…But if you find this too scientific or complicated, you might find that these ancient myths are better at explaining where the coloured rays of light come from: the Norwegians used to say the lights were reflections and glow of the shields of Valkyrie (feminine warriors who guide souls of the death to Valhalla). The Finns would say that the lights were caused by a firefox that ran so fast it left sparks, and according to the Sami people, the lights represented the souls of the dead. It would be inappropriate to discuss them or to point at them, as to why the lights were highly respected.
Whichever story you feel most drawn to, you have to at least see this magical performance once in your life. You can say it is quite an exclusive performance because it is never promised you actually get to see the lights while you are hunting for them. They are hard to predict because seeing them or not depends on a lot of different factors. Aurora Borealis shows up all throughout the year (yep, also in summer), but because of the light we can’t see them. Between September and March you have the highest chance of seeing this natural wonder. The peak of course is when it’s dark, the sky is clear, and when there is solar activity. To increase your chances of seeing these dancing waves of etheral light, we’ve picked 8 places where the likelihood of seeing them is high during the peak season!
1. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
It might surprise you at first as you never hear about the Northern Lights in this part of Europe, but in fact, The Isle of Skye in Scotland is a great place to watch this natural wonder. This island has nine dark sky discovery sites, meaning there are no lights from any cities and the sky is as dark as possible. Stargazing here is like a dream, let alone seeing Aurora! The best place to go to is Glendale Beach, where beautiful cliffs end at the water. Can you imagine seeing the purple and green dancing rays above the sea?
Where to stay in The Isle of Skye
Mid-range - AURORA rural RETREATS, Glendale
Stay the night in a wonderful chalet surrounded by mountains, a perfect open space to watch the Northern Lights dance over a starry sky.
Wake up with a view you thought you could only dream of at this bed and breakfast.
2. Lake Inari, Lapland
Lake Inari in Lapland is another beautiful place to hunt for dancing lights. Legend says this wonderful lake is the home of Ukko, the Sky God. Go into the woods around the lake, learn about the Northern Lights from a guide, enjoy a bonfire and camp in a traditional tent after spotting the lights outside. This experience is something you will definitely never forget.
Where to stay around Lake Inari
At this hotel you can rent equipment to explore the national park surrounding it. Get comfortable in the sauna, read a book at the fireplace in the library or have a swim in the ice pool.
Stay in a cosy wooden chalet in a forest area and relax in the indoor pool or sauna.
These cabins are truly unique: not only do they have a glass ceiling so you can see the Northern Lights from your bed, they can also be moved on the ice of the lake!
3. Rovaniemi, Lapland
Watch the Northern Lights from a very unique place, Santa Claus’ hometown! Though you might be less likely to see the lights from the city centre because of the city lights, you will have a higher chance of seeing them outside of the city. For instance at the top of the Lapland Hotels Sky Ounasvaara. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to get to the top: there are stairs on the side of the hotel that allow you to go to the roof at any time. From here you have a great view of the city and a chance to see the Northern Lights!
Another cool way to experience the aurora borealis is by going into the wilderness with an expert who can tell you all about this magic phenomenon. You will be picked up and dropped back off at your hotel, and while looking for the lights you can enjoy a delicious Lappish barbecue.
Where to stay in Rovaniemi
Budget - Motelli Rovaniemi
These cute wooden cabins have dorms as well as private rooms and are simple, but have all you need.
Luxury - Arctic City Hotel
This comfortable hotel is located in the centre of Rovaniemi, and has relaxing saunas.
4. Tromsø, Norway
As Tromsø, a city located on a Norwegian island, is a popular place to watch the Northern Lights and the chance of seeing them there are very high. here are many possibilities and ways to catch mother’s nature best show too. Go light hunting by yourself, for instance at Prestvannet Lake, which is easily accessible by foot or by bus, or Telegrafbukta, a beach all the way in the south.
Or would you rather have someone with you who can tell you all about the aurora lights while sitting warm at a bonfire, enjoying some snacks and warm drinks? This tour makes that experience possible. What about hunting for the lights from the ocean? Seeing the starry sky while having the mountains and the lights of the city in the background, and relaxing in a hot tub on the deck and having a local dinner as well? You can experience that here.
Where to stay in Tromsø
Mid-range - Small Cozy Apartment
This cosy apartment (with sauna!) is perfect if you are travelling through Norway by car, as it is located a little bit out of the city.
Luxury - Clarion Collection Hotel
This hotel has beautiful views on the harbour and a relaxing sauna.
5. Ásbyrgi Canyon, Iceland
Since Iceland is located in the Aurora-Zone/Northern Lights-Belt, there are many places that are perfect to see the Northern Lights. This is not just because of the location, being so high up north, but also due to the wide, open landscapes.
There is barely any lights that brighten up the sky, which makes the colours very vivid. One of these places is Ásbyrgi Canyon, located in the north of the country. With cliffs up to 100 metres high, this place is magical and therefore it is no surprise that the name of the canyon means ‘Shelter of the Gods’.
Where to stay around Ásbyrgi Canyon
These cottages are located on the edge of a canyon and have incredible views.
6. Sirkka, Finland
In Sirkka, Finland there is another high chance of spotting the lights. Although some people might enjoy watching the sky packed up in warm winter clothes while drinking some hot chocolate, in Sirkka you can experience a different way of catching a glimpse of the green and purple rays.
Feeling weightless while watching the starry sky sounds too magical to be true? It is possible here! This might be something for daredevils only, because during this experience you step into a frozen lake and float on your back. It might not be as cold as it sounds as you wear a suit that will keep you warm while floating in the water.
Where to stay in Sirkka
Here you can stay in a chalet with a glass roof, including a spa bath, a sauna and a terrace.
7. Reykjavik, Iceland
The capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik has plenty of spots in and around the city to see the Northern Lights. If you don’t have access to a car, one of the nice places to go to is the Grandi Area at the Old Harbour. From here you can see the lights dance above the water, while strolling along the harbour, something locals love to do.
Another place to go to is Öskjuhlíð Hill. As the hill is about 60 metres above sea level, you have a wonderful view. On top of this hill you will see a dome-shaped building, which is called Perlan, a museum/cultural centre that has an observatory deck from where you can spot the lights as well. Or experience the Northern Lights at the Fontana Spa, where you can relax in steam baths while seeing the Northern Lights. The spa is about an hour drive from Reykjavik, but there is a tour that can take you there which includes an entrance to the spa.
Where to stay in Reykjavik
For travellers on a budget, this hostel is perfect: it is close to the city centre so you don’t need to worry about transportation.
This hotel has a beautiful, warm interior and is close to the city centre.
This beautiful hotel has a delicious breakfast to give you an energised start of your day.
8. Shetland Islands, Scotland
Consisting of about 100 islands of which only 16 are inhibited, the Shetland Islands is another great location to spot the Northern Lights (or as they call here: Mirrie Dancers). The islands are located 210 kilometres up north from the mainland of Scotland and so closer to the Arctic Circle. If you visit the islands in January you might not only be able to see Mirrie Dancers, but also experience the rebirth of the sun in winter. The locals do this in honour of Viking traditions during the Up Helly Aa fire festival. The way of celebrating depends on which town you are (though the biggest one is held in Lerwick), but usually has a torchlit procession of people dressed up in themed outfits.
Where to stay in the Shetland Islands
This hostel is located in a beautiful old house located very centrally.
With beautiful views this hotel is located close to the beach as well as the city centre.