One of the most fascinating and tricky parts of getting a glimpse of the Northern Lights is the unpredictable nature of the phenomenon. And because the days are short and the nights are very long, January to March offer some of the best opportunities for viewing. If you prefer milder weather, September to December can also be a great time for Aurora Borealis watching.
Here are a few spots around the globe you might want to consider for an in-person viewing party.
Anywhere in Greenland will give you some of the best views of the Aurora Borealis, mainly because of the lack of light pollution. It’s such a pristine place to view that you can even see with city street lights. To get to the capital of Nuuk, you’ll need to take a connecting flight through either Iceland or Denmark. There are no direct flights from the U.S., but the long journey to get there is well worth the time spent.
This Northern Lights location has a number of features to recommend it. First, it’s inside the “Aurora Oval,” which means it’s geographically situated to offer some of the most frequent sightings. And if for some reason the Brealis decide to not make an appearance, Fairbanks means you can experience all the 2nd largest city in Alaska has to offer. Also – it’s stateside, so you don’t need to renew that passport!
For those of you who have been curious about a visit to Norway, the mountainside town of Tromso is an excellent spot for viewing. Though you can see the Northern Lights from inside the city, locals say the best way to view is to take the Fjellheisen cable car to the mountain and watch from there. As a bonus, though Tromso is close to 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it’s location in the Gulf Stream makes for warmer than expected temperatures.
The biggest city in the Arctic Circle is one of the most popular places for Europeans to travel to see the Northern Lights. You can’t get there directly from the U.S., but Moscow has 2-3 flights daily that can get you there. More than one traveler has blogged about Murmansk being the cheapest place to witness the Northern Lights and it’s true. You can get a room in Murmansk for less than $25 USD in the winter, and the organized 4-6 hour “hunting tours” are quite affordable too (well under $100/person).
The capital of Iceland has become a beyond trendy place to visit in recent years, and it’s never been a budget place to travel. But for sheer natural beauty and spectacular scenery, it’s hard to compete with Reykjavik. Tours by boat are a popular way to see the Aurora Borealis from Old Reykjavik Harbor, with dinner often included.
Though the entire country is arguably a great vantage point for taking in the Northern Lights, the northern territories are where you get the most bang for your buck. And in northern Manitoba, Churchill touts itself as one of “the three best places on the planet” to see the lights. To get here from the States, you’ll have to connect on a flight through Winnipeg and Thompson.
BONUS VIEWING SPOTS:
A lot of places in the northern states of the lower 48! Michigan, Minnesota, Maine and Montana all have Aurora Borealis visibility. But our pick for this list is Washington, on the San Juan Islands, particularly on the north end of Orcas or Cypress islands. North Cascades National Park is also great for experienced hikers.