No, you can't see the Northern Lights in summer. Although the aurora is active year-round, there just aren’t enough hours of absolute darkness for it to be reliably visible over the summer months.
This is all thanks to the Earth’s axial tilt. In the Arctic Circle (the best place to spot the Northern Lights) the sun rarely dips below the horizon over summer, bringing near-continuous daylight around the clock. It’s just too bright to see the aurora. On the flip side, the same tilt means that over winter you’ll have long, dark nights – perfect for spotting the Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights over Tromso, Norway's Arctic city
The Midnight Sun
However, don’t fear, those who travel over the warmer months are treated to a visual phenomenon that’s almost as impressive – the Midnight Sun. With the sun never fully setting, northern Scandinavia’s spectacular rural beauty is bathed in a gorgeous soft glow throughout the “night”. The light is something like a permanent sunset, making it a favourite among photographers. Expect everything from Lapland’s old-growth forests to Norway’s dramatic fjords to be cast in that magical “Golden-Hour” light.
The Midnight Sun over Iceland's Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
The Northern Lights in autumn
While you might not be able to spot the Northern Lights in summer, autumn is a fantastic time. As early as the last week of August or the first of September, the lights start to show, coupling dazzling displays with milder weather and gorgeous autumnal scenery. It’s perfect if you don’t fancy braving winter’s chill. What’s more, around the late-September equinox, there’s an increase in geomagnetic activity – the cause of the Northern Lights. This means that autumn is actually one of the best times to catch the aurora.
The Northern Lights in autumn, Finnish Lapland
The Northern Lights in winter
For the classic experience, look to winter. As mentioned previously, the longer nights maximise the chance of the aurora making an appearance, while inky-dark skies make the perfect backdrop to their elusive dance. You might also want to consider later in the season, when the snow has settled and the sky is at clearest. For more information, visit our guide on Northern Lights holidays or find out what the best places are to see them.
The Northern Lights near Alta, Norway
Of course, if you’d like any help with organising your trip, get in contact with one of our Northern Lights experts or calls us on 020 7838 5956.