You don’t even have to get out of bed to see the northern lights at Finland’s Kakslauttanen Resort. When you look up through your glass-domed igloo, you’ll fall asleep as emerald green, fuchsia, and indigo streaks light up the night sky.
The vast Finnish Lapland, surrounded by towering pines, is a surrealistically gorgeous setting to witness the aurora borealis, which has perplexed and delighted onlookers for ages. The lights are marketed as the major attraction in towns around Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada, giving experiences for both explorers and luxury guests.
The lights, which are created by charged particles from the sun hitting with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, create a brilliant natural display that may be seen in a variety of locations across the world.
From the safety of your mobile sleeping vehicle in Churchill, Canada, you can watch the lights dance over a family of polar bears. There’s even a chance to view them in the continental United States at Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania, which is known for its black skies.
The extreme cold that typically accompanies seeing the northern lights can be a significant barrier. Enter Chena Hot Springs Resort, with its medicinal waters rich in minerals. The adults-only Rock Lake at the resort provides a light display in addition to a bath. Fairbanks is located right beneath a region of aurora activity, which means that from August until the end of April, the town is treated to a heavenly spectacle of green, yellow, and purple.
The phenomenon is most common between 10 p.m. and midnight. and 3 a.m., but those who go to bed early need not fear. When the aurora is sighted in the sky, guests in the hotel’s rooms can request a phone call or a door knock.
Norway has no shortage of breathtaking views. The first is Svalbard, a chain of Arctic islands located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
Because the archipelago experiences polar night, or everlasting darkness, between mid-November and February, tourists have twice the chance to witness the lights, and it is the only inhabited area in the world where the phenomena can be seen during the day. Join a three-hour snowcat safari or brave the elements on a snowmobile excursion that includes a break for hot beverages and cookies.
Around 200 evenings each year, the northern lights show above Finland. Doze off while watching the dance show from a glass igloo at the beautiful Kakslauttanen Resort, located north of the Arctic Circle. The next night, take a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride across the neighboring forest in search of the aurora borealis.
Aside from glass and wooden igloos, there is also a nearly century-old traditional log cabin with its own sauna. Accommodation alternatives for viewing the natural show abound in Finland, from lakeside glass houses and domes to a northern lights ranch equipped with sky cottages with glass windows and roofs.
Troms is the largest city in northern Norway and is located in the center of the auroral oval, which is known for having the highest possibility of viewing the lights. From late August to early April, the city is known as “The Gateway to the Arctic,” and tourists can pick from a range of itineraries. Fjord cruises, whale-watching, aurora-spotting tours, and snowmobile experiences with hours of beauty are among them.
The surrounding mountains and fjords are so near to the city center that they can be seen from the main street. Explore the area before heading to Emma’s Restaurant for authentic dishes.
Greenland offers excellent chances for witnessing milky-green lights due to little light pollution and near-perfect vision in some areas. A three- or four-night visit during the aurora season (September to early April) provides the highest chances of seeing the lights. Settle into one of the igloos at the Hotel Arctic on the edge of the Ilulissat Icefjord; double rooms include electric heating, TVs, and a tiny bathroom.
If roughing it is more your thing, head to Kangerlussuaq. This old US military facility near the airport claims 300 nights of northern lights sightings per year and conducts aurora trips that include a tour to see the phenomenon and an overnight stay on the Greenland Ice Sheet (an experience typically reserved solely for research and expedition purposes).
The northern lights dance across the sky over Canada’s Yukon Territory from August to mid-April. You may spend hours observing the vivid colors of green and yellow depending on cloud conditions, light pollution, and the night’s auroral activity.
The Northern Lights Centre at Watson Lake teaches visitors about the science and culture around the Northern Lights. And then, after a night out in the cold, treat yourself to a day of pampering (with a dry-brush massage or aromatherapy session) at Whitehorse’s Northern Lights Resort and Spa.
In Scotland, the lights are known as the Mirrie Dancers, which is definitely more British. They may be spotted all around the United Kingdom. in the fall and winter months (and as far south as Kent and East Anglia in England). However, the northernmost sections of the Highlands or the Shetland Islands are your best bet.
Book a stay at Sumburgh Head, a renovated Shetland lighthouse overlooking an Atlantic puffin breeding region, or travel to the Isle of Lewis to view the show above the Calanais Standing Stones, a circular arrangement of rocks estimated to have been created 5,000 years ago. Sign up for AuroraWatch UK notifications about viewing conditions before you travel so you don’t miss a glimpse.
Polar bears have put the Manitoba town of Churchill on the tourism map since it’s the easiest spot to see them. However, because it sees aurora activity more than 300 nights per year, it is also an excellent location for watching the northern lights.
Book a learning vacation at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to study astronomy and shoot the northern lights. Alternatively, book a night at the NHA’s rolling sleeper-train Tundra Lodge for unequaled access to bears in their natural environment, as well as a chance to view the Northern Lights.
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
You don’t have to buy a plane ticket to see the lights. Cherry Springs State Park, located away from major areas such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is dedicated to maintaining its extremely black sky. The region is a Gold Level International Dark Sky Park (the highest designation given by the International Dark Sky Association).
The park has tight laws concerning torches and automobile headlights and employs unique light fixtures that do not obstruct sight. Even if you miss the aurora borealis, you’ll be treated to a spectacular vista of the stars. Special activities, including astronomy classes and public viewing evenings, are listed on the park’s website.
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Hotel Rangá in southern Iceland provides a variety of cold-weather sports, including whale watching and dog sledding, as well as glacier excursions and freshwater fishing, but the northern lights are its hallmark. Because the hotel is located in the countryside, there is no light pollution, which allows for excellent viewing circumstances during the season (August through the first days of May). Closer to Reykjavik, the Ion Hotel’s Northern Lights Bar has dim illumination and wraparound windows, allowing guests to see the aurora from within while sipping a drink.
Every year, artists painstakingly recreate the Icehotel edifice from ice gathered from the Torne River in Lapland, north of the Arctic Circle. Guests may select between chilly room suites (with temperatures ranging from 23 degrees Fahrenheit to around 17 degrees Fahrenheit) and warm rooms, with the Ice Room even featuring an ice bed.
The hotel provides a snowmobile safari in the forest as well as evening photography trips to capture the phenomena in natural surroundings away from light pollution.
Guests can also arrange for a trip to the neighboring Aurora Sky Station in Abisko. The station, which is located 900 meters above sea level, has low light or noise pollution, making it ideal for viewing the light display. From October through the end of March, Abisko is reputed to have active northern lights practically every evening.