The northern lights defy belief. They originate from nuclear reactions in the sun, which cause billions of tons of electrically charged gas to radiate outwards at five million miles an hour. After eighteen hours hurtling through space, these solar storms reach Earth, deflect around the planet’s magnetic fields, and are funneled down towards the poles. Here, the solar gasses collide with our atmosphere, and excited atoms produce an ethereal light show in the night sky. These psychedelic bands of undulating color are the northern lights, or aurora borealis (and in the southern hemisphere, the aurora australis).
We scouted some of the best places to view these marvelous apparitions.
Set within the Arctic Circle in northern Finland is our Expedition to Lapland journey. This snow-covered realm offers some of the best chances to see the lights. In Finland, the northern lights are called revontulet, or fox; according to Finnish legend, the aurora was created by a fox racing across the sky, flicking its tail and sending sparks into the air.
By day, we snowshoe, cross-country ski, ride in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, and unwind in restorative saunas. By night, we’ll marvel at the aurora out in remote landscapes, and even from the comfort of the indoors—we bring you to a hotel with glass “igloos” for an unparalleled viewing experience right from your bed!
View Expedition to Lapland itinerary
On Iceland’s Northern Lights, we snowshoe in otherworldly landscapes, visit waterfalls, soak in geothermal hot springs, and stay near one of the aurora research facilities—it’s located in a valley where we’re 60 percent more likely to see the lights than in Iceland’s other regions! And our skilled Trip Leaders are always on hand to help adjust your camera settings for the best shot.We selected hotels in locations known for low light-pollution and clear skies, and many have a wake-up call option so you can be notified right when the aurora make an appearance. It’s not uncommon to be “interrupted” mid-dinner for a chance to see the lights, so keep your coat handy!
View Iceland’s Northern Lights itinerary
Although we don’t offer an aurora adventure in Norway yet, this photo was just too spectacular not to share. We suggest visiting the Lofoten Islands or Tromsø (Norway’s northernmost urban area) before or after a trip to Iceland or Finland.