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Northern Lights Advice

An Expert in Travel
northern lights
location
time of year

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  • be to see the Northern Lights
  • exact place,
  • time of year
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Description
where is the best place to see the Northern Lights; please detail the exact location of the best place (not just a country name). What is the best time of year to go also? Thanks!
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David  Gluck
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you can see them from the following four countries
Norway
Iceland
Finland
Scotland
As with many natural phenomena, the Northern Lights are unpredictable and it's hard to say with any scientific certainty when the best time to see them is. Technically, they're 'on' all year round, it's just that the summer sun makes them invisible from about April until August. So, that means you might have a better chance of seeing the Aurora from September to March. However, conditions can be very different throughout this period: the autumn months bring fairer weather, good if you don't think you could stand the Arctic winter, while the long dark nights during January to March offer some of the best chances to catch the lights in action above the thick, pristine snow.

1. Svalbard, Norway

You can't get much further north than Svalbard. Up between the 74th and 81st parallel, this island belonging to Norway is well into the Arctic circle - and generally the higher the latitude, the better your chances of seeing the Aurora. The Northern Lights season is between November and February, but the majority of visitors come to experience a different natural phenomenon: the Polar Night. Between mid-November and the end of January, Svalbard is without daylight and in the eerie blue twilight, there are often more Aurora viewing opportunities. Visit outside of this period (ie. when you can see) and you'll be well-compensated with chances to spot reindeer, walrus and polar bears, as seen on Frozen Planet.

2. Kakslauttanen, Finland

At the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland, you can Aurora gaze from the comfort of your own glass igloo, and stay in a traditional log cabin complete with sauna and open fire. If the Lights don’t play ball, try snowy activities such as a reindeer safari or rent some walking skis to explore the nearby Urho National Park. Planning for a Christmas holiday for next winter? It's a mere two hours to the Russian border by road to see Santa in his home at Korvatunturi - or you could take the more traditional route, via dog sled, through the park (and avoid the border crossing!).

3. Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

The village of Jukkasjärvi in the Kiruna region of Sweden is home to the country's first ice hotel. Northern Lights tours by night flight operate from Jukkasjärvi, but down at ground level, take a tour of the Esrange Space Center, where you can admire Sweden’s starry skies if the Aurora isn’t visible. There are plenty more (cheaper) options for places to stay in Kiruna than an ice hotel, and you can still see the Lights, as well as do fun winter activities like snowmobiling.

4. Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is still the most affordable and accessible place to see the Northern Lights, but it’s getting more popular. In January 2015, 9,003 Britons visited Iceland, probably because, Lights aside, there’s plenty to fascinate about this land of geysers, volcanoes and blue ice. The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is on the way to the capital from Keflavík International Airport, stays steamy all year round and costs €40 online for a standard day ticket. And don't miss hunting out Iceland’s Game of Thrones locations while you're in the country.

5. Northern Canada

With the cost of a long-haul flight to factor in, Canada is more expensive compared to the other destinations on this list. However, the 'Aurora Oval' covers the majority of the country, including the provinces of Yukon, Northern Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Canadian Geographic have a brilliant map of aurora locations online, and Dark Sky Finder so you can zero in on prime Aurora viewing spots. With the right conditions, you’re highly likely to see the Northern Lights in Canada, and you can fill the rest of your holiday with skiing at resorts like the huge 8000-acre site at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. Around an hour and a half's drive south is Vancouver, a good base if you fancy some city action, as well as myriad waterfalls and whale-watching opportunities. Take a look at our top tips for a fantastic trip to Vancouver.

6. Scotland, United Kingdom

You don’t have to travel far to be within eyesight of the Northern Lights. In February this year, the coast of Caithness in the far north of Scotland was one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis – check out the seriously awesome video below.

Scotland has a fair few places for finding a dark sky at northerly latitudes and if Aurora activity is forecast it's not far to do an on-spec Lights chase. If you want winter adventures too, Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park is a good bet, although you may have to get up high somewhere like Glenshee for snow cover. However, as the frost melts and winter edges towards spring in the Cairngorms, there are all manner of activities you can try, from munroe-bagging (that's mountain climbing to you and me) up Cairn Gorm mountain itself to hiring a bicycle in the Royal village of Ballater and going for a ride in the beautiful nature reserves near the Queen's Scottish home, Balmoral.
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