The aurora borealis is the colorful phenomenon created when electrically charged particles within the earth’s magnetosphere collide with particles in the solar wind. The Northern Lights, as they’re also known, are best seen in late August through April from countries near the North and South poles. These neon ribbons of light are not always visible, and the colors present depend on altitude and which elements are in the air. The most common color is green, while red is more rare. Glows of yellow, pink, blue, and ultraviolet are also possible.

Weather, lunar cycle, and proximity to the sea make some cities and regions better than others for viewing. But if catching a spectacular display is on your bucket list, here are Hipmunk’s top destinations for seeing these natural wonders!

1. Fairbanks, Alaska

  United States

Located within the auroral oval — a ring-shaped region around the North Pole — Fairbanks lends itself to a steady frequency of Northern Light activity and clear climates. But travelers will have to travel a bit outside of the city limits to see nature’s fluorescent curtains. Stay at the Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge or the Springhill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks, both short drives from the city’s other attractions should the lights not cooperate. (We’re fans of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Alaska House Art Gallery, and the Fairbanks Community Museum.) Alaska Tours will pick up stargazers from their stated hotel and transfer them to the outskirts of the city. Dress warmly to experience the rippling auroras outdoors, or sip a complimentary warm beverage to stay cozy inside the vehicle. Make sure to monitor the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast to get a better idea of when there is auroral activity.

2. Whitehorse City

  Canada

Canada’s Yukon Territory makes for great viewing of the undulating light curtains. Head to Whitehorse City and stay at the Skky Hotel, only 0.4 miles from the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. View the aurora from a custom-built location by theArctic Range northern lights tour company. Or, drive 18 miles north of downtown Whitehorse and view them from the Takhini Hot Springs for a memorable evening. The pools, which have been in operation for more than 100 years, are between 36 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius, offering a soothing experience. Check out the pool rental rates, which are based on number of guests.

3. Saariselka

  Finland

The Northern Lights are best viewed away from city lights, making national reserves like Urho Kekkonen National Park a good option. Stay at the Holiday Club in the town of Saariselka for easy access to the park, as well as downhill and cross-country skiing. For those with a higher budget, have a distinctive experience at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort while hunting for the elusive lights. The resort, located a nine-minute drive south from Saariselka and also near Urho Kekkonen Park, offers its signature glass igloo for two or four people, a log cabin or a hybrid accommodation, which is a log cabin that also has a glass igloo. There are various other options, including staying with in the home of Mr. and Ms. Claus, which Kakslauttanen calls Santa’s Home. For extra fees, Kakslauttanen offers husky and reindeer safaris, sleigh rides and ice fishing, among other activities.

4. Karasjok

  Norway

Northern Norway is an ideal location to catch both the Northern Lights and star constellations. The town often has clear skies due to its inland location, and little light pollution. Even if the capricious lights don’t show, visitors will be impressed by the clearly visible star constellations. Stay at the Scandic Karasjok, which has two restaurants and a sauna to get a complete Norwegian experience. The DenHvite Rein Motell offers cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing to stay active.

5. Abisko

  Sweden

The typically clear climate of Abisko makes this small town an optimal place to catch the Aurora Borealis. Stay at the Abisko Guest house or the Abisko Mountain Lodge, both offering easy access to the Aurora Sky Station within Abisko National Park. Abisko.net offers three distinct northern light tours to choose from. Snowshoe to the top of a small hill overlooking lake Tornetrask, as well as wild animal trails. Rest near the fire while drinking warm drinks as onlookers stare at the sky. Or, learn how to best photograph nature’s dancing lights. Visitors have to provide their own SD memory cards, but Absiko.net provides the high-quality camera and lens, as well as detailed instructions from a professional.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 8th.

Published in Travel Photography

Most people who live in places considered to have a 'normal climate' often long to the south. Yes, sure enough 'south' often has it all, cheap drinks, temperature, beaches, cheap food, cheap hotels, cheap flights...

But what many of these places lack is sights and adventure! And even if they have a bit of that, not too many of us normal people enjoy hiking in the mountains in 40° C (or more!) heat. Most of us at some point get a little sick of the same old thing, even if the beaches on Costa Del Sol might not be exactly like the ones on Gran Canaria, the concept is the same -- Warm, sandy and sunny. As a Norwegian, and particularly a Northern Norwegian, I know all about longing for the southern parts of the world. I may not have been to too many exotic places, but I have spent my fair share of time in Southern Europe, on the beach, flat out, frying in the heat. Now I've "re-discovered" my own country and region that I have gotten a little older.

I moved to the town of Tromso in Troms County, Norway. I moved here predominantly to study, but I fell in love with the town. The town has many positive aspects, firstly during summer time, it never gets dark due to the midnight sun, and during summer there are numerous festivals and activities going on, during the winter, the northern lights dance across the sky almost like magic. The town is located on an island, in the middle of a strait leading up to a fjord. The airport is located in the middle of the island, 5 minutes away from the city centre. The airport has daily flights to other destinations in Norway such as the capital, Oslo, but also international flights linking it to world cities such as London. During my time in Tromso, I worked for three hotels, all at a different end of the scale. The town offers everything from good value 3 star hotels, to high end 5 star hotels. There are major chains located in the city such as Scandic, Radisson BLU and Choice Hotels, yet also smaller chains and independent hotels all offering something unique to the city. As the largest city in Northern Norway. Tromso offers a vibrent night-life, a multitude of shops and leisure, as well as great sights.

The main sights are:

  • The Mountain Cable Car that takes you up to the mountain, giving a panoramic view over the city. On the top there is a restaurant serving local cuisine as well as lighter meal options.
  • The Arctic Cathedral located by the iconic Tromso Bridge, facing the city centre. The church hosts intimate concerts throughout the year yet is also a sight to see on its own.
  • City Museums are the three main museums in Tromso. The Town Museum on the southern tip of the island, which focuses on town history; the Roald Amundsen Museum, which holds a large collection from arctic expeditions and the ship Polarstjernen (an old fishing ship located next to Polaria). Other things worth visiting include: Skipsbroen Bar at the Rica Ishavshotel, the best view in the city. Gründer Bar and Café, the best night club in town. The University with its botanical garden and geological exhibition as well as the Old Town area north of the bridge, containing the largest collection of old wooden, traditional Norwegian houses north of Trondheim.
  • Polaria is part of the Fram Centre, which is a research facility focusing on the arctic. At Polaria there are exhibitions on arctic wildlife, and the centre has seals and arctic marine life on display.

Polaria, Norway and the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

Published in Norway

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