The Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights, is on every traveller’s bucket list. Witnessing the natural phenomenon light up the night sky in hues of alien green, purple and blue, however, is easier said than done. It is a serendipitous meeting of proper timing (the season runs between November to March), the right location (above the Arctic Circle) and plain old luck (clear, cloud-free skies). With this challenging trifecta, watching one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles can become a joyless black hole of planning. Nevertheless, here are our top picks of places, helping you get a head start this year:
With low precipitation and an ideal location inland contributing to countless clear nights, Fairbanks is a great spot to catch the Northern Lights in all its glory. With a lengthy viewing season, August 21 through April 21, this is a good choice for those among us who always leave things to the last minute! With a namesake hotel, Aurora Borealis Lodge, and plenty of hot spring resorts to choose from, you would be spoilt for choice in Alaska this season.
This one makes the list for its unusual offering, which might literally be the coolest way to take in the lights : floating on your back in an arctic lake! The appropriately titled Aurora Floating Experience is a three hour excursion that unfolds at a secret lake, located in Rovaniemi, capital of Finnish Lapland. Make this a trip with family and friends, the experience accommodates up to 15 guests. Lie back with loved ones and let the magical show begin.
With Game of Thrones becoming an indispensable part of our ‘reel’ lives, Iceland is number one on everyone’s list of places to visit for its otherworldly landscapes. Why not make the trip extra special and catch a glimpse of mother nature at her best? The flat terrain of Thingvellir National Park, 25 miles from the country’s capital Reykjavík, makes it one of the most accessible spots for getting those award-winning snapshots.
The stunning backdrop for Disney’s biggest hit in recent times - Frozen - happens to be the Northern Lights, so why not head to Abisko and give your little ones a real treat! We recommend Abisko for its idyllic location: between mountains that frame the park. Not only is it a gorgeous spot to watch the lights, it is also close to the world’s original ice-hotel, sister property of Icehotel 365.
Love the idea of the Northern Lights, but not so much the freezing weather that accompanies the sojourn? Yellowknife is your answer with Blachford Lake Lodge tailor-made to meet high expectations of comfort. You can take in the phenomenon at the Lodge - located on remote Blachford Lake - from the main hotel’s expansive glass viewing windows or even the hot tub!
St. Petersburg, Russia
With the wintery light bouncing off the watery landscape, St. Petersburg’s famed architecture embodies an old world charm that is hard to beat. Watch the Northern Lights or explore the city’s network of canals and 101 islands by boat. Amplify the luxe factor and stay at the Orient-Express' Grand Hotel Europe with its very own speedboat for hire - Katarina - a glamorous alternative to travel to the Imperial Palace or explore the Gulf of Finland.
Where will the chase lead you this year? We’d love to hear!