In Norway, children were once forbidden to talk to the northern lights or even wave them with a white handkerchief. According to legend, this caused bad luck and would encourage the northern lights to bring children into their homes.
Today, of course, children are no longer afraid of the Northern Lights. But the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, have not lost their magic and mystery.
The Northern Lights are the curtains of green, purple and red that appear on the Northern Globe. In the south they are called the southern lights. However, since Australia is so far north, the southern lights are rarely seen. The aurora borealis and aurora australis together are called the northern lights. In Europe, the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are quite high – with a little luck you can see them from late August to late April in different countries.
Northern Lights: This is how they are made
On the one hand, happiness depends on proper solar activity – that’s when colored particles appear in the air. Because polar light is formed by explosions on the Sun. When electrically charged particles form solar storms as a result of explosions and are released from the manganese field, they disrupt the Earth’s magnetic field. They are turned up and down – towards the North Pole and South Pole. In Earth’s atmosphere, they combine with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, producing colored light – at altitudes of up to 140 km.
For the light to be visible to us, the sky must be clear; In the case of the influence of clouds or light from the cities of the region, the illumination may be on, but not visible. So you definitely need to be patient on your Northern Lights trip. If all factors apply and eruptions and solar storms are particularly strong, you might even see the lights in Germany!
However, in some places, the so-called Northern Lights Oval, the chances are particularly good. Travel Reporter will introduce you to them in several countries:
Norway | Sweden | Finland | Faroe Islands and Greenland | Iceland | Scotland | Canada
1. Lofoten Archipelago in Norway
The chances of seeing the Northern Lights in the northern part of Norway are generally not bad. The first northern lights appear from mid to late August – and remain part of the starry night sky until April. Troms is often mentioned as the starting point for a Northern Lights tour, but it is usually very bright in the city itself. If you want to see the aurora borealis in Troms, you should go to the offshore islands.
The Lofoten Islands, on the other hand, offer ideal conditions – here you can see lights almost everywhere, if they are there. The archipelago is only sparsely populated, so light pollution is not very high.
2. Senja Island in Norway
Senja Island, south of Troms, is no longer an insider tip among Norway fans, but it often lags behind Lofoten and Westerlen when it comes to holiday options. The island is also known as “Norway in miniature” – because everything that makes up Norway can be found here: mountains and fjords, beautiful beaches and solitude, waterfalls and northern lights.
Aurora Observatory advertises the best, but not free, view of the northern lights. It is absolutely not necessary to go there – because when they dance in the sky the lights are visible almost everywhere due to the sparse population.
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3. Vester-Lane Archipelago in Norway
Norway was the third country in the world to launch rockets into space – some of them were launched from Andoya Island in Westerlen in 1962 to scientifically explore the northern lights. Until that time, no one knew how the green veil was made and why it could be seen especially well in some areas.
You can find out more at the Aurora Spaceship on Andoya. There, the school’s classes and visitors are taught a scientific background in the northern lights. And if you run the Northern Lights Research Center, you usually don’t: the Northern Lights are likely to be very good in Westerlen, a little north of the Lofoten Islands. It is best to climb mountains or hills, but there is also good visibility on the coasts of the Andes or Niksund, for example.
4. Kiruna in Sweden
When you hear the Northern Lights and Swedes, you usually hear the name of a city: Kiruna. Kiruna isn’t just a city, but a municipality – it’s the most likely way to see the Northern Lights, especially outside the city. Still: Kiruna in Swedish Lapland is one of the northern lights viewing places best reached by plane.
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5. Abisko National Park in Sweden
Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland is a paradise for all outdoor and winter fans. Here you have guaranteed snow, so to speak, you can ski well into June. The landscape is vast, and if you don’t feel the Scandinavian winter here, you’re doing something wrong.
In all the solitude in the northern Swedish municipality of Kiruna, nature can be discovered – and even some northern lights – from late evening.
6. Rovaniemi in Finland
What about Santa Claus’s visit to the Far North? He is said to have lived in Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. Santa Claus is one of the highlights of your trip to Rovaniemi in Finland. For example, Arktikum, a museum for science about the Arctic, is waiting for you there.
Many tourists come to Finnish Lapland in winter. Because there you can expect endless expanses, lots of snow – and the northern lights in the sky. Sounds like a cliché, but this is the reality surrounding Rovaniemi.
7. Ivalo in Finland and Finnish Lapland
Ivalo has the northernmost airport in Finland – and therefore serves as the best starting point for tourism to the northernmost part of Finnish Lapland. Ivalo is another 300 kilometers north of Rovaniemi and offers pure nature and snow. However, most of the time, visitors go to explore the area around Ivalo and not the city itself.
In many places, including Hariniwa, several winter-outdoor adventures can be combined: you can drive toward the northern lights on a snowmobile or husky sled, hike in snowshoes, or take a sauna with a reindeer view.
8. Faroe Islands and Greenland
You can even see the northern lights in Denmark! Well, not just in our tiny neighboring country, but in two overseas territories to the north that belong to Denmark: Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Both areas are perfectly suited for northern lights sightings, as both are sparsely populated and have hardly any artificial lighting. While the Faroe Islands are usually developed in Greenland, due to the glaciers, it is mainly the coastal areas that invite you to stop by. Even in the capital Nuuk, but also further north in Kulusuk, the prospects are particularly good.
9. Thingvellir National Park in Iceland
Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is the meeting place for thousands of tourists during the day: one of the world’s first parliaments was built here, as people met here around 930 to talk about politics, society and rules.
But Thingvellir is also Eldorado for outdoor fans. This is where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, which leads to rock formations, cracks and canyons, such as the famous Silfra Crevis.
Thingvellir is not only known as part of the Golden Circle with its waterfalls and glacier views. Since autumn it is very busy here even in the dark. When the northern lights are predicted to be a good prospect, many tour operators come to the observation decks of the national park to watch the spectacular arches in the night sky. The area can be explored privately even at night.
10. Snowfelsness in Iceland
The Snowfelsnes peninsula in the northwest of Iceland is not only worth a visit because of the spectacular landscape formations sometimes dotted with waterfalls and fjords. Since this area is sparsely populated and there is not much light pollution, the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are particularly good here.
Incidentally, the lights can be traced quite well throughout Iceland, as there are only a few residents and cities throughout the country. Even in the capital, Reykjavik, magical lights twinkle in the sky from time to time.
11. Shetland Islands in Scotland
Have you only connected the Northern Lights to Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland? Well, now is the time to set new goals.
Even if the odds are much better in the four countries mentioned, you might also get lucky in Scotland, mainly in the Shetland Islands. They make up the northernmost part of the United Kingdom and are far enough north to allow regular viewing of the Northern Lights in winter.
12. Northwest Territories in Canada
The Northern Lights can be seen in many places in Canada: a tipi village in the Northwest Territories, a mountain camp in Newfoundland or a tundra dude in Manitoba. The north of the country is the hotspot between December and March, and it works best in remote locations with little or no light pollution.
By the way, the best chances are in the Northwest regions, where the Northern Lights can be seen about 240 days a year, even in summer.
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