Travel expert reveals top tips to help you see them.
Between January and October 2024, the sun is set to reach its solar maximum; the period in the sun’s eleven-year cycle with the greatest solar activity and intense storms1. This means light displays – such as the infamous Northern Lights – are due to be more frequent and brighter, and aurora hunters have a better chance than ever to experience an impressive show.
And it seems Brits are planning to take advantage of this, with Google searches for ‘Northern Lights’ up 39% compared to this time last year2.
Simon Lynch, Global Product Director at luxury tour operator Scott Dunn has shared his expert recommendations on the best places and months to travel to witness the Northern Lights this year, and tips for when you are there.
Iceland (across the island)
Best time to see the Northern Lights: January – March 2024, between 9pm – 2am.
The best places to see the aurora are around the polar regions and usually occur between 60 and 75 degrees of latitude. Located 65° north on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle, Iceland is also known as one of the best places in the world to witness the Northern Lights.
Iceland is known as the Land of Fire and Ice due to its vast volcanic landscape and glaciers. It’s easy to get to somewhere dark on the island, which is necessary to see the natural lightshow.
It’s the only place besides Greenland where you can in theory see the lights from any point in the country. With a population of just 376,000, you can take full advantage of the remote areas in Iceland that escape light pollution.
September to March is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland, with peak viewing times between 9pm and 2am.
It’s never guaranteed that you will see the Northern Lights, but Iceland has a lot of other things to see too. The island’s hot springs, waterfalls and ice caves will give travellers plenty of memorable experiences whilst offering a unique backdrop to witness the spectacular aurora borealis.
Sweden (Northwest, Swedish Lapland)
Best time to see the Northern Lights: January – March 2024, between 6pm – 2am.
Sweden is famous for its display of the aurora borealis, particularly in the arctic wilds of Swedish Lapland, Sweden’s most northwest corner. Covering a quarter of the country, Swedish Lapland is home to mountains, forests, wild rivers and frozen lakes.
Abisko National Park, Kiruna and Luleå are considered some of the best places in Sweden for Northern Light spotting. These locations offer once in a lifetime access to unique stays such as Sweden’s Icehotel and Treehotel and charming Scandinavian tipis.
The endless days between September and March give visitors the benefit of long winter nights which are ideal for seeing the Northern Lights. On clear evenings, the best time to spot the lightshow is between 6pm and 2pm.
Swedish Lapland is not short on arctic activities to compliment aurora-spotting. Ice-fishing, hover crafting over frozen lakes and moose safaris builds visitors to Sweden a unique itinerary.
Norway (North – Tromsø and Svalbard)
Best time to see the Northern Lights: January – March 2024, between 6pm – 1am.
Norway is a hotspot for auroras hunting as the seasons change quickly, meaning there’s longer dark nights.
Its latitude of 62° north means it is ideally located on the northern lights belt, giving visitors a high chance of seeing the night sky’s light show. Tromsø and Svalbard are regarded as the best places in Norway to see the light show. Hotels offer picturesque views of snowcapped mountains and offer open log fires and hot tubs to warm up from the cold.
The lights season in Norway is from September to March during the hours of 6pm to 1am. Other local activities to try include snowmobiling, reindeer-driven sleigh rides, ice fishing, and snowshoeing.
Alaska (North – Talkeetna and Denali National Parks)
Best time to see the Northern Lights: January – April 2024, between 9pm – 2am.
Across the pond, the US state of Alaska is considered one of the best places on earth to see the Northern Lights.
Although light shows occur throughout all four seasons of the year, if you’re keen to catch a glimpse at the aurora borealis, the best time to visit is during the cold months, between 21st August and 21st April, also known as the ‘aurora season’.
Alaska is a vast and wilderness state, and the further north you travel, the higher your chances are of witnessing the bright colours in the sky.
Talkeetna and Denali National Park, which sit at around 63° north latitude, both offer unique hotels and fly-in accommodation as well as Northern Lights packages. As the lights show becomes more intense with clear black skies, these remote locations are ideal.
Finland (North, Finish Lapland)
Best time to see the Northern Lights: August – December 2024, between 10pm – 2am.
Finland is often considered the world’s happiest country and is nestled in the heart of Scandinavia, encompassing Finnish Lapland, the northernmost part of Finland. Due to its latitude of 67° north, it places Finland on the path of the Northern Lights.
With around 75% of its surface covered in forests and an average December snowfall of 30cm, Finland feels like a true winter wonderland when the aurora borealis are dancing above you in the night sky.
The lights are best viewed in Finland the further north you go, making Finnish Lapland ideal. The Northern Lights are visible on roughly 200 nights a year in Lapland.
Rovaniemi, Inari and Levi are some of the best places to visit and offer Huskey sledding tours and wilderness hideaways and glass-roofed igloos to stay in during your trip.
Peak light season runs from late August to early April with the best times occurring after nightfall, between 10pm and 2am. Combined with a host of winter activities like snowmobiling, skiing and seeing Santa’s grotto in Lapland, Finland offers a special setting to see the Northern Lights.
For more information on these destinations, including the best places to stay, visit: https://www.scottdunn.com/luxury-holiday/specialist-holidays/northern-lights