If you’re wondering when to see the Northern Lights, in this article, I will answer all your questions.
I’ve spent years hunting and photographing this phenomenon in some of the best places to see Northern Lights around the world, and the experience has shown me that there are some very basic (but not always easy) requirements to see the Aurora Borealis: darkness, clear skies, and solar activity.
Best time to see the Northern Lights – Photo taken at the end of May in the Rocky Mountains
However, conditions change completely from one place to another, so it’s key to know not only when is the best time of the year to see the Northern Lights, but also the best time of the day, and when to go to see Northern Lights in the most popular Northern Lights destinations.
In this article, you’ll find all you need to know about the best time to see the Aurora Borealis:
- When to see the Northern Lights
- The best time of the year to see Northern Lights
- The best time of day to see the Northern Lights
- Northern lights season in Iceland
- Best time to see Northern Lights in Canada
- When to see the Aurora Borealis in Norway
- Best time to go and see Northern Lights in Alaska
- Best time of year to see Northern Lights in Finland
When is the best time to see the northern lights?
The best time to see the Northern Lights is on clear nights around midnight during the Aurora season starting at the end of August and finishing by mid-April. However, if you are at a lower latitude and there is a big solar storm, you can enjoy the Aurora even during the summer months, like June or July.
The early fall and early spring are statistically related to periods of more solar activity, so the months of September and March are usually the best to enjoy a big display of Northern Lights.
When is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights?
In terms of hours of darkness, the best time of year to see the Northern Lights is in winter. Dark skies is the first basic thing you need to see the Aurora, and at the highest latitudes during the summer months, there are almost 24 hours of daylight.
Therefore, if you’re wondering when you can see Northern Lights, here’s what you need to know:
- From early Sept to Mid-April: The hours of darkness rise drastically at high latitudes from the second week of September until the beginning of April.
- May, June, July: There are a few hours of darkness at lower latitudes, so you can see the Aurora Borealis there if there’s a big solar storm.
However, If you know what the Northern Lights are and what causes them, you’ll know that darkness is not all you need; solar activity is primarily responsible for everything from a faint green cloud on the horizon to the strongest Northern Lights show.
For that reason, even though winter is still the most popular time to see the Aurora, the best time for seeing the Northern Lights according to the solar activity is during the Equinoxes – the last two weeks of September and the second and third week of March. That’s why I always run my Iceland Northern Lights Photo tours at the end of September.
You can also enjoy big Northern Lights displays scattered throughout the rest of the Aurora season. However, there is no way to know in advance when they’ll take place.
Aurora travel tip: Big solar storms are usually forecast at least 15 days in advance, so if you’re flexible about your travel dates, check the Northern Lights forecast around the September/March equinoxes and plan your Aurora trip for the days with the highest solar activity. You’ll be very likely to enjoy an unforgettable show.
The last thing that determines the best time to see Northern Lights during the Aurora season is the weather. It depends entirely on the location that you visit since the Northern Lights are seen across places with different types of climate.
- Locations in the interior of the Arctic: The Yukon, the Northwest Territories of Canada, or the Lapland region. These areas enjoy more clear skies during the spring equinox around the end of March.
- Locations across the coast: Iceland or the Norwegian coast. Weather is unpredictable here, and there can be storms at any time during the year.
When is the best time of day to see the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights can show at any time of the day as long as there are darkness, clear skies, and solar activity, as we mentioned before.
Statistically, midnight and the hours around midnight from 10:00 to 2:00 are the best time of day to see the Northern Lights and when most Aurora sightings concentrate.
To find out the best time to see Northern Lights tonight, check the official Space weather Aurora forecast, where you can see the KP index, the Auroral Oval, and other indicators. (+ info in our Northern Lights forecast article)
Having a Northern Lights application on your phone that sends notifications when the activity increases is another good way to stay alert and to know the best hours to see the Northern Lights tonight.
The Northern Lights season in Iceland goes from late August to mid-April. To increase your chances of seeing the Aurora, plan your trip between the second week of September and the first week of April since you’ll have more hours of darkness and more solar activity.
I travel to the island every year to photograph the Northern Lights, and to me, the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland is at the end of September.
Statistically, it’s the best time for Northern Lights in terms of solar activity, along with March. The weather in Iceland is completely unpredictable, and there isn’t a “best” period for clear skies.
Check the official Icelandic meteorological site (also known as Vedur) for clouds and the Aurora forecast.
Furthermore, if Iceland is your Northern Lights destination, I strongly advise checking our in-depth article on the best time and places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Here are other related articles that you might find useful:
The Northern Lights season in Canada goes from early September to the beginning of April in the northern areas of the country.
At lower latitudes, you can see the Northern Lights all year round, but you’ll need a strong display of Northern Lights.
The best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Canada is during the spring equinox. You’ll find clearer skies in the areas of the interior, such as Whitehorse (Yukon) and Yellowknife (Northwest Territories).
If you’re traveling further south and want to have a chance to see the Aurora, the months of May and June are the best to see the Northern Lights in the Canadian Rockies.
The Rockies are a very special place for me since I saw the Northern Lights there for the first time, and it was a strong Aurora display at the end of May.
Check the weather and the Aurora forecast in Canada. Also, check our detailed guide on the best time and places to see the Northern Lights in Canada.
Here are other articles you might find useful:
The Northern Lights season in Norway goes from early September to early April in most of the northern areas of the country.
However, the best time of the year to see the Northern Lights in Norway depends on the area. In Northern places like Tromso or Alta, the months of November, December, and January are usually very hard in terms of storms and snow, and, therefore, the best months are September/October and February/March.
In areas closer to the coast like the Lofoten Islands or Senja, November is statistically the month with the most precipitation of the year, so the best time is during the start of the fall and the spring seasons.
The weather in Norway, as in Iceland, is unpredictable. Even though November is supposed to be the worst month, during my first trip to Norway in November 2017, I could see the Northern Lights for 6 nights out of 10.
Additionally, you can check our article on the best time and places to see the Northern Lights in Norway.
Here are other related posts:
The Northern Lights season in Alaska goes from mid-September to mid-April. Alaska is located at a very high latitude, so during the summer months, there is no chance to see the Northern Lights.
During the Aurora season, the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Alaska depends on the area.
The best time to see the Aurora in Alaska, according to the statistics, is in March in the Fairbanks area.
In Anchorage, there are more winter storms and clouds that come from the Pacific Ocean through the Aleutian Islands, so during the Aurora season, no date is better than another.
Here are other articles that could help you plan your trip:
The Northern Lights season in Finland starts at the beginning of September and goes through the beginning of April.
There is no area in Northern Finland with dark hours during the summer, so from May to August, there is no possibility of seeing the Aurora.
The best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Finland, if you want clear skies, is in March and early April.
In terms of solar activity, in the areas of Finland above the Arctic Circle, the peak of the Northern Lights is in December and January.
In the areas below the Arctic Circle, the peak is in September and March.
The best time of the day and hours for seeing Northern Lights in Finland is at midnight and the hours around midnight.
You can find more information on the blog of the Finnish Met. institute.
Here are other articles that could help you plan your trip:
Conclusion – What are the best dates to see the Northern Lights?
In summary, the best time to see the Northern Lights goes from 10:00 to 2:00 on clear nights from the fall to the early spring, with September and March as the best months in terms of solar activity. However, there are some factors like darkness, clear skies, and solar activity that will vary depending on your location.
Before deciding when to travel, research when is the best time of the year to see the Northern Lights at the specific destination you have chosen. Don’t forget to check the Aurora forecast to know the best time to see the Northern Lights tonight.
Lastly, be patient. The Northern Lights require persistence, but once you see them dancing across the sky, it’s an unforgettable experience!