The best places to see the Northern Lights this winter

If you want to visit the Northern Lights this winter, you'll need to plan ahead as many of the best viewing spots fill up months in advance. Planning your holiday can often be the trickiest part, but with our tried-and-tested insider advice, you'll stand the best chance of witnessing the aurora for yourself.

Tromso, Norway

Tromso is a small city in northern Norway, and offers one of the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights as it sits within a high-probability area area known as the "Northern Lights oval". As a hub for wilderness excursions, it's easy to get away from the lights of the buildings and into pristine darkness very quickly, optimal for aurora viewings, while still staying close to transport links and hotels - this makes Tromso an appealing spot for families and others who may not want to travel deep into the arctic outback. It's also fairly easy to reach, with flight connections from major cities like Helsinki, Oslo and even London.

Svalbard, Norway

The Northern Lights occur more frequently the further north you travel, so you can maximise your chances of witnessing a full display if you head up into the Arctic regions. Head to the north of Norway, where Svalbard offers a latitude of nearly 78 degrees, and the isolation makes for stunningly clear views. The Aurora Service names Svalbard as the optimum location for viewing the Lights, as its proximity to the North Pole makes it particularly sensitive to the geomagnetic activity that causes the light show; this comes with the caveat that Svalbard is so far north that on certain days, aurorae showing slightly further south may not be visible.

The aurora as seen from Svalbard, Norway

The Lulea Archipelago, Swedish Lapland

Lulea offers a pristine backdrop for Northern Lights viewing, and in particular the Aurora Safari Camp gives visitors the chance to immerse themselves in the landscape and really take it all in. Stay in a traditional Sami-style lavvu under the stars, and enjoy quick access to husky sleds and 4X4 vehicles so that the moment the aurora begins, you can be on your way to a nearby hilltop for a panoramic view.

Nellim, Finnish Lapland

Not to be outdone by its Swedish counterpart, Finnish Lapland offers its own amazing winter destinations for seeing the Northern Lights. Nellim offers top-notch accommodations and activities to bing you out into the snow and under the stars. Far from any light pollution, the Nellim Wilderness Hotel has cosy log cabins and sledding tours to take you to where the displays are brightest, but we recommend trying the Aurora Sledge, a special glass-domed vehicle that is driven to an optimum viewing spot and parked, so you can snuggle up inside and watch the show.

Kakslauttanen, Finnish Lapland

For more glass igloos in Lapland, Hotel Kakslauttanen is the original definitely-worth-writing-home-about accommodation. The signature accommodation is a glass-domed igloo that puts you right under the light show every night, so you don't have to go on an outdoor excursion every single evening - rather, the gorgeous lights come right to you. 

The glass igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen

Western Canada

All over northern Canada are untouched spots perfect for aurora-seekers, but we particularly like the idea of travelling up through the fabled Yukon to find the show, just like explorers have done for generations. Magnetic interference means that lights are often especially bright here, and the surrounding mountains are tall enough to make perfect viewing locations for skygazers.

The best times to see the Northern Lights

Winter and early spring generally offer the clearest skies, as well as the darkness necessary to fully appreciate the glow of the lights - all the better if you can time your trip to be during the new moon. The University of Alaska recommends paying particular attention between 10pm and 2am local time, but be warned that the aurora is a fickle phenomenon and no one will be able to fully guarantee that you'll see it. Approximately every two hours, an 'active period' can crop up, and this extra energy is usually visible for about 30 minutes.


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