In Norway, children were once forbidden to talk to the northern lights or even wave a white handkerchief at them. According to legend, this caused misfortune and would encourage the northern lights to bring the children home.
Today, of course, children are no longer afraid of the Northern Lights. But the northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, have not lost their mystical charm and spirit.
The northern lights are a green, purple, and red veil that appears on the northern globe. In the south they are called the southern lights. However, because Australia is so northerly, the southern lights are rarely seen. The aurora borealis and australasian aurora are collectively called the northern lights. In Europe, the chances of seeing the aurora borealis are much higher – with a little luck you can see them in different countries from the end of August to the end of April.
Northern Lights: This is how it’s made
On the one hand, happiness depends on the correct solar activity – only then do colored particles appear in the air. Because the polar lights are created by explosions in the sun. When electrically charged particles turn into solar storms as a result of the explosions and escape from the manganese field, they disrupt the Earth’s magnetic field. It is shifted up and down – towards the North Pole and the South Pole. In the Earth’s atmosphere, they meet with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen, creating a colorful light – at an altitude of up to 140 kilometers.
For the lights to be visible to us, the sky must be clear; In the case of clouds or light effects from cities in the area, the lights may be there, but they are not visible. So you definitely have to be patient on the aurora borealis trek. If all the factors are applied and the eruptions and solar storm are particularly strong, you can even see the lights in Germany!
However, in some places, namely those in the so-called Northern Lights Oval, the chances are especially good. Brought to you by a travel reporter in several countries:
Norway | Sweden | Finland | Faroe Islands and Greenland | Iceland | Scotland | Canada
1. The Lofoten Archipelago in Norway
The chances of seeing the aurora borealis in the northern part of Norway are generally not bad. The first northern lights appear from mid to late August – and remain a part of the starry night sky until April. Tromsø is often cited as the starting point for Northern Lights tours, but they are usually very bright in the city itself. If you want to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø, go to the offshore islands.
On the other hand, the Lofoten Islands offer ideal conditions – here you can see the lights almost everywhere, if they are there. The archipelago is sparsely populated, so light pollution is not very high.
2. Senja Island in Norway
The island of Senja south of Tromsø is no longer an insider’s tip among Norway lovers, but it often lags behind Lofoten and Västeralen when it comes to holiday options. The island is also referred to as “mini Norway” – because everything that is special about Norway can be found here: mountains, fjords, beautiful beaches, seclusion, waterfalls and the northern lights.
The Aurora Observatory advertises the best view of the northern lights, but it’s not free. A visit there is absolutely not necessary – because the lights are visible almost everywhere due to the small number of people when they dance in the sky.
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3. The Vesterålen Archipelago in Norway
Norway was the third country in the world to launch rockets into space – in 1962 some were launched from Andøya Island in Vesterålen to scientifically explore the northern lights. Until then, no one knew how the green veil was created and why it could be seen especially well in some areas.
You can learn more at the Aurora Spaceship in Andøya. There, classrooms and visitors are taught the scientific background of the Northern Lights. And if you run a Northern Lights Research Center, you usually don’t quite do it like this: the aurora opportunities are very good in Vesterålen, a little north of the Lofoten Islands. It is best to climb mountains or hills, but there is also good visibility on the coasts of Andenes or Nyksund, for example.
4. Kiruna in Sweden
When you hear the aurora borealis and the Swedes, you usually hear the name of a city: Kiruna. Kiruna is not just a city, but a municipality – this is the most likely way to spot the Northern Lights, especially outside the city. However: Kiruna in Swedish Lapland is one of the places to see the northern lights that is best reached by plane.
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5. Abisko National Park in Sweden
Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland is a paradise for all outdoor and winter lovers. Here you have a guarantee of snow, so to speak, you can ski well until June. The landscape is vast, and if you don’t get the feel of a Scandinavian winter here, you’re doing something wrong.
In every secluded setting in the northern Swedish municipality of Kiruna, nature can be spotted here – and from the late evening hours also some of the northern lights.
6. Rovaniemi in Finland
How about visiting Santa Claus in the far north? He is said to live in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. Santa Claus is just one of the highlights of your trip to Rovaniemi in Finland. For example, Arktikum, a science museum around the North Pole, is waiting for you there.
Many visitors come to Finnish Lapland in the winter. Because there you can expect endless expanses, lots of snow – and the northern lights in the sky. Sounds corny, but it’s a reality about Rovaniemi.
7. Ivalo and Finnish Lapland in Finland
Ivalo Airport is located in the northernmost part of Finland – and therefore the best starting point for tours in the northern part of Finnish Lapland. Ivalo is located 300 km north of Rovaniemi and is characterized by pure nature and snow. Most of the time, however, visitors tend to explore the area around Ivalo, not the city itself.
In many places, including Harriniva, many winter outdoor adventures can be combined: you can drive towards the northern lights on a snowmobile or husky, hike in snowshoes or have a sauna with a view of reindeer.
8. Faroe Islands and Greenland
You can see the northern lights in Denmark too! Well, not in our neighboring small country itself, but in two overseas territories in the north that belong to Denmark: Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Both areas are well suited for viewing the northern lights, as both are sparsely populated and there is virtually no artificial light. While the Faroe Islands are generally developed, in Greenland, due to the glacier, it is the coastal areas that invite you to stop. Even in the capital Nuuk, but also further north in Kulusuk, the opportunities are especially good.
9. Thingvellir National Park in Iceland
Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is a meeting point for thousands of daytime tourists: one of the world’s first parliaments was built here, with people meeting here around 930 to talk about politics, society and rules.
But Thingvellir is also an Eldorado for the outdoor enthusiast. This is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, resulting in rock formations, fissures and valleys, like the well-known Silvera fissure.
Thingvellir is not only known as part of the Golden Circle for its waterfalls and glacier views. From autumn it was very busy here even in the dark. When good opportunities for the northern lights are anticipated, many tour operators come to the observation deck in the national park to view the amazing throne in the night sky. The area can also be explored privately at night.
10. Snæfellsnes in Iceland
The Snæfellsnes peninsula in northwestern Iceland is not only worth a visit for its stunning landscape formations sometimes with waterfalls and fjords. Since the area is sparsely populated and there is not much light pollution, the chances of seeing the aurora borealis are especially good here.
By the way, the lights can be well explored throughout Iceland, because the entire country has a small number of residents and cities. Even in the capital, Reykjavik, magical light flashes in the sky every now and then.
11. Shetland Islands in Scotland
Did you just associate the northern lights with Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland? Well, now is the time to set new goals.
Even if the chances are much better in the four countries mentioned, you can also be lucky in Scotland, especially in the Shetland Islands. They make up the northern part of the United Kingdom and are far enough north to allow for regular viewing of the aurora borealis in winter.
12. Northwest Territories of Kannada
Tepe Village in the Northwest Territories, a mountain camp in Newfoundland or a friend of the tundra in Manitoba: the aurora borealis can be seen in many places in Canada. The north of the country is the hotspot between December and March, and it works best in remote locations with little or no light pollution.
By the way, the best opportunities are in the Northwest Territories, where the northern lights can be seen about 240 days a year, even in summer.
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