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northern lights

Northern Lights Tours & Trips

From late August to mid-April, travellers from all over the world search for the Northern Lights. Over the last few years, Iceland has become the most popular choice to see the Aurora Borealis and we can understand why. However, if you'd like to avoid the crowds, Alaska is a great option. If you'd like to stay within the European continent, Norway (Tromso) or Finland are your best bets.

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The best places to see northern lights

The northern lights can be seen in numerous destinations located near the Arctic! If you're wondering where to see the northern lights without dealing with the crowds, check out Alaska or Lapland. And if crowds don’t bother you, Iceland is a popular choice, as the country provides ample opportunities for rugged exploration without losing the usual creature comforts. Travellers can expect great views of the lights as well as plenty of opportunities for hiking, museum hopping, and relaxation! 

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    Best time to see northern lights

    northern lights
    1. Mid-August to early March

      Dark, clear days

      The best time to travel to see the northern lights is between September to March. The lights are most clearly visible when there is little to no external light, so cold, dark winters are perfect. Chances of seeing the lights are slightly slimmer in September and November, but for travellers who don’t deal well with extreme cold, it may be the best option. In general, while you can never predict when you’ll see the northern lights with 100% accuracy, visiting in December, January, and February gives travellers the best chance - just be sure to dress warmly!

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    Northern lights facts: All you need to know

    When you’re preparing to head out on an adventure in search of the northern lights, it’s important to do your research! The lights are famously fickle, and travellers can have wildly different experiences depending on weather conditions, destination, and time of year. If you’ve ever had any questions about the northern lights, you can find all the answers below. 

    What are northern lights?

    The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are a natural phenomenon found in the Northern Hemisphere, especially the closer one gets to the North Pole. The light effect happens when the sun drives solar wind away from itself, causing high-energy particles to strike the Earth’s magnetic field. When these particles collide with oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, they produce red or green lights; when they collide with nitrogen, the light produced is green and purple. 

    Where to see Aurora Borealis?

    The closer you get to the North Pole, the more likely the chance of seeing the northern lights! Of course, it’s not always possible to visit the North Pole directly, but fear not - there are many areas close to or within the Arctic Circle, such as Alaska, parts of Canada, Finland, Iceland, and Scandinavian countries such as Norway (especially up north in places like Svalbard), where the northern lights are often visible! If you’re looking for the aurora australis, however, you’ll have to head south - the southern lights are, of course, located in the southern hemisphere!

    When can you see the northern lights?

    While there are never any guarantees about whether or not you’ll see the northern lights, the general rule of thumb is that the darker the sky and the closer you are to the North Pole, the better your chances. This means that visiting during the northern hemisphere’s winter (about October-February) is the best time to view the northern lights! Try and stay away from larger cities, as the light pollution may decrease visibility, and check the northern lights forecast to avoid disappointment. Visit NOAA's Aurora forecast to check the location and intensity of the aurora.

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    • Is it guaranteed I will see northern lights during my tour?

      While there are certainly things you can do to increase your chances of seeing the northern lights (see above), there are no guarantees that travellers will see them. Anything from light conditions to cloudy weather can make the difference between seeing the lights and not, and some nights they may not appear at all! The best option is to choose a destination you’d be happy with regardless of whether you see the northern lights. 
    • What other activities are offered during the tour?

      Depending on the tour, there are often many other activities travellers can enjoy during their search for the northern lights! Adventurous travellers can enjoy dogsledding, skiing, snow-shoeing, and snowmobiling, while those looking for a slower pace will love the many museums and cultural offerings at many northern lights destinations. Of course, the gorgeous nature is a draw in and of itself!
    • Can you see the northern lights when there is a full moon?

      A popular misconception about viewing the northern lights is that a full moon negatively impacts the lights’ visibility. Thankfully, that is simply not true! The northern lights can and do appear on nights with full moons, and many photographers appreciate the moon’s presence in their shots. 
    • How long do the northern lights last?

      As with many questions about the northern lights, the answer to this is: it depends! On active nights, the northern lights can be seen all night long. However, other times the display only lasts for about ten minutes. The weather patterns that cause the lights are not always easily tracked, and therefore it’s not possible to know exactly how long each display will last.

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    Our team of experienced tour specialists have travelled to hundreds of countries around the globe and have decades of first-hand travel experience to share. Contact us now to have all of your tour-related questions answered!

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