Discover the Magic: 6 Best Places to See the Northern Lights

Here are the six best places to see the Northern lights.  The northern lights are also known as the aurora borealis, which means ‘light of dawn’. This term is believed to have been coined by Galileo Galilei in 1623. Aurora refers to the Roman goddess of the dawn, while ‘Boreas’ is the God of the north wind. Watching the Northern Lights is a bucket-list adventure. Standing under the dancing colours and shapes creates a sense of wonder and magic. This is an opportunity to connect with the Earth’s natural beauty and cosmic surroundings and a profoundly transformative experience.

Abisko, Sweden is one of the best places to see the northern lights
The world-famous Aurora Sky Station located in Abisko National Park, Sweden, is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. | Credit: Aurora Sky Station

So let’s consider a journey to see nature’s most captivating light show. One of the first questions is where to go. The Northern Lights can be seen in northern parts of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Alaska, Russia, and throughout Iceland, but where are the top Northern Lights destinations?

This article compiled the 6 best places to see the Northern Lights.

Here are some fun facts on this natural phenomenon before we dive into the list of best places to see northern lights:

  • Unique aurora borealis sightings are a natural phenomenon. There is no magic switch to turn them on; nobody can guarantee you will see them during your visit.
  • For science buffs, this is a physical phenomenon when electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen when they enter the earth’s atmosphere. This is visible in the sky as green, yellow, red or orange light.
  • Green is the most commonly seen colour in the Northern Lights. Spotting a red aurora is very rare.
  • The best Northern Lights experience depends on solar activity, weather, and darkness.
  • One of the most magical times to see the Northern Lights is during the darkest days of winter. Find an open location, like a field, for unobstructed views.
  • The Northern Lights often come in waves lasting 30 minutes. If you see a beautiful display, enjoy it while it lasts and then set your alarm for a few hours later and try again.
  • From early June to mid-July, Northern Norway, Greenland and Northern Finland bask in 24-hour sunlight. The higher you travel, the longer you can see the Midnight Sun. For instance, Svalbard (see below) has the Midnight Sun for approximately four viewing months.
Norway, one of the best places to see the northern lights
The midnight sun season in Tromsø starts from the end of May till the end of July. | Credit: Visit Tromsø

For the best Northern Lights experience, check the aurora forecast. Some places provide aurora forecasts for three days, but it is also possible to find longer-term forecasts based on the solar cycle. However, like all weather forecasts, these aurora predictions can change unexpectedly and quickly.

Aurora forecast websites include:

6 Top Northern Lights Destinations

Best places to see the Northern Lights: Ivalo in finland

Ivalo, Finland is one of the best places to see the northern lights
Ivalo is a village in Inari, Lapland, Finland, located on the Ivalo River 20 kilometres south of Lake Inari. | Credit: © 2023

Lapland is commonly referred to as the northern area of Finland. However, Lapland spans the northern part of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Besides its celestial displays, Lapland is known as the home of Santa Claus and vast Arctic landscapes.

In Finland, the further north you venture, the better your odds of witnessing this wonderful dance. Ivalo is a serene town in Lapland that offers a quieter Northern Lights experience. It is a small town of 3000 people and a hub for transport to the ski resorts and outdoor adventures of Finnish Lapland. Here, it is possible to see the Northern Lights on roughly 200 nights each year – practically every other clear night. But the best season is in late September to mid-April.

For the best chance, opt for an extended stay – at least one week is advised for optimal viewing. Lapland’s capricious weather adds to the adventure, with a cloudy evening at 9:00 PM potentially transforming into a starry night by midnight or a day of heavy snowfall giving way to a mesmerising Aurora display.

Best places to see the Northern Lights: Abisko, Sweden

Abisko is one of the best places to see the northern lights
One of the primary attractions in Abisko is Abisko National Park, Sweden’s oldest national park. The park is renowned for its dramatic landscapes, deep canyons, vast plateaus, and the stunning Lake Torneträsk. | Credit: Visit Sweden

Abisko, a charming village in Sweden’s northern Lapland, is strategically positioned in the heart of the Aurora Zone, making it one of the world’s premier Northern Lights destinations. With an impressive frequency of cloud-free nights, Abisko is a top choice for witnessing this celestial spectacle from September through early April. Visitors after the Northern Lights should head to the renowned Aurora Sky Station within Abisko National Park. Not only can visitors savour the mesmerising light display here. Getting to the Sky Station is a treat. You ride a chairlift through the park’s serene darkness under a blanket of dancing stars.

The Aurora Sky Station also houses a gourmet restaurant where guests can relish a multi-course meal. To embark on your Abisko adventure, fly to Kiruna in Swedish Lapland via Stockholm. Remember to bundle up for the Arctic chill, layering in warm clothing, especially given the time spent standing still in the open. This live webcam feed from the Aurora Sky Station provides a sneak peek into the enchanting world of the Northern Lights.

Best places to see the Northern Lights: Tromsø, Norway

Norway is one of the best places to see the northern lights
Despite its remote location, Tromsø is a lively and culturally diverse city. It is home to a university, museums, galleries, and a thriving music and arts scene. | Credit: Visit Norway

Tromsø, Norway, is among the world’s top Northern Lights destinations. As the largest city in Northern Norway, it offers a more serene atmosphere than other bustling Norwegian cities like Oslo and Bergen. The New York Times has ranked Tromsø among the top 10 Places to Go in 2023, attesting to its allure.

Tromsø promises a high likelihood of witnessing the mesmerising Northern Lights from September through early April. There is a wide range of Nothern-Lights tailored tours and activities. We recommend venturing to dark, remote locations beyond the city limits, such as Prestvannet, on guided Northern Lights tours. These excursions transport you away from light pollution in pursuit of the clearest, star-studded skies.

Tromsø core features a captivating mosaic of colourful, well-preserved wooden houses dating back to the 1800s. Tromsø also boasts a selection of exceptional museums that offer insights into Arctic culture and history. In recognition of its commitment to sustainability, Tromsø earned the Sustainable Destination label from Innovation Norway in 2019. This designation meets international standards and aligns with the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In October 2023, Tromsø renewed this accolade, cementing its dedication to responsible practices and a more sustainable future.

Best places to see the Northern Lights: Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard is one of best places to see the northern lights
The Svalbard reindeer have no natural predators in Svalbard, and they’re not particularly afraid of humans or other animals. You’ll often find them wandering right through Longyearbyen or lazily strolling along in the middle of the road. | Credit: Visit Norway

The Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean offers an exceptionally remote and distinctive adventure. At first glance, Svalbard may appear stark, with vast open landscapes, sparse vegetation, and endless glaciers. However, this is the place for an exceptional nature-based experience available year-round, including unique aurora borealis sightings. During the darkest months of December and January in Svalbard, you can witness the Northern Lights around the clock, even in the middle of the day.

Svalbard is the only place on Earth to encounter “daytime Northern Lights.”  This is why it serves as a hub for international Northern Lights research, hosting a Northern Lights observatory and radars. Another phenomenon is seen in February, when the sun gradually emerges above the horizon, casting a breathtaking play of colours across the landscape. Blue skies and snow-draped mountain peaks create a stunning backdrop for the sun’s return, transforming the blue hues into shades of pink. This is known among the locals as the “blue light.”

Svalbard offers many remarkable ways to experience the Northern Lights, with outdoor activities topping the list. Consider embarking on a Northern Lights safari by dog sledge, dog wagon, or snowmobile, partake in a photo safari, go on foot, or join a camp expedition. While in Longyearbyen, the administrative hub of Svalbard, don’t miss the chance to inquire about reserving a window table at Funktionærmessen Restaurant. Here, you might have the enchanting opportunity to dine and watch the aurora grace the night sky.

Best places to see the Northern Lights: Yellowknife, Canada

In North America, Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, has earned a stellar reputation for its superb Northern Lights displays. The aurora graces the night skies here approximately 240 nights a year. Yellowknife stands apart as it is far from urban light pollution. This means you can savour the Northern Lights from the comfort of a cosy, heated cabin or even venture out on an ice road for an unobstructed view. While winters here are undeniably cold, the snowy wonderland becomes a stage for the ethereal dance of the elusive Northern Lights.

Look for Indigenous-led tours that offer everything from Northern Lights hunting to guided wildlife expeditions. Indigenous tour operators provide more than just Northern Lights viewing; they offer an immersive opportunity to connect with the local communities, gaining a deeper understanding of their rich culture and history.

Much like other top Northern Lights destinations, tour operators in Yellowknife conveniently pick up guests from their hotels and return them at night’s end. If you aim to capture that perfect shot of the lights, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from your knowledgeable guide, who’s likely brimming with tips and tricks for capturing the ideal Aurora photo. While the precise timing may vary, many tours typically kick off in the evening and extend into the early morning hours, so be prepared for a lengthy (and chilly) night.

Travellers bound for Yellowknife arrive via Yellowknife Airport after connecting through another significant Canadian city such as Edmonton, Calgary, or Vancouver. Airlines like Air Canada, WestJet, and Canadian North provide regular flights to this beautiful haven.

Best places to see the Northern Lights: Greenland

Greenland is one of the best places to see the northern lights
Greenland is the world’s largest island in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is known for its vast expanses of ice and wilderness, making it a remote and isolated destination. | Credit: Visit Greenland

With a mere 4½-hour non-stop flight from Copenhagen, Denmark, Greenland beckons as a vast and sparsely populated haven for Northern Lights aficionados. The prime time to witness this celestial spectacle is late September, March, or April. In locales like Kangerlussuaq, Sisimiut, and Ilulissat, guided Northern Lights tours are readily available during winter. Kangerlussuaq, nestled inland and sheltered by towering mountains and ice, enjoys over 300 clear nights yearly, making it a coveted destination for Northern Lights enthusiasts.

There are many 5-day tours to Kangerlussuaq in winter, which include looking for the Northern Lights, the Greenland Ice Sheet and exhilarating dog sledging adventures. Greenland Ice Sheet is a  single ice sheet or glacier covering about 80% of the island. This is the most enormous ice mass in the Northern Hemisphere.

Sisimiut, situated just north of the Arctic Circle, is easily accessible by a 30-minute flight from Kangerlussuaq. During the winter, many travellers combine visits to Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut. As one of Greenland’s larger towns, Sisimiut is a captivating blend of traditional Inuit culture and modern Greenlandic life.

The dance of the auroras is a reminder of the enchanting mysteries of our universe, and these places offer a front-row seat to this celestial show. Whether you choose to witness the ethereal glow in Norway, Iceland, Finland, Canada, Sweden, or Alaska, the Northern Lights will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.

We can help you to experience unique Aurora Borealis Sightings
REACH OUT TO US AT +603 2303 9100 OR
[email protected]

You may also be interested in: