Top tips for Northern Lights holidays
The natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights is on most people’s travel bucket lists. The mystical dancing skylights, which often appear green in colour, promise a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but to catch a glimpse requires careful planning and a pinch of good luck.
Due to the nature of the earth’s magnetic field, the Northern Lights are usually only visible above the 60° latitude mark in the north. Some of the best countries to see the aurora borealis (the fancy name for the Northern Lights) fall in the Arctic Circle and include: Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland. However, the most popular Northern Lights destination is Iceland, ideally located at a latitude of approximately 64° north.
Here we’ll answer some of your Northern Lights faqs and share our top tips for planning an unforgettable experience.
When’s the best time to see the Northern Lights?
The best time to book a Northern Lights holiday is between mid-September and March. The lights are sometimes visible from late August to early April but if you want to increase your chances, stick to the main season.
Remember, the Northern Lights are unpredictable. You’ll need to be patient and prepared to stay up late if you want to see them. Either that or you can check into one of the many hotels in Iceland where staff wake up guests when the Northern Lights appear.
When booking a Northern Lights trip, we’d recommend avoiding the full moon. This is because the light from a full moon can dull the brightness and take away from the magnificent colour of the aurora display.
It’s also a good idea to check the weather forecasts of your chosen destination for cloud coverage. Download one of the Northern Lights forecasting apps so you know if it’s a good night to go spotting.
If you’re booking a winter holiday to a Northern Lights destination in the Arctic Circle, you’d have to be pretty unlucky not to get a glimpse of the aurora display. But what we will say is that it’s wise to book for as long as you can. The longer your trip, the more likely you’ll get a chance to see them.
What’s the best way to see the Northern Lights?
The cheapest and easiest way to see the Northern Lights is by booking a place on tour. Various companies are offering Northern Lights tours in all of the main destinations, so shop around for the best price.
Northern Lights tours essentially involve hopping on a bus with a tour guide, and driving around to find the best vantage point. While rows of parked tour buses can take the shine off the Northern Lights experience, we wouldn’t recommend going out on your own.
Not only are the tour guides equipped with the knowledge of the best spots for Aurora sightseeing, but they also know how to keep you safe in freezing landscapes. If you don’t know the area well, don’t risk a solo Northern Lights hunt.
Northern Lights Cruises
There are several places where you can embark on a once-in-a-lifetime Northern Lights Cruise, including Alaska and Norway. Cruises are a fantastic way to see the Northern Lights, as there is minimal light pollution at sea.
Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten are so confident that you’ll spot the Northern Lights on your journey between October and March that they offer a free 6 or 7-day classic voyage if you don’t!
Northern Lights Flights
Did you know you can book a Northern Lights night flight experience? Flights are available from several UK airports including Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Stansted. Pre-flight presentations and in-flight commentary, light refreshments, all airport taxis and a 3 3.5 hour flight excursion are included in the package price.
Other interesting ways to see the Northern Lights
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not enhance your experience of a lifetime with a Northern Lights snowmobile tour in Iceland? Or how about a Northern Lights dog sledging experience in Sweden? You’ll be amazed at all of the different experiences you can tie in with seeing the Northern Lights. Do your research, read reviews and shop around for the best price.
Northern Lights hotels
Are you visiting Finland for a Northern Lights experience? What better place to stay than the aptly named Northern Lights Village? Book one of the glass-roofed igloo cabins for an unforgettable trip. And you needn’t brave the elements to view the Northern Lights. Lie back on your bed with a hot chocolate in hand as you watch the spectacular show above you.
Or how about staying in a hotel made from ice? Yes, you read that right! The IceHotel is one of Sweden’s most famous hotels because it has beds made of ice. Not only does it offer a unique experience but it's ideally located in Kiruna, Sweden’s most northerly town, making it the perfect place to watch the Northern Lights.
Remember us saying that some hotels wake up guests to see the Northern Lights? Hotel Husafell in Iceland is one of them. Located far away from the dazzling city lights, this sustainable, luxury hotel is powered by hot springs and offers the ultimate Icelandic experience.
Search for Northern Lights hotels on PlansChange. Book with a branded hotel of your choice, or check out our resale deals for discounted hotels in Finland, Sweden, Iceland and more Northern Lights locations.
Don’t miss the magic
Our last Northern Lights tip might sound a little odd but hear us out…
Ditch the camera! While it can be tempting to spend your evenings snapping away to get the best Northern Lights photos, there’s nothing like seeing the magic through your own eyes. Far too many tourists spend their Northern Lights visits watching them through their viewfinders or phone screens, and trust us when we say it’s just not the same. So take a photo or two and then put your camera away. The mental pictures you take and the enchanting feeling of watching the Northern Lights will stay with you forever.