The natural phenomenon called the aurora borealis (or Northern Lights) is one of the most magnificent wonders of nature. For thousands of years, the unique light clouds appearing in neon green and pink shades of aurora have captured the curiosity and admiration of people from all over the world.
Aurora’s spectacular lights emerge when electrically charged particles spread from the sun to the Earth and collide with gas in the Earth’s atmosphere.
One of the reasons why the aurora borealis can only be observed in the far north (and aurora australis only in the southern extremity) is explained by the action of the Earth’s magnetic field which pushes those particles toward the poles. Therefore, getting to see with your own eyes this magnificent spectacle of nature requires a trip to such a place, a journey that will, however, reward you with a unique experience.
The best time to go to one of these places is between the autumn equinox and the spring equinox, because, then, this part of the northern hemisphere is in the dark between 18:00 and 1:00, which means that this will be the optimal time to capture the spectacular phenomenon.
If you’re looking for a great place where you can see the Northern Lights in Europe, we recommend some destinations that are likely to be very good for capturing stunning lights in the night sky:
Abisko, Sweden. In Sweden, you’ll get the highest chances of seeing the northern lights if you go to Swedish Lapland between September and March. And in this case, the more you travel north, the more likely you are to see the lights.
A particularly popular place for travelers coming to Sweden to see the northern lights is Abisko National Park, a park that hosts the Sky Aurora station. The station is located, specifically, on Mount Nuolja, about 900 meters above sea level, in an unpolluted area, so that nothing can distract from the heavenly spectacle.
Akureyri, Iceland. Iceland has quickly become another popular destination for a vacation in Europe where the main focus is on the northern lights. Not only is the scenery in this country extremely beautiful, but from September to mid-April you have the opportunity to see the Northern Lights very clearly. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that November and February are the darkest months of the year, and they are also the most cloudy, so during this period everything is pretty much down to luck.
In the northern part of Iceland there are some of the most impressive landscapes on our planet, including storm waterfalls, active volcanoes, fjords and geothermal springs, so you’ll also get the opportunity to take some great photos. Akureyri, in particular, the area that is considered the unofficial capital of northern Iceland, with its small population and low pollution, is ideal for admiring the aurora borealis. Just make sure you dress well, because the temperatures there can be quite unfriendly.
There are chances for the northern lights to be seen in Reykjavik too, but again, the more you head north, the better your chances.
Alta, Norway. There are some great places to see Northern Lights in Norway, but Alta is at the top of every list. Another interesting reason to visit the area is to see the famous rock sculptures from Alta, the only prehistoric World Heritage Site in Norway, consisting of about 6,000 sculptures.
When it comes to discovering the Northern Lights, the best time to do so in northern Norway is between the end of September and the beginning of April. Of course, you may get lucky and see the northern lights but you have less hours of darkness.
Shetland, Scotland. Scotland is often overlooked when it comes to a place in Europe where the northern lights can be seen, but in those cold, dark winter months, the sky in the north of this country is just as spectacular as in the northern countries.
The best destination to attend such a natural show in Scotland is the Shetland Islands, an archipelago of over 100 islands, of which 15 are inhabited. In addition, the islands are closer to Norway than to mainland Scotland. Shetland is an extremely picturesque and peaceful destination, which not only gives you the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, but also reveals a unique cultural heritage and a wealth of interesting information about the Vikings who left their mark in this place.