Winter in Scandinavia has a spectacular appeal, a region completely sparkling under the colder months, the spruce forests shining bright in the snow, the air invigoratingly icy and such winter-sport favourites as husky sledding and skiing coming to the fore. But, nothing compares to the neon explosion of the Northern Lights, illuminating the skies and the snow beneath with hues of green and purple and yellow and red, each shade as unexpected as the other.
Formed by collisions between electrically charged particles as they enter the earth’s atmosphere straight from the sun, this natural phenomenon is a reminder of solar power on snowy nights. But, it has a cycle of its own, an 11-year loop peaking now but fading into a downswing soon. As such, 2017 is the perfect time to experience the lights in their full-blown blazing glory. However, although their dazzling dance plays out over all of northern Scandinavia, there are certain places that are best for Northern Lights holidays in 2017 and 2018:
The Northern Lights in Norway are always an impressive sight, but the Lyngen Alps are a rhapsody in snow during the winter, just three hours’ drive from Tromso. Stay there first to sample the Scandi-chic city life and amazing amount of stylish bars and restaurants, and enjoy Tromso's Northern Lights views. And, once arrived at the Lyngen Lodge, you’ll be treated to a full complement of snowy activities, ranging from skiing to husky rides and speedy snowmobile excursions. Yet, it’s the Northern Lights that are the main event, showcased by an outdoor Jacuzzi and a timber-framed, glass-roofed building – both delightfully unique ways to spot the dancing aurorae. Lastly, given the lodge’s remote, coastal setting far away from any light pollution, you can expect alarmingly regular appearances.
The Northern Lights near Tromso, Norway
It’s astonishing that no-one thought of this before – a whole festival dedicated to the Northern Lights. Each year, experts gather to uncover the myth and science behind the aurorae, with everything from guided excursions to fascinating experiments and lectures on offer. Bjorkliden is an ideal host, sited on the edge of Abisko National Park. As the sunniest spot in Sweden, even in winter, its clear skies form an idyllic backdrop to the undulating lights. There’s also the Sky Station, excitingly reached by chairlift for wonderful views of the landscape and dramatic night’s sky. In turn, during the daylight hours, huskies will whisk you off on snowy safaris while the skiing is sublime, the scenery enchanting.
Just 620 miles from the North Pole, Svalbard is one of the most isolated places on earth – a stunningly frozen archipelago where polar bears outnumber humans. And, during the Polar Night Season, the sun never rises above the horizon – making a Svalbard holiday perfect for extended viewing of the Northern Lights with no need to stay up through the night. In between, you’ll be able explore Svalbard’s wintery wilderness on snowmobiles and dogsleds. Speeding through the frosty landscapes is almost as exhilarating as watching the aurora’s ballet. You can even hike on glaciers, dipping into ethereal ice caves.
The aurora as seen across one of Svalbard's many fjords
Finnish Lapland is one of the best places in the world to watch the aurora borealis, its northerly latitude host to frequent displays. And, the warmest place to enjoy the show is surely the cosy beds at Levin Iglut. This intimate hotel comprises a spectacular collection of individual igloos where domed glass roofs enable all-night sky watching, from stars to disco lights to rosy dawns. Electrically heated, they remain as clear as, um glass, all night long.