Where to Spot the Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Lapland

The north­ern lights, or auro­ras, are a nat­ur­al col­or­ful light dis­play in the sky caused by a col­li­sion of charged par­ti­cles with atoms in the ther­mos­phere. The sun is the cre­ator of the north­ern lights. Essen­tial­ly, dur­ing large solar explo­sions, the sun releas­es par­ti­cles deep into space. As the par­ti­cles meet the Earth’s mag­net­ic shield that is “dri­ven” toward the poles in a cir­cu­lar man­ner where the par­ti­cles meet the upper lay­er of the atmos­phere. When the ener­gy is released, vivid shades of col­or float through­out the sky. This light show occurs in high lat­i­tude regions such as the Arc­tic and Antarc­tic poles.

In the north­ern lat­i­tudes the light show is known as auro­ra bore­alis, where­as the south­ern lat­i­tudes refer to the lights as auro­ra aus­tralis.  The best time of year to view auro­ras depends on the hemi­sphere, but the most favor­able time is between autumn and spring. There are var­i­ous high-lat­i­tude loca­tions around the world to view the north­ern lights, includ­ing a not-so-famil­iar place known as Lapland.

Spot­ting the north­ern lights is not guar­an­teed, but trav­el­ers have a bet­ter chance when far away from light pol­lu­tion and full moons.



Lap­land is a region in north­ern Fennoscan­dia, which is land locat­ed in Arc­tic Cir­cle. This area stretch­es across north­ern lands of Fin­land, Swe­den, Nor­way and Rus­sia. There are many areas in Lap­land to view the north­ern lights, and tour com­pa­nies offer arc­tic hol­i­day pack­ages to make the stay worth­while. Trom­sø and Alta, Nor­way are two pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions in Lap­land. Decem­ber through March are known as the best dis­play months due to the dri­er weather.



In Ice­land, vis­i­tors may be able to view the north­ern lights right out­side the hotel doors in Reyk­javik. For a bet­ter view, vis­i­tors pur­chase a one or sev­er­al-day excur­sions to view the lights out­side of the city lim­its. Mid-Octo­ber through mid-April is the north­ern lights sea­son in Ice­land, although tours run year round. Ice­land is one of those rare des­ti­na­tions where trav­el­ers have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to drink lattes by day and view the lights by night. Var­i­ous Ice­land tour com­pa­nies also fea­ture moon­light whale watch trips which may include a glimpse of col­or­ful, night rays.



The best views in Fin­land are in Lap­land, but east Fin­land or the Ruka and Juhan­nuskallio region are oth­er pic­turesque dis­plays. Ruka is a lux­u­ry vil­lage locat­ed south of the Arc­tic and Russ­ian bor­der and con­tains some 29 ski slopes. The best time to vis­it this area is Sep­tem­ber through March. The weath­er is cool­er in Fin­land and Swe­den com­pared to Nor­way, so bring ade­quate cloth­ing. Active north­ern light tours are avail­able through­out this region.



Believe it or not, the Scot­tish high­land region is anoth­er north­ern light des­ti­na­tion. North­ern Scot­land is an ide­al loca­tion, as the lat­i­tude is the same as Moscow, Rus­sia and Sta­vanger, Nor­way. How­ev­er, lights have been seen as far south as East Loth­i­an. The north­ern lights, known local­ly as the “Mer­ry Dancers”, is also pop­u­lar in Orkney and the town of Thur­so, which is in the Caith­ness region. Win­ter months are ide­al, but more prone in Jan­u­ary through March, for view­ing the dra­mat­ic show.