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10 Best Places To See The Northern Lights (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 01/27/2011 9:35 am EST Updated: 09/11/2012 10:23 am EDT

Every traveler's life list should include viewing the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, one of nature's most spectacular phenomena.

From late November to March within the Northern Lights zone--latitudes 65 to 72 degrees--solar particles collide with atmospheric gases to create colorful curtains (near the South Pole, Aurora Australis are the Southern Lights).

Ideal viewing conditions are crisp, cold, clear, and cloudless skies with little light. You can see this most impressive light show--lasting from a few minutes to several days--in the following regions close to the Arctic.

We asked our friends at Fodor's to put together their top 10 spots to see the Northern Lights.--Lola Akinmade

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  • Alaska: View Northern Lights in the U.S.

    Northern Lights and stars in Alaska <strong>Why Go</strong>: Alaska's location within "the zone" means you're almost guaranteed to see spectacular light displays. Be sure to move further away from city lights of Fairbanks into the region's vast wilderness areas of Denali and the Yukon Territory. <strong>Insider Tip</strong>: Check the <a href="" target="_hplink">University of Alaska</a>'s Northern Lights forecast to help schedule your viewing trip. <strong> Best Viewing Locations</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Anchorage</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Fairbanks</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Denali</a> <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Alaska Travel Guide </a> <em> <em>Photo: Flickr: AlaskaCpl</em>

  • Denmark: Visit Remote Norwegian Sea Islands

    Differences in altitudes and gases create a variety of colors, but green is still the most common aurora <strong>Why Go</strong>: North of Scotland between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, the Faroe Island archipelago is mostly known for puffins and Viking folklore. While its stormy weather mimics that of the British Isles, visitors to this Denmark-owned province could also see the iridescent lights. <strong>Best Viewing Locations</strong>: All islands within its archipelago <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Denmark Travel Guide </a> <em>Photo: iStockPhoto / shawnwaite </em>

  • Scotland: Watch the Sky for a Weather Break

    An aurora with arcs in different shades of green <strong>Why Go</strong>: The British isles are known for stormy, foggy, and cloudy weather--far from ideal conditions for observing the sky, but on those rare occasions when thick cloud covers break momentarily during dark winter months, you've got a good chance of witnessing the display in parts of Scotland's north. <strong> Best Viewing Locations</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Aberdeen</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Isle of Skye</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Northern Highlands</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Dunnet Head </a> <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Scotland Travel Guide </a>

  • Canada: Go North of the Border for Great Views

    Northern Lights and illuminated Teepee in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories <strong> Why Go</strong>: Areas around pristine Lake Superior in Ontario and Northern Canada's tundra back-country are prime viewing spots. Head to the town of Whitehorse within the Yukon Territory to best see the swirling lights. Sometimes, the glowing sky can be seen as far south as the American border, but stick to Canada's vast wilderness for your front row seats. <strong> Best Viewing Locations</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Calgary</a> <a href="" target="_hplink">Ontario</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Yukon Territory</a>, <a href="" target="_hplink">Manitoba</a> <strong> Plan Your Trip</strong>:<a href="" target="_hplink"> Fodor's Canada Travel Guide </a> <em> Photo: Tania Spencer/GNWT</em>

  • Greenland: Experience Great Auroras All Over

    Northern Lights are in Greenland all year but they can't be seen during summer's Midnight sun <strong>Why Go</strong>: Greenland still remains a final frontier for the average traveler and from its interior ice remains optimal location, however more accessible areas south and east of Greenland provide just as good viewing opportunities. You can see northern lights from most parts of the country (similar to Iceland). <strong>Best Viewing Locations</strong>: Kulusuk, Ammassalik <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Europe Travel Guide </a> <em>Photo: John Kjær/Greenland Tourism </em>

  • Finland: Listen for Your Aurora Alarm

    Aurora Borealis with green and purple in Northern Finland <strong>Why Go</strong>: Head to Luosto in Northern Finland to the Aurora Chalet where, upon arrival, you'll be handed an "Aurora Alarm" which beeps once Northern Lights appear. In the nearby town of Sodanklya, the Northern Lights Research Center relays your message via the hotel. On chilly cloudless nights, you're also bound to catch the lights shimmer in the skies over the town of Nellim, close to Lake Inari--Finland's third largest lake. <strong>Best Viewing Locations</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Luosto</a>, Nellim, Utsjoki, <a href="" target="_hplink">Ivalo</a>, Kakslauttanen <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Finland Travel Guide </a> <em>Photo: Courtesy Visit Finland </em>

  • Iceland: Explore Beyond Reyjavik's City Lights

    Iceland's Northern Lights and some city light in background <strong>Why Go</strong>: Leave the bustling nightlife of the capital city and head out into the wide open plains of Þingvellir National Park--a UNESCO Heritage Site where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet to cause a rift valley. Under clear dark skies on a freezing night in early March was where I first witnessed the lights dance across the Icelandic sky. Though the show only lasted for 12-15 minutes, it felt like an hour. <strong> Best Viewing Locations</strong>: Outside Reykjavik, Þingvellir National Park, the entire country. <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Iceland Travel Guide </a>

  • Norway: Observe Polar Night and Polar Lights

    Northern Lights near the town of Svovaer in the Lofoten Islands <strong>Why Go</strong>: The northern town of Tromsø teems with Aurora Borealis activity when those extended summer days are long gone. Its location above the Arctic Circle, and within the Northern Lights zone, makes it one of the top places to view shimmering green lights. The town also boasts the world's most northerly university, brewery, and planetarium. You can cruise Norway's fjord-lined coast aboard a Hurtigruten ship and get wake-up calls to head out on the deck when the lights appear. <strong> Best Viewing Locations</strong>: Tromsø, Alta, Svalbard, Finnmark <strong> Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Norway Travel Guide </a> <em>Photo: Courtesy Johnny Mazzilli/Innovation Norway</em>

  • Russia: Brave the Arctic Cold for Arctic Lights

    An aurora dances above the horizon in Russia <strong>Why Go</strong>: In Northern Russia, you've got a good chance of seeing Aurora Borealis. The Kola Peninsula's proximity to the Northern Lights zone also makes it a key area and the town of Murmansk is a popular base . . . if you can handle the below freezing temperatures of a typical Siberian winter. <strong> Best Viewing Locations</strong>: Murmansk, Siberia, Kola Peninsula <strong> Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Europe Travel Guide </a>

  • Sweden: Learn about Beautiful Blue Holes

    Swedish Lapland's Aurora Borealis: green is the most common Aurora color <strong>Why Go</strong>: The area around Abisko in Swedish Lapland is scientifically proven to be an ideal viewing spot due to a unique micro-climate. Close to Abisko National Park, the dark winter night is perfect for sky watching. The 70km (43mi) long lake helps create the infamous "blue hole of Abisko"--a patch of sky that remains clear regardless of the surrounding weather patterns. <strong>Best Viewing Locations</strong>: Kiruna, Abisko, Swedish Lapland <strong>Plan Your Trip</strong>: <a href="" target="_hplink">Fodor's Sweden Travel Guide </a> <em>Photo: Fredrik Broman/ courtesy</em>


Filed by Kate Auletta  |