12 Best Places to See the Northern Lights on Vacation

12 Best Places to See the Northern Lights

From North America to Europe, these are the top destinations on earth for Aurora Borealis sightings!

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, stand as one of nature’s most elusive yet captivating wonders. To witness this mesmerising dance of lights is a bucket-list-worthy experience for many, and some even go as far as to say, “I want to see the Northern Lights before I die.” Understandably so, what with its ethereal beauty that paints dark polar nights a spectrum of colours! 

Want front-row seats to the greatest light show on Earth? Look no further! Here, we round up the best places around the world to see the Northern Lights and when to catch them.

Also read: 12 Stunning Winter Train Rides Around the World

Best time to see the Northern Lights

Before we get into the top destinations to see the Northern Lights, let’s have a quick science lesson, shall we? Auroras occur when charged particles interact with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. These collisions produce tiny flashes that fill the sky with cosmic swirls of green, pink, and purple, which make up the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) in the Southern Hemisphere

As you’d expect, the best time to see the Northern Lights is during the winter months, typically spanning from late September to early April. This period aligns with the extended darkness of the polar nights, providing ideal aurora-viewing conditions. That said, we highly recommend planning your trip according to Aurora forecasts for a better chance of seeing the show. Moreover, choose destinations away from light (like those in the Artic Circle) for the best Northern Lights vacation!

Best places to see the Northern Lights in North America

1. Alaska

Alaska, aka the Last Frontier, is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the United States. Visitors from all over the globe flock to this North American peninsula to view its stunning natural display of lights and indulge in other winter activities. Other must-have experiences here include snowmobiling, skiing, and attending sporting events. 

The city of Fairbanks in the Interior Region of Alaska is particularly notable for your Northern Lights vacation! Thanks to its key location, the duration of darkness in the wintertime, auroral activity, and the many tours available, your chances of seeing its glowing spectacle are high here. Other ideal bases to spot the Northern Lights in Alaska include the towns of Coldfoot, Wiseman, Utqiagvik, and Deadhorse

Also read: Top 10 Coldest Cities in the World for True Winter Lovers

2. Greenland

Image credit: Greenland Travel

In Greenland, the land of glaciers and fjords, catching the Northern Lights is not one to be missed! Situated predominantly within the Arctic Circle, it stands as a prime location for just that. A majority of those travelling to Greenland for the lights show head to Kangerlussuaq in the west, located right in the heart of the aurora belt. Villages like Sisimiut and Illulissat offer excellent sightseeing opportunities, too. Expect the Northern Lights to be visible from late August to early April, with the most vivid displays taking place deep into the wintertime. 

3. Canada

The northernmost areas of Canada fall under the Aurora Oval, providing exceptional opportunities to see and observe the spectacular light phenomenon. Escape to the Yukon Territory where the lights are active at all times of the year (mostly visible when it’s very dark)! Here, find a cosy lodge in Whitehorse or soak in the hot springs of Takhini

Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories is another hotspot for Aurora sightings. Aside from chasing the Northern Lights, take advantage of other activities like snowmobiling, dog sledding, and even whale watching to maximise your winter holiday! 

Also read: 12 Best Cities to Live in Canada If You Want a Fresh Start

4. Minnesota

Image credit: Lorie Shaull

Nicknamed the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota boasts tons of inland lakes that reflect the emerald and purple colours of the Aurora Borealis. For aurora chasers, these spots provide a unique view and frame of the Northern Lights!

Free from the light pollution of Minnesota’s urban areas, the northernmost parts of the state welcome you with natural darkness and a sky full of vibrant illuminations. Here, visitors frequently visit Cook County on Lake Superior for the show. However, the lights can also be seen in central and southern parts of Minnesota such as Park Rapids, St. Cloud, Stillwater, Lake City, Mankato, and Rochester among others. 

5. Maine

Known for its rugged coastlines, dense forests, and serene landscapes, Maine’s northern regions let you chance upon the light phenomenon. While this New England state may not be the first place that comes to mind compared to other destinations on our list, finding dark, night skies isn’t hard at all! 

Image credit: Mike Lewinski

Venture into remote areas like Aroostook Country, which is home to some of the darkest skies in the United States. Or, travel deeper inland to Baxter State Park’s Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, where its towering pine trees frame the lights like a landscape painting. 

Best places to see the Northern Lights in Europe

6. Norway

Image credit: Lightscape

Norway’s natural spectacle of lights extends from the Lofoten Islands to the North Cape and beyond. For a classic Nordic winter experience and consistent opportunities to see the lights, head to Tromsø, also known as the Arctic Capital of the Arctic Circle. This town in the northernmost part of Norway lets travellers in on a blend of majestic nature and vibrant culture.

places to see northern lights

Image credit: Johny Goerend

Other promising places to see the Northern Lights include Hammerfest, Tana Bru, Vardo, and Alta. For true aurora enthusiasts, Svalbard stands out. This Norweigan archipelago near the North Pole offers a unique twist: polar nights with zero sunlight from November to January! But, fear not because the darkness makes for the most vibrant illuminations on your Northern Lights vacation here. 

7. Sweden

places to see northern lights

Image credit: Dylan Shaw

While northern Sweden in general is the best place to experience undulating auroras, it’s pretty much visible elsewhere. On clear evenings, the lights can be seen all over the country, all the way down to Skåne County’s southernmost point. To increase your chances of catching the Northern Lights, a visit to the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park is a must! Ride a chairlift to the observation tower, chill by the cafe, and don’t forget to snag a souvenir.  

8. Iceland

places to see northern lights

Image credit: Jonatan Pie

While the weather in Iceland can be unpredictable, affecting borealis-viewing opportunities, these dancing lights are visible for about eight months a year. The best part? You can see them from almost any location in the country! 

Take a short 15-minute drive from the capital city of Reykjavik to Álftanes for a delightful view of the lights above the bay. Alternatively, relish the spectacle while immersing yourself in the geothermal waters of the iconic Blue Lagoon. Beyond Reykjavik, venture to the western peninsula of Snaefellsnes. A captivating base for natural wonders, it also features caves, glaciers, and a beautiful coastline. 

Also read: 12 Airbnbs in Iceland for When You Finally Make That Trip

9. Scotland

Forget the Aurora Borealis, Scotland calls these shimmering lights in the sky the “Mirrie Dancers!” Spot them across the United Kingdom in the winter months, but head north to the Scottish Highlands or the Shetland Islands for the best show. The former is home to the star-dusted canopy of the Cairngorm National Park and the coastal havens of Sutherland and Caithness. Meanwhile, the latter features a more rugged landscape for the celestial show, with the Viking ruins of Mainland and the rocky cliffs of Unst

10. Finland

Image credit: Hendrik Morkel

Although the wintertime draws in the most visitors to Finland, the most vibrant Northern Lights activity occurs during the autumn and spring seasons. Thus, the best time to catch a glimpse of the auroras here would be between August and April. 

For the best Northern Lights vacation in Finland, the Finnish Lapland boasts picturesque locations for that and more! Some of these include national parks like Pallas-Ylläsjärvi and Urho Kekkonen, which offer pristine skies and breathtaking landscapes. For a one-of-a-kind Northern Lights vacation, cosy up in a glass igloo or cabin and fall asleep to the aurora’s green glow. Moreover, elevate your escape off the beaten path with a reindeer sleigh ride or a snowmobile adventure. 

Also read: 15 Best Things to Do in Helsinki for First-Timers

Best places to see the Northern Lights in Asia

11. China

Situated at the highest latitude of China, the Arctic town of Mohe in Heilongjiang Province is your gateway to witnessing the Northern Lights! Make your way over to Beiji Village, the northernmost town and the coldest place in China, and you’ll be within the country’s prime borealis-viewing zone. Here, the lights are a deep pink colour with hints of green against its vast night sky.

Beyond the magic of the Northern Lights, Mohe is also home to other exciting winter activities and attractions. Stroll around and take photos at the snow-capped White Birch Forest or get up close and personal with the friendliest reindeer at the Ewenki Reindeer Park!

12. Japan

When in Japan for the Northern Lights, escape the city lights and head to Hokkaido, especially the northern parts like Shiretoko and Rishiri Island. The snow-covered landscapes and slopes of this region not only make for excellent reflective surfaces for the lights but are ideal for winter sports. So, combine your Hokkaido aurora sightseeing with thrilling adventures like skiing and snowboarding. Afterwards, treat yourself to a relaxing dip at its onsen or natural hot springs

Also read: 10 Best Winter Destinations in Asia for Your Next Holiday

That about sums up our list of the best places to see the Northern Lights! From the frosty landscape of North America to the remote outposts of Europe and Asia, there is no shortage of destinations to seize the world’s greatest light show. See you there? 

About Author

Andrea Larice Yap
Andrea Larice Yap

Andrea is a writer and creative individual based in Manila. This tiny human runs on iced coffee, music and films. You’ll probably catch her daydreaming in a park or jotting down random words to to put in a song. Otherwise, expect her taking a dive in the pool of uncertainty called “life.”