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Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights?

The best places to see the Northern Lights in the world are scattered on the most extreme latitudes of our planet: Iceland, Canada, Norway, Finland… The list of good places to see the Aurora Borealis is long and diverse, so it’s usually difficult to choose which is the best Northern Lights destination.

But don’t worry. We are here to help if you’re wondering where to see the Northern Lights.

Best places to see Northern Lights

Iceland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights

In my case, I’ve been lucky enough to chase and photograph Northern Lights in many areas of our globe, so in this article, I’ll try to break down the best countries to see the Aurora Borealis so you can plan where to see the Northern Lights and fulfill that dream and lifetime experience

  1. Where are the best places to see the Northern Lights
  2. Best Countries to see the Northern Lights:
  1. Where can I see the Northern Lights tonight?

If you want to take a multi-day tour but you are not sure about where to go, check out the best trips to see the Northern Lights in 2020.

where are the best places to see the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are seen at latitudes near the North Pole, in what is called the “Auroral Oval”; the place with the highest chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis is the Arctic Circle and the surrounding areas.

If you understand the main cause of the Northern Lights, you will know that the solar particles that form them travel to the poles, and therefore, the places that are in high latitudes, such as Scandinavia, northern Canada, Alaska, etc. are the best places to see the Northern Lights.

Keep in mind that the Northern Lights are not the same as Southern Lights. The Southern Lights, also known as Aurora Australis, are seen in latitudes near the South Pole, such as Antarctica or southern New Zealand.

Best places to see Northern Lights Auroral Oval

Auroral Oval – Space Weather live

However, if there is a strong solar storm, Auroras can be seen in latitudes farther from the poles, such as the northern states of the US or England.

To increase your chances of seeing the Aurora, my advice is to plan your trip to a Northern Lights destination, like the ones you will see below, during the best time to see Northern Lights.

Once you decide on your destination, you can also check lodging options in any of the best Northern Lights hotels in the world.

best countries to see the northern lights

These are the best countries to see the Northern Lights:

  1. Iceland
  2. Canada
  3. Norway
  4. USA-Alaska
  5. Finland
  6. Sweden
  7. Russia
  8. Greenland
  9. Other good places to see Northern Lights

Some of them are very remote, so in this article, we’ll focus on the best countries to see the Northern Lights in terms of locations with the highest chances of seeing the Aurora:

Iceland Where to see Northern Lights in Iceland

Iceland is one of the most popular destinations for seeing the Northern Lights for many reasons:

  • There is a wide offer of relatively cheap flights from the US and Europe.
  • The country is accessible,with good roads, so you can just rent a car and do your own Aurora chasing trip.
  • Even though Iceland is not above the Arctic Circle, there are very high chances of seeing the Aurora.

In terms of locations, anywhere on the island away from light pollution is a good place for seeing the Aurora.

However, I’ve been traveling there for many years to photograph the Northern Lights and, to me,  these are the best places to see the Aurora Borealis:

  • Skógafoss (South): A huge waterfall from which you can see the Aurora.
  • Jökulsárlón (Southeast): The renowned glacier lagoon is also an otherworldly place to see the Aurora.
  • Stokksnes (East): This black sand beach is my favorite location to photograph the Aurora.
  • Kirkjufell (West): The most iconic mountain in Iceland is also an excellent place to see the lights on the Snæfellness peninsula.
  • Hvítserkur (NorthWest): Also known as “The Rhino,”  this rock formation is the best place to see the Aurora in northern Iceland.
  • Kleifarvatn (SouthWest): The best place to see the Northern Lights near Reykjavik.
Where is the best place to see Northern Lights in Iceland

Best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland

Tours

If you don’t know where to see the Northern Lights, you may want to take a look at the best Aurora Tours in Reykjavik, like this 4-hour Northern Lights tour, or this Glacier Walk and Northern Lights tour.

If you’re a photographer and your goal is to capture the Aurora, you can join us on our Capture the Atlas Iceland Photo Tour that takes place every September.

Hotels

There are many Northern Lights hotels in Iceland. My favorite is the Hotel Rangá, a real sky observatory hotel to see the Northern Lights from a rooftop.

Resources

If you’re interested in traveling there, I suggest checking our article on the best time and places to see Northern Lights in Iceland.

Canada Best places to see Northern Lights in Canada

Canada is the best place to see the Northern Lights in America.

Northern Canada is a vast territory, with a majority of remote and difficult to reach locations, but there are some accessible places to see the Northern Lights in Canada:

  • Yukon: Whitehorse is the official capital of the Northern Lights in Canada, with a very high percentage of Northern Lights nights per year.
  • Northwest Territories: The best area in the NWT is Yellowknife. Along with Whitehorse, it is probably the most accessible place to see the Aurora Borealis in Canada.
  • Manitoba: Churchill offers a great opportunity for seeing Northern Lights shows and polar bears if you plan your trip during October-November.
    • Canadian Rockies: The Rockies are located at a lower latitude, and Northern Lights displays are rare, but you can see the Lights during strong shows. This was the place where I saw the Northern Lights for the first time.
Best places for Northern Lights in Canada

Northern Lights dancing across the skies of Emerald Lake- British Columbia

Tours

If you visit Whitehorse, you can take this Northern Lights evening viewing tour.

Hotels

There are many hotels in the best areas to see the Aurora Borealis in Canada.

My favorite is the Northern Lights Resort & Spa, but you can also check our article on the best Northern Lights hotels in Canada.

Resources

If Canada is your Northern Lights destination, I suggest checking our article on the best time and places to see Northern Lights in Canada.

Norway – Where to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway

Norway is, without a doubt, the best place to see the Northern Lights on the European continent. There’s also a wide option of cheap flights, tours, and hotels to enjoy this natural phenomenon.

Some of the strongest displays I’ve seen in my life have been under the Norwegian sky, making it one of my favorite countries to see the Northern Lights.

There are many accessible areas located at a perfect latitude for seeing the “Green Lady” in Norway almost every night, as long as there are clear skies.

The best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway are:

  • Tromso: The most renowned location to see the Northern Lights in Norway. Aurora tourism is everywhere, and there’s a great offer of Northern Lights tours in Tromso.
  • Lofoten Islands: The best place to see the Northern Lights in Norway if you’re a photographer.
  • Senja: Not far from Lofoten, you’ll find the magical island of Senja, famous for its rugged peaks and fjords.
  • Alta: If you travel to northern Norway, Alta is also a very good option to consider for seeing the Northern Lights.
  • Svalbard: Apart from polar bear watching, the northernmost city of Norway offers an excellent opportunity for Aurora shows.
Where to see strong Northern Lights in Norway

Aurora Borealis “Crown” at Tromso

Tours

If you’d like to join a group tour, we have handpicked the best Tromso Northern Lights tours, and this Aurora tour from the Lofoten Islands.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, we also run a Capture the Atlas Lofoten Photo tour every winter, which is aimed at shooting landscapes and the Aurora on the Lofoten Islands.

Hotels

Norway probably has the largest offer of Northern Lights hotels in the world.

The options are endless depending on your location, budget, and preferences. My favorite lodging option is the Eliassen Rorbuer cabins on the Lofoten Islands; it’s impossible to forget the night we spent watching the Aurora from our fisherman-hotel cabin.

You can find more in-depth information in our article on the best Northern Lights hotels in Norway.

Resources
  • YR.no: Cloud forecast
  • NOSWE: Norwegian Space weather Aurora forecast

For more information, check out our article on the best time and places to see Northern Lights in Norway.

Alaska – The best place to see the Northern lights in the USA

Alaska is the best place to see the Northern Lights in the United States. That doesn’t mean that you can’t see the Northern Lights in other US states, but Alaska is the state with the highest chances of seeing the Aurora. 

Best places to see Northern Lights in USA

Alaska – The best place to see the Northern Lights in the USA

During strong displays, the Northern Lights can occasionally be seen further south in the northern states, such as Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, or Maine.

However, since Alaska is the “ go-to” option, here are the best places to see the Northern Lights there:

  • Anchorage: It’s the largest city in Alaska in terms of population and one of the locations that offers the most options for seeing the Aurora in the USA. There are many commercial flights, and it’s the easiest place to plan your Northern Lights trip to Alaska.
  • Fairbanks: It’s the largest inland city and the northernmost most accessible place for seeing the Aurora in Alaska. If you’re there during the winter and there are clear skies, go outside, since you’ll be very likely to see the Lights dancing.
  • Denali: The most famous national park in Alaska is one of the best places for seeing the Aurora away from the light pollution of the cities. You’ll also have plenty of activities to do during the day, depending on the time of the year.
Best places to see Northern Lights in Alaska

Northern Lights at Fairbanks

Tours

Alaska is also a very popular destination for Northern Lights Tours, like this Northern Lights and arctic circle tour in Fairbanks or this 6-hour dinner and Northern Lights tour.

Hotels:

The best Northern Lights hotels in Alaska are around Anchorage and Fairbanks. One of the most interesting options is the Summit View Suit in Fairbanks or the Alyeska Resort not far from Anchorage.

Resources
  • UAF: Alaska Aurora forecast
  • NOAA: Alaska weather and clouds

Finland – Best places to see the Aurora Borealis in Finland

Finland is, along with Norway, the most popular destination for seeing the Northern Lights in Europe.

It offers a wide range of Northern Lights and winter activities and some of the best Northern Lights hotels in the world.

Best places to see Northern Lights in Finland

Finland – One of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis in Europe

The chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Finland change drastically from the south to the north of the country. To increase your chances, the further north you go, the more likely you’ll be to see the green Lights.

These would be the best places to see the Northern Lights in Finland:

  • Rovaniemi: The capital of Finnish Lapland is famous for being the official residence of Santa Claus but also for its frequent displays of Northern Lights.
  • Kakslauttanen: Further north and away from light pollution, Kakslauttanen is the best bet for those who want to enjoy the magic of the Northern Lights from a transparent Igloo hotel.
  • Ivalo: In the northernmost Finnish region of Inari, the small village of Ivalo offers the opportunity to see the Aurora almost every single night as long as there are clear skies. It’s colder than the other places to see the Aurora in Finland, but your chances will be higher.
    • Saariselkä: Further north, you can immerse yourself in the Finnish wilderness in this mountain village, where it’s rare not to see the Aurora if there are clear skies.
Tours

There are plenty of Tours to see the Aurora in Finland, like snowmobile Aurora chasing tours, Sleigh Northern Lights tours, or experiences to see the “green lady” in the wilderness.

Hotels:

The most famous Aurora igloo-hotel in the world is located in Finland, and it’s called Kakslauttanen arctic resort.

The Northern Lights Village, in Saariselkä, is also one of the best Northern Lights accommodations in Sweden. It’s a resort specifically aimed at seeing the Northern Lights and it also offers other winter activities.

Resources:

Sweden – Where to go to see the Northern Lights in Sweden

The Swedish Arctic region is also a very accessible and relatively easy place to see the Northern Lights.

Just like Norway, the Gulf Stream affects the climate and, therefore, temperatures aren’t as cold as in Alaska or Canada.

Best places to see Northern Lights in Sweeden

Where to go to see the Northern Lights in Sweden

The northern territory of the country offers the best places for seeing the Northern Lights:

  • Jokkmokk: This area with a small population is one of the most renowned places for chasing the Aurora. There are many lakes nearby, which are great to see the Northern Lights reflected in the water or the snow.
  • Kiruna: It’s the biggest northernmost city in Swedish Lapland, and there are plenty of services and lodging options. From there, you can take a tour into the wilderness to enjoy the Lights.
  • Abisko: This small village right at the entrance of Abisko National Park is one of the best places to see the Aurora surrounded by nature in Sweden.
Tours:

This Northern Lights tour is probably your best bet for seeing the Lights in Sweeden. They’ll take you to the best areas near Kiruna and show you how to take the best pictures of the Aurora.

Hotels:

The Pinetree lodge, in Kangos, is the best hotel to see the Northern Lights from the boreal forest and to enjoy the local food from Swedish Lapland.

Another two interesting options in Abisko are the Abisko Hostel and the Abisko Guesthouse & Activities.

Resources:

Russia – Best places to see the Aurora in Russia

Russia is the largest country in the world, and a great portion of its territory is located above the Arctic Circle.

Most Russian land is indeed remote and extremely cold, but some areas are more accessible and offer high chances for seeing the Aurora in Russia.

Where can I go to see Northern Lights in Russia

Best places to see the Aurora in Russia

The most accessible and best destinations for seeing the Northern Lights in Russia are spread towards the northwest of the country, specifically around the Kola Peninsula.

These are the best areas to see the Northern Lights in Russia:

  • Murmansk:It’s the biggest port city in the Russian Arctic and the best place for seeing the Aurora in Russia. Nearby, you’ll have the perfect landscape, with ice forests and the impressive coast across the Barent Sea.
  • Teriberka:Not far from Murmansk but away from the light pollution of the city, Teriberka is a small fishing village renowned for its great chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
  • Arkhangelsk:Taking a 2-hour flight from Moscow, you can get to this northern city in Russia to enjoy the Northern Lights. It’s one of the most popular Aurora destinations in the country.
Tours:

This Russian Northern Lights company offers Aurora and photography tours in the Murmansk area.

Hotels:

The Park inn by Radisson and the Tundra Hotel are the best accommodations for seeing the Aurora in Murmansk.

In Teriberka, the Teribersky Bereg cabins are the best option. They have a nice restaurant and offer day and Aurora activities in the area.

Resources:
  • Kola Travel: Kola Peninsula information
  • Meteoinfo: Weather and cloud forecast in Russia and the Kola Peninsula

Greenland – Where to see the Northern Lights in Greenland

Greenland is another vast and remote area, but it lies entirely across the Auroral Oval, and there are some settlements located around spectacular landscapes to see the Aurora.

Best places to see Northern Lights Greenland

Where to see the Northern Lights in Greenland

Most of the territory in Greenland is completely inaccessible, but there are some tourist-friendly areas around the coast.

These are the best places to see the Northern Lights in Greenland:

  • Ilulissat: The Ilulissat ice fjord is one of the most mesmerizing places to see the Aurora in the world. The UNESCO world heritage Disko bay is there, where you can see the Aurora reflected in the big icebergs on the sea.
  • Nuuk: Further south, Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, is one of the best locations to see the Aurora in Greenland. This city is surrounded by fjords, rugged peaks, and mountains, a perfect landscape to see the Northern Lights.
Tours:

This Icebergs and Northern Lights tour in Ilulissat is a perfect option to enjoy the Greenland landscapes and the Aurora.

Hotels:

For many reasons, the Arctic hotel is the best Aurora lodging option in Ilulissat

If you decide to visit Nuuk, the Vandrehuset is a very interesting option.

Resources:

Other good places to see the Northern Lights

Beyond the best places to see the Northern Lights we already mentioned, there are other locations where you can see the Aurora Borealis dancing across the sky. Well, more than the Aurora Borealis, we mean the Aurora Australis, which you can see in locations near the South Pole.

These places require a bigger solar storm, but if you plan a trip there, make sure that you check the Northern Lights forecast every day:

  • New Zealand: The South Island of New Zealand is a good place to see the Aurora Australis. The beach of Moeraki or the city of Dunedin are some of the most accessible places on the island for chasing the Southern Lights.
  • Australia: Although you’ll need a big display of the Aurora, the best place to see the Southern Lights in Australia is the island of Tasmania.

where can I see the northern lights tonight?

Once you make it to one of the best Northern Lights destinations, your most common question might be where to go to see the Northern Lights.

The best places to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights are always those with clear skies.

I suggest checking the weather and cloud forecast in your location, either using a local weather site or a general site like Windy.com.

Once you’re in a dark place with no clouds, you only need to wait and be patient; the Northern Lights are unpredictable, and they can start shining at any time!

Conclusion

As you can see, the best places to see the Northern Lights are located across the Auroral Oval circle.

Even though most of the areas in the Arctic Circle are very remote, there are great locations where you can go to see the Northern Lights.

Before your trip, make sure that you take warm clothes, you have an Aurora forecast app, and you’re ready to enjoy one of the most spectacular natural shows on earth!

Do you know any other place to see the Northern Lights? Leave a comment and we will add it!

Text and Photography by Dan Zafra - Capture the Atlas Photography Blog

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