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Northern Lights in Norway
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The 7 best places to see the Northern Lights around the world

From Canada to Sweden via Greenland and Scotland, these are the best places to see Northern Lights across the globe

Written by
Ellie Walker-Arnott
,
Sarah Medina
&
Sophie Dickinson
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Is there a travel bucket list on the planet that doesn’t feature the Northern Lights? Sure, social media is packed with aurora-chasers, but these incredible streaks of colour in the sky soften even the most cynical of hearts. The aurora borealis remains one of the most magical things on this wonderful planet.

Of course, there is a rather unromantic scientific explanation for them, but we aren’t about to pour water on this fire. What we can do, however, is offer up a list of the best places to see the Northern Lights around the world. For the best viewing experience, you’re going to want to choose a dark night, so looking skywards between November and March is recommended. Pick a night when there’s a new moon, and make sure it’s cloudless and there is no light pollution. So, are you ready to see something pretty spectacular? Here are the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights.

Best places to see the Northern Lights around the world

The northern reaches of Norway are nicely nestled within the Arctic circle, and the mega-long nights in winter make perfect aurora viewing conditions. Tromsø is a popular place for Northern Light hunters to base themselves. You can sometimes even spot the lights from the town itself.

If you’re taking your quest very seriously, there are few places better than Svalbard for spotting the lights. The world’s northernmost year-round settlement, Svalbard is in darkness constantly between November and February, providing optimum opportunities. Just make sure you take an official tour rather than heading out into the wilderness on your lonesome. This is polar bear territory. 

Stay here It is not opening until 2024, but Svart, the world’s first energy-positive hotel, would make a dreamy base. The circular hotel, which stands in the shallows of a fjord, will be off-grid and zero waste – and its Arctic Circle location makes it a good bet for seeing the Northern Lights during your stay.

Greenland
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Greenland

Light pollution is minimal in wild, rural Greenland. If you visit during the winter months, your chance of spotting the Nothern Lights is pretty good. The lights can be seen from Greenland’s capital Nuuk, while Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut are good places to base yourself. Southern Greenland might be better if you don’t love the biting cold, but if you’re feeling brave, you should book a trip to beautiful Ilulissat in northern Greenland. 

Stay here Got your thermals on? You can sleep overnight inside an actual igloo while hunting for the Northern Lights in Greenland. Igloo Lodge, on the shores of frozen Lake Nalluarsup, is a collection of traditional hand-built igloos filled with candles and really, really good sleeping bags. 

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Though you might spot them anywhere in Canada, much of Northern Canada falls into the Aurora Zone and is a brilliant place to try your luck. The Northwest Territories are your best bet. Churchill in northern Manitoba is another spot popular with aurora-hunters for a reason, as are Yukon, Nunavut, Newfoundland and Labrador. You might even get lucky in Alberta during autumn – the lights have been known to make an appearance in Banff National Park. 

Stay here Aurora Village is found near Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and you can probably guess from its name that it’s a great place to see the Northern Lights. Spend the night watching the skies beside the fire in a teepee, before being transferred to a hotel in Yellowknife for a well-deserved nap. 

Reykjavik is popular with aurora-spotters, who base themselves in the city and head out into the darkness at night on organised tours or in rented cars. You can even see the lights in town, especially in the Oskjuhlid forest. But heading away from the bright lights will aid your chances. The Westfjords and North Iceland have longer hours of darkness and statistically less frequent cloud cover. 

Stay here Rural Hotel Ranga in southern Iceland boasts zero light pollution, riverside hot tubs and a special wake-up call if you want to be roused each time the Northern Lights appear. Yes, please! 

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Swedish Lapland is an ideal aurora-hunting playground, with plenty of wholesome outdoor activities to keep you occupied while waiting. For the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, head to the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park. Kiruna, the country’s northernmost city, is also an ideal base, as is the nearby village of Jukkasjärvi (home to the Ice Hotel). For stunning scenery and isolation, visit the tiny village of Porjus.

Stay here There are countless cool places to kip while you hunt the Northern Lights in Sweden, but The Ice Hotel is one of the most iconic. The famous hotel, freshly constructed and sculpted out of snow and ice each winter, is a unique place to spend the night and a stellar location for seeing the aurora. 

When the conditions are right, the Northern Lights can be spotted anywhere in Scotland – they have been sighted as far south as Edinburgh – but northern Scotland, which sits at a similar latitude to parts of Norway, is where you’re most likely to get an eyeful of the dancing colours. The islands of Shetland, Orkney, Harris, Lewis and the most northerly top of Skye all get regular visits from the lights. Other good places to try your luck are Caithness, the northernmost edge of the Scottish mainland, and the Cairngorms National Park.  

Stay here The Highland Haven is a neat, Scandi-inspired cabin just off the scenic North Coast 500 road in the far north of the Scottish mainland, near Dunnet Head, the most northerly point. 

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Finnish Lapland plays host to the Northern Lights an impressive 200 nights a year. You’ll want to visit this northern region in winter when 24-hour summer daylight is replaced with almost constant night. Popular bases for aurora-spotting holidays include remote Utsjoki in the far north, Kilpisjärvi in the west and the skiing town of Levi. In the central Lapland resort of Luosto, bells are rung when the aurora makes an appearance. Handy!

Stay here If just the thought of spending all night outside in the hope that you’ll catch a glimpse of the aurora makes your toes feel chilly, give this a go instead. The Arctic Treehouse Hotel has suites with floor-to-ceiling windows at the end of the bed for admiring the view and watching the Northern Lights from beneath a duvet.

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