The Phenomenon Explained
The Sun constantly throws electrically charged particles across the solar system. The magnetic field that is present around the Earth's poles attracts these particles towards it. Once the particles enter the Earth's atmosphere, they are instantly ionized, letting out burning gases that produce lights of different colors. For instance, oxygen produces green and yellow colors, whereas nitrogen produces blue.
The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, is nature's greatest light display on our planet. They have been named after Aurora, the Roman Goddess of Dawn, and Boreas, the Roman God of the North Wind. The phenomenon was named so in 1621, by a French scientist Pierre Gassendi. Witnessing these neon-like, twisted whirls of greenish-yellow lights illuminating the sky is an otherworldly, surreal experience, and people travel great distances each year to destinations that fall under the so-called Northern Lights Ovalto see this awe-inspiring natural phenomenon.
While this phenomenon occurs throughout the year, it can only be viewed properly when it is dark, and the skies are clear. According to scientists, the Northern Lights can be best seen in regions that lie close to the Arctic Circle, and may last from a few moments to several days.
Best Aurora Borealis Displays
There is absolutely no doubt that watching this spectacular natural light show live is on the travel wish list of most enthusiastic travelers. The best time to spot this spectacle is between the months of September and March, the period between the two equinoxes. If witnessing the Aurora Borealis in person is your dream, this Vacayholics article is sure to help you select the best place to see this natural wonder.
We wish to inform you that sightings of the Northern Lights are not guaranteed at any time, as their visibility is affected by several conditions. So, if you wish to see the magic unfold before your eyes, it is advisable to avoid being rigid with your travel plans, as you may have to extend your stay by a couple of days. However, do keep your fingers crossed and remain alert, as you surely do not want to miss this amazing spectacle.
Best Viewing Locations: Kiruna, Abisko, Jukkasjärvi, Torne Valley, Porjus, Laponia
Northern Lights can be seen at numerous locations in Sweden, usually during the winter months of March and April. Swedish Lapland is the best region to watch this amazing phenomenon, and large parts of it are situated away from the city lights, which tend to dilute the enchantment caused by the Aurora Borealis. The lights can be seen from late evening through midnight during winters, and can be best viewed in cloudless skies with little or no moonlight.
Best Viewing Locations: Tromsø, Alta, Svalbard, Finnmark
Technically, the Northern Lights can be seen throughout Norway; however, some of the best places to see them in the country are situated in its northern part. These mystical moments occur more frequently in late autumn, winter, and early spring seasons, when the days are shorter, and the nights longer. A lot of people head to Norway each year for a simple reason that there are plenty of positive chances of spotting the Aurora Borealis, in fact, Norway boasts of being home to one of Europe's best places to see the spectacle come alive, Tromsø.
Best Viewing Locations: Luosto, Nellim, Utsjoki, Ivalo, Kakslauttanen, Paatsjoki, Oulu
Yet another country situated within the Northern Lights Oval, it is one of the most popular destinations of people wanting to see the Aurora. And, this is pretty obvious considering the fact that in the Finnish Lapland, the lights appear almost 200 nights a year, which means, there are ample opportunities to catch quick glimpses of this fantastic occurrence. Most Finnish Lapland resorts provide an 'aurora alarm service', wherein the guests are informed about the visibility of the lights in the sky.
Best Viewing Locations: Jökulsárlón, Reykjavík, Thingvellir National Park
Another hotspot for Aurora enthusiasts, Iceland presents dramatic displays of the Northern Lights at most places. Winter in Iceland can be hostile at times; however, nothing can stop those wanting to experience the magic of nature. While winter is the best season in Iceland to witness them, there are also fair chances for those traveling in autumn if the skies are clear. Reykjavik, the country's capital, is a popular place to see the lights; however, the more rural you go, the better your chances get.
Best Viewing Locations: Murmansk, Severodvinsk, Novaya Zemlya ( a special permit required), Naryan-Mar, Salekhard, Dikson
Northern Russia is also a great place for Aurora hunters. The occurrences are extremely common in the Russian cities that fall in the Arctic Circle. Especially, the region of the Kola Peninsula which is located near the Northern Lights Oval, with the city of Murmansk being a popular base. As with the other places, the winters here too are freezing cold, with temperatures dropping well below freezing point. Nevertheless, the views are immensely spectacular, and so, it is worth visiting despite the hostilities of the weather.
Best Viewing Locations: Aberdeen, Shetland, Isle of Skye, Northern Highlands, Dunnet Head
Scotland also offers some of the most mesmerizing views of the Northern Lights. So, those staying in Britain or visiting, may keep their fingers crossed. The British skies are known for being unclear and cloudy at most times; however, during winter, the cloud cover fades out momentarily as the nights become longer, and this is precisely the best time when the lights can be seen. While the chances to spot the Aurora in Scotland may not be as ample as in the Scandinavian countries, many curious visitors may get lucky to catch a glimpse in the country's northern reaches.
Best Viewing Locations: Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Calgary, Ontario, Kuujjuaq, Manitoba
People living in and visiting the Northwest Territories of Canada are also treated every year to a magnificent display of the Northern Lights. The northern part of Canada also falls within the Northern Lights Oval, which means that curious Aurora seekers would be rarely disappointed. In fact, the Canadian prairie province of Manitoba is amongst the best places in North America to witness the show. Stick to the Canadian countryside for increasing your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
The United States
Best Viewing Locations: Fairbanks, Anchorage, Denali, Yukon, Keweenaw Peninsula, Marquette
Alaska is an undisputed contender on this list; it is the best Northern Lights viewing destinations in the United States. Alaska lies in "the zone", which means that you are guaranteed to witness some really remarkable Aurora displays in there. While there are good chances of spotting them in the cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks, the wilderness of the countryside will present you with even better views. There are also some spots in the states of Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Colorado, to view this spectacle. As you go farther from the magnetic north, the chances of seeing this magical phenomenon dwindle. So, if you stay somewhere in say, Georgia, you may be able to see the lights only once in a few decades.