Published on November 17, 2014 | by Denny Averill0
Have you seen the Northern Lights? Greatest display in a decade is coming
The Northern Lights are a natural spectacle, with shifting colored streaks that stretch across the sky. The phenomenon is caused by solar flares, and is expected to be particularly intense this winter. If you want to catch the Northern Lights, your best chance is to visit the Auroral Zone, a snowy band of the world between 66 and 69 degrees latitude. Braving some freezing temperatures can pay off with amazing sights.
According to NASA, we’re currently experiencing the best natural light display of the decade. It started in December 2013 and it looks like the end of 2014 will be even greater. There’s a “solar flip” happening right now, which means the sun is extending its maximum solar activity. A full range of colors are about to happen this winter up north, and it looks like the northern lights will offer one of the most spectacular displays in years.
Here are some of the best places to see the Northern Lights.
This city in northern Canada gives you an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Visit Aurora Village, a short drive from the center of Yellowknife, for a unique viewing experience. This teepee campground has specially designed viewing chairs, heated for your comfort. With temperatures as low as minus 40, you’ll appreciate that warmth, as the lights swirl overhead. Other activities include snowmobiling and dogsledding.
Kilpisjarvi & Muonlo, Finland
These two towns in Lapland are well known for their superb viewing of the aurora. You can take a tour that follows the lights as it runs between the towns, or book a stay in a cabin deep in the Lapland wilderness. Other activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. You can also visit the nearby reindeer herding village of Menesjarvi, or take a snowmobile tour to the area where Finland, Norway and Sweden meet.
There are many places in Iceland to watch the Northern Lights, but one of the best, according to renowned photographer MoyanBrenn, is the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. This spot is about 155 miles from the capital Reykjavik, on Iceland’s southeastern coast. The lagoon is filled with icebergs, and it reflects the lights in the sky, providing the ingredients for awesome shots. You can also take a boat tour out on the lagoon, navigating across the icy waters with the light show on overhead. The best time of the year to catch the lights in Iceland is from early October through November, February, and even March.
This beautiful city is an accessible place for watching the Northern Lights, but an especially lovely way to see them is from the deck of a steamer ship, as you cruise along the coast. By day, you can see the spectacular fjords, while at night, the aurora lights the sky. Some voyages have astronomers on board to provide additional insights. In the city of Tromso, sometimes called the Paris of the North for its charm and beauty, there is a Northern Lights Planetarium which gives you a great introduction to the phenomenon. The nearby village of Ersfjorden, tucked between the fjords and towering white peaks, is also a memorable viewing location.
Often cited as the top place in the United States for watching the Northern Lights, Fairbanks has a Geophysical Institute that forecasts when conditions for the lights will be the best. For a luxurious viewing experience, you can avoid the cold by watching the lights while you’re soaking in a hot spring. There are a couple of resorts that offer such an opportunity. The Chena Resort even has an aurora alarm, that lets guests know when the lights appear.
The Aurora Borealis is an incredible natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, nobody can know for sure when it will emerge. According to specialists, this year the lights will shine brighter than ever before, and the best time of the year to plan a trip is in December. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland are ideal travel spots to check out. Although you need a bit of luck to catch the display, there are other tips you should take into account, too.
- Make sure to select dates that avoid the full moon and stay away from polluted cities
- Crisp, calm weather is crucial, so don’t forget to check the weather cast
- It’s important to understand that the phenomenon is unpredictable – which means tour operator or hotel can know for sure that the aurora will be seen
- A clear, dark night is crucial if you want to see the light show; from September through March your highest chances are from 6pm to 6am.
- There must be solar wind or solar flares because the Aurora occurs when particles that come from the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere, thus colliding violently with the gas atoms.
- Use technology – download the Aurora Forecast app on your iPhone and it might increase your chances to see the Northern Lights.