The Northern Lights; a must see with your own eyes at least once in your life. This spectacular phenomenon of “dancing curtains” are also referred to as Aurora or Aurora Borealis. You can witness it in a couple of countries like Finland (Finnish Lapland), Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and Russia.

Read about the best tips for the Northern Lights. Like what the best season is, which locations to go to, and more. I have gathered the information per country including some unique excursions to enjoy the Northern Lights even more.

The best locations to see the Northern Lights:

You can find satellite maps displaying the Northern Lights on the internet. NASA’s satellite photo showed a large green ring. Especially above the northern part of the world. I recommend you to travel several days to one of the areas where it can be seen. Then you have the best chance. This is my Top Five:

Iceland

Iceland is completely located within the circle of the Northern Lights. This means that you can see the natural spectacle from anywhere on the island. And really straight above you, next to you, in the distance and very close. Partly for this reason, you see many photos of the aurora on social media.

See more about the Northern Lights in Iceland >

Norway

Northern Norway is perfect for seeing the Northern Lights. Although you can also see it, for example, in the fjords to the south and even from Oslo. Though it will be more on the horizon, instead of directly above you. The light is at its strongest in the north of Norway, according to satellite images.

See more about the Northern Lights in Norway >

Finnish Lapland

Finnish Lapland is a good location to see the dancing lights. It can be admired in almost all places in this part of Finland, but the northern part is the best. This is because it falls directly under the Northern Lights belt. In other words, where most activity can be seen. Good locations are Levi, Rovaniemi and Kakslautanen. Make sure to look outside the villages to avoid light pollution.

See more about the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland >

Canada

Large parts of Canada are also ideal for viewing the aurora. This applies to both Eastern Canada and well-known Western Canada. Again, you should not be bothered by clouds to be able to see it properly. And this location is becoming more and more popular in winter. Makes sense, because this is the best place for Americans to see it. And why not for you, while you go skiing here, as well as discover the rugged nature.

Sweden

Like Finland, Sweden also has a part of the Lapland region. Here, too, the Northern Lights are clearly visible, although this region is a lot less known than Finnish Lapland. But the people of Sweden know better. And in recent years, a winter holiday in Swedish Lapland has also become increasingly popular. Where you have a good chance of seeing the light.

Other locations

It’s a challenge but you can see the Northern Lights in Greenland. A great setting for unique photos with the red and green houses illuminated with the colourful light.

It can also be seen in the northern parts of Russia. Remarkably, it doesn’t mean the further north you go, the better the aurora will be. I was in Svalbard in the winter a few years ago and had high expectations. It was a bit disappointing: I could only see the Northern Lights at the horizon.

The green ring of the Northern Lights.
NASA

Northern Lights: What is the best period

The Northern Lights can only be seen during winter. The best months are October, November, as well as February and March. But it can also appear in the sky in December and January. And even in April or September, although the possibility is less great.

What are the chances of seeing the Northern Lights?

On average, the “dancing curtains” are seen once a week. But it can also be two or three times a week. Or not at all. It depends on various circumstances. These are the most important criteria:

1. The most important thing is that there is a clear sky, no clouds whatsoever. Or at least that a large part shows clear skies. Why does this matter? The Northern Lights are higher up than the clouds, so clouds would block you from seeing the phenomenon.

2. There must have been solar activity a few days before. This can be checked online via various websites.

3. If there is a lot of light disturbance, you will see it less well. In other words, a bright moon, but also houses with lighting, street lamps, and the like ensure that you see will not see the aurora that well.

Me looking at the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland.
Me looking at the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland. Corno van den Berg

How do I know when and where to see the Northern Lights?

There are various websites and apps that predict the Northern Lights. This specifically indicates how strong the Northern Lights will be. Although this is a prediction of course. I always use this website: Aurora Forecast. Here you can see per hour how strong the Northern Lights are. As well as the forecast for the coming hours and days.

What hour of the evening can I see the Northern Lights?

There is actually no best time for the aurora. Although there is a rule of thumb. The further north you are, the earlier in the evening. So in Canada, for example, the best time is between seven and ten. While in Iceland and Finnish Lapland (which are lower on the map) it is from ten to two in the morning. But you can see the Northern Lights at any time of the evening and night.

What causes the appearance of the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights is caused by a large amount of charged particles in the sky. These are caused by solar flares as they disappear in the immense universe. What is important is the number of particles being sent into the universe. The more particles, the more aurora. This differs per day, and even per hour.

There is a large magnetic field around the earth that deflects the charged particles. These enter the atmosphere at great speed near the north pole (and south pole). They collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and discolour. And that’s what you actually see in the sky. The colour depends on whether it is an oxygen particle or a nitrogen atom.

Lesser known: The Southern Lights or Aurora Australis

What few people know is that there is also a Southern Lights, which can be seen in the southern hemisphere. Think of New Zealand, Antarctica, and sometimes in Australia. Also occasionally in Argentina and Chile.