If you’ve never seen The Northern Lights then you can not possibly understand what you’re missing out on. And if you have seen them, you know that you’ll probably never see anything quite like them again in your life. These natural light displays are better than any man-made laser light show that you’ve ever been to see. The colours that come out during their nightly performances (primarily reds and greens) look like nothing that should be in the sky and yet are so stunningly beautiful that you’re sure they were meant to be there. Seeing the Northern Lights is a magical experience and one that can be done from several different picturesque parts of the world.
What Are The Northern Lights?
Before we get in to the places where you can go to see the Northern Lights, you might want to know a little bit more about what they are. Called the Aurora Borealis (named after the ancient goddess of dawn and the Greek word for wind), they are a natural wonder that occurs in and near the polar zone as a result of the unique climate conditions in the area.
To the viewer, the Northern Lights are a natural display of coloured lights which illuminate the sky and provide a performance that is memorable if only because it is so different from anything else that the viewer has ever seen. In terms of the science behind them, what you’re seeing is a collision of charged particles that come from the magnetosphere of the Earth and crash together to create something akin to natural fireworks in the sky.
Following are some of the best places where you can go to see The Northern Lights for yourself.
Greenland: World travellers say that one of the best places to see the Northern Lights during the winter months is Greenland. It’s a place with a long history of the aurora borealis since it was the first place where they were seen and then chronicled by a traveller in the Norwegian chronicle Konungs Skuggsj from AD 1230.
Bear Lake, Alaska
Bear Lake: There are three main reasons that people go to Bear Lake, Alaska. One is that they are interested in helping out with the salmon enhancement project that the area is known for. Another is that that they are in the U.S. Air Force and are stationed at Eielson Air Force Base which is located there. And the third is that they want to see the unique colouring of the Northern Lights as viewed over the lake.
Fairbanks: In addition to Bear Lake, there are many more touristy destinations in Alaska where people can (and do) go to see the Northern Lights. Favourite destinations for viewing this phenomenon include Denali National Park and anywhere in Fairbanks.
Iceland: There is hardly a place in the world that is more beautiful than Iceland. It’s impossible to believe that it can get any prettier unless you happen to be there during the winter when the Northern Lights add another dimension to the appeal of this already unique country.
Murmansk: Murmansk is an ice-free Russian port located in the Kola Peninsula (near Finland and Norway). It’s the largest city in the region and a terrific place to see a stunning display of the Northern Lights. In fact, they’re one of the top tourist attractions for people visiting this area.
Yellowknife: Although there are numerous places in Canada where you can see the aurora borealis, this is one of the favoured destinations for viewing the lights. It gets crowded as a result of the fact that the town is small and there are a lot of people coming to see the lights, but it’s perfect for those who want to camp out and commune with nature.
Norway: A long time ago, the people of Scandinavia believed that the Northern Lights were caused by large schools of herring jumping into the sky. Today they know differently, of course, but they still appreciate the magic of the light show that appears there. A popular method for travellers here to see the Northern Lights is through a ‘night safari’ tour.
Finland: Another theory associated with the Northern Lights comes from an old myth where people once believed that the beautiful display of colours in the sky was caused by a fox running across the clouds there.
Sweden: The Northern Lights aren’t as common to see in Sweden as in some of the other countries just north of this area. However, Swedish locals and visitors are sometimes treated to distant views of the Northern Lights which combine with the colour of the sky here to create a stunning palette in the clouds.
Estonia: One of the few reasons that people travel to Estonia is that they want to see the Northern Lights there. Capitalising on that, the area has emphasized the Northern Lights as a major tourist attraction. A couple of years ago, The New York Times summed up the area by calling Estonia ‘a land of Northern Lights, Cybercafes and the Flat Tax’. That’s a fairly heady concoction!
Lake Superior, Michigan
Lake Superior: People who are in the continental United States can head to the northernmost part of Michigan to see the Northern Lights over the massive Lake Superior. The Keweenaw Peninsula which juts into the lake is a great place for getting on a boat and waiting to see the aurora borealis make its magic.
Scotland: People don’t go on holiday to Scotland specifically to see the Northern Lights because they are such a rare occurrence, even at the very far north of the country. They happen about once a month to the thrill of the people who do happen to be in the area at the time and are particularly beautiful when set against the backdrop of the already gorgeous Scottish landscape.
From The Sky
From The Sky: All of these cities and destinations are terrific places to see the Northern Lights. However, the best place to get a really great view is from a plane. It doesn’t matter which part of the Northern Skies you’re flying over; a glance at the northern lights from a plane window will take your breath away. Better yet are how they look from space!