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Northern Lights Holidays

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Witnessing Mother Nature's most famous light show is one of the greatest travel experiences on Earth. Head north, above a latitude of 60° from late September through to late March, and you'll be in prime position for dazzling displays of this remarkable phenomenon. Whether you choose to visit Iceland, Finland, Sweden, or Norway, we can plan the perfect trip designed with aurora hunting in mind.

Northern Lights Holiday Ideas

Below you'll find a selection of our favourite northern lights holiday ideas for inspiration. Although sightings of the ethereal light show can't be guaranteed, our trips have been carefully crafted to maximise your chances of witnessing this magical and mysterious marvel.

We'll send you a complimentary copy of Bradt's Northern Lights Travel Guide Book when you book your Northern Lights adventure with us

When & Where to spot the Aurora

A tent and small camp under the starry sky on a polar night in Svalbard in winter.

The best time to see the Northern Lights

Although the northern lights are active throughout the entire year, it's not possible for us to see them during the light summer months as there are simply not enough hours of darkness. Travel in Autumn to early Spring for the very best chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Most active around the equinoxes in March and September, and most commonly seen between the hours of 9pm and 2am, you can only see them when the sky is clear of cloud. 

Snow covered trees under the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland

The best places to see the Northern Lights

The aurora is most visible beneath the Northern Lights oval or Aurora Zone, which circles the Earth between a latitude of 60° to 70°. So travel to Finland, Sweden, Norway, or Iceland where there are many locations with low or zero light pollution that afford superb opportunities to witness the incredible natural phenomena. We have carefully selected places, properties, and people to maximise your chances of gaining a glimpse of the bright blazing skies. 

The aurora can be seen as undulating ribbons, shimmering curtains, spiky fingers that creep up from the horizon and dazzling rods of colour that burst like a firework

Polly Evans | Author | Bradt's Northern Lights Travel Guide Book


Places to see the Northern Lights

The northern lights over the igloos at Levin Iglut Golden Crown in Finnish Lapland

Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland

The Northern Lights are visible on around 200 nights of the year in Finnish Lapland. Choose to stay at the Arctic Treehouse Hotel in the capital, Rovaniemi, or opt for nights spent in a glass-roofed igloo. Situated far enough away from the light pollution of the city, there are many igloo villages in Finnish Lapland that afford magnificent displays of the aurora. Those seeking a winter wonderland should head to the far north of the country for an adventure in Finland's true wilderness.

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The Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park near Reykjavik in Sweden

Northern Lights in Swedish Lapland

In Swedish Lapland, the incredible Treehotel awaits guests who wish to float in a room between pine trees, and ICEHOTEL has rooms carved into works of art and a menu of evening excursions, perfect for aurora hunters. Abisko is home to the world-famous Aurora Sky Station. Lonely Planet reported a trip here to be one of the world's most illuminating experiences; long winter nights and zero light pollution make it the ideal spot for those wishing to catch a glimpse of Mother Nature's bedazzling show.

The northern lights by Yngve Olsen Saebbe /

The northern lights by Yngve Olsen Saebbe /

Northern lights over Tromsø, Norway

Northern Lights in Northern Norway

The rotation of the Earth means that Tromso in northern Norway, moves into the Northern Lights zone at around 6pm and the best chance of viewing them is around 10pm making it an ideal choice for families looking to experience the light show without staying up into the early hours. Sailing along Norway's coastline provides a more scenic option. Hurtigruten offers various voyages. We recommend the 12 day Arctic Expedition which starts in Bergen and travels way above the Arctic Circle to North Cape.

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Northern Lights in Svalbard

You can't get much further north than Svalbard, Norway's far-flung archipelago. Remarkably remote yet surprisingly accessible, winter adventures here are of epic proportion. Travel in December and January to experience the incredible polar night when the sun never rises above the horizon, and you can see the Northern Lights day or night. Choose to visit from February onward and you'll experience some daylight and have a great chance of seeing the aurora too. 

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Northern Lights in Iceland

The volcanic and lunar landscapes and incredible natural wonders, coupled with a long list of spine-tingling activities, make Iceland a popular destination for those wanting a jam-packed itinerary. Stay in the country's compact capital Reykjavik, and search for the Northern Lights after dark in a Superjeep designed for adventure or rest in the remote countryside. Hotel Ranga, one of South Iceland's boutique retreats, has outdoor hot tubs for guests to relax in whilst watching the Northern Lights dance overhead.

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The Science behind the spectacle

Watching the aurora borealis in Svalbard

How do the Northern Lights Appear?

The northern lights are created by charged solar particles ejected from the sun in a solar wind. These solar winds race away from the sun at around one million miles per hour. When these particles reach the Earth's atmosphere, some are deflected away, and others collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, causing electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. As they reduce to a lower-energy state, they emit energy in the form of light, creating beautiful colours in the sky.

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What are the Auroral Ovals?

The Auroral Ovals are two belts of light (the aurora borealis and the aurora australis) centered on the Earth's magnetic poles. These two rings around the top and bottom of the Earth stay in a fairly fixed position in space whilst the Earth rotates beneath them. To see the aurora borealis, also referred to as the Northern Lights, you need to be beneath or within sight of the northern oval, which sits between a latitude of 60° to 70°. 



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What are Sunspots?

Just as Earth has cycles which we call seasons, the sun's energy output also changes. We call this the solar cycle. The sun goes through a natural solar cycle every 11 years. The increase and decrease of sunspots mark the cycle. Sunspots are darker, cooler areas on the sun's surface caused by powerful magnetic fields coming from within the sun. During the years around a solar maximum, which is the time of greatest activity in the solar cycle, sunspots increase.

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Does the Solar Cycle Affect the Aurora?

Regardless of where the sun is in the solar cycle, you have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights if you are beneath the Auroral Oval. It is often thought that when the sun is going through a period of greater activity or solar maximum (which can last for several years) sightings may be more frequent, but this does not mean that the lights are not visible during the solar minimum or years of less activity. Travellers heading for clear, dark skies who pack a little bit of luck and patience will be rewarded.

Wonderful Places to stay to see the Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Hotel Ranga in South Iceland

Hotel Ranga

A proud member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, this well established countryside retreat, built in a log-cabin style, is one of the best hotels in the world for stargazing.

Hella, South Iceland

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Northern Lights over the glass igloos at Snowhotel in Finnish Lapland

Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos

The glass igloos here are far enough from the light pollution of the city to enjoy fabulous displays of the magical Aurora Borealis. The Snow Hotel built each year offers guests the chance to spend a night on a bed of ice.

Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland

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Wilderness Hotel Inari aerial view in winter

Wilderness Hotel Inari

From log cabins and glass-roof domes to spacious wilderness hotel rooms, there is a great deal of choice in accommodation at this exceptional resort found perched on the edge of Lake Inari.

Inari, Finnish Lapland

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Exterior of Arctic Treehouse in Finnish Lapland during winter

Arctic TreeHouse Hotel

The Grand Designs of Lapland holiday accommodation, each private suite, with its exclusive Scandinavian design, includes a glass feature wall providing unlimited views of the glittering forest and winter skies.

Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland

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Aerial view of an aurora cabin in the snowy wilderness at Aurora Village in Finnish Lapland

Aurora Village

Located high above the Arctic Circle, surrounded by a wild woodland where resident reindeer roam, this secluded and elegant retreat is home to 28 luxurious glass-roof cabins.

Inari, Finnish Lapland

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Luxurious glass-roof igloos at Levin Iglut Golden Crown resort in Finnish Lapland

Levin Iglut Golden Crown Glass Igloos

These luxurious and spacious glass igloos are located just 5km from Finland's largest ski resort. Hit the slopes during the day and enjoy aurora displays from the comfort of your very own bed after dark.

Levi, Finnish Lapland

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Panoramic view of the Northern Lights Ranch in Finland

Northern Lights Ranch

These remote cabins feature expansive glass windows and roofs ideal for viewing the beautiful surrounding nature and watching out for the elusive northern lights.

Levi, Finnish Lapland

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Winter exteror at Hotel Husafell in West Iceland

Hotel Husafell

A proud member of National Geographic's unique lodges of the world, this exceptional welcoming retreat has rugged wilderness literally on the doorstep. Head out on a guided hike or relax in the hotel's outdoor hot tubs.

Husafell, Iceland

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Lapland Guesthouse in winter, Swedish Lapland

Lapland Guesthouse

Stay with Johan and Eva and learn about their beautiful collection of brightly coloured Swedish houses in the tiny Swedish village of Kangos, 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Kangos, Swedish Lapland

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An ice room at the world famous Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland


Sleep in frozen artworks reimagined every year at the world's most elaborate hotel. Created each year by a team of artists from around the globe, this Arctic masterpiece must be seen to be believed.

Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lapland

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View of the Lyngen Experience Lodge over the water at sundown, Norway

Lyngen Experience Lodge

There are just nine rooms at this low lying boutique lodge. Located on Norway's shoreline and set against the stunning backdrop of the Ulsfjord, discover the perfect way to experience the Norwegian wilderness

Nord Lenangen, Norway

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Exterior of Senja's Lighthouse, Norway

The Lighthouse at Camp Tranoybotn

This fabulous place to stay is one of the best kept secrets on Norway’s second largest island. Join your friendly host, Hege on a guided kayaking trip around islands inhabited by seabirds and seals.

Senja, Norway

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Photographing the Aurora

Northern lights in Iceland

Get the perfect snap

DSLR cameras are best for aurora photography as they allow you to open the shutter for longer periods. Having a tripod is crucial to get a sharp shot. Set your camera lens to its shortest focal length and open the iris of the lens right up. With aurora photography, you need to balance the length of exposure with the amount of detail captured. Vary the ISO sensitivity setting - for bright displays, you can set the ISO for around 400, or to freeze the display, try a shorter exposure with an ISO of 1600 or above.

Northern Lights in pictures

The northern lights over the world-famous Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland
Winter 2019 Aurora Borealis View From Glass Igloo 01
Northern Lights At Aurora Village
Northern lights viewing a the Lyngen Experience in Norway
Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Rovaniemi, Finland
The Aurora Wagon beneath the northern lights in Finnish Lapland
Nellim Wilderness Hotel main building with northern lights above it

Get in touch and let us help you plan your northern lights holiday


0117 450 7980 Make An Enquiry