Winter is the best time to see the Northern Lights, Nature’s own spectacular light show. Find out what are the Northern Lights, where the best place to see the Northern Lights is, and how to get the most from a Northern Lights Holiday.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is nature’s display of coloured lights that fill the nights sky in the most northern parts of the world. It is a shapeshifting swirling cloud of coloured lights caused by the interaction between gas particles in the atmosphere and electrically charged particles from the sun. The Northern Lights occur when a continuous stream of charged particles called the Solar Wind that comes from the Sun hits the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The light is created when this solar wind causes ionisation of oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Oxygen gives off a greenish glow, and nitrogen gives off a red or blue glow. So, where are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are seen above the magnetic North Pole and are called the Aurora borealis. There is a similar light phenomena over the magnetic South Pole which is called the Aurora australis. It is easier to travel to see the Northern Lights than the Southern Lights because Antarctica is a bit of an inhospitable place.
Where can you see the Northern Lights?
View of the Northern Lights from Alaska
The best places to see the Northern Lights are in Alaska, Canada, Iceland and Norway. The amazing light shows given off by the Northern Lights are never guaranteed, but if you get yourself to locations close to the northern latitudes at the top of the world such as in Iceland or Canada, you will maximise the chances of an unforgetable experience.
The level of solar activity is a big factor in the intensity and appearance of the Northern Lights. The solar activity changes in intensity over 11 years, and was expected to be at a maximum in 2012-2013.
You can also see the Northern Lights from places like Sweden and Scotland.
Northern Lights Holidays
Iceland offers some of the cheapest options for Northern Lights Holidays. You can book short breaks to Reykjavik with Thomson on a three-night trip. The Thomson Northern Lights Tour and a Golden Circle excursion takes in some of Iceland’s most spectacular sights, from geysers to waterfalls, for approximately £400pp B&B, including flights. Departures tend to be in January and February.
Inghams Northern Lights Holidays to northern Norway include the Narvik Polar Express Adventure. You get to ride on the Polar Express train, go husky sledding and on a trip to the Polar Wildlife Park. A three night Northern Lights Holiday from Inghams will cost about £800pp, including flights and excursions.
Northern Lights Cruise
Most of the Northern Lights cruises sail to Norway or Iceland where the aurora appears regularly and the climate is relatively calm.
P&O Cruises has a 12-night round trip from Southampton on Oriana. It calls at Stavanger in Tromso overnight, Alta for a two night stay and Flam. It costs about £850pp.
Northern Lights Flight
If you don’t like the cold and just want to have a look at the Northern Lights, you can get a plane from UK airports that flies up over Iceland and back in a few hours. The Aurora Tours mean that you can see the Northern Lights in a few hours without a long trip or having to stay out in the cold. However, nothing beats the awe and wonder of spending time with your camera in Alaska or Canada on a Northern Lights Holiday.