From furious volcanoes to placid streams, mighty mountains, and humble canyons, nature is replete with wonders — wonders that fill us with awe until the end of time. One such wondrous phenomenon is what we refer to as Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights are basically collisions between the electrically charged particles emanating from the sun as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Because the north and south poles possess a magnetic field, these lights are visible from the polar, and arctic and subarctic regions.
A stupefying display of color and sparkling lights, this natural event emits shades of red, green, blue, purple, and more across the sky. The shapes vary from patches to scattered, cloud-like streamers, rippled curtains, shooting rays, and arcs.
Auroras typically consist of high-altitude oxygen and nitrogen particles that produce a purplish-crimson display. Auroras have always been a matter of awe and superstition, and many cultures associate them with good or bad omens. Some, including the Inuit, even believe them to be spirits of animals they hunted, while the Aborigines consider them to be spirits of their own people.
Auroras can be viewed in arctic regions, which include countries like Norway, Iceland, Scotland, Greenland, Finland, and Sweden, among others. Since these regions are inhabited by people and are well-developed in terms of infrastructure and tourism, you can have a fulfilling and amazing experience viewing the Northern Lights from any of the above.
With that in mind, here are the three best places to view the Northern Lights.
Experts say that the higher the latitude, the better the view of the Northern Lights. Therefore, since Svalbard is pretty much the northernmost inhabited point in the Arctic Circle, it is the best spot for viewing the Aurora. This island boasts a breathtaking snowy wonderland, which makes Aurora-viewing there even more exciting. You can visit Svalbard for this spectacular experience between the months of November and February, but the most awaited time of year in Norway is the Polar Night, which lasts from November to January and marks a period of no daylight, with only a zone of intense blue twilight. So, if you’re interested in more avenues for witnessing auroras, keep that in mind as well. The majestic Svalbard Mountains and the arctic flora and fauna are worth observing, too — so don’t forget about them!
Sweden’s first ever ice hotel is located in the pristine village of Jukkasjärvi. There, you can avail a special Northern Lights night flight tour or explore the Esrange Space Center to glimpse the starry skies in case if you fail to spot an Aurora. This area promises spectacular views of the Lights, though, so don’t fret. One thing to note is that you will need to land in Stockholm before traveling to Jukkasjärvi, as this part of Sweden is highly isolated. You can take a 36-hour bus, but that’s a bit hectic. No matter how you choose to get there, you’re bound to have an excellent opportunity to witness the snow-laden beauty that the area holds.
The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland is one of the most frequented spots for witnessing the Northern Lights. Here, you can directly observe the Aurora from the confines of a glass igloo, or you can stay in a log cabin, complete with a sauna and an open fire facility. Even during the off-season, there are opportunities for other exciting activities such as reindeer safaris and skiing. You can also head over to Urho National Park, which is home to a dog-sled pathway and a wealth of natural beauty and biodiversity worth exploring. Additionally, visitors can approach the Russian border during the Christmas season and visit Santa’s home in Korvatunturi, if they’re so inclined.
The Northern Lights are an exquisite wonder of nature, and everyone should witness this majestic sight at least once in a lifetime. You can figure out whatever travel itinerary and accommodation suits you best, but one thing is definite — you will be able to bask in the glory of nature in each of these locations. And, the sights are mesmerizing enough to be witnessed with others or solo!
On a final note: there are peaks for Aurora Borealis that take place once every 13 years, meaning that the chances to witness them are more regular. So keep track of these years and plan your trip accordingly!
Header image by Jonatan Pie