Where to See the Northern Lights (Beyond Alaska)

Fairbanks is great, but we'd never miss a chance to get a new passport stamp on the way to see the auroras.

While Fairbanks is the default destination to see the Northern Lights for U.S. citizens, the phenomena is by no means limited to the 49th U.S. state. Across the northern hemisphere, the lights are mostly commonly seen from September through early April, so skip that winter ski trip and instead, pack your camera, your passport and a down jacket for these eight places to see the Aurora Borealis around the world. Sure, the weather can be brutally cold if you’re Aurora-hunting in the winter, but today there are hotels where you don't even have to leave the comfort of your bed to see the lights.

Lapland, Sweden

The details: The northwestern section of Sweden is part of the Lapland region, where the Northern Lights sometimes extend from September through March. Tip: head to the Aurora Sky Station, a purpose-built observation tower, or book The Lights Over Lapland teepee experience in a national park.

Jukkasjärvi, Lapland
Watching the Northern Lights and then retiring to a warm teepee? Yes, in Lapland. (©Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se)

The Faroe Islands

The details: These islands north of Scotland and halfway to Iceland are actually part of Denmark, but what’s important is that these rocky, volcanic islands are an amazing, obscure place to see the Aurora Borealis. Plus, it’s not uncommon to see houses where the roofs are covered in grass, so channel your inner hobbit.

Faroe Islands Northern Lights
Even if you don't catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on a trip to the Faroe Islands, stay for the islands' rugged, natural beauty and explore the archipelago's small towns and villages. (Courtesy VisitFaroeIslands.com)

Caithness Coast, Scotland

The details: The northernmost part of Scotland's mainland is nearly the same latitude as Stockholm, Sweden. If you’re wanting to stay in the United Kingdom, this is your best bet.

Lofoten Islands, Norway

The details: Rugged mountains surround small fishing villages in the far northern reaches of the country.

Lofoten Islands, Norway
While rare, it's possible to see the Northern Lights as daylight wanes, but it helps to be in locations where light displays are strong and common, like Norway's Lofoten Islands. (©CH/Visit Norway)

[You might like: How to See the Northern Lights in Alaska]

Hvalfjordur, Iceland

The details: The city of Reyjavik often is recommended, but the city lights actually block the visibility. Instead, head out to the countryside. Hvalfjordur is approximately 45 minutes away from the city and literally translates as “whale fjord.”

Northern Lights near Hvalfjordur, Iceland
Fly into Reyjavik, but leave the city for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights; the city's lights can diminish visibility of the Aurora Borealis. (Visit Iceland)

Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada

The details: For high adventure, our colleagues at Where magazine in Canada recommend a trip up the Ice Road to a small village called Tuktoyaktuk where there's not much separating you from the celestial light show.

The Northern Lights shine over the village of Tuktoyaktuk, Canada.
The Northern Lights shine over the village of Tuktoyaktuk, Canada. (Courtesy Where.ca)

Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

The details: If you want to get remote, Where’s Canadian editors recommend the Baffin Island town of Nunavut (capital of Canada’s Arctic territory), but note the weather could limit your access since the only way in is by plane.

Northern lights seen near Iqaluit, in Canada's Nunavut territory
Northern lights seen near Iqaluit, in Canada's Nunavut territory (Courtesy Where.ca)

Kakslautten Resort, Finland

The details: At the next cocktail party, you’ll be able to say, “We fell asleep in a glass igloo under the glow of the Northern Lights.” This #humblebrag will either be a conversation starter or a conversation ender, but it's a great memory either way. If the Kakslautten igloos are booked (they've received a lot of publicity in recent years), a similar glass-bubble igloo accommodation is available at the Levi ski resort. The glass is frosted on the side, but clear on top for your view to the sky.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
In Finland, purpose-built igloos designed to let you fall asleep under the Northern Lights (Courtesy Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort)

Nellim, Finland

The details: The “aurora bubbles” at the Wilderness Hotel Nellim in Finland are heated eco-pods. This is not quite the “splurge” experience of Kakslautten, but the hotel also offers Aurora adventure tour packages designed to improve your chance of seeing the lights.

Wilderness Hotel Nellim in Finland
Wilderness Hotel Nellim in Finland offers traditional lodge room accommodations as well as "aurora bubbles" for viewing the lights. (Courtesy VisitFinland)

Greenland (Almost Anywhere)

The details: From September through early April, Greeland is a good bet if you can catch a clear night. Overall, a lack of development means you don't have to fight light pollution. Stay in the capital (Nuuk) but plan excursions out of the city, or head farther north for very remote destinations where sightings are even easier.

Northern Lights over remote Greenland
An Aurora Borealis display over Greenland (©Mads Pihl/Visit Greenland)