Chasing The Northern Lights: The Where, The When and The How
The northern lights are one of the world’s most iconic natural wonders, boasting unique beauty that stretches beyond the imagination. The undulating waves of color that ripple across the sky attract crowds of travelers who are all eager to get a glimpse of this breathtaking phenomenon.
Fortunately, it’s possible to beat the crowds and get the northern lights all to yourself – you’ve just got to know where to go, which time of year to visit, and where the best private accommodations and tours are.
That’s where we come in. In this guide we discuss all things northern lights, from the science behind this elusive spectacle to exclusive experiential lodges that can get you up close and personal with the magical Arctic skies…
What are the Northern Lights: The Aurora Borealis Explained
The Lonely Planet describes the northern lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, as being “a result of energized particles from the sun colliding with the earth’s atmosphere.” The collision generates currents of charged particles which travel along the magnetic force into the Polar Regions and cause a vision of green and red lights across the sky.
The colors are affected by different altitudes meaning the lights look different in different destinations and every day can truly be a unique show.
The Best Time of Year to See the Northern Lights
The best viewing experience relies on a dark night with minimal light pollution; generally speaking, September – April is the best time of year to see the northern lights. However, it all depends on where you travel to.
Of course, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the blazing skies during the summer if you get your timing right, but the colors may not be as vibrant or reliable as during the darker months.
And remember, the darker the better – those willing to go star-gazing between 10PM and 2AM are going to have a better chance of being able to marvel at the spectacle.
Where to See the Northern Lights
You can seek out the northern lights in various destinations that lie above the Arctic Circle and beneath the auroral oval, including Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The blazing skies strengthen as you move more north, however solar storms – intense eruptions of electromagnetic radiation on the sun – have been known to drive the natural glow further south.
Iceland: The Gateway to The Northern Lights
Iceland is an exciting playground for people hunting down the aurora, with endless outdoor adventures to keep groups entertained while waiting for the spectacle.
– When to go: The best months to visit Iceland for the northern lights are December, January and February.
– Where to visit: Our two favorite areas in Iceland for the northern lights are the Troll Peninsula in the north and The Golden Circle in the south.
– Where to stay: The real luxury, winter wonderland experience wouldn’t be complete without the right accommodations. We recommend experiential lodging…
Deplar Farm: Fljót Valley, Troll Peninsula, Northern Iceland
Enjoy the ultimate polar paradise at this award-winning adventure hotel and world-class spa.
As well as the impressive glaciers that carved the area’s landscape, this region of northern Iceland is home to the country’s most extensive mountain range. Deplar Farm ensures you can access all of this wonder, inviting you to revel in authentic, arctic adventures around the valleys, like dog sledding, biking, nordic skiing and hiking.
On top of this, the luxury lodge has a unique option for taking in the northern lights. The Fljót Valley embodies the meaning of off-the-grid, giving it low light pollution all year round and allowing the aurora to ignite the skies.
Deplar Farm takes advantage of the low light with its special geothermal indoor/outdoor pool, fit with semi-submerged beds and a bar so you can relax and unwind while admiring the northern lights.
Private Villas in Southern Iceland
We have access to a portfolio of incredible private villas tucked away in secluded areas of Southern Iceland. Deep inside the Icelandic countryside away from most light pollution, you can witness aurora’s brightest production from these cozy yet spacious, fully staffed, private villas.
As well as offering luxury accommodation, these villas make the perfect base for visiting popular local landmarks like the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon.
The Golden Circle is renowned for its idyllic landscapes, with looming snow-covered volcanoes, picturesque waterfalls and unforgettable glaciers. Not forgetting the adrenaline-filled outdoor excursions, such as snowmobiling, glacier trekking, and snorkeling or scuba diving between tectonic plates.
No northern lights trip to southern Iceland is complete without a trip to the iconic Blue Lagoon, a mineral-rich geothermal spa famous for its natural benefits, stunning blue color and breathtaking views of the northern lights.
We have access to a private Retreat Hotel which homes a secluded extension of the Blue Lagoon that reaches deep under an 800-year-old lava flow. Spend the day at the hotel’s luxury spa, before enjoying a taking in the natural wonder of the northern lights at the private Retreat Lagoon.
Lofoten, Norway: Access to the Aurora
The northern reaches of Norway make the perfect location for spotting the northern lights during the winter months.
– When to go: The best months to visit Norway for the northern lights are February, March and April.
– Where to visit: Lofoten, which boasts a collection of picturesque islands far north of the Arctic Circle, is one of the best destinations in Norway to see the aurora.
– Where to stay: Experiential lodging ensures you enjoy the wildest parts of the area while still having access to luxury, premium facilities.
Hattvika Lodge: Lofoten
Hattvika Lodge is a collection of authentic fishermen cottages that have been newly rebuilt with the best, modern facilities in the stunning region of Lofoten.
A beautiful winter fairytale, Lofoten is home to stunning beaches, imposing mountains, a spectacular labyrinth of waterways and quaint fishing villages. Naturally very dark during the winter, the addition of a dazzling sky, lit up by the northern lights, is the only thing to make this luxury destination even more magical than it already is.
Hattvika Lodge offers unique northern light tours in Norway, pairing you with one of their expert, local guides who knows everything about the natural wonder, including where and how to find it no matter the weather. Whether this means leaving in the middle of the night, or driving an extra hour away from any light pollution in a private car, they know the area and the northern lights like the back of their hand.
Settle into this charming area and take in the history of Lofoten while enjoying access to the ultimate adventure activities, like kayaking tours, guided hikes, photo excursions, boat rentals and more.
This area of Norway is also renowned for the millions of Arctic cod that visit the area during the winter to spawn. This gives travelers a wonderful opportunity to experience a legendary, traditional fishing excursion onboard an authentic fishing vessel with the local fishermen.
Lapland, Sweden: A Playground for the Northern Lights
Sweden is a spellbinding land of enchantment, breathtaking in both its serenity and unspoiled wonder, which allows you to share in the mystery of the northern lights as they thunder down on the snow-covered paradise.
– When to go: The best months to visit Lapland, Sweden for the northern lights are December, January, February and March.
– Where to visit: Lulea and Kiruna are our two favorite destinations for the northern lights in Sweden.
– Where to stay: Luxury treehouses and private wilderness lodges allow you to immerse yourself in the winter fairytale of Lapland.
Tree Hotel: Lulea
The Tree Hotel is a striking accommodation nestled away in Lulea’s wilderness. Despite its treetop location, the private villas we have hand-picked for our travelers boast a luxury, modern design with large windows so you can revel in the best views of the ice-capped landscape from the comfort of your own room.
Adventure travelers will revel in the activities available in the charming city of Lulea. From horse riding and dog sledding, to ice fishing and a wonderful forest spa, you can design a tailor-made itinerary of winter activities to ensure you see the most beautiful parts of the area.
When it comes to the northern lights, you can admire the blazing skies from your private room, the jacuzzi or on a guided tour with an expert guide. The Tree Hotel also specializes in ice dining which invites you to enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner that’s cooked on the ice from a cozy tent authentic to the indigenous Sami communities. Pop your head out of the tent to bask in the waves of color that kiss the sky.
Private Wilderness Lodges: Lulea
Lulea boasts number of one-of-a-kind accommodations located in its secluded forests, offering ultimate privacy.
Luxury, private wilderness lodges in this area of Sweden benefit from no light, sound or air pollution, allowing you to disconnect and immerse yourself in untouched nature. Surrounded by frozen lakes, pine forests and snow-capped mountains, outdoor adventure awaits…
From hiking through the silent forest, horseback riding through wilderness woodlands, to snowmobiling in Lule River Valley and cross-country skiing over frozen lakes, there are a vast array of adrenaline-fueled activities for you to take part in. What’s more, your personal host will be eager to give you a personal experience with an itinerary tailored to you.
Your northern lights experience in Lulea all depends on the weather; however, access to an expert guide will ensure you’re set up to enjoy the best viewing possible. You’ll also have the chance to learn about night photography with an expert while taking in the panoramic views of the mystical skies.
During your stay in Sweden’s Lapland, you’ll also have the chance to immerse yourself in the history of the indigenous Sami people and their Arctic lifestyle. Lulea is considered the heart of Sami culture, so vacations to this area allow you to understand and learn about the culture first hand.
Fjellborg Arctic Lodge: Kiruna
The Fjellborg Arctic Lodge makes the perfect wintery base from which to explore Sweden’s polar paradise, Kiruna.
Kiruna is recognized as one of the best places in the world to discover the adventure of dog sledding, of which Fjellborg Arctic Lodge specializes in. Embark on the ultimate dog sledding excursions with a team of Alaskan Huskies and allow the polar lights to surround you on your adventure.
This winter wonderland is also home to wilderness adventures like arctic fishing, ice-sculpting, and snowmobiling. Exclusive insider tours of the famous Ice Hotel and the ever-changing art exhibition within are also available.
The lodge boasts suspended outdoor hot tubs for each cabin, from which the wonder of the elusive northern lights can be enjoyed while your private chef pampers you with gourmet dining experiences.
Away from light pollution and nestled on a peaceful lake, the lodge benefits from unobstructed views of the skies – it is not uncommon for the aurora to dazzle guests by the windows of their private lodges.
Begin The Chase
There aren’t many travel bucket lists out there that don’t read ‘see the northern lights’, but getting a personal, private experience with them is a completely different feat.
While there’s no guaranteed way to ensure you see this elusive wonder, you can put yourself in good stead by visiting the right destination at the right time of year. It also helps to book accommodations and tours with experienced local guides who have all the insider knowledge as to where to go and when.
For help booking your luxury northern lights tour or for more information on any of these winter wonderland destinations, contact one of our Travel Experts today.