The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are shafts of colored light formed high in the Earth’s atmosphere when particles from the sun are trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. When the solar particles collide with gaseous particles, vibrant hues of color sweep the sky, making for an amazing, surreal light display. Visibility of the lights depends on a number of factors, including weather and sky conditions, but most importantly the time of year and location.
Where to See the Northern Lights
If you’re wondering where to see the Northern Lights in their most dazzling glory, check out our list to find out the best time and places to see the Northern Lights:
Located directly under the Auroral Oval, the ring-shaped zone around the North Pole, Fairbanks is the best place to see the Northern Lights in the U.S. During aurora season, August through April, you can expect to see the lights about four out of five clear nights.
Tromsø is located right above the Arctic Circle, and is therefore one of Norway’s best spots to view the northern lights. Watch the magnificent lights among Norway’s beautiful scenery and the Lyngen Alps from mid-September to late March.
On Scotland’s northern coast, you’ll find an archipelago of 70 islands known as Orkney. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Orkney is on cold fall and winter evenings when the sky clears.
The whole country of Iceland offers plenty of Northern Lights viewing opportunities. Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city, resembles a charming small town with a population of under 20,000 and low light pollution, making it a great spot to catch some awe-inspiring aurora rays.
Among Canada’s Northern Territories, Yellowknife is precisely beneath the Auroral Oval, making it an ideal spot to catch the light show. In Yellowknife, the lights are visible more than half of the year, with the most spectacular displays from January through March.
Kangerlussuaq is poised in the center of the aurora zone, where the aurora borealis is best experienced. The lights are most visible from mid-August to late April. The small town is home to an international airport, making it easy for travelers to visit the island.