Your Ultimate Guide to Experiencing the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights has long been a bucket-list goal of mine, combining both natural wonder and personal aspiration. Being able to pair this experience with unique local culture and activities makes these destinations even more special. It's not just about ticking a box; it's also about fully experiencing each location in a meaningful way.
The Fora Difference
Book with Alexandra to access exclusive perks and experiences on your trip.
Free upgrades, spa credits and more—we got you
Customized travel planning for your style
Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there
Where to stay In Aurora
Secluded property in the forests of Alaska with clear-roofed dome huts offering views of the Northern Lights in the winter.
In southern Iceland, this lodge-like resort is the spot to experience the magical Northern Lights go star gazing with the experts.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Eleven Deplar Farm
Discover the ultimate luxury retreat at Eleven Deplar Farm, a remote Icelandic haven offering adventure, relaxation and stunning natural beauty in every season.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Complimentary airport transfer (to suite guests).
Unlock perks by contacting Alexandra to book your trip.
Things to do In Aurora
Few celestial events captivate the human imagination quite like the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. This incredible natural phenomenon occurs when solar particles collide with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a ballet of color across the polar skies. The ethereal hues range from emerald greens and electric blues to rare shades of red and pink, casting a magical glow over the snow-covered landscapes below.
The Best Times to Witness This Natural Marvel
If you're planning a trip to experience the Northern Lights, timing is crucial. While the lights are generally visible from late September to early April in high-latitude regions, there are specific windows that offer optimal viewing conditions.
Recommended Dates: September 17 to September 24, 2024
Reasons for These Dates:
Equal Night and Day: Around September 22nd, we have the autumnal equinox, a period when day and night are of equal length. This balance guarantees 12 hours of darkness, offering ample opportunities to witness the Northern Lights in their full splendor.
New Moon Advantage: The New Moon on September 17th provides an ideal dark sky, allowing the colors of the Aurora Borealis to pop against the backdrop of a moonless night.
Lead-up to Solar Maximum: The solar maximum—the peak period of sunspot and solar flare activity—is predicted to reach its zenith in 2025. September 2024 offers a preliminary spectacle, with potentially more vivid and frequent displays of the Northern Lights.
Runner-up Timeframe: March 17 to March 24, 2024. Should the September window prove inconvenient, consider visiting around the time of the spring equinox in March. This period also coincides with a New Moon and offers similar advantages with the additional allure of a wintery landscape.
Since clear skies are a prerequisite for viewing the Northern Lights, a longer stay of 6-8 days is advisable to increase your odds of experiencing a cloudless night.
Alaska, USA: Fairbanks
Why Fairbanks? Fairbanks is not just another Alaskan city; it's a high-latitude wonderland that offers an incredible combination of rugged wilderness, hot springs and a front-row seat to the celestial dance of the Aurora Borealis.
Where to Stay: Borealis Basecamp Set amid the unspoiled beauty of Alaska’s wilderness, the Borealis Basecamp's unique fiberglass igloos offer panoramic views of the northern skies. These are not just rooms; they are experiences. Transparent ceilings allow for live shows of the Northern Lights right from your bed. Pair this with daytime adventures such as dog-sledding and ice-fishing and you have an unforgettable Alaskan journey.
Iceland: Reykjavik and Beyond
Why Iceland? Imagine witnessing the swirling Northern Lights while soaking in a natural geothermal hot spring. Iceland makes this dream a reality. Geysers, volcanic landscapes and the magical lights create a surreal experience, making you wonder if you're still on Earth.
Where to Stay: Hotel Rangá and Eleven Deplar Farm. Hotel Rangá offers more than just a luxurious stay. Located far from the light pollution of cities, this hotel comes equipped with its own observatory, powerful telescopes, and local astronomers to guide you. Warm snowsuits are available for guests, making it cozy to step out and enjoy the lights.
Eleven Deplar Farm on the Troll Peninsula is for the adventure enthusiast who also loves luxury. Converted from a sheep farm, it's a sanctuary for activities ranging from skiing to sea kayaking, all under the backdrop of the Northern Lights.
Why Greenland? Known for its breathtaking ice fjords and massive icebergs, Greenland adds an icy glamor to the Northern Lights. Imagine the lights dancing over gigantic floating ice sculptures—that's Ilulissat for you.
Where to Stay: Hotel Arctic. As the world’s most northern 4-star hotel, Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat offers an elite Arctic experience. The terrace is the perfect vantage point for both midnight sun and the Aurora Borealis, offering a luxurious setting to witness the sky's theatrics.
Why Alta? Alta, often dubbed as "The City of the Northern Lights," is situated well above the Arctic Circle and offers one of the best chances to witness the natural sky show. But Alta is not just a one-trick pony; it is steeped in rich Sami culture, boasting ancient rock carvings that are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can explore its pine forests on a snowmobile or visit the majestic Alta Canyon, the largest in Northern Europe.
Where to Stay: The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel. This is the epitome of 'cool' travel—literally. The Igloo Hotel is rebuilt every season and offers an unforgettable stay in icy architecture. Each room is a piece of art, carved from ice and snow, offering a unique Nordic experience.
Why Lapland? Home to Santa Claus and an array of winter activities like reindeer sledding, Lapland turns your Northern Lights trip into a magical winter wonderland. Explore the Lappish wilderness, meet reindeer herders, go husky sledding and perhaps if you're lucky, catch a glimpse of the rare Arctic wildlife like the elusive wolverine or snowy owl.
Where to Stay: Levin Iglut. Luxurious glass igloos located on a fell slope offer unobstructed views of the Northern Lights. The resort provides the surreal experience of sleeping under the stars and the dancing Aurora, all while enveloped in the comfort of a warm bed. Levin Iglut also features a high-end restaurant that specializes in Lappish delicacies, and they even offer an optional "Aurora Alarm" service to ensure you don't miss the lights.
Sweden: Swedish Lapland
Why Swedish Lapland? From dogsledding under the Aurora Borealis to learning about the native Sámi people, Swedish Lapland is a frontier experience in the heart of Europe. Imagine mushing your own dogsled team through a boreal forest or taking a snowmobile safari to explore the fells. The region is rich with natural beauty, from the archipelagos in the east to the mountainous regions in the west.
Where to Stay: Arctic Bath is more than just a hotel; it's an institution of wellness rooted in local tradition. Floating on the Lule River, the hotel offers a variety of experiences, from spa treatments based on the curative powers of the forest to guided cultural and nature walks. The hotel's architecture is designed to enable ideal Northern Lights viewing with its open central courtyard and glass-walled rooms.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspo? Check out my guide, Journey through Peru.
Get in touch with Alexandra
Did you like this guide? Reach out to customize and book your own experience. Or, just to chat about travel in general.
You can normally expect a response from Alexandra within a business day or so. You'll also be subscribed to our travel newsletter (you can unsubscribe at any time).
This guide is part of our ongoing series on Nature Escapes.