best places to see the northern lights

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, have long captivated travelers with their ethereal beauty.

Finding the best places to see the Northern Lights in the World is a quest that takes you to the world’s most northern reaches, where the skies tell a story as old as time.

This article unveils these magical destinations, each offering a unique perspective on the aurora.

Whether it’s under the starlit sky of Iceland or amidst the rugged landscapes of Canada, these places don’t just offer a view of the Northern Lights; they offer an experience that resonates deep within the soul, a connection to the cosmos that is both humbling and exhilarating.

Remember, while these times and locations offer great opportunities to witness the Northern Lights, this natural wonder remains unpredictable. Clear skies and solar activity are key factors, so it’s always a good idea to check the local weather and aurora forecasts during your visit.

Tip: Throughout the article, there will be several mentions of equinoxes, so here’s a quick explanation of what an equinox is!

An equinox, occurring twice a year around March 20th and September 22nd, is a celestial event where the Earth’s equator aligns perfectly with the center of the Sun, resulting in nearly equal day and night durations worldwide – a phenomenon that enhances the chances of witnessing the mesmerizing Northern Lights.

1 – Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø, Norway

The magnificent display of the Northern Lights at Tromsø fascinates tourists.

The months with the longest nights, from late September to early April, are the finest times to see this natural phenomenon. Known as the ‘Paris of the North,’ Tromsø is a cultural centre, offering more than simply auroral displays.

When the skies are at their darkest and the lights are at their most spectacular, 6 PM to midnight is usually the best time to observe.

Read More: Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Tromsø, Best Holiday Destinations 2024, Best Places to Visit in Europe

2 – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Jökulsárlón, Iceland

The Northern Lights are captivating against the backdrop of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

The best time to travel is between October and March, when the icebergs in the lagoon reflect the colors of the aurora, producing a once in a lifetime sight.

Visitors are treated to a scene that combines the grandeur of land, sea, and sky as the lights dance over the glacier waters.

The greatest time to see the lights in all of their brilliance is in the late evening and early morning.

Read More: Best Things to Do in Iceland – the Ultimate Bucket List

3 – Yukon, Canada

Yukon, Canada

In the heart of Canada’s wilderness, the Yukon is the ideal setting for those chasing the Northern Lights.

The optimal viewing period spans from late August to mid-April, with the heart of winter offering the clearest skies.

Yukon’s vast, unspoiled landscapes provide a stunning natural stage for the lights, where they shimmer across the sky in a mesmerizing display.

4 – Fairbanks, Alaska

northern lights in Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, in the heart of Alaska, is a prime location for Northern Lights viewing.

The season runs from late August to early April, with the peak times being in the heart of winter when the nights are longest.

Fairbanks geographical position under the “Auroral Oval” ensures frequent and vivid displays, often visible as early as 10 PM, but peaking around midnight.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Fairbanks, Best Romantic Valentine’s Day Getaways in the US

5 – Abisko, Sweden

northern lights in Abisko, Sweden

Perfect viewing conditions for the Northern Lights are well known in Abisko.

November through March, when the skies are at their darkest, is the ideal time to come.

Because of the special environment of Abisko, there is a natural “blue hole” overhead that frequently keeps the skies bright even when the surrounding areas are overcast.

Although it’s best to observe the lights in the late evening, dusk is sometimes a good time to see them.

6 – Ilulissat, Greenland

northern lights in Ilulissat, Greenland

There is more to this Greenlandic treasure than icebergs and glaciers.

The snowy landscapes of Ilulissat provide a stunning background for the Northern Lights, reflecting the celestial display at hand.

The best time to see the lights is from September through April, which allow tourists plenty of time to take in the dazzling lights against the backdrop of Greenland’s untamed wildlife.

7 – Yellowknife, Canada

northern lights in Yellowknife, Canada

Yellowknife is home to some of the most active Northern Lights, and it is located on the banks of Great Slave Lake.

Due to the city’s location immediately beneath the Aurora Oval, an almost nightly spectacle is guaranteed.

Mid-November to early April is peak season here, ideally timed to coincide with the long, dark evenings of the Arctic.

8 – Rovaniemi, Finland

northern lights in Rovaniemi, Finland

Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa Claus, has more to show than simply seasonal cheer. This lovely city on Finland’s Arctic Circle is the starting point for an Arctic experience that extends beyond the holiday season.

This winter wonderland is surrounded in a clear atmosphere on clear evenings between September and March, when the Aurora Borealis is visible.

During this time, the city changes into a stunning canvas for the Northern Lights, providing a sharp contrast to Finland’s snow-covered countryside. The dark, cold winter nights make an excellent backdrop for the lights to dance in a variety of hues.

However, the fascination of Rovaniemi goes beyond the auroras. Visitors may participate in a variety of winter sports, including husky and reindeer sleigh rides through the icy terrain, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

The city also houses the Santa Claus Village, where visitors may cross the Arctic Circle, see Santa, and send postcards from the Santa Claus Post Office.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Rovaniemi

9 – Svalbard, Norway

northern lights in Svalbard, Norway

The Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean offers a singular view of the Northern Lights.

24 hours of darkness during the Polar Night, which occurs from late November to late January, creates the ideal setting for the Aurora.

Though there are some daylight hours for other activities, the ideal viewing months are from late September to early April, when the skies are sufficiently dark.

10 – Shetland, Scotland

northern lights in Shetland, Scotland

The Shetland Islands provide a background for the Northern Lights where the Atlantic and North Seas converge.

October through March are the ideal months to see this dance. The sky is transformed into a magnificent tapestry of colors as the aurora borealis blesses it over the long evenings.

Shetland’s isolated position, free from light pollution, makes it a dream destination for those who enjoy seeing auroras.

Read More: Best Places to Visit in the UK

11 – Reykjavik, Iceland

northern lights in Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, is the entry point to the Northern Lights.

September to April is the best time to see it; many trips leave the city to go to darker places where the views are crispier.

There are sporadic glimpses of the lights in Reykjavik itself, which is a unique combination of city and nature, especially in the calmer hours after midnight.

Read More: Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Reykjavik, Best Day Trips from Reykjavik, Amazing Iceland Northern Lights Tours for First-Time Visitors

12 – Swedish Lapland

northern lights in Swedish Lapland

Swedish Lapland, deep in the Arctic Circle, is a paradise where you may often see the Northern Lights.

September through April are the ideal months to visit.

Here, amid the frozen lakes and snow-covered forests, the aurora borealis appears, covering the Nordic landscape with a tapestry of light. It’s amazing to see how the lights pop against the bleak winter scenery.

13 – Churchill, Canada

northern lights in Churchill, Canada

Situated on the Arctic’s periphery, Churchill is frequently referred to be the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”.

But it’s also a great place to see the Northern Lights. The months with the longest nights, from January to March, are the greatest.

The chilly, clear evenings in Churchill create an amazing backdrop for the aurora, as the lights bounce off the frozen Hudson Bay and the snowy tundra.

Read more: Best Places to Visit in Canada

14 – Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Cherry Springs State Park is a little-known but incredibly beautiful place in the US that is great for seeing the Northern Lights because of its very dark skies.

Winter is the ideal season to see this show here, especially from December to February when the nights are longest and the sky are clearest.

When the sky is at its darkest, which is usually about midnight, these are the best viewing hours.

15 – Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten Islands, Norway

The Lofoten Islands offer a breathtaking backdrop for the Northern Lights, with their dramatic peaks and picturesque fishing villages.

The aurora is most visible here from late September to early April, with the peak season between December and February.

The optimal viewing time is typically between 6 PM and 1 AM, when the skies are darkest and the auroral activity is at its height.

Read more: Best Places to Visit in Scandinavia

16 – Faroe Islands, Denmark

northern lights in Faroe Islands, Denmark

The Faroe Islands, a collection of rugged and remote islands, provide a unique vantage point for witnessing the Northern Lights.

The best season to visit is from late autumn to early spring, particularly from November to February.

The aurora can usually be seen after dark, with the most active hours often occurring between 8 PM and midnight.

17 – Stewart Island, New Zealand

Rakiura - Stewart Island, New Zealand

Stewart Island presents a unique chance to see the Northern Lights, in the Southern Hemisphere, even though they are not usually connected to the Northern Lights.

The winter months of June through August are the finest times to witness this phenomena.

The best times to watch are usually in the late evening to early morning, between two and four in the morning.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in New Zealand – the Ultimate Bucket List

18 – Orkney, Scotland

northern lights in Orkney, Scotland

Off Scotland’s northern coast, the Orkney (accessible Orkney tours from Inverness) collection of islands offers an amazing backdrop for seeing the Northern Lights.

The best months to see the aurora here are October through March, with September and March being the equinox months when chances of seeing them are highest.

When the sky is at is darkest, from 10 PM to 2 AM, is the greatest time to see the lights.

19 – Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

northern lights in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Jukkasjärvi, hidden away in the center of Swedish Lapland, is a popular spot for those looking to observe the Northern Lights.

When the evenings are longest, from late September to late March, is the ideal time to see this cosmic ballet.

This charming community, well-known for its ice hotel, provides a striking background of snow-covered landscapes that refract the brightness of the aurora into a symphony of light and shadow.

20 – Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

northern lights in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

More than just a light display, the aurora borealis is an experience that covers the sky in Kangerlussuaq.

This natural spectacle is painted on the vast, clean sky of Greenland from early September to early April.

This outlying community, with its own Arctic character, offers a natural view away from the distraction of city lights.

21 – Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan

northern lights in Michigan

Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan in the country’s north, is a stargazer’s and aurora enthusiast’s paradise.

Here, the dance starts in the early spring cool air and lasts until the autumn leaves begin to fall.

Travel here from March and September the equinoxes offer the best opportunities.

The sky over Michigan and the Mackinac Bridge becomes a painting as midnight draws closer.

22 – Saadjärv, Estonia

northern lights in Saadjärv, Estonia

A lesser-known yet fascinating place to see the Northern Lights is Saadjärv in Estonia.

September through March is the best time to watch. Here, in the peace and quiet of Saadjärv Lake, auroras frequently come out of the blue, casting a mystical shadow over the serene, black waters.

23 – Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

northern lights in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

From late fall to early spring, Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park is a hotspot for the Northern Lights.

The park is the perfect location for this celestial occurrence because of its immense wildness and low levels of light pollution.

The experience is enhanced by the mirrored lakes, which reflect the aurora’s dance in the surrounding waterways.

24 – Kiruna, Sweden

Kiruna, Sweden

Kiruna, in the land of the Vikings, is an entry way to the wonders of the Arctic, situated far north.

The aurora borealis is a winter companion in this jewel of Sweden, not merely a phenomena. To increase your chances, schedule your visit between September and mid-April.

The finest times to see the Northern Lights in all their brilliance are in the middle of the night, particularly around the equinoxes.

Read More: Fun & Unusual Things to Do in Kiruna

25 – Aberdeen, Scotland

northern lights in Aberdeen, Scotland

As fall arrives, Scotland’s untamed northeast coast becomes a stage for the natural light display.

Here in Aberdeen, the auroras are elusive, frequently engaging the watchers in a game of hide-and-seek. Keep an eye on the sky from September to April when the North Sea winds subside and the evenings become longer.

The finest shows usually happen about midnight, and the most beautiful perspectives are found on clear, moonless evenings.

26 – Mount Washington, New Hampshire

northern lights in White Mountains, Mount Washington, New Hampshire

Mount Washington towers over the Northern Lights in the New Hampshire White Mountains.

The best time to see auroras is between September and April, especially around the equinoxes.

The hours just after midnight are ideal for seeing the beautiful dance of the Northern Lights as the day fades and darkness takes over.

27 – Saariselkä, Finland

northern lights in Saariselkä, Finland

Saariselkä, deep in Finnish Lapland, is a winter paradise where people frequently see the Northern Lights.

Here, September through April is when the aurora season occurs, with the equinoxes being particularly active.

The captivating colors of the aurora borealis light up the skies over Saariselkä as darkness falls, generally about midnight.

Read more: Most Beautiful Places in Europe

28 – Interior, South Dakota

northern lights in Interior, South Dakota

In the middle of the untamed splendor of South Dakota’s Badlands, Interior is a surprising refuge for anyone looking for the Northern Lights.

The low population density and low levels of light pollution provide for perfect viewing conditions.

Peak visibility is in the hours immediately after midnight, and it lasts from late fall to early spring.

This place exudes a deep feeling of wonder as the aurora dances over a landscape shaped by time.

29 – Alta, Norway

northern lights in Alta, Norway

In the very north of Norway, in an area known as the “Town of the Northern Lights,” Alta provides a front-row experience to this heavenly spectacle.

The longest nights are during the optimal viewing season, which runs from late September to early April.

Early evening is usually when the aurora first appears, and as night falls, it becomes increasingly brilliant.

Here, mountains and fjords reflect the lights, producing an enthralling color illusion.

30 – Outer Hebrides, Scotland

northern lights in Outer Hebrides, Scotland

For those who want to see the Northern Lights, the Outer Hebrides, a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland, are an undiscovered jewel.

October through March is the best time of year to watch.

Because there is no light pollution in the area, the aurora borealis cast an ethereal glow across the sky on clear evenings.

31 – Coldfoot, Alaska

northern lights in Coldfoot, Alaska

Coldfoot, which sits far within the Arctic Circle, provides some of the best, most reliable views of the Northern Lights in the US.

The longest nights occur between late September and early April, which is the ideal time to visit.

Coldfoot’s isolation affords a clear view of the brilliant auroras.

32 – Luosto, Finland

northern lights in Luosto, Finland

The Northern Lights create a fascinating tapestry over the Arctic sky against the tranquil backdrop of Luosto, Finland.

Hidden between immaculate woods and fells, this little Lapland community is a top viewing destination from September to March, when the evenings are the longest and darkest.

Between 9 PM and 1 AM, the lights frequently make their spectacular entrance, producing an enchanting and captivating natural light display. Luosto is a voyage into both the wonders of nature and the wonders of the sky.

It offers visitors the chance to see both the serene beauty of the Finnish wilderness and the breathtaking aurora borealis.

Final Thoughts

As we near the end of our exploration of the top locations to witness the Northern Lights, it is evident that every location presents a different perspective on this heavenly display.

Seeing the Northern Lights is a life-changing event, whether it’s in the isolated peace of Luosto or the colorful scenery of other aurora hotspots.

Recall that the Earth’s beauty and mystery are symbolized by the Northern Lights, which are more than simply a sight to see.

So gather your belongings, welcome the journey, and let the green and violet tones of the night sky tell its old tale.

Portuguese native, Guilherme Filipe is a dedicated content manager and writer who has a genuine interest in learning about other cultures. His foray into the world of content creation is a seamless synthesis of his love of storytelling and his never-ending wanderlust. Guilherme is a seasoned scriptwriter and producer, and his unique perspective comes from both his experiences as a creative in the world of film and his adventures as a traveler, crisscrossing the globe to write articles for TourScanner blog. While he has savored the allure of Europe, his heart longs for the captivating mystique of Japan and the enchanting landscapes of Iceland. Traveling has not only broadened his horizons but also deepened his understanding of the many different ways that people think. In addition to his love for travel, he possesses an unexpected passion for cars and motorcycles, which infuse his content creation with a distinctive edge. His storytelling is influenced by a wide range of interests, which gives his work a unique and engaging style.