The Top Destinations for a Northern Lights Trip

Where to Combine Divine Sky Viewing with Prime Sightseeing

While most of your friends spend the final weeks of December looking forward to New Year’s Eve fireworks, you could be making plans to see the unearthly colors of aurora borealis, popularly known as the northern lights. But unless you live near a snowy Arctic wilderness, you won’t be able to see them from your doorstep. For a spectacular northern lights adventure, use Inspirock’s itinerary maker to plan a trip to one of the following destinations.

Sweden

Northern lights in Abisko, Sweden by: Azchael (CC)
Northern lights in Abisko, Sweden by: Azchael (CC)

Sweden’s northernmost city, Kiruna remains one of the world’s best places to see the northern lights. Home to the country’s very first ice hotel, this area is accessible from Stockholm by plane, train, or bus, which means that you can spend a few days sightseeing in the capital before heading to the country’s remote north. You don’t have to stay at the expensive ice hotel to enjoy Sweden’s starry skies. Midrange establishments near the popular Abisko National Park offer great rooms and easy access to winter activities, like skiing and snowmobiling.

To find out what else you can see and do in the country, check out this Sweden itinerary.

Finland

Lights over Ruka, northern Finland by: Timo Newton-Syms (CC)
Lights over Ruka, northern Finland by: Timo Newton-Syms (CC)

A well-known hotel in Luosto, in Finland’s Lapland province, hands out an “aurora alarm” to all of its visitors. The device alerts you each time the northern lights appear, which means that you don’t have to spend all your time staring up at the sky. In the unlikely case the light show doesn’t impress you, rent some skis and explore the nearby national park. If you don’t want to go all the way back to the capital for more sightseeing, you can visit the nearby city of Rovaniemi—the self-appointed “Official Hometown of Santa Claus”—and take advantage of plenty of opportunities for nature photography, wildlife spotting, and relaxation in traditional Finnish saunas.

Explore this Finland itinerary for more trip ideas.

Iceland

Northern Lights over Reykjanes Peninsula Sea Stacks, Iceland by: Diana Robinson (CC)
Northern Lights over Reykjanes Peninsula Sea Stacks, Iceland by: Diana Robinson (CC)

One of the best things about visiting Iceland is that you can spot the northern lights from numerous locations around the country. Reykjavik is one of the most affordable and accessible spots for pursuing the colorful light spectacle. If you desire a wilder experience, leave the capital city’s nightlife behind and head straight to Thingvellir National Park, a World Heritage Site. Aurora borealis aside, there’s plenty to do in Iceland that doesn’t involve watching the skies. You can soak in the mineral-rich and delightfully warm Blue Lagoon, go snowmobiling and skiing, or hunt for locations used in “Game of Thrones.”

Browse this Iceland itinerary for more inspiring vacation ideas.

Scotland

Aurora over Bute by: Mark (CC)
Aurora over Bute by: Mark (CC)

It may come as a surprise that you can see the northern lights as far south as the United Kingdom. The British Isles often experience foggy and cloudy weather—not exactly ideal for stargazing—but on cold and cloudless winter nights you’ve got more than a fair chance of witnessing aurora borealis in the far northern climes of Scotland. Chase the lights along the coastline of Caithness, featuring a landscape of jagged grass-topped cliffs and tiny fishing harbors. For more winter adventures visit the region’s Cairngorms National Park, or go back to the capital if you tire of snow and Scottish wilderness.

For more adventures and sightseeing ideas, check this Scotland itinerary.

Alaska

Aurora borealis near Bear Lake, Alaska by: Beverly and Pack (CC)
Aurora borealis near Bear Lake, Alaska by: Beverly and Pack (CC)

America’s largest state is also its least densely populated, and that’s exactly what makes it a prime spot for sky watching. The lack of giant cities and their concomitant light pollution makes Alaska’s skies very dark, which means that you have a good chance of spotting an aurora even if you don’t go very far from the city of Fairbanks. To leave civilization behind and test your wilderness skills, explore Denali, the tallest mountain in North America and the centerpiece of Denali National Park.

Look for more things to do on this Alaska itinerary.

A Carnival of Natural Lights

The best time to see aurora borealis is between September and March, though some places offer spectacular sightings as early as August. Instead of spending your winter vacation at a run-of-the-mill ski resort, catch one of nature’s most impressive phenomena by heading as far north as you dare. Before you go, use Inspirock’s itinerary planner to get the most from your vacation.

Tamara

Tamara

Educated in Chicago and based in Serbia, Tamara travels with passion and believes that one written word can be worth at least a thousand pictures. When she's not conquering the world one blog post at a time, she likes to eat pizza and take long naps--preferably at the same time.
Tamara