Best Time to See the Northern Lights

Among celestial events, Northern Lights remain on many people's bucket lists. Also called Aurora Borealis, their stunning green and sometimes pink dancing light can be best experienced at latitudes above 55°. However, there’s more to remember if you want to watch the northern lights in all their glory. From perfect places to ideal time for northern lights, we got it all covered!

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Why Northern are Lights so Special?

The sky and its many wonders have long fascinated humans with its beauty. Given the rarity of the northern lights and their otherworldly experience, these lights have always fascinated people. While Galileo officially coined this phenomenon in 1619, scientists have discovered earlier records of these lights in a cave painting dating back 30,000 years.

Special Northern Lights

Surrounded by mystery, myths and mysticism, the northern lights have been a popular topic across civilisations with a vast collection of literature related to its origin, effects, and phenomenon. Take a look at some of the special facts about the Aurora Borealis scientists have uncovered so far:

  • Other than the Northern hemisphere, you can also find auroras in the Southern hemisphere. These southern lights are called Aurora Australis.
  • Auroras change shapes often and look like moving curtains of light depending on the earth's magnetic field.
  • As per NASA, the earliest auroral citing goes back to 2600 BC. It has also been significant to many cultures, especially Australian and North American native communities.
  • Northern lights are unpredictable as they depend on solar activity. There is no sure way to predict the time they will be visible. Light pollution, cloud, solar activity etc. can also dim or delay the process.
  • Northern lights are visible from space. You will easily find northern light wallpapers that are actually satellite images.
  • The green light emitted is due to oxygen atoms, whereas the red light of northern lights is due to nitrogen.
  • While the lights are best seen at the pole, they can also move south.
  • The pictures of auroras are actually better than what your eye can see. Northern lights are dim and human retinas find it difficult to pick them, especially the red light.

Finally, just the mesmerising dance of light is enough to spellbind you. If you’ve been meaning to experience them, you can head to countries where northern lights can be seen. Just don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you leave for the green lights!

What Month is Best to See the Northern Lights?

Northern Lights Norway

Northern lights are active throughout the year. They can appear anytime in a year but may or may not be visible due to pollution or less solar activity. However, there are places and times when the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis increase.

While it's hard to predict a Northern light, your best bet is to try between September and March. These are autumn months perfect for viewing Aurora Borealis in the icy Arctic Circle. The sky is clear during these months and there is higher solar activity. You can spot them in areas around 65º to 70º North latitudes during clear skies.

However, if you want a better experience you will need to brave the cold and visit around January to March. The sighting also requires a lot of patience as you can best see these lights at night between 17:00 and 2:00. It is said that auroras are most sighted during March and September equinoxes.

These lights don't last for long so you need to be active, otherwise, you may miss out on the show!

Where is the Best Place to See the Northern Lights?

Places close to the magnetic pole of the Earth are most famous for their Auroras. The best places in the world are generally closer to the Arctic Circle. These include Greenland, Norway, Sweden Alaska, Canada, Iceland, and Finland. Let’s take a look at different countries where you can see the Northern Lights dance:

  • Norway

    Perhaps one of the best places to watch Northern lights, Norway's Svalbard is the highest point between the 74 and 81-degree latitude. The place is also famous for another rare phenomenon- the Polar Night. No wonder it is deemed the best place to see the Northern Lights in the world.

  • Iceland

    Perhaps the most popular and accessible place to watch the Northern Lights, Iceland's capital Reykjavik draws a lot of tourists. The Land of Fire and Ice is also full of volcanoes, geysers and stunning blue ice, giving a lot of wonderful things to do for tourists.

  • Finland

    Kakslauttanen is a quiet place in the Northernmost part of Finland. The place receives several tourists chasing Aurora Borealis. You can watch the beautiful Northern Lights as well as go for a reindeer safari later in the Urho National Park.

  • Sweden

    Jukkasjärvi is famous for its night flight tours specialising in an unforgettable Aurora viewing. There's also the Esrange Space Centre where you can spend time stargazing.

  • Scotland

    You can easily find clear and dry skies in the northern latitudes of Scotland for some Auroras. The place is a stunning attraction thanks to its cultural and natural beauty; being able to see Northern Lights here is going to be an added bonus.

  • Canada

    Northern Canada falls under the 'Aurora Oval' which makes it a great place to view the Northern Lights. You can find points in Yukon, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Northern Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

What Causes the Northern Lights?

Causes of Northern Lights

For centuries, people have wondered about how are Northern Lights formed. It was only in the previous century that the phenomenon was understood. The spectacular Northern lights are actually a result of violent collisions of billion of particles emitted from the sun's atmosphere. The charged particles released by the sun collide with the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in various colours.

So what causes the Northern Lights to dance in different colours? Green, the most common aurora colour is produced due to oxygen molecules that collide around 95 kilometres above the Earth. The red auroras are produced at higher altitudes, at heights exceeding 320 kilometres. The blue or purple aurora is produced by Nitrogen, and the overlapping of different auroras creates other colours such as orange, pink and blue.

Northern lights usually appear in short bursts. At times, you can see them for barely a few minutes while sometimes, they may last for several hours. You can use some reliable Aurora prediction apps or websites to get a better idea.

However, it is best to take some time and plan a trip lasting a few days at least so that spotting the chances of seeing the beautiful Northern Lights are high. However long you decide to stay, be sure to have reliable travel insurance that will protect you from any type of medical, stay-related or financial emergency abroad.

How to Increase the Chances of Watching Northern Lights

As you already know by now, Northern Lights are very unpredictable. Aurora chasers, scientists and dedicated stargazers are still struggling to understand this out-of-the-world phenomenon. You will easily find stories and accounts of dejected people who waited hours and days to watch the Northern Lights but couldn't. Here are a few things you can do to maximise your chances of spotting the stunning Northern Lights:

  • Pick the Best Time to See Northern Lights

    Time your trip for the best months. Clear, dark skies are a must for spotting Auroras. Many times, people may not be able to see these lights due to unclear skies or excess humidity. Plan your trip between September and April and check forecasts to avoid rainy nights.

  • Do Your Research on Aurora Borealis

    You can't just go to a place and expect to catch the Northern Lights. You need to track weather conditions, solar flares, wind speed and night conditions to know the optimum conditions for the lights to be visible. However, all this ultimately depends on the sun so there's no guarantee. You should also download a good application which tracks all these factors.

  • Ask Aurora-Chasers for Help

    If you want, opt for travel agencies or tour companies specializing in Aurora chasing. These people may be local residents or may have years of experience and knowledge about the Northern Lights. They will also help you navigate the cold, dark areas for an unforgettable night.

Wrapping it Up,

Most people wish to see the beautiful Northern Lights at least once in their lifetime. It is truly an experience that can’t be described. If you’re planning to visit Norway, be sure to buy Schengen travel insurance for a smooth journey. Even if you decide to go to another country of the Arctic circle, don’t forget to buy international travel insurance as soon as you’re done booking your flight and hotels. It will keep you safe while you put all your focus into chasing the green lights!

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