.
- Be flexible. Even if you don’t glimpse the northern lights, there are lots of ways to enjoy your northern adventure.
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