The Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora Borealis) is the famously elusive natural light show which seems to be on many a traveller’s bucket list. Viewed late autumn to early spring in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, if you’re going to invest your time chasing them you’ll probably want to choose the most beautiful backdrop possible! Here are 10 of the most beautiful places in the world to see the Northern Lights…
Table of Contents
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland
Have you ever dreamed of travelling to the arctic during the winter and watching the northern lights, toasty and warm with a cup of hot cocoa in hand? It sounds beautiful right? But in order to properly view the northern lights you would have to sit outside, freezing, in the dead of winter. If you want to have your cake and eat it, then you will love Finland’s Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort! Easily one of the most gorgeous settings to see the Northern Lights, this places is set in the middle of the Finnish Lapland’s most breathtaking wilderness (and a stone throw from the Urho National Park), sits a beautiful wilderness resort of heated glass igloos and log cabins with closed glass porches. What better way to view the northern lights than in the warmth and comfort of an insulated, heated glass igloo! Aside from watching the northern lights, day time activities include dog sledding, cross country skiing, downhill snowboarding, sled rides and crushing the frozen waters in the Icebreaker, “Sampo”.
Ship in the ice, Svalbard, Norway
On a clear night the combination of a Svalbard Aurora and the sheer beauty of this untouched arctic wilderness will leave you dumbfounded with chills to last a lifetime! Though most of the more modern accommodations will be found in Longyearbyen, I recommend heading away from the city lights and experiencing the spectacular northern lights in the remote “Ship In The Ice”. The Ship In The Ice Hotel is a real ship that is frozen into the solid Tempelfjorden fjord and scores highly on the most beautiful places to see the Northern Lights list. With surprisingly modern accommodations, you will be well taken care of as you watch for auroras dancing overhead in the dark arctic night. Don’t forget to book your room well in advance as space is limited and it’s way too cold to sleep outside! Please note that due to renovations The Ship In The Ice Hotel will be closed for the 2015-2016 season but plans to reopen its frozen gangplanks for the 2016-2017-winter season.
Hotel Glymur, Hvalfjörður, Iceland
Just a quick drive from the cool city of Reykjavik is Hvalfjörður – the perfect place to get away from the city lights and get a good glimpse at the northern lights! This remote part of Iceland is not only quiet and pristine it’s also home to one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls, Glymer, and a hotspot for whale sightings. Remote and beautiful Hotel Glymur will keep you comfortable, well-fed and will even send you a courtesy alert when the Northern Lights are taking place.
With over 300 days of clear sky’s between the months of October and April, Kangerlussuaq is the best place in Greenland to see the colourful hues of the northern lights dancing above the infamous Greenland Icecap. Kangerlussuaq is one of the only settlements in Greenland that hosts relatively modern accommodations and an accessible dirt road to the iconic Greenland Icecap. Here you can test your bravery in the backcountry of one of the wildest places in the world. At the end of a long day make sure you enjoy an ice-cold beer at one of the local pubs.
Nord Kapp or North Cape is the point where a craggy 1007 foot cliff juts out into the Arctic Ocean, marking what is commonly known as the most northern tip of Europe (though technically speaking Cape Nordkinn is). Although it’s possible to witness the northern lights almost anywhere north of the arctic circle, this is easily one of the most beautiful places to view them as visiting Nord Kapp will add a little extra ‘wild’ as you watch the sky light up at the ends of the earth (AKA the European landmass). In addition to taking advantage of the fabulous Northern Light spectacle, Nord Kapp offers other delightful points of interest including a globe topped (heated) hall, grottos, and a museum depicting the founding of Nord Kapp and how it came to be part of Norway. Whatever your reason to visit Nord Kapp you will be enchanted by the magic of the place as well as the diversity of its people and visitors.
IceHotel, Kiruna, Sweden
Enjoy the magnificent northern lights in the Swedish Lapland town of Kiruna while sleeping in the world’s largest Ice Hotel. Yes, you heard correctly, a 5,500 square meter hotel made entirely of ice! It goes without saying that this is a truly unique experience. Where else in the world can you witness the northern lights, while resting your dreary head in a fully functional hotel made of ice (meals, and sauna included)? Also on offer are an arrangement of winter activities, coal mining tours, and a chance to explore the unique local Sami culture.
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada
Pangnirtung (originally known as Panniqtuuq, meaning the place of many bull caribou) is located just 40 km south of the Arctic Circle, on Baffin Island, Nunavut Canada. Though the town of Pangnirtung might not be on the tip of your tongue, but you will soon be telling all of your friends about this “Switzerland of the north”. After all, what better way to enjoy an arctic adventure, beneath the northern lights, guided and hosted by the Inuit people, who understand the arctic best? In addition to being a beautiful and exotic location for viewing the northern lights, (not to mention a large array of outdoor activities), Pangnirtung (for short “Pang”), has achieved international recognition for high-quality traditional arts in sculpture, printmaking and weaving.
Denali National Park, Alaska
As a rule of thumb, the further you get from artificial light (think street lights in cities), the better your view of the northern lights will be. There are few places as far away as the Denali Backcountry Lodge. Located smack in the middle of Kantishna, in the heart of the rugged Denali national park & Preserve, the Denali Backcountry Lodge is a truly magical base for the Alaskan wilderness. Sit outside your private cabin, hear the crackling of an open fire and crank your head back in wonder as the northern lights decorate the Alaskan skies above. After a late-night of “aurora gazing”, spend your days enjoying the many hiking opportunities, tundra bus tours and a large array of wilderness excursions.
Become one of the lucky few to witness the magic of the northern lights with the one and only Santa Clause in his hometown of Rovanemi Finland. In 1985, Rovanemi Finland was established as the official hometown of Santa Clause. As the story goes, Santa Clauses’ real location needs to remain a mystery, so he set up his official location in the Finnish Lapland City of Rovanemi. Santa’s village is actually a magical resort filled with about 50 restaurants, attractions, cafes and activities.
The Shetland Islands
The Shetland Islands are one of Britain’s wild, northern, windswept, sub-Antarctic archipelagos. Hear the sounds of the crashing waves, and the howling of the wind, as the Northern Lights dance quietly overhead like ghosts in the night time sky. Immerse yourself in its ancient culture, get to know the local people and be blown away by these windswept lands, and then you will begin to understand why this is a truly magical place to escape from our over-crowded world. In addition to enjoying Northern Lights, make sure to check out other local winter festivities and ancient traditions. For example, “Up Helly Ya”, a firey Norse rooted festival, which is held annually in the middle of winter to mark the end of the Yule season.