Also known as Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are an enigmatic phenomenon that are caused by particles in the Earth’s atmosphere interacting with charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere. These colorful dancing lights are a natural wonder that many strive to see at least once in their lifetime, and if you are hoping for a higher chance than average when it comes to catching them, then these are the places that you need to head to.
Scientifically speaking, the very best spot in Europe when it comes to viewing the Northern Lights is Svalbard in Norway, as the lights occur near the magnetic poles of the Earth, and Svalbard is about as high up in latitude as you can get. Aurora season here is between November and February, which is also known as Polar Night as the area experiences no daylight, meaning that chances of catching the lights increase substantially, and you are likely to be able to catch a light show at any time of the day, rather than just at night.
The Aurora Oval refers to the areas that the lights spread to as geomagnetic activity increases and moves further south, and pretty much all of Canada is covered with this. In Yukon, away from any large towns, you will be able to watch the lights on a regular basis, as is the case in Northern Saskatchewan, which is home to some of the darkest skies in North America. The Mucho Lake Provincial Park also offers an unforgettable Aurora experience, as the lights reflect off the calm waters of Mucho Lake, resulting in double the spectacle.
The Northern Lights are often seen in Michigan throughout the winter, with the Keweenaw Peninsula, in particular, being one of the best viewing spots, as it has a large expanse of coastline and is secluded enough to be sheltered from light pollution. Marquette is also a great location to head to, because while it may be the largest city in the Upper Peninsula, it has absolutely no light pollution, and miles of public coastline. The Headlands International Dark Sky Park, which is the only international dark sky park in the country, is also a good place to go, as it is completely dark here and far enough north to showcase quite the display.
For serious Aurora chasers, a visit to the Aurora Hotel in Luosto, Northern Finland, is an absolute must, as this hotel is in a prime viewing spot, and provides each guest with a custom Aurora Alarm that alerts them each time the lights are on display, which is always useful since the lights sometimes only appear for minutes at a time. The alarm is exceptionally accurate, as the information is relayed to it from the nearby Northern Lights Research Center, so you are pretty much guaranteed to see the lights here.
While the destinations mentioned above may seem quite remote, the Northern Lights are best viewed from spots that do not experience light pollution, which is why seclusion and isolation is key here. However, no matter where you may be, there still needs to be a certain level of geomagnetic activity for the lights to appear, making it well worth signing up to some Aurora notification websites, or downloading an app, so that you never miss out on key viewing times.