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8 of the best places to see the Northern Lights

Emily Gulla
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

The Northern Lights, the Earth's natural display of colourful dancing light, are notoriously difficult to catch a glimpse of. They're usually only visible during the winter months and in a handful of locations in the northern hemisphere. Being lucky enough to witness them is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so you want to make sure you're heading to a location where a sighting is almost guaranteed. Here are the eight best places to be in with a chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

So, where are the best places to see the Northern Lights?

Iceland

It goes without saying that Iceland is the go-to place if you want an insta-perfect view of the Northern Lights. If you're heading to Iceland, it's a good idea to venture out of the capital city, Reykjavík, because the light pollution there makes the Northern Lights almost invisible.

Instead, go south of Reykjavík to the countryside region of the Reykjanes peninsula for less artificial light and hotels with specific Northern Lights viewing rooms. As always, a good view of the Northern Lights is weather-dependent, but the coast is usually better than inland for ensuring clearer skies.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

Any time between late August and early April is ideal for seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland - hopefully a big enough window for you to secure some annual leave. Don't go during the summer - the sun never sets so the lights won't be visible at all.

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Norway


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The upper coast of Norway is the most northern spot in Europe, making it ideal for spotting the Northern Lights. Tromsø is Northern Norway's largest city, or for a quieter trip you can head out to the more remote locations of Karasjok and Kautokeino where the Sami culture of Norway's indigenous people still thrives.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Norway?

The winter months from October to March will be dark enough to guarantee you a good view.

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Finland


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What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Finland?

September to March are best, as there's less sunlight during winter.

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Russia


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Russia might not be the most obvious location for seeing the Northern Lights, but the country is so huge that most of its northern regions lie within the Arctic Circle. Towns like Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Petrozavodsk are easy to get to from St. Petersburg and have less light pollution than the city.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Russia?

Like Finland, September to March are ideal.

Sweden


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Perhaps a more accessible option, flights to Stockholm and Gothenburg are easy to come by. Sweden's northern border with Norway is your best option, thought to get there from Stockholm you'll have to take a short flight or the night train.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Sweden?

September to the end of March should guarantee you a sighting.

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Greenland


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If you're willing to travel a bit further afield, Greenland makes for an exciting alternative (and less busy) destination. You'll find fewer tourists than in Iceland, but at the expense of accessibility - Greenland's lack of roads means you'll be travelling via plane or boat.

Though you might think that northern Greenland is ideal, it's actually too far north for the Northern Lights, so head south instead.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Greenland?

The lights are visible from mid-August to late April, giving you more options than other destinations.

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Canada


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If you're up for a long-haul journey, a trip to Canada can be paired with a hunt for the Northern Lights. Though Canada has plenty of urban areas, its northern region, including the Yukon Territory, is remote enough to see the Northern Lights without interference from city light pollution.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Canada?

Late August to mid-April gives you quite a long window.

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Alaska


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Another more distant location, Alaska is ideal for seeing the Northern Lights if you don't mind the journey. Its clear skies and long, dark winters make Alaska perfect for spotting the dancing lights, and there are chances to see them almost all year round.

What's the best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Alaska?

It's possible to see the Northern lights in Alaska all year round, but the winter months between late August and mid-April are the safest options.

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