Seeing the northern lights is on every astrotourist’s bucket list, and it’s also one of the most popular bucket list activities for non-space enthusiasts. But the best place to see the northern lights is something that has left a lot of people confused.
Every site on the internet has its own list of the greatest places to watch the Northern Lights!
However, to help you narrow down a literal hemisphere of sites to watch the northern lights, we’ve compiled the greatest places to see the northern lights from all of our previous blogs.
There are aurora destinations in North America and Europe (we did not add Siberia in Asia owing to the difficulty of winter travel there!).
Rather than attempting to rank them from best to worst, we’ve ordered them alphabetically by nation (for example, Canada, Denmark, Finland, and so on).
Let’s just say that these are all the best sites on the globe to see the northern lights; you just have to decide how far you’re prepared to travel!
The Best Place to See Northern Lights this Autumn
Each of these locations is generally easy to visit, has a favorable geographic location for watching the northern lights, and is well-known among aurora enthusiasts.
Jasper National Park, Canada
Jasper National Park, officially designated a Dark Sky Preserve, is one of Alberta’s and Canada’s most stunning destinations. And it is swiftly becoming a tourist hotspot.
While there are numerous activities in Jasper, one of the best is catching the amazing black sky, which is ideal for observing the northern lights!
Because Jasper is mostly covered in forest, you’ll need to find a site with a vast clearing if you want to see the northern lights.
Maligne Lake: Jasper’s largest lake and one of the park’s most recognizable attractions. Because it is a lake, it has vast open skies, which are ideal for watching the northern lights.
Pyramid Lake: A 30-minute drive from Jasper’s town center, this lake is a great place to see the northern lights because it’s relatively free of trees, resulting in vast, broad, dark skies.
Lake Annette: Located about 30 minutes outside of Jasper, Lake Annette has quiet waters and distant mountain outlines, making it an ideal location for seeing the northern lights.
The Icefields Parkway: The neighboring Icefields Parkway is one of Canada’s most picturesque roadways, and it’s also a great site to see the northern lights.
There are various pull-off views along the route, so if you find a nice, dark area, you may pull over and enjoy the Aurora Borealis spectacular display.
Every October, Jasper National Park (and its major town, Banff) organizes a dark sky festival, where visitors come from all over the world to admire the dark skies, learn about astronomy, and listen to live music while the northern lights dance overhead.
In the winter, Manitoba is most renowned for its polar bears, Hudson Bay, and the northern lights. Where can you get a taste of all of this? There is only one location!
The Arctic area of Churchill, Manitoba, is a popular winter wildlife adventure location since it is home to many of Canada’s polar bears.
It’s also one of the best spots in the world to watch the northern lights because it’s so far north.
You can combine your search for the northern lights with a trip to view the polar bears, or you can simply visit to see the northern lights.
From the city center: Here’s the thing: when the northern lights are active, you can see them from anywhere in Churchill, including the center of town. When the northern lights appear, many residents switch down their lights to reduce light pollution.
On clear winter nights, get to a dark spot in town, and you might be able to catch them without going too far!
Northern Studies Centre at Churchill: The Churchill Northern Studies Centre, located just 30 minutes outside of town, is a far better place to watch the northern lights.
Here, the skies are darker and wider than in the city center, making it ideal for watching the aurora borealis with less light pollution.
On the tundra: Seeing the northern lights in Churchill is best done on the tundra, generally by boarding a special type of bus known as a “tundra buggy.”
However, this is the most expensive option on the list, and you may wish to combine it with a wildlife safari if you plan on visiting Churchill as well.
Yellowknife is one of the most recognized spots in Canada to witness the northern lights due to its arctic location and gloomy skies.
Yellowknife people enjoy the aurora borealis so much that they have “tiny lighthouses” that inform residents and visitors when the northern lights are expected to appear that night.
Because of its northern location, the northern lights may be seen from both within and outside the city during the peak season.
Pilots Monument: On clear evenings, you can climb to the top of the Pilots Monument in Yellowknife to see the northern lights.
Dettah Ice Road: During the winter, the Dettah Ice Road opens over Great Slave Lake once it has frozen sufficiently to support weight.
The ice road, which gives a large, open place to watch the northern lights, can be driven or walked on.
It should be noted that the Ice Road is only open throughout the winter, often from January to March.
Tin Can Hill: Located on a route on the city’s outskirts, this hill offers panoramic views of Yellowknife Bay and Great Slave Lake.
Boat Launch: There are various boat launch points across the city that make excellent viewing locations for the northern lights during the winter.
The Faroe Islands, Denmark
As one might expect, the Faroe Islands are the best spot in Denmark to watch the northern lights. This island chain, like Greenland, is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but governs itself.
It’s far further north than the rest of Denmark or Europe, and it’s perfectly placed to observe the northern lights during the long, dark winter months.
Furthermore, the Faroe Islands are less developed than other parts of Europe, so there will be no light pollution to interfere with your aurora watching.
As one might imagine from a country as far north as Finland, there are numerous fantastic places to watch the northern lights. In reality, if the conditions are good, you can view the northern lights anywhere in Finland!
Having said that, Rovaniemi is one of the best spots in Finland to watch the Northern Lights. This natural phenomenon can be seen here up to 150 times each year.
It may be necessary to venture a little outside of the city for the best view, but it can sometimes be viewed even within its boundaries.
Many people ignore Greenland as a destination for seeing the Northern Lights, yet Kangerlussuaq is one of the best spots in the world to see them. This is particularly true between October and April.
Its great location, open skies, and low population density make it an ideal place for observing this magnificent event.
From the top of the Greenland Ice Cap, you may get an even better view. Kangerlussuaq is the gateway to this huge glacier, that spans 80% of the country.
It offers one of the most spectacular views of the Aurora Borealis.
Because of the Ilulissat Icefjord, Ilulissat is the most popular tourist destination in Greenland. This huge fjord was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004 and is a must-see for anyone visiting the town.
There are tours offered in Ilulissat that allow you to visit this spectacular site as well as the Northern Lights.
These tours take place throughout the autumn months, while the weather is still mild. In this manner, you can see two breathtakingly stunning sights at the same time.
Iceland is, for the most part, a developing country. Because many parts of Iceland are rural or underdeveloped, you can see the northern lights all throughout the country.
Some of the more popular spots are near towns or significant geologic features, but if you’re wandering Iceland alone, you can set up almost any place on a good night and have a spectacular view.
Nonetheless, Thingvellir National Park remains one of Iceland’s most popular tourist sites. It also becomes very dark here at night, making it an excellent location for seeing the Northern Lights.
The city, located in the center of the aurora zone in the Norwegian Arctic, is widely recognized as one of the best spots in the world to watch the Northern Lights.
Tromso is a popular destination year after year and offers spectacular aurora views from September to April.
It is easily accessible from the UK, with a direct flight from London taking only 3.5 hours. The city itself is vibrant, having more pubs and bars per capita than any other city in Norway.
Arriving at the pinnacle of the Swedish wilderness is wonderfully rewarding, as Kiruna offers a quality aurora display without the crowds.
A trip into the Arctic, populated by only 18,000 people, is a trek into the unknown.
Stay at the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, a town of less than 600 people. You can see the lights here between October and March; however, it’s not uncommon for them to appear earlier or later during extended periods of clear weather.
Many visitors still prefer to visit Iceland’s capital. With geothermal baths, volcanic tours, and world-class culture, you could easily forget about the Northern Lights.
However, we strongly advise against it because the display is surprisingly frequent.
The greatest months to watch the Aurora Borealis, as in Tromso, are September to April. Travel to Hofdabrekka, near Vik in southern Iceland, for an uninterrupted viewing experience and enjoy the display in hypnotic isolation.
Direct flights to Reykjavik are reasonably inexpensive, and the capital is easily accessible by foot, making it ideal for a brief visit.
This mesmerizing series of islands, lying approximately 10 miles off Scotland’s remote northern coast, is one of the greatest sites in the UK to watch the northern evenings.
The finest seasons to see the aurora borealis, also known as the “Mirrie Dancers” in the local Shetland dialect, are fall and winter.
The chilly, dark evenings at this time of year make for ideal viewing opportunities if the sky is clear. The amazing light show can be seen along the coast at Birsay or on the beach at Dingieshowe.
In addition to the aurora borealis, Orkney is home to stunning coastline vistas and an abundance of sheep.
Visitors can also explore the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with several 5,000-year-old monuments.
Plan to stay in the historic town of Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands, during your visit: The Kirkwall Hotel offers harbor views.
Close to town, look for the aurora at Inganess Bay and Wideford Hill.
County Donegal, Ireland
If you want to see the northern lights in Ireland, County Donegal should be your first stop. Here are some of the best sites to watch the Northern Lights in County Donegal:
Dooey Beach: Located on a small peninsula, Dooey Beach boasts excellent western and northern vistas with little light pollution.
Dunree Head: One of the best places in Ireland to observe the northern lights, Dunree Head juts out into Drongawn Lough and offers spectacular northern vistas.
Fanad Head: With 270° views to the north, the Fanad Head peninsula is a great aurora viewing location.
Glencolmcille: Located further south than the others on this list, Glencolmcille boasts good views to the north and west of the coast.
Inishowen Peninsula: The entire Inishowen Peninsula, including Dunree Head, Malin Head, and Mamore Gap, is an excellent location for an aurora tour in County Donegal.
Malin Head: A northern-facing peninsula, Malin Head is the northernmost part of the main Irish isles and the best place in Ireland to try to observe the northern lights. If you’re going to see them, they’ll be here!
Mamore Gap: Another location on the Inishowen, Mamore Gap provides gentle mountain elevation to lessen light and atmospheric pollution when seeing the aurora.
Rosguil Peninsula: The Rosguil Peninsula, which includes Tra na Rossan Beach, is another northerly peninsula with spectacular views from the coast.
County Mayo, Ireland
While County Mayo isn’t on everyone’s list of places to see the Northern Lights in Ireland, it does provide a few options.
I got the opportunity to visit Mayo Dark Sky Park last year, shortly after they were designated as a dark sky park, and I can attest that it is quite black here!
Mullet Peninsula, which is connected to the mainland by the town of Belmullet, offers a long shoreline with magnificent views of the northern sky.
It’s remote enough that there’s no light pollution, making it an excellent alternative for Glasgow residents looking to see the northern lights.
Another possibility in County Mayo is Downpatrick Head. This little peninsula, the county’s northernmost point, gives unhindered views to the north all the way to the Arctic Circle!
The greatest areas to see the northern lights have little to no light pollution, clear skies, and no precipitation.
Because they are only visible at northern latitudes when it is dark outside, the months of September through April are ideal for viewing the aurora.
Many popular viewing locations have websites with aurora monitors, and guests at some hotels can request that staff members wake them up when the lights occur.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I see the Northern Lights in 2023?
Yes, the Northern Lights are affected by solar activity, which has an 11-year cycle. The sun has a period of extreme activity known as solar maximum in the midst of this cycle.
When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland in 2023?
Northern Lights are visible for a longer period of the year, so visiting Iceland between September and April increases your chances of witnessing them.
What city is closest to the northern lights?
What months are the Northern Lights visible?
From late August to mid-April, the aurora borealis may be viewed under dark skies, particularly under clear, cloudless skies.
What is the best month to see the Northern Lights?
Because the Northern Lights must be visible in the sky at night, late August/September to the first of April is the best time to visit a destination in the aurora zone for a chance to see them.