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Seeing the Northern Lights

Posted by on April 11, 2013
seeing the northern lights

A photo of the Northern Lights in Canada

Though watching the sky may not seem too adventurous at first glance, considering the remote northern locations you need to get to in order to find the best Northern Lights views, I think this counts as an adventure travel activity.

Also known as the Aurora Borealis, this amazing shimmering light-show is something few people get to witness first hand. Want to see the Northern Lights for yourself? Here’s how to make it happen.

First you need to head north. There are basically 3 main regions where you can find good viewing:

Northern Canada
Canada has a huge expanse of territory that is above the Arctic circle and is very suitable for seeing the Northern Lights. Cities like Whitehorse, Iqaluit and Yellowknife are all great as long as you go out away from the city lights. The season for Aurora Borealis runs from September until March, with the best sightings around December or January.

These areas are also popular with dog-sled tours so you might want to add a little extra adventure when you go out looking for the lights.

The northern parts of Norway, Sweden or Finland will all offer a great chance to see the Northern Lights, though Norway has the more northerly advantage. The city of Tromso is known as a great base for Aurora seekers, and its in northern Norway. You can take some great fjord tours from there as well, but that’s another story.

The best times are from December until the end of March, and they are most visible between 6pm and 1am. There are usually lights in the sky 2 or 3 times each week then. You just need to get out of the city city and away from any extra lights. Dress warmly and head on out.

Northern Russia
Most of the really northern parts of Russia are either uninhabited or do not have roads to really get around for tourists. The best place to see the Aurora Borealis is near Murmansk, which is not far from northern Finland.

The time frame for seeing the lights in Murmansk is about the same as in Norway, so try to be there during the winter for the best odds.

In any of these regions, there will be tour groups that you can join for your watching trips but since the lights are completely random, a group may not really offer you anything except some companionship and transportation. Guides can’t know when or where the lights will appear any more than you do.

Also remember that the winters in these places usually means nearly 24-hours of darkness every day. So keep that in mind when you plan your overall itinerary.

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