• Jan Švamberg

A Breathtaking Light Show: When and Where to See the Northern Lights


Do you have the Northern Lights on top of your bucket list? Now is the time to cross it off!

If you are thinking about hunting for the Northern Lights, you sure looked it up and came across hundreds and thousands of pictures of it. Doesn’t it look magnificent? And, if you do your research, you already know you cannot see these breathtaking lights everywhere.

There are only specific places and times where you can see them! But do not worry. We have the perfect guide for you to know when and where to enjoy the Northern Lights.


The Northern Lights

To understand why you can only view the Northern Lights during certain times and places, you will need to understand what these lights are. So, if you are unfamiliar with it, here is a short preview.


The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, occur when the solar wind, or charged particles ejected from the sun’s upper atmosphere, hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere. If you do not speak science, do not worry, we won’t be getting into the complexities here.


What you need to know, though, is that the solar wind happens constantly, but only in certain places. So, in theory, you should be able to see them at any time if you are at the right place, right? Nope, the lights are the most prominent when the skies are dark.


So, to get a good view of the Northern Lights, you must be in the Arctic Circle, which is between 65º and 70º North Latitudes. In simpler terms, you’ll see them in places like Alaska, northern Canada, Iceland, Northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland. And, you will only be able to observe the lights from September to April, when these places get the darkest.


When Is the Best Time to Watch the Northern Lights?

The closer you are to the Arctic Circle, the higher your chances of seeing them. However, most people cannot seem to find the Aurora Borealis on their first try. So, if you want to set yourself up for success, you should go between September and March.


The highest chance to see Auroras is in September and March as Earth’s axis is in the perfect position concerning the sun during these months, making the solar wind hit the Earth more. Moreover, the weather shows its friendly side, which is ideal for travelling compared to other winter months where the weather can become quite harsh and less pleasant for travelling.


Overall, the atmosphere and skies from September to March have everything you need for the perfect Northern Lights show.


At What Time Do the Northern Lights Appear?

Since the solar wind is constantly hitting the Earth, the Northern Lights are always occurring. So, it is a matter of how dark it is. These lights can appear at any time of the night and disappear quickly, so if you sleep, you might miss them.


If you ask your local guides or hoteliers, they will not give you a specific time for when they appear, but that is how it works.


Your best choice is to get some rest during the day and wait between 11 pm and 5 am. These are the times when the sky is at its darkest, and you will have a higher chance of seeing them.


So, keep your boots and camera ready so you can drive towards the north to catch a glimpse. Remember, the lights may disappear as fast as they appear, so always be ready!


Where Can You See the Northern Lights?

Just as the time is essential, the location is important as well. The Northern Lights’ activity peaks closer to the Arctic Circle. Places like Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland are the closest to the Arctic Circle.


Can You Watch the Northern Lights in The City?

While living in cities will be the most convenient for you if you are a tourist, you might not get to see the Northern Lights. Although you will be more connected to the world and have easy access to everything in the cities, you will risk missing out on the Northern Lights.


Why, do you ask? It’s because cities have a lot of artificial lights creating strong light pollution which significantly decreases Aurora’s visibility. With artificial lights all around, you will not be able to observe the full magnificence of the Aurora Borealis. But that does not mean you would not be able to see them. You will still have a chance of seeing the strong Aurora light show, but it won’t be as amazing as if you would watch the show away from artificial lights.

Strong Aurora activity is not happening every single night and lower Aurora activity which occurs more often is not visible in the city.


If you genuinely want to experience these lights, you will have to live in a more secluded area. So, try travelling to a place far away from artificial lights- the darker, the better.


Best Places to Watch the Northern Lights

If you need some recommendations on the best places to watch the Northern Lights, here are a few places you can visit.


Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks is undoubtedly one of the best places to observe the Aurora Borealis. This is because it is located right under the Auroral Oval. The Oval is where the aurora activity is the most concentrated. So, go to these places during the Aurora season, and you will surely catch a fantastic show.


Tromsø, Norway

If you are in Norway and are close to the Arctic Circle, give Tromsø a visit. It’s a city with plenty to sightsee, and spotting the lights is easy too. Between September and March, Tromsø gets dark enough to give you a beautiful view of the Northern Lights.


Yellowknife, Canada

In Canada, you have to visit Yellowknife to get a view of these green dancing lights. Due to Yellowknife’s position in the middle of the Auroral Oval, it is known as the Aurora Capital of North America. So, if you go there between September and March, you will surely catch the Northern Lights.


Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Located close to 124 miles above the Arctic Circle, Jukkasjärvi is the ideal spot for viewing the Northern Lights in Sweden. This small village goes through its darkest month, from September to March, and you will be able to experience the lights there.


Lapland, Finland

Home to Santa Claus, Lapland is truly a magical place during the aurora season. This is because this place is located just above the Arctic region. Also, it has one of the highest light sightings. So, between September and March, the Northern Lights are visible up to 180 nights a year!


Conclusion

And there, you have the best times and places to go hunting for the Northern Lights.

If you want to check this breathtaking light show off your bucket list, there are quite a few places you can visit. But remember this- the lights appear suddenly and can vanish soon afterwards, so you always have to be ready for it.


And, if you miss it, do not be disheartened. The lights happen constantly and can appear at any time. Thus, with the Northern Lights, there is always a next time!


Here is a short summary video just for you. Click to play.



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