The Northern lights might be on your bucket list. Who wouldn’t want a chance to witness the natural phenomena of the aurora borealis? Wondering where to see Northern lights or when to go? Maybe it’s time to plan a trip and check off that bucket list item. It is truly an amazing experience and breathtaking to see in person. Luckily, now it is easier than ever to visit the northern lights. From when to go and tips to get the most out of your trip to lodging, we have compiled everything you need to know about where to see Northern lights.
What Are the Northern Lights?
Before we talk about where to see the Northern Lights, you need to know what they are. The astronomical phenomena called the polar lights are curtains of colored lights (aka Northern Lights) that are visible on clear nights in areas that are away from the city and pollution. This natural phenomenon can be found in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The scientific name is aurora borealis for the Northern lights and aurora australis for the Southern Lights. The closer to the respective poles, the brighter the lights are and the easier they may be to see.
This phenomenon occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gaseous particles, such as oxygen and nitrogen. This produces the most surreal effect, with vibrant hues of blue, green pink, and purple that seem to dance across the darkest of night skies. The colors and patterns are caused when the various ions or atoms collide with the earth’s atmosphere. Colors can vary depending on the altitude.
Recent studies from The University of Iowa “report definitive evidence that the most brilliant auroras are produced by powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms. The phenomena, known as Alfven waves, accelerate electrons toward Earth, causing the particles to produce the familiar atmospheric light show.” This is not only groundbreaking information, it concludes a decades-long search to find out exactly what causes this phenomenon that has been documented for centuries.
Where to See Northern Lights
Where to see Northern lights is almost as important as when to see them. The aurora season is only from August 21 to April 21, so you can easily plan a trip to the location of your choice, depending on how far you want to travel and what type of weather you wish to encounter. Although you may think you have to travel far, there might be a spot closer than you think where you can see Northern lights. From the mainland United States to Russia and Greenland, the Northern lights are available to be viewed in more places than you might expect.
Wondering where to see Northern Lights in the United States? There are a handful of locations. The Upper Peninsula, Michigan offers visitors a peek at the Milky Way during the late summer months, in addition to a few surrounding spots. Fairbanks, Alaska is one of the best places in the world for you to experience the Northern lights. It is directly under the Auroral Oval, plus there are additional locations where you can see the Northern lights in Alaska. You can also consider locations such as Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont.
If you are looking for where to see Northern Lights and take an adventure while you’re there, traveling to Iceland, Greenland or Russia might be what you are looking for. Surprisingly there are many countries around the world where you can see Northern Lights. You might have thought the Northern lights were hard to see or maybe only happened on rare occasions. Luckily that is not the case. Maybe you can cross two items off your bucket list by visiting another country, while you are at it.
This is a great list of the 10 Best Countries of where to see Northern lights if you are looking for that adventure. If you can’t decide on one location where to see Northern lights, there are cruises and tours that explore the Northern lights as never before. Many of the top viewing locations have websites with aurora trackers and you can even request a wake-up call when the lights appear at some hotels. Regardless of the location, you chose where to see Northern lights, you are guaranteed a trip of a lifetime when planned out.
Read More: 10 Obscure Natural Wonders Around the World
What to Do on Your Northern Lights Trip
This might be a trip of a lifetime and something you have dreamed of seeing for so long, and you will want to make the most of it. Where to see Northern lights is dependent on how far you are willing to travel and what else you want to enjoy while you are there. The further you travel, the more you will probably want to do while you are in town. Obviously, the main objective of your trip will be to see the Northern lights, but choosing a destination where you are able to enjoy even more of the local culture and towns is a great idea, too.
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Most likely you think of cold and snow when you think of where to see Northern lights, but that does not always have to be the case. Northern lights occur mid-summer to mid-spring, so if you wish, you can easily avoid cold and snow at many of the locations. If you are visiting Iceland, you can also tour the Game of Thrones filming locations. In Finland, you can stay in an Igloo house. If you are in the states, take advantage of that perfect per fall weather and enjoy lakes, boating, fly fishing, and camping at one of the state or national parks.
For a festive holiday experience, visit the Santa Claus House in the city of North Pole (around 13 miles southeast of Fairbanks). Travelers can also see ice sculptures in February and March at the impressive World Ice Art Championships or take a dog sledding or snowmobiling tour. For an excellent chance to see Aurora Borealis, book accommodations at the upscale Aurora Villa, with floor-to-ceiling windows in your room. No more wondering where to see Northern Lights. They’re literally right outside your room!
If you have ever wanted to experience the magical phenomenon of the Northern lights, now you know it is probably easier than you thought. Whether you want to travel overseas or hit the road, when looking for where to see Northern lights, there are places across the globe. You can make it a fun family trip, romantic vacation with your love, or even a solo trip to soak in the beauty of the Aurora Borealis.
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