Where to see the Northern Lights

From a dog sledding adventure in Svalbard to a cruise aboard a luxury liner. Nicole Garcia Merida reports on the best places to see the Northern Lights.

Northern Lights on Svalbard

Perhaps the most environmentally friendly

Perhaps the most environmentally friendlyoption for travellers who want to see the Northern Lights is to use adventurous travel specialists Off the Map, says Andrea Smith in Lonely Planet. Its "Truly Green Aurora" adventure starts in Longyearbyen which is promoted as a "sustainable destination" and your base will be the Funken Lodge, which is set on a hill overlooking the Norwegian town and the nearby glaciers. From there, "revolutionary e-snowmobiles powered by renewable energy from the Arctic winds and midnight sun" take you on a guided tour of the wilderness, with a stop off at a camp for dinner and storytelling. Guests also get the chance to explore the area on a snowshoe trek and hunt for the aurora by dogsled.

The journey is especially recommended from November to January, when the skies over Svalbard are almost "permanently black", so guests will have all day to search for the Lights. All the activities exploring the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard are arranged so as to "allow guests to travel with as little environmental impact as possible, while bringing them closer to the local nature, wildlife and culture". And the e-sleds are quiet, which makes it possible to spot native reindeer, ptarmigans and polar foxes. "Exploring some of the most pristine areas of our planet has never been more eco-friendly." The itinerary also includes a visit to the Global Seed Vault, an underground bunker that stores seeds to ensure against the loss of the world's plant species.

£1,095pp for three nights, offthemap.travel/green-aurora

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From the remote north of Canada

Igloo under the Northern Lights

(Image credit: copright Frank Bergdoll)

Thanks to its very northern latitude and favourable weather, the remote Canadian town of Yellowknife is renowned as "possibly the best" place to see the Northern Lights, says Craig Platt in Stuff. And with its "panoramic views" of lakes and pine forests, Blachford Lake Lodge makes for an excellent setting for witnessing the "shimmering ebb and flow" of the aurora. During the day you can enjoy hiking, ice fishing, an outdoor hot tub and the hotel's cosy lounge, but the real show starts once the night comes and you're almost sure not to miss it. There is always a staff member on "aurora watch" who will ring a buzzer to wake guests up when the lights come on. "It's like seeing music," says Platt. The lodge also has an outdoor teepee with a roaring fire, hot chocolate and marshmallows ready for roasting while you wait for the "shift and swirl" of the Northern Lights.

Cabins start at C$1,695 for three nights, blachfordlakelodge.com

Experience the Scandinavian fire and ice ritual


The Viking Star: Nordic chic in the Arctic
(Image credit: ALASTAIR MILLER 2012)

There are few better places for aurora spotting than aboard the Viking Star, says Sarah Knapton in The Daily Telegraph. The ship is a "Nordic-chic" luxury hideaway, complete with a traditional spa that boasts a steam room, sauna and snow grotto, where guests can experience the "full Scandinavian bathing ritual of fire and ice". The ship crosses the Arctic Circle before docking at Alta, the world's northernmost city. Afterwards the ship departs for Tromso, where you may spot the Lights, "flickering ribbons of white, purple, and red dart, billow, and dissolve into wisps". There's also plenty to do on board, from yoga classes and massages to concerts and wine-tasting. It's safe to relax and enjoy the activities: the crew is always "on aurora-watch", announcing sightings via the PA system.

A 13-day "In Searchof the NorthernLights" cruise with Viking costs from £3,690 per person, vikingcruises.co.uk

Amid the ice fields of Finland

The Wilderness Hotel Nangu set amid the ice fields of Ivalo in Finland is a wonderful "beacon of golden light in the wild", says Sophie Ibbotson in City AM.

A sleigh ride takes guests out onto the frozen edge of the town, where the "black horizon" is decorated with the white streak of the Milky Way. Here, away from the light pollution of the hotel, "the so-called gate of the Arctic" begins to arch and swirl Finnish legend has it that the Northern Lights are the "glow of Valkyries' shields" or the "sparks from the fire fox's tail".

The Finnish winter wonderland is also densely populated with reindeer. Other activities include dog sledding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. In Lapland, the northernmost region of Finland, it is possible to witness auroral activity up to 200 nights of the year, say Northern Light experts Aurora Zone, but November to January is almost always a safe bet.

Three night breaks start from £1,495, theaurorazone.com

Nicole García Mérida

Nic studied for a BA in journalism at Cardiff University, and has an MA in magazine journalism from City University. She joined MoneyWeek in 2019.