Auroras in the Velvety Night Sky: Best Places to View the Polar Lights

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Best Places to View the Polar Lights
Aurora Borealis above Iceland

Auroras are a colourful display of lights in the night sky. The magic of northern and southern lights is an unbelievable experience.

The Aurora also called polar lights, northern lights (aurora borealis) or southern lights (aurora australis), begin high in the Earth’s atmosphere—at altitudes from 60 to more than 250 miles—when charged particles from the sun get trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. The result is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky. Here are some of the best places to view the Polar Lights

1. Iceland
Aurora borealis at Mount Kirkjufell Iceland

Your best chance to view the aurora in Iceland is from early September to early April. Although it depends on the weather and solar activity, Iceland is still your best bet to view northern lights compared to other countries. This is because of key factors such as low light pollution, dark nights with no clouds, and moonless nights with enough solar activity.

You can take a guided tour with an ‘aurora hunt’ or drive yourself by researching on the aurora forecast and cloud cover forecast prior to that. You have a great shot at spotting them at the Westfjords, Grótta lighthouse, on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula, Perlan, Klambratún or the larger Laugardalur Park. Even though viewing Auroras is breathtaking, a once in a lifetime experience, Iceland is still a wonderful country with lots more to offer. Here are 11 more things you can do in Iceland, so plan your trip accordingly.

2. Canada
A photographer’s dream, Canada

This dazzling show of lights has been working its magic for people in Canada as it hosts one of the best northern lights viewing spots, its northern latitude and almost zero light pollution is just perfect for viewing the aurora borealis. Best chances are at Wood Buffalo and Jasper National Park. Mid-August to late April is most favourable. For viewing from Churchill and Wood Buffalo, visit in early August to early May.

3. Norway
Aurora Borealis, Tromsø, Arctic Norway

Witness the glowing curtain of light forms, swirling in the starry sky above you at the village of Ersfjordbotn, 12 miles from Tromsø, Lofoten Islands and the far northern towns of Alta, Nordkapp, and Kirkenes are the popular viewing spots. Mid-September to late March is the best time. Also, check out some of the other things you can do in Tromsø and Norway respectively.

4. Sweden
Winter night landscape with forest and polar northern lights, Swedish Lapland, Finnish Lapland

Visit during Mid-September to late March. Abisko is known for its clear skies, so there’s a good chance to see this luminous phenomenon. The surroundings of Sweden’s northernmost town of Kiruna have some of the most popular viewing spots.

5. Greenland
The Northern Lights at Sisimiut, Greenland.

The flames of northern lights, stretched across the sky at the Qaleraliq Glacier, which has small floating icebergs even in summer, is known as the best viewing spot. Mid-August to late April in the south and late August to mid-April in Nuuk is the optimal time. While waiting for the Aurora to light the sky and take your breath away you can also do these things in Greenland. But do be mindful of the delicate environment.

6. Finland 
Finnish Lapland

There are fair chances of spotting aurora in Finnish Lapland. You can witness northern lights on a clear, star-studded night sky, swaying and changing and illuminating the world. September and March is the best time to spot them in Finland.

7. Australia and New Zealand:
Mount Cook and Lake Matheson New Zealand

The chances of spotting aurora are good throughout the year, but most favourable near equinoxes. The dark sky in Tasmania (Australia) and New Zealand is the key factor spectacular views. Since it is in the southern tip, its called southern lights or aurora australis, which can be found at very few places in the southern hemisphere. And if you happen to be in New Zealand you can include these 11 amazing things to see in your bucket list.

8. Alaska
Northern lights, Alaska-US state
Northern lights, Alaska-US state

Fairbanks has its own forecast system and offers tours to take visitors to the darker suburbs. It is located just two degrees below the Arctic, close to the international airport. Fairbanks is also famous for the midnight sun, majestic mountain ranges, picturesque rivers and lakes, and impressive wildlife. Barrow, Nome, Anchorage and Denali National Park are some of the other popular viewing spots in Alaska. Late August to mid-April is the best time to spot the aurora borealis in Alaska. You can also spend time doing these things in Fairbanks.

Parting Titbit: It is advised to keep your extremities i.e your head, hands, and feet warm with proper winter clothing. Wear a thick wool jumper, gloves, socks and some nice winter boots. You will need to warm up your hands after clicking pictures with your smartphone, hand warmers and fingerless or touch sensitive gloves might come in handy. Batteries tend to discharge faster in cold temperature, make sure that you have a backup.

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