The Best Places to See the Northern Lights
This celestial phenomenon tops our bucket list for a reason.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
Denali National Park, Alaska
The northern lights are rather elusive, but one of the most reliable spots to see them is Denali National Park. Go with the pros on a tour to secret, secluded areas with no crowds to block your view. While winter is the best time to glimpse the display, pop by after the second week of August, when night falls earlier in Denali and you’ll likely find the lights playing over the North Pole.
Headlands Dark Sky Park, Michigan
No need to buy a ticket to Scandinavia. You can see the lights from right here in the U.S. Explore Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula and stop at the Headlands, one of the country’s few designated dark sky parks, which are perfect for catching the colors. The 550-acre space is open 24/7 but tents are not allowed, so pack a picnic, blankets, and sleeping bags to stargaze all evening.
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Hotel Ranga, Iceland
Hotel Ranga has many activities to choose from—whale-watching, dog-sledding, glacier tours—but the northern lights are its specialty. Sure, you could tune into the hotel’s webcam live stream, but there’s nothing better than seeing it for yourself. The hotel will even arrange wake-up calls and provide warm clothes, blankets and front-row seats to watch the sky change to green, pink, and purple.
Aurora Sky Station, Sweden
Make an evening of your interstellar observation with a night in Abisko National Park. Take a 10-minute chairlift ride to the Aurora Sky station where you can tuck into a four-course meal of traditional Nordic dishes. Then, join a nighttime tour guided by an astrologist, so you can learn about the constellations and the northern lights firsthand.
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Hotel Aurora, Finland
With a name like Hotel Aurora, you know this lodge is going to have sick views. Set in northern Finland, its cozy glass igloos are decked out in plaid, faux fur and wood detailing. But the real showstopper is sleeping under the stars at night. And don’t worry about snoozing through the action—each room comes with an aurora alarm that beeps when the northern lights appear. (The signal is transmitted from the Northern Lights Research Center in a nearby town).
From August to mid-April shades of neon green and yellow swirl above Canada’s Yukon Territory. Make a beeline for the Northern Lights Center in Watson Lake to find out the folklore and science behind the space show. Or skip the schooling in place of pampering in the outdoor jacuzzi at the Northern Lights Resort and Spa in Whitehorse. Bonus: They also offer aurora photography tours and workshops so you can capture your memories.
Northern Lights Festival, Norway
Watch the lights dance above as you bust a move below at the Northern Lights Festival. The nine-day celebration, which is now on its 30th year, showcases more than 40 jazz, classical, and EDM performances, most of which are outdoors. Although the official lineup hasn’t been announced yet, the setlist is sure to be full of local Nordic musicians.
January 24 — February 3, 2019
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