Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights is one of the world’s most amazing, spectacular phenomenon. This astounding colorful creation of nature is caused due to the geomagnetic storms surrounding outer sections of the Earth’s atmosphere. Once, many people around the world were not even aware of this spectacular event produced by Mother Nature, unless some pictures were published in magazines like National Geographic. The northern lights are the brightest at the Arctic Circle where usually the photographs are taken.
The series of green, red, blue and yellow hued lights that light up the sky near the earth’s polar extremities is caused by electrically charged particles coming in contact with the earth’s accumulated gases in these regions.
The visibility of the amazing lights is the highest in autumn and winter when Northern hemisphere’s nights are the longest. Yet the sighting depends on atmospheric conditions and can been seen as far as the south of United States.
Northern Lights can be unpredictable
Even though if you have selected the best time and the best place to visit Northern Lights, the activity is highly unpredictable. In some places like Abisko in Sweden or Tromso in Norway, Northern Lights is visible nearly 24 hours a day. Therefore, make sure to select the right destination and remain tuned to the Aurora Forecasts in your mobile app. The best time to view this magnificent light is from September end to April. Also, December is not the best month to view Aurora Borealis as there is 70% chance of heavy precipitation in Kiruna, Sweden and Tromso. Heavy precipitation means clouded skies making viewing Northern Lights almost an impossible task.
10 great places in the world to view Northern Lights
Around the world, there are many hotspots where you can witness the amazing glowing northern lights. The clearer the skies, the brighter the lights! Let’s check out some spectacular destinations if you want to have a clear view of the Northern Lights.
When it’s about some serious sightings of Aurora borealis then no other place can beat Scandinavia. Scandinavia is the best place in the world to witness the spectacular Northern Lights especially in the colder months of the year. Many serious viewers and tourists drive all the way across borders of Norway and Finland. The areas, particularly near the Arctic Circle mainly the northern Norway area, Finland and lastly Sweden is where you get the lights. Many people come visit the places when it is chilly and dark to get the perfect spectacular view.
Alaska is definitely not the place where you want to spend an autumn or winter, but if you want to witness the brilliant view of Northern lights then no place is better than Denali National Park in Alaska. You can visit in the late August when the Northern lights are clearly visible in the dark sky. But instead of late October, it’s better to visit early to avoid the brutal cold season in Alaska. Before coming, check for weather forecast and get the clear picture from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
The Canadian Northwest territories are quite popular for equally perfect and adaptable viewing conditions for Northern Lights. People on the Canadian side of the border head towards Yukon, the east side of Alaska, to have an absolute view of the lights. The city, known as Yellowknife is also known for emerging tourism and the surrounding rural wilderness. You will find lodges and other staying facilities have outlying areas open just for the clear viewing of Northern Lights.
Aurora lovers will find another hotspot Iceland, quite interesting for viewing Northern lights. Well, you can feel the brutal cold all year around, but Iceland is considered as perfect place in the North Atlantic to view Northern Lights. In the cloudless sky, the lights are visible quite often especially during the winter and autumn season. Tourist and aurora seekers can join one of the aurora borealis tours right from the capital city and head towards the northern areas to look for vibrant northern lights.
When it comes to the viewing of spectacular Northern light then how one can forget the largest non-continent Island on earth? Greenland, which is one of the best locations for viewing the aurora borealis. Tour companies take tourists to perfect locations from where northern lights are completely visible during autumn, fall, winter and spring seasons. Greenland has less population causing less pollution making it easier to get a clear picture of visible Northern light. The clear winter sky makes it an arguably ideal place for northern light lovers from all across the world.
The Lower 48 states of the US are certainly one of the places to have the perfect aurora viewing conditions. If you move towards north, you will have a better chance to view the lights. The window of opportunity increases in absolute clear sky which is generally available in areas like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Montana.
Norway is located just above the Arctic Circle making it quite an ideal for the viewing of aurora borealis. In Norway places like the northern town of Tromso offer a long extended view of northern lights and apart from that place there are Alta, Svalbard and Finnmark with same clear weather conditions.
You can get some brilliant views of aurora borealis from none other than the British Isles, Scotland. The viewing atmosphere of the sky is just perfect for northern lights and there are some best locations in Scotland itself to witness you the perfect aurora like Aberdeen, Isle of Skye, Northern Highlands and many more.
If you are looking for a quality show of Northern Lights, Kiruna, a small Swedish village gives you a great opportunity. With a meagre population of just 18000 people, journey to this place seems to be just out of the world. The show is great between October and March although it is not uncommon to catch its view earlier or even later all depends on the clear climate. The Lulea archipelago is another exciting spot to view northern lights which can be combined with other winter activities like outdoor camping, ice fishing or sledging.
Lastly, the amazing area of Northern Russia offers the excellent opportunity to view the bright northern lights. Kola Peninsula and Murmansk are popular for citing the Aurora Borealis.Arkhangelsk, Naryan-Mar, Novaya Zemlya, and Taimyr Peninsula are other places from where you can view Northern Lights.
7 Campsites you must visit to see the Aurora Borealis in all its glory
We have talked about some great places to view Northern Lights in general. But let’s be specific about some sites which you can select to spend some time here. Here are the top 7 campsites from around the world which will guarantee you unparalleled views of the stunning Aurora Borealis.
Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska
Stretching for over 6 million acres, the Denali National Park occupies a vast area of the taiga forest and the alpine tundra, as well as the snowy mountains above them. Visit this area in in fall when daylight stays for only 5 hours or so. This gives you plenty of time to catch the dancing lights in all their spectacular glory.
Priest Lake and Panhandle National Forests in Idaho
Located about 30 miles from the Canadian border, the Priest Lake offers crystal clear views of the colorful aurora borealis lights. The colorful extravaganza is even better to watch from the reflections from the clear water. If you are looking for a place to set up camp, consider visiting either Kalispell Island or the Bartoo Island. Both these campsites are accessible only via boats and offer great views of the northern lights.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota
Located within the Superior National Forest in Minnesota, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness offer you the chance to enjoy the aurora borealis show on a canoe on a lake in the middle of nothing but million acres of wilderness. The vast expanse of land makes it possible for you to enjoy undisturbed views of the northern lights as they streak the night sky with their colors.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland
Located in Finnish Lapland, the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort lets you view the aurora borealis from the comfort of a glass igloo. The resort also features traditional log cabins for those who don’t prefer the ice and snow much. So if you feel you have had enough of the lights for the night, simply rent out one of these cabins and enjoy the warmth inside, courtesy an open fire and sauna.
Reykjavik in Iceland
One of the more affordable destinations in this list, Reykjavik offers plenty of campsites for eager individuals who want to catch an up close and personal look of the aurora borealis. Millions of visitors flock to the region during the peak season which happens to fall in winter. So you may want to plan out your trip well in advance lest you run out of campsite options upon arrival.
Caithness Coast in Scotland
Located in the northern part of Scotland, the Coast of Caithness lights up in a bevy of colors every night in February. There are plenty of campsites dotted along the coast that offer you great views of these lights. So if you are in the UK, you don’t need to travel too far to view the aurora borealis.
Abisko in Sweden
Doubtful of viewing the Aurora Borealis lights in the case of heavy clouds dotting the sky? Then simply travel to the village of Abisko in Sweden, one of the most prominent cloud free regions in the world. The right combination of mountain peaks and prevailing winds ensure that the region experiences minimal cloud activity for most part of the year. You can choose to visit the Aurora Sky Station to enjoy never before seen views of the northern lights. As part of the tour, you will also get to visit the world famous Ice Hotel and enjoy a night’s stay in it.
Few essential tips to view Northern Lights
Thinking of catching your first glimpse of the aurora borealis lights this year? Then you will need to ensure that your first experience gets to be your best experience. The following tips would be handy:
- The site and month are important. The more you go near the Arctic circle higher are the chances of viewing.
- Darkness is essential for Northern Lights. Most part of the Arctic circle have 6 months of continuous sunlight. So, select the right months.
- Avoid light pollution. The sodium glare of the city lights can spoil your venture unless you move to some remote locations.
- Always look for clearer skies as cloud covers are common in many places.
- Try to have a grasp over the local language as local guides are the best to suggest you the right spots for a spectacular view.
- Be patient. Northern Light is a natural phenomenon which is highly unpredictable. So never get tired of waiting. Ask your hotel to help you with wake-up service if you need to go to bed at the same time not miss the glorious viewing.
- Have the right camera for photos. Digicam, Iphone or GoPro will not help. A DSLR with a long exposure and extended lens would be the best choice.