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There are very few natural phenomena that can rival the splendour of the northern lights. The elusive and alluring spectacle is, quite rightly, a staple on everyone’s bucket list — but how exactly does one catch a glimpse of the fabled light display?
Whether you are looking to tick off another bucket-list item, or you simply want a unique winter break, the northern lights will not disappoint.
More formally known as the aurora borealis, there are several hot spots (ironically, they are all rather cold) where the northern lights are frequently sighted including Norway, Iceland and Finland. If you pick the right destination, combined with the right time of year, there’s a fighting chance you will see the northern lights. It is never guaranteed that you will see them but it really is a gamble worth taking. Here is our list of the best places to spot the northern lights.
You can never guarantee that you will see the northern lights — in the same way that you can’t perfectly predict when it will rain. It is all about maximising your chances. Generally, the northern lights are visible between September and March by virtue of the fact that these months have the darkest and longest nights. To maximise sky-gazing time and optimise your chances of spotting the magical, December through to February is the best time to go as these are longest and darkest nights.
So where are the best places to see the northern lights? Unsurprisingly, the trick is to get as north as you can. Here are the best places to see the northern lights.
Norway is a very popular destination for those seeking the northern lights. Specifically, the city of Tromsø is widely regarded as one of the best spots. Whether you hop on a northern lights cruise or take a short 3.5 hour flight from the UK, Tromsø is a very accessible city.
This particular location is attractive as it is a fun city even if you don’t see the northern lights. Trosmø has excellent nightlife, packed with bars and pubs. It also offers a wide range of unique experiences, including whale watching, husky sledging and reindeer tours.
There are other well-known vantage points in Norway, including Svalbard.
Hunting the northern lights in Iceland offers a great opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the country. The capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, is a popular destination to spot the northern lights. Even if the northern lights elude you, the city is well situated to show you a good time — it acts as a good base to explore unique places such as the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle.
Finland is one of the best places to see the northern lights. It offers a great experience to sky-gaze and look at the dazzling light display from the comfort of a cosy glass igloo. One of the best places to see the northern lights in Finland is the Finnish Lapland, just north of the Arctic Circle. In the day, why not indulge in husky sledging or a snowmobile safari?
If you’re looking for somewhere a little closer to home, then Scotland is also a viable option to see the northern lights. As always, to maximise your chances of seeing the northern lights, it is best to go as far north as possible: namely, the Shetland islands. Combine your aurora-watching with other activities such as walking, pubbing and wildlife-watching. Take the holiday as a chance to slow down and appreciate the beauty of nature.
Here are three key tips before embarking on your northern light journey.
The northern lights are caused by a collision between electrically charged particles. The collision produces a colourful light show that is most visible on clear dark nights. The light display can appear as curtains, rays or flickers and are most visible in high-latitude areas (i.e. northern countries). The effect of this seemingly random process is absolutely stunning.
Whether it’s beneath the blaze of the Midnight Sun or the flicker of the Aurora, Reykjavik makes for the perfect city break all year round. Striking the perfect balance between urban chic and rural escapade, it’s as much a place for indulgence as it is for adventure. With so much on offer in Iceland, Black Tomato - the experts in bespoke travel experiences, have done their best to design an unforgettable Iceland holiday that packs in incredible natural wonders, unique and mesmerising adventures whilst not compromising an inch on luxury and relaxation. With a stay in one of our favourite wellness retreats anywhere on the planet, The Retreat at Blue Lagoon, this is the short five-night escape your body and soul have been crying out for, "Reykjavik: An Inimitable Icelandic Long Weekend".