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- Posted:Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Best Places in the World to See the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, earn the top stop on many travel bucket lists. They are more than just pretty lights though. This natural phenomenon is actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun. The pale greenish/yellow lights tend to be the most common, but other colors like pink, blue and violet are also seen.
Put simply, the Northern Lights get better the farther north you go. They are also unpredictable and heavily influenced by weather. For this reason, you’ll need lots of daytime activities to entertain you as you wait for a chance to see the spectacular show.
Located in the auroral oval and away from the coast, it is said that Fairbanks is one of the best places on Earth to view the lights. Even their tourism website proclaims that there is an 80% chance if you stay at least 3 nights.
Viewing the aurora is best away from the city lights. While you could just drive through the night until reaching a nice dark spot, there are many more exciting (and warm) ways to do so. Why not take an overnight dog sled trip and stay in a heated cabin? You could also take a flight above the Arctic Circle. There are also a few lodges outside the city which organize tours and will also gladly wake you up if the mystical lights happen to appear.
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From a geothermic pool in Iceland
Just a three hour flight from London, seeing the lights in Iceland is one of the most convenient spots. While it would be easy to just stay up all night partying in Reykjavik and pop outside after to view the aurora, that would take some luck. It’s best to get outside the city to view them.
Geothermic pools dot the countryside and are the perfect viewing spots. Some offer midnight swims so during winter you can stay warm and watch the lights dance at the same time. You could also take a road trip around the entire island. Each night make sure to set an alarm to give the night sky a peak!
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Located in the far north of Norway, most people don’t expect much from Tromsø other than snow and cold temperatures. To much surprise, Tromsø is one of the most exciting places to see the Northern Lights along with Iceland. This bustling little town, the largest in the Arctic Circle, is full of art, history and good food. Tromsø also offers a surprising amount of nightlife and you’ll see that most bars are crowded every day of the week.
While you can see the lights from right in town, many people opt to view them from the sea. If you have the extra funds, board the legendary Hurtigruten and cruise from Tromsø all the way to Kirkenes, the last stop. View the lights from the deck as it cruises through the Arctic Ocean.
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One of Europe’s last wild frontiers, Swedish Lapland, in the north of the country, is characterized by pine forests, remote villages and sprawling untouched wilderness. Abisko National Park has the best chances to see these dancing lights. Located in the aurora circle in a valley surrounded by mountains, the skies stay clear most nights which aid to seeing this beautiful phenomenon. Located in the park is also the Aurora Sky Station. Take a chairlift up to the observatory where you can learn all about the lights. You can also book a full gourmet Nordic meal and enjoy dinner under the swirling colors.
For an even more unique experience, book a dog sledding excursion into the remote stretches of the region. These trips can last from a few hours to a few weeks.
Book hostels in Sweden.
Been anywhere else amazing to see the Northern Lights? Share your experiences in the comments ...
Jessica Wray is a Californian, an over-thinker, a spicy-food lover and a serial expat. She has studied and lived in Latin America, taught English in South Korea, backpacked Asia and now lives in Madrid, Spain. Follow along with her on her blog, Curiosity Travels, as she tackles her mid-twenties all while calling different parts of the world home.