This just in; according to research conducted by How To Adult, seeing the Northern Lights ranks as the number one adventure on the world’s collective bucket list.
Indeed, this entrancing, enchanting phenomenon needs to be seen to be believed, and is truly deserving of its reputation as one of the world’s great natural wonders. If you do get the chance to see it for yourself, this guide should help you make the most of the experience. Here’s how to see the Northern Lights at their very best.
Go On A Cruise
A dedicated cruise to take in the Northern Lights is arguably the finest way to see this natural spectacle as it takes you to remote areas of Norway with unobstructed views of the sky. Silversea Cruises are particularly good if you want the very best way to see the Northern Lights – or Aurora Borealis – and because there are limited numbers, you won’t feel overwhelmed or overcrowded.
You will need to be flexible and adaptable if you want to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in all their full and splendid glory, which could involve staying in the area for more than a day. Though there are a whole host of vantage points to catch the spectacle, the best is perhaps Tromso in Norway.
The city is a great place to spend time in, regardless of the strength of the Aurora going on above it, with Tromso boasting more pubs per capita than any other city in Norway. Flights from London are direct, and take around 3 and a half hours.
Other places which take in the Northern Lights include the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, Fairbanks in Alaska, Finnish Lapland, and Yukon in Canada.
Choose The Right Time
Even though the best time to watch the aurora is generally between November and March, you can catch a glimpse of it over the Northern Hemisphere as soon as darkness comes in August and keep doing so until April. Be aware that flight prices usually increase over the holiday season due to increased demand (another reason to take a cruise, perhaps).
The shoulder seasons, on the other hand, are the most pleasant and, surprisingly, the least busy. It’s much more comfortable in the autumn, and March is widely considered to have some of the best displays of vivid colour.
Alternately, schedule your trip around one of the many upcoming festivals, such as the jazz, classical, and electronic Northern Lights Festival, which will be held in Tromso from late January to early February, or the Kiruna Snow Festival, which will be held in January and feature the snow blower world championships.
Pack The Right Clothes
Layering is essential in the autumn and winter, when Aurora displays are more frequent. While a bulky coat or puffy jacket might be beneficial, the key to keeping warm is to dress in layers. Keep your toes warm by wearing thick wool socks instead of more breathable materials like cotton or linen.
If you’re unsure how many layers you need, wear two. Keep in mind that if you overdress, you can always shed a layer, but if you underdress, you may find yourself shivering. Accessories like beanies, gloves, scarves, and hand warmers are also recommended.
You don’t want the spectacle ruined by shivering limbs and chattering teeth, now do you?
Know The Myths
Being the modern-day phenomena that they are, the lights were naturally the focus of many stories and legends in the past. The Sámi, the indigenous inhabitants of Lapland, see the lights as a negative omen – if you have insulted them, you could get ill! – but other cultures see them as a symbol of good.
In Finland, the lights were assumed to be sparks from an arctic fox’s tail as it sped over the snow, while Swedish fishermen believed the lights were reflections from vast schools of herring. The Northern Lights were even said to be a reflection off the Valkyrie’s armour as they guided Viking soldiers to Valhalla.
If you’re keen to expand your box-ticking adventure beyond seeing the Northern Lights, then do check out our article on 9 of the world’s best after dark activities. Another 8 for the bucketlist… Why not, hey?