Iif you’re anything like me, you’d kill to make it to any of the best places to see the northern lights. Before scientists cracked the mystery of the auroras, men were drawn and fascinated by these dancing and magical lights that were often found in mythology and legends. In Roman Mythology, it is said that the Aurora is the deity of the dawn. During the middle ages, the manifestation of the aurora indicated famine or war. In North America, the Inuit Indians believed that the lights are the essences of deer, salmon, seals and other animals that they hunted. Oddly enough, the Maori thought that the displays were just reflections of a campfire or torches.
The Northern Lights Explained
The Northern Lights, also known as “Aurora Borealis” or the “Dawn of the North”, never fail to take your breath away. Scientifically, the Aurora occurs when the Earth’s magnetic field collides with the solar wind coming from the Sun, causing a transfer of energy that creates the northern hemisphere to glow, specifically around the Poles. The Northern Lights have several colourful variations. The combination of yellows, pinks and greens are created by oxygen molecules that are found 60 miles above the Earth’s atmosphere, whilst the blue and the combination of blue and purple is produced by nitrogen, and the rarest of all auroras – the red is the only one I have ever seen (lucky me!), and is a product of high-altitude oxygen found 200 miles above Earth’s atmosphere.
Regardless whether you believe the scientific facts or the legends behind its existence, you’ll still be captivated by these supernatural display of lights, and there are countless destinations where you can see the majestic phenomenon called the Northern Lights. I’m sharing my research on where to go – have you found a great place to see the Northern lights?
Best Spots to See the Northern Lights
In North America, one of the best places to see the Northern Lights is in Fairbanks, Alaska. Twenty miles north of Fairbanks, the mountainscapes of Alaska offers a picturesque and relaxing setting for borealis-spotting. There are several lodges and inns that provide accommodations and services for auroras watchers. One can also enjoy the company of huskies and malamutes while dog sledding and a relaxing hot bath while watching the dancing lights. Also, the University of Alaska Fairbanks offers a night time viewing of the Aurora Borealis and museum visit, where one can learn the facts and related legends of the lights.
When to Go.It is best to visit Alaskan during clear skies around March, and on the later part of August until the middle of April.
Canada is one of the best destination spots to marvel and appreciate the Northern Lights. The Province of Ontario offers memorable and distinctive guided tours away from the blaring yet dull city lights to the more mystical and fascinating lights that dances across the northern hemisphere. Ontario’s guided tour includes an exciting 1-hour ride on a snowmobile in the northern part of Lake Superior.
The Yukon Territory is another place to watch the Northern Lights especially around Lake Laberge. The site is renowned from Robert W. Service’s poem and the Klondike Gold Rush. One can rent a cozy log cabin near the lake which offers unbarred views of the Aurora Borealis.
When To Go: Best is from the middle of August up until the last days of April. With the Northern Lights as your backdrop you can enjoy other things such as fishing, sledding, skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, riding the snowmobile and boat trips.
Saariselkä, the Lapland in Northern Finland, is also one of the best sites to see the auroras dance. Since pollution is lower in this region, the Northern Lights enthral locals and tourists alike for two hundred magical nights ever year. The Finnish Lapland also offers reindeer sledging, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and husky safaris are alternate activities one can enjoy if the auroras are a bit reticent.
When To Go: Best months to visit Saariselkä would be around November until March, especially if the weather is cooperative and the sky is clear.
These incredible displays of lights also occur in the southern hemisphere and are called the Southern Lights or Aurora Australis. If you’re adventurous and do not mind the frigid and cold weather, then travel to Antarctica and see the Australis from there. However, if below zero temperatures are not your thing, you can also view the Southern Lights in New Zealand, Tasmania, Argentina and southern Chile!
The Scandinavian country of Iceland offers a spectacular view of the majestic lights, even near Reykjavik city. Similar to Ontario, Canada there are several guided tours that will whisk you away from the mundane city lights into a more secluded and natural environment to really appreciate the Northern Lights.
When To Go: Best months to hit Iceland would be from September until March, where the weather offers clear nights.
The Scandinavian country is amongst the best places to see the northern lights. There are several cities in Norway where one can appreciate the beauty of the auroras, but the best would be Tromso, where a festival is held in honor of the ‘goddess of the dawn’. Tromso is located over 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle. The Aurora Borealis can be viewed around 6pm to 1am every two days. Take note that the weather plays a big role in order to see the Northern Lights, so if you’re planning a one night journey to see the magnificent lights then, chances are, you’d miss it, so give yourself time!
When to Go:January is the best month to visit because for the entire month, the city is in total darkness and when the year’s first dawn rises around the horizon, the Northern Lights Festival is celebrated throughout the region, with music, food and beverages. Just remember, that Tromso is extremely cold, so make sure you’re well geared up with winter clothing…it’s going to be anti-climatic if you get hypothermia or frostbites while viewing the auroras.
The Swedish Lapland offers unhindered view of the Northern Lights every night for 365 days from 6pm to 2am. However, on some occasions, the aurora teases tourists by its faint and quick manifestations, while on others the displays are stunning.
The region of Tornedalen is the best place to go to. It offers several leisure activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, fishing and ice walking on the River Torne. One can also take an exciting day trip to Lake Poustijärvi by sledding or snowmobiling. However, if you like to experience reindeer sledding, then travel to the Lansån Village and look for the Rokka family and hire Sami reindeers and enjoy a snow ride.
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