February 25, 2024

The 12 best places to see the northern lights

In Norway, children were once forbidden from talking to the Northern Lights or even waving a white handkerchief at them. According to legend, this would bring bad luck and would encourage the Northern Lights to take children to them.

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Of course, children today are no longer afraid of the northern lights. But the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, have not lost their magic and mystery.

The northern lights are the green, purple and red veil that appears across the northern hemisphere. In the south they are called southern lights. However, because Australia is located so north, the southern lights are rarely visible. Together, the aurora borealis and the aurora australis are called the northern lights. In Europe, the chances of seeing the northern lights are much higher – with a little luck, you can see them in different countries from the end of August to the end of April.

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Aurora Borealis: This is how they are created

On the one hand, luck requires the correct solar activity – only then colored particles appear in the air. Because the northern lights are caused by explosions in the sun. When electrically charged particles form a solar storm due to explosions and exit the magnetosphere, 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 oxygen and nitrogen atoms, creating colored light – up to 140 kilometers high.

When is the Northern Lights season?

The aurora season lasts from September to April in the Northern Hemisphere and from March to September in the Southern Hemisphere. The best time to see and photograph the light is during the spring and fall equinoxes due to the alignment of the Earth’s axis.

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In order for the lights to be visible to us, the sky must be clear. If there are clouds or light effects from cities in the area, the lights may be present but not visible. So you definitely have to be patient on your Northern Lights trip.

Best places to see the Northern Lights

But in some places, namely those located in the so-called oval of the northern lights, the chances are particularly great. Travel correspondent introduces you to them in several countries.

1. Lofoten Archipelago in Norway

The chances of seeing the northern lights in the northern part of Norway are generally not bad. The first northern lights appear in mid-to-late August, and remain part of the starry night sky until April. Tromso is often mentioned as a starting point for Northern Lights tours, but it’s usually too bright in the city itself. If you want to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø, you should go to the offshore islands.

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On the other hand, the Lofoten Islands offer ideal conditions – here you can see lights almost everywhere, if they exist. The archipelago is sparsely populated and therefore light pollution is not very high.

2. Senja Island in Norway

The island of Senja, south of Tromsø, is no longer an inside tip among Norway fans, but it often lags behind Lofoten and Vesteralen when it comes to holiday options. The island is also referred to as “Norway in miniature” – because everything that characterizes Norway can be found here: mountains and fjords, beautiful beaches and solitude, waterfalls and the northern lights.

The Aurora Observatory advertises the best view of the northern lights, but it’s not free. But a visit there is not at all necessary – because the lights are sparsely populated and can be seen almost everywhere when they dance in the sky.

The island of Senja, south of Tromsø, is very popular among Norwegian lovers of the northern lights.

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3. Vesterålen Archipelago in Norway

Norway was the third country in the world to launch rockets into space – in 1962, rockets were launched from the island of Andoja in Västralen to scientifically explore the aurora borealis. Until then no one knew how the green veil was made and why it appeared in particular in some areas.

This can be experienced on the Aurora spaceship in Andoya. There, school classes and visitors are taught the scientific background of the northern lights.

The northern lights sparkle over the sea and the snow-capped mountains of Vesteralen in Norway.

Anyone running a northern lights research center usually doesn’t do it that way: the chances of seeing the northern lights are very good at Västralen, just north of Lofoten. It is best to climb mountains or hills, but there is also good visibility on the Andes or Nyxund coasts, for example.

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4. Kiruna in Sweden

When you hear the Northern Lights and Sweden, you usually hear the name of the city: Kiruna. However, Kiruna is not just a city, it is a municipality – so you are more likely to spot the northern lights, especially outside the city. However: Kiruna in Swedish Lapland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights and is best reached by plane.

The northern lights twinkle over snow-covered wooden houses in Kiruna, Sweden.

5. Abisko National Park in Sweden

Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland is a paradise for all outdoor and winter enthusiasts. Here you have a virtual guarantee of snowfall, and you can ski until June. The landscape is vast, and if you don’t get that Scandinavian winter feeling here, you’re doing something wrong.

In a remote area of ​​the municipality of Kiruna in northern Sweden, you can discover nature here – and from the late evening hours onwards, some of the northern lights.

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Nothing is possible anymore: the northern lights flash over reindeer in the municipality of Kiruna, Sweden.

6. Rovaniemi in Finland

How about visiting Santa Claus farther north? He is said to live in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. But Santa Claus is just one of the highlights of your trip to Rovaniemi, Finland. For example, the Arktikum Museum of Arctic Sciences awaits you there.

Many visitors come to Finnish Lapland in the winter. Because you can expect endless expanses, lots of snow – and the northern lights in the sky. This may sound like a cliche, but it is a reality in Rovaniemi.

Pure poetry: Finland’s snow-covered landscape with the northern lights.

7. Ivalo and Finnish Lapland in Finland

Ivalo has the northernmost airport in Finland – and therefore serves as 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. However, visitors usually explore the area around Ivalo rather than the city itself.

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There are different cabins at the Wilderness Hotel Inari in Finland. From some of them you can look directly from your bed at the Northern Lights sky.

In many places, including Häreneva, several outdoor winter adventures can be combined: ride towards the northern lights on a snowmobile or husky sled, hike in snowshoes or enjoy a sauna with a view of the reindeer.

8. Faroe Islands and Greenland

You can also see the northern lights in Denmark! Well, not in our neighboring country itself, but in two external territories to the north of Denmark: Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

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Both areas are well suited for viewing the Northern Lights because they are both sparsely populated and there is hardly any artificial light there. While the Faroe Islands are generally well-developed, in Greenland, due to the glaciers, it is primarily the coastal areas that invite you to stop. Even in the capital, Nuuk, as well as further north in Kulusuk, the chances are particularly good.

The northern lights shine over the city of Nuuk, Greenland.

9. Thingvellir National Park in Iceland

Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is a destination for thousands of tourists during the day: one of the world’s first parliaments was built here, and people met here as early as 930 to talk about politics, society and rules.

But Thingvellir is also an El Dorado for outdoor enthusiasts. This is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, creating rock formations, fissures and valleys, such as the well-known Silfra fissure.

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But Thingvellir isn’t just known for being part of the Golden Circle with its waterfalls and glacier scenery. From autumn onwards, there is a lot of activity here even in the dark. When good chances of seeing the Northern Lights are forecast, many tour operators come to the national park’s viewing platform to see the stunning thrones in the night sky. The area can also be explored privately at night.

10. Snæfellsnes in Iceland

The Snæfellsnes Peninsula in northwest Iceland is worth a trip not only because of the sometimes stunning natural formations with waterfalls and fjords.

Since the area is sparsely populated and there is not a lot of light pollution, the chances of seeing the northern lights are particularly good here. Incidentally, the lights can be easily explored all over Iceland because the entire country only has a small population and towns. . Even in the capital, Reykjavik, a magical light flashes in the sky every now and then.

Northern lights in the sky on Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland.

11. Northwest Territories in Canada

A tipi village in the Northwest Territories, a mountain camp in Newfoundland, or a tundra friend in Manitoba: the northern lights can be observed in many places in Canada. The north of the country is the hotspot between December and March, and the best places to go are remote locations with little to no light pollution.

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Chances are best in the Northwest Territories, where the northern lights can be seen about 240 days a year, even in summer.

The sky is literally exploding: the northern lights over Tibbett Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

12. Shetland Islands in Scotland

Did you only associate the Northern Lights with Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland? Well, now is the time to set your sights on new goals.

Although the chances are much greater in the four countries mentioned, you can also get lucky in Scotland, especially in the Shetland Islands. It makes up the northern part of the UK and is far enough north that you can see the Northern Lights on a regular basis in winter.

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Can the northern lights be seen in Germany too?

The northern lights rarely occur in Germany and are difficult to see due to the large size of the cities. But: it is not impossible. When violent solar storms occur, the aurora is visible in mid-latitudes. The next maximum solar activity is expected to be reached in 2023. This happens every eleven years, which is how long the solar cycle is at its maximum. There’s even one of our own A website for predicting the Northern Lights in Germany.

Looking for more inspiration? You can find tips on the best travel destinations on reisereporter.

Travel correspondent