A winter’s pilgrimage to Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland or Greenland in search of the aurora borealis is a perennial bucket-list topper. And, with good reason. It’s a truly magical experience, with dark skies overhead bursting into grand, ethereal colours. But, sightings are never guaranteed, so it pays to heed the advice of the experts. That’s why, from luxury escapes to wilderness getaways and best-value city breaks, all of our itineraries have been hand-picked by our destination specialists, having made countless trips to spot the Northern Lights. Take a look at our advice and recommended destinations below, and get in contact with an expert today.
When to book a Northern Lights holiday
The absolute key to getting your trip right is booking early. Not only will this secure the best possible rates, but it avoids the disappointment of missing out. Many of the highlights, such as Malangen Resort, sell out months in advance. In fact, much of Scandinavia’s accommodation favourites are, by their very nature, boutique and intimate, meaning that they’re like to fill up quickly. This is especially true over such popular dates as Christmas and New Year’s.
When do the Northern Lights appear
Although it’s near-impossible to predict exactly when the aurora will come out, there are a few rules of thumb you can follow. In fact, when you should go is not actually dictated by when the lights are most active, but instead by when the skies are at their clearest. So, while the Northern Lights are visible from as early as September until as late as March, most people focus their efforts between the end of December until February. This is when the obfuscating snowfall has settled and nights are at their longest, maximising your chances. Otherwise, for those who’d rather more temperate climes, look towards the autumn aurora season.
Autumn auroras in Finland (credit: Visit Finland)
What to pack for a Northern Lights holiday
While the most adventurous of our activities often offer full snowsuits, you’ll want to be well kitted out when dealing with the Nordic winter. Be sure to keep your extremities nicely wrapped up, with thick hats, gloves and balaclavas always a good idea. If in doubt, look to skiwear for inspiration. Then, for the big bits, the key is to layer up, trapping insulating pockets of air. Start with a moisture-wicking shirt – cold sweat is never ideal – before moving up to fleeces and a parka or wind protector. Don’t also forget footwear that is waterproof and has good grip, while sunglasses and sunscreen are a must for any snow-reflected glare. Lastly, photographers will want a tripod for those long exposures of the lights.
Northern Lights over Harriniva, Finnish Lapland
Where to spot the Northern Lights
For an in-depth answer to this question, check out our list of the best places to spot the aurora borealis. In terms of a summary, though, when it comes to spotting the Northern Lights, look north of the Arctic Circle, far from any light pollution. But, with all of our recommendations ticking these boxes, you should consider exactly what kind of trip you’d like. You can combine the aurora with everything from snow hotels to Santa breaks. Alternatively, if you’ve got a country in mind, browse our options below.