When now Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
With rosy lustre purpled o’er the lawn.
Updated for the 2023/2024 season – to ensure you have a strong chance of spotting the celestial ballet, we’ve put together a list of the top destinations based on regularity, quality and accessibility.
Based in the heart of the aurora zone in the Norwegian Arctic, the city is widely regarded as one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights. Easily accessed from the UK – with a direct flight from London taking just 3.5 hours – Tromso serves as a popular destination year after year and offers excellent aurora views from September all the way until April. The city itself is a lively affair, with more pubs and bars per capita than anywhere else in Norway.
Arriving at the zenith of the Swedish wilderness is richly rewarding, for Kiruna provides a quality aurora show without the tourists. Populated by just 18,000 people, a journey into the Arctic is like a journey to the unknown. Or stay at the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, a place with fewer than 600 inhabitants. You can catch the lights between October and March here, although it’s not uncommon for a display a little earlier and later during periods of extended clear weather.
Another excellent place in Swedish Lapland is the Luleå archipelago, which benefits from a lack of light pollution and a host of winter activities on offer to complement the viewing experience, including outdoor camping, husky dog sledding and ice fishing. What's more, the all-new direct flight from the UK to Luleå (from December 2021) makes Swedish Lapland more accessible than ever before.
Iceland’s capital remains a favourable choice for many travellers. Brimming with geothermal pools, volcano tours and quality culture, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the Northern Lights altogether. We recommend you don’t, however, as the display is astonishingly recurrent.
Like Tromso, the best months to see the Aurora Borealis are between September to April. For an uninterrupted viewing experience, journey to Hofdabrekka, near Vik in southern Iceland, and enjoy the show in mesmerising isolation. Direct flights to Reykjavik are competitively priced and the capital is very walkable, making it great for a quick getaway.
Situated north of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is the epitome of snow-laden wilderness. By day, go husky dog sledding, ice fishing or embark on a snowmobile safari, building up to the epic evening – Northern Lights in Lapland. With a similarly Scandinavian September – April optimum viewing time, you can plan a trip to Rovaniemi at your convenience. Best of all, it's the home of Santa, making it the ideal place to take the kids for a Christmas to remember.
Greenland’s third largest city is home to just 5,000 people – indicative of just how sparse the region really is. Found on the western coast, Ilulissat provides the opportunity to swap people, noise and disturbance for unadulterated nature.
Watching the Northern Lights in Greenland is very accessible, thanks to the lack of rain and low levels of wind, bringing stable, enjoyable conditions. In addition, Ilulissat is conveniently based in the heart of Greenland’s aurora belt to add further reliability. Between the months of September to April is the best time to visit in this region, and additional daytime activities such as dog sledding and Arctic caving round off the experience.
It doesn't get much more remote than Svalbard – a Norwegian archipelago flung far out in the Arctic Ocean, just 650 miles from the North Pole. When it comes to the Northern Lights, these islands' dark winter skies (the sun doesn't poke its head above the horizon in February) are the perfect setting. Head out among its treeless landscapes on everything from snowmobiles to husky sleds as you embrace the magic of the polar night.
Interested in seeing the Northern Lights? We’ve put together our favourite packages for you to consider:
- 4-day city break in Tromso – Norway
- Iceland's Winter Wonders
- Camp Ripan Winter Weekend – Kiruna, Swedish Lapland
- Lapland in Style, Finnish Lapland
- Rovaniemi and Santa's Village
- Greenland Northern Lights holidays