The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that may well feature on your bucket list. Even though we now understand why they occur (instead of believing they are a message from the gods or an omen of war, like humans did in the past), it doesn’t make them any less alluring.
The chance to watch this enchanting spectrum of light dance across the sky could be a driving force behind your decision to travel, but how do you maximise your chances of seeing them? We’ve put together a few tips that will certainly help. And if you would like to put them into action, our team are waiting to plan your tailor-made break. Just call us on 0800 988 3369 or click here to submit an online enquiry.
Travel Inside The Arctic Circle
Whilst it is possible that the Northern Lights can be seen as far south as Scotland and parts of the US, this is rare and they are much more likely to make an appearance further north. The further into the Arctic Circle you go, the better chance you have – although somewhere like Iceland, which is situated just below this imaginary geographical line, is still a great option. This means that places like Tromso in Norway, Abisko in Sweden and Kakslauttanen in Finland are all popular spots for aurora chasers.
Travel In March Or September
One of the main ingredients you need for a perfect Northern Lights recipe is dark skies. In the northern hemisphere, this rules out April to August because the destinations within the Arctic Circle go through a period of constant sunlight known as the Midnight Sun during this time. September to March is, therefore, the best period in which to travel, with the beginning of the timeframe being the best choice if you want to avoid bitterly cold temperatures. The reason why we recommend March and September as the two ideal months is that this is when Earth’s two equinoxes occur and solar activity is at its peak.
Stay For At least Three Nights
The unpredictable nature of the Aurora Borealis means that you can never truly tell when the solar winds will put on their show. Therefore, to give you the best chance of seeing them during your trip, it is a good idea to stay for no less than three nights. Obviously the longer you choose to spend there the more chance you will have, but anything less than this will seriously limit the window you have available.
Book An Organised Tour
In some places, the Northern Lights can be seen quite comfortably from your hotel window, but you are much more likely to get the full impact if you venture into the wilderness on an organised tour. Firstly, reducing the amount of artificial light around you (light from street lamps, cars and buildings) gives you a better chance of seeing the aurora in all its glory. Secondly, an organised tour will be run by experts that have done this many time before. They know where to go, which conditions make for a good show and will ultimately enhance your experience.
Pray For A Clear Sky
The last ingredient needed is a clear night’s sky. Heavy cloud that blankets the heavens will all but eliminate your chance of enjoying the Northern Lights, whilst some sparse clouds may reduce the effect or combine with the colours to create something unique. The need for a clear sky is another reason why we recommend staying for at least three nights. The weather may be difficult to predict, especially if you like to plan your holidays months in advance, but if you can wait until the last minute to check the forecast, it will only help your chances.