Witnessing the unearthly mystical colours and sounds in the night sky above a snowy Arctic wilderness is on the bucket list of many.
The naturally occurring Aurora Borealis is a sight unlike any other and no matter how well travelled you are or the amazing adventures you have been on, you will be awestruck by the breath-taking beauty and unique dance of nocturnal rainbows. Many find it a humbling experience. September to March are the best times to catch the Aurora Borealis but depending on where you go it can be as late as April and as early as August. Here are some of the best places to witness the mesmeric lights in unique Arctic style:
Kakslauttanen Glass Igloos, Finland
The northern lights make an appearance over Finland about 200 nights per year. At the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland, you can Aurora gaze from the comfort of your own glass igloo, drink in hand. One night you can doze off watching the dancing display and the next hunt the Aurora on a reindeer-drawn sleigh through the arctic wilderness. Located 250km north of the Arctic Circle, this is the perfect Lapland adventure playground. During the day you can enjoy sleigh rides, go ice fishing or snowshoeing, relax in the sauna or by the open fire in the log cabin, enjoy a drink in the Glass Igloo Bar or local delicacies in the ‘Underground’ restaurant before retiring to your own igloo and admire the ever changing tapestry in the sky.
Photo by Valtteri Hirvonen
Jukkasjäroi Ice Hotel, Sweden
The village of Jukkasjärvi in the Kiruna region of Sweden, about 200km from the Arctic Circle, is home to the country’s first ice hotel and the largest of its kind. Covering 5,500 square meters, the hotel is built with 1,000 tonnes of ice and 30,000 tonnes of a mixture of snow and ice to strengthen the structure. Everything in the rooms is made of ice, including the beds…but at least the bathrooms are heated. Northern Sweden is possibly the best place to see the northern lights, because it lies under the auroral oval and enjoys clear skies more often than many coastal regions. This makes the Ice Hotel a prime location to base yourself for an Arctic adventure with the chance to admire the northern lights. Hear stories about the myths surrounding this magical sight and get some expert tips on how best to capture the lights on camera. During the day, there are plenty of activities to choose from such as trying your hand at ice sculpting, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, horseback moose safari and more. The first Ice Hotel was built in 1989 but every year it is reborn in a new guise, the theme and design always changes making it one of the most innovative hotel in the world.
Chena Hot Springs Resort, Alaska
Founded over 100 years ago, Chena Hot Springs, in Fairbanks, is the most developed hot springs destination in Alaska. Its world-famous healing mineral waters and hot springs are the perfect setting to watch the beautiful Aurora Borealis displays in the winter. Fairbanks lies directly beneath a band of aurora activity, meaning from August to May, the town regularly experiences a celestial display of green, yellow, and purple. The hot springs lake is adult only and open until midnight meaning you can soak up the healing waters as you have a unique light show in the sky above. The resort is of course so much more than hot springs and northern lights. It is home to the world’s largest year-round ice environment in the world, the Aurora Ice Museum! Inside, you can admire the museum’s chandeliers made of individually carved ice crystals which change colour every six seconds mimicking the Northern Lights. The Resort’s remote location also creates a perfect environment for viewing wildlife up close. You can also take a scenic flight tour and fly north over the Arctic wilderness in search of local wildlife and simply to truly appreciate the breath-taking landscape below.
Hotel Arctic’s Igloos, Greenland
With minimal light pollution and near-perfect visibility in some places, Greenland practically guarantees a sighting of the lights during aurora season (September to early April). Located in Ilulissat an area famous and well regarded for the Ice Fjord, a wonder of the world which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The igloos are part of Hotel Arctic and are located right on the edge of the Ilulissat Ice Fjord. The five igloos are surrounded by cliffs, the Disko Bay and colossal icebergs drifting by. The igloo cabins are inspired by the classic eskimo igloo in shape and design but instead of being made of ice they have an aluminium frame creating a more modern and comfortable room, ideal for three or four nights. By night you can take in the wonder of the Aurora Borealis in this breathtaking setting and by day take a boat trip around the ice mountains in the sea. The Ice Fjord is one of the largest and most active glaciers in the world. It has an area of 3,000 square km and travels at a rate of 20m per day. Shapes, colours and sounds from the ice mountains are hard to forget – you are an eyewitness to a totally enchanting natural phenomenon. This is a truly wonderful and unique destination as it has so much to offer in terms of unforgettable scenes and panoramas by day and night.
Churchill is a terrific spot to view the northern lights from as it experiences aurora activity more than 300 nights a year! And if that wasn’t enough, this town in Manitoba is the easiest place to access that guarantees sightings of the great polar bear. One of the best ways to experience both is with the exclsuive Tundra Lodge, a custom-designed rolling hotel that offers unparalleled seclusion and proximity to wild polar bears. Experience close-up bear viewing from the safety and comfort of the Tundra Lodge. You will be spoilt with stunning encounters, unforgettable moments, breath-taking sights and exceptional adventures by day and night. From the comfort of your private cabin you can watch the bears playing in their natural habitat and admire the northern lights painting the sky like a master painter.
Photo by Alek Komar
Hotel Ranga, Iceland
Hotel Ranga, in southern Iceland, offers a range of winter activities, from whale-watching and dogsledding to glacier tours and freshwater fishing, but its highlight is the northern lights. As Hotel Ranga is located in a rural area, light pollution is minimal and the hotel turns off the external lights to provide optimal conditions to view the magic in the sky. The hotel offers luxurious and cozy rooms to themed suites designed to reflect each of the seven continents. For those looking for adventure, take a trip to Eldgjá, the fire canyon, or Eyjafjallajökull glacier which is a 1666m high glacier-capped stratovolcano. This might be one of the smaller glaciers in Iceland but it certainly has proved its power when it erupted in 2010 causing chaos to thousands of travellers. The area has something for everyone whether it be adrenaline junkies looking to explore caves or ride ATV motorbikes or those looking for something a little more subdued like whale-watching or a helicopter flight over the tundra, volcanoes and glaciers.
Svalbard is a string of Arctic Islands in the Barents Sea, midway between the North Pole and continental Norway. This archipelago sinks into perpetual darkness as it experiences polar nights between mid-November and January. Visitors to Svalbard have some of the best opportunities to see the northern lights which is best seen between November and February. However, some choose to come to Svalbard to experience the polar night when the land is bathed in an eerie blue twilight. If you prefer your adventure with a spot of daylight then you will be well compensated with chances to spot reindeer, walrus and polar bears. For the very brave take a snowmobile tour to search for the animals in their natural environment. Those looking for a little more comfort and warmth can take a two hour snowcat safari and be in the safety of the powerful vehicle.
Are you inspired and hoping to see the Northern Lights in one of the list locations? Whether you are planning a corporate incentive trip or once-in-a-lifetime getaway with family or friends, get in touch and let our experts start planning your ultimate trip.BACK TO OUR JOURNAL