The best places to see the Northern Lights
To behold the spectacular phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, is an unforgettable experience, so it is no surprise that Northern Lights holidays are becoming increasingly popular. The Aurora Borealis is a unique display, the beauty of which can only be truly understood first-hand, as 19th century polar explorer Julius von Payer described: "No pencil can draw it, no colours can paint it and no words can describe it in all its magnificence."
Where are the Northern lights?
With the current solar peak predicted by NASA to continue through 2014, now is a great time to travel to catch a glimpse of this unique spectacle – but where can you see the Northern Lights? The Northern Lights, a flickering, colourful curtain of lights created by solar particles colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere, occur in an oval ring-shaped area above the magnetic pole. Therefore, the further north you venture, the greater the chance you have of witnessing this dramatic and beautiful sight. One of the best and most accessible places to observe the Northern Lights is Iceland, due to its northerly location on the edge of the Arctic Circle and ecologically friendly environment with little atmospheric pollution (meaning that there is no light pollution to spoil your view).
If you are lucky enough to be on a tour of Iceland when the lights show, Iceland affords impressive vistas of the illuminations set against an incredible volcanic backdrop. In fact, Iceland’s dramatic landscape has much to offer travellers even if the lights fail to appear. Norway, too, offers opportunities to see the mesmerising spectacle of the Aurora Borealis first-hand, and this is certainly a highlight of our Norway holidays. The Norwegian city of Tromsø, which is located inside the Arctic Circle, provides an excellent starting point for Northern Lights seekers.
When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
Although this mystical natural wonder occurs all year round, displays of the Northern Lights are notoriously unpredictable and can never be guaranteed. So when is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights? While it is impossible to ensure a sighting, the peak aurora season, during which the Northern Lights can be seen at any time, provides the best opportunities and runs from late September to late March.
The Northern Lights’ blazing trail is only visible in a dark night sky, so it cannot be seen from destinations within the Arctic Circle (including northern Norway) during the summer months, when the Midnight Sun provides constant daylight. However, even in the winter, a blanket of cloud cover can conceal the lights, which is why catching a display is so difficult to predict. A perfectly clear, winter sky will provide the ideal scenario for witnessing this breath-taking scene, and although this cannot be accurately predicted, our Iceland holidays and Norway tours depart between late autumn and winter (when the lights are at their most frequent) to provide you with the best chance of spotting this marvel.