What are the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)?
What are the Northern Lights? These lights occur about 60-250 kilometers distance from the Earth when pieces of the sun break into the Earth’s magnetic field and become trapped. The particles that come from the sun come into contact with gas molecules in the atmosphere and are colored and spread across the sky. The colors of the Northern Lights are determined by the type of atoms that collide and the energy gained by the impact.
When are the Northern Lights most visibly seen?
The Northern Lights are more visible during the Equinox periods that occur during March and September, i.e. around 23 September or 21 March. This is because more solar particles interact with the atmosphere in the Earth’s magnetic field during this period. Read our article to find out where and when you can best see the Northern Lights.
Finland is one of the best countries to see the Northern Lights. There is high visibility on an average of 200 days a year, starting in August up until the first days of April. With temperatures reaching -25 degrees, it may be a bit challenging to wait outside for the Northern Lights. Instead, enjoy it in full warmth and comfort; lie back and watch the light display as you sip on coffee in a glass igloo.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Finland:
September – October: The chances of seeing the Northern Lights are lower during these months, but the lights may appear on darker nights.
January – March: During long, nights of these months, it is quite likely that you will get a chance to see the Northern Lights.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Finland:
Rovaniemi , Kakslauttanen, Saariselkä, Luosto, Nellim, Nuorgam, Utsjoki, Inari, Ivalo . Read our piece on Rovaniemi for more details. Rovaniemi offers plenty of enjoyable winter activities besides the Northern Lights display.
Norway is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. The lights are visible at certain locations, between October and March.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Norway:
September – October, March- April: The equinox is the best time to see the lights anywhere.
November – December, January – February: There is a high likelihood that you will get the chance to see the lights during this period, as it is usually the darkest time of the year.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway:
Iceland is home to bounteous glaciers, hot springs, and volcanic mountains are further illuminated by the incredible Northern Lights. The best time to watch the Northern Lights in Iceland is between late August and mid-April.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland:
August: There is less chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland at the start of August, but towards the end of the month there is higher visibility. You can check for sites that predict times of visibility.
September – October – November: In Iceland, the nights start to get longer between September and October. The likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights begins to increase at the start of October. The weather isn’t too cold around this time but you may catch some snowfall.
December – January – February: Seeing the Northern Light is ideal during these three months as the darkness increases. The snowfall makes for a beautiful winter setting.
March: The arrival of the spring equinox at the end of March brings an increase in solar activity which creates a good environment for seeing the Northern Lights.
April: April is your last chance to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, make sure to plan your trip in the first two weeks.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Iceland:
Reykjavik, Hvolsvöllur, Skógafoss, DC Plane Wreck, Jökulsárlón, Stokksnes, Kirkjufell, Hvitserkur.
The Northern Canadian route, in particular, has plenty of places to enjoy the Northern Lights, accompanied by untouched wilderness and a sparkling sky. You can watch the Northern Lights in Canada between October and March.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Canada:
September – October: Statistically it’s very easy to see the auroras in Canada during these months.
November – December, January – February: The days are very short and the nights are very dark, so it’s quite easy to see the Northern Lights when the sky is clear enough.
March – April: In the autumn equinox as well as in the spring equinox, the Northern Lights can be easily observed from the Northern regions of Canada.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Canada:
Yukon, Manitoba, Alberta, Calgary, Nunavut, Tuktoyaktuk, Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Iqaluit, Kuujjuaq, Banff, Jasper.
Scotland is also home to the Northern Lights. Dunnet Head, the Isle of Skye and the Northern Highlands regions of Scotland have interesting geographical features. If you want to watch the Northern Lights in such a beautiful setting, you should match your trip between December and February.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Scotland:
Shetland, Orkney, Island of Lewis & Harris, Lochinver, The Isle of Skye, Cairngorms National Park, Galloway Forest Park, Edinburgh.
Another popular destination for the Northern Lights is Sweden. In many parts of the country, you can watch the Northern Lights between September and March.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Sweden:
December – February: This is the best time window the year to see the Northern Lights in Sweden. Between December and March in Sweden, there is more darkness than light, which gives you plenty of daily opportunities to see the Northern Lights.
April – May: These months are ideal if you plan on seeing the Northern Lights when it’s not too cold or snowy.
September – November: It’s possible to start seeing the Northern Lights during these months. If you go as far North as Lapland, you may be lucky on a dark autumn night.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Sweden:
Tips on seeing the Northern Lights:
- It’s hard to catch the Northern Lights. Put some time aside!
- Start waiting for the Northern Lights in the late hours of the night the darker the better dark. 22.00 – 04.00 is an ideal time. Try and stay up all night.
- Stay away from big cities.
- Choose a time when the moon is not visible.
- Choose open areas, such as forests and lakes.
- Go on a Northern Lights tour.
- Download an app that predicts when and where it is best to see the Northern Lights.
- Rent a car. That way you can travel as you please and you won’t be late for anything.
- Wear thick clothes!
- Make sure to pack your camera and tripod.
- The Northern Lights shouldn’t be your only priority, explore!
Enjoy the Southern Lights
The Northern Lights is better heard of than the Southern Lights because there are very few places in the southern hemisphere to see the lights. The Aurora Borealis exists at the North Pole, and The Aurora Australis exists at the South Pole. These lights are the most beautiful, and most visible from the Tazmania island of Australia and in New Zealand. Although it is difficult to come across the Southern Lights, which show up at most 4-5 times a year, you can enjoy it most between March and September. Try your luck, especially on equinox days. The best places to see the Northern Lights in New Zealand are: Stewart Island, Lake Tekapo, Mount Aoraki National Park, Dunedin, Catlins. In Tanzania, you can watch the Northern Lights, particularly from Hobart and Cradle Mountain.