13 unexpected places where you can see the Northern Lights



Slide 1 of 27: Watching the Northern Lights tops many travel bucket lists and it’s easy to see why – witnessing the night's sky painted in a swirling, shimmering myriad of colors is an unforgettable experience. While most people travel to Iceland and Norway to try to catch them, there are plenty of fantastic, lesser-known places to see the Aurora Borealis. From Ireland to Russia, here are 13 unexpected places to experience the Northern Lights.
Slide 2 of 27: Ireland’s beauty is no secret but the fact that it's a Northern Lights destination has been kept rather under wraps. County Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula is the place to head to – the peninsula's far tip, Malin Head, is Ireland’s northernmost point. Lights or no lights, this is a fascinating place to explore. The remote landscape of rugged beauty is dotted with ancient sites and crumbling castle ruins, and lined by an untamed, wave-lashed coastline.
Slide 3 of 27: What makes the Inishowen Peninsula so special is also what sets it up so well for a show of the Aurora Borealis: dark, clear skies that are unpolluted by artificial light. A number of viewing points look out over the ocean, setting a stage for the Northern Lights to dance over the mirror-like waters. Nothing beats the anticipation of hunkering down on a dark, windswept beach and waiting for nature’s best spectacle to begin. Come in early spring when your odds of seeing it are best.
Slide 4 of 27: Few experiences can beat stargazing in the majestic, soaring landscape of the Canadian Rockies and Jasper National Park is among the best places to do it. A raw beauty of sparkling icefields, forest-hemmed lakes and rugged backcountry – all packed with abundant wildlife – this UNESCO World Heritage park is perfect for lovers of the great outdoors. The fact that it’s a fantastic place to watch the Northern Lights is just the cherry on top of an already unforgettable adventure.
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Slide 5 of 27: A huge area, covering 4,200 square miles (11,000 sqkm), Jasper National Park is one of the world’s largest and most accessible dark sky preserves (areas that restrict artificial light pollution). In fact, the skies here are so magnificent that every October they are celebrated with the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, an enthralling event where visitors can learn how to spot the constellations and photograph the sky at night. Although, for your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, visit between fall and spring.
Slide 6 of 27: A beautiful expanse of fjords, mountains and glaciers, Greenland has virtually no roads and only a scattering of small villages. While travelers flock to nearby Iceland, Greenland has remained lesser-visited – an altogether trickier, wilder place to tackle. The effort to get here is worth it though, especially for Northern Lights seekers. Low light pollution, thanks to the swathes of empty landscape, mean that Greenland’s skies are pristine.
Slide 7 of 27: A good place to base yourself to seek out the Aurora Borealis is Nuuk. Greenland’s capital, is a color-splashed scattering of buildings, wonderfully situated at the mouth of the largest fjord system in the world. While you can take a Northern Lights tour from Nuuk to explore the surrounding landscape, the lights can be easily seen from the town itself. Two rules: come in winter and wrap up very warm – Greenland in the colder months can be a brutal place.
Slide 8 of 27: Scotland may not be commonly associated with the Northern Lights but the country’s latitude matches that of Norway's Stavanger and Nunivak Island in Alaska. And the further north you go (especially during fall and winter), the better your chances are of catching a glimpse of the Mirrie Dancers as they’re known in these parts. Make a beeline for the North West Highlands, an area of remote beauty with a wild coastline and an interior characterized by soaring peaks and mirror-like lochs.
Slide 9 of 27: Set in Sutherland, Durness makes for a wonderful spot to try and catch the Northern Lights. Strung out along a wave-lashed coastline, the village is cradled by loch-speckled mountains. Book a stay at Croft 103, set on the outskirts of the village. This clutch of eco-cottages boast floor-to-ceiling windows and an outside bath – both wonderful front-row seats should the Aurora Borealis decides to make an appearance.
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Slide 10 of 27: Elusive, magical and ever so fickle, the Northern Lights have long been shrouded in mystery and legend. And this is certainly the case in Naryan-Mar, the capital of the Nenets Autonomous Region of northern Siberia. Traditional folklore and culture is deeply entrenched in this remote Russian town. Here the people will tell you never to whistle if you see the Aurora Borealis as they believe that the noise will scare the lights away.
Slide 11 of 27: Situated above the Arctic Circle, Naryan-Mar sits on permafrost. This is a harsh land of short, fleeting summers and long, dark winters. Travelers willing to brave the cold and come to Naryan-Mar in fall will be in with a chance of spotting the Northern Lights. This dazzling, flickering natural display is worth the long journey to these parts – just remember not to whistle if they do appear.

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Slide 12 of 27: The undisputed home of Arctic magic, Finnish Lapland conjures up every cliché of a frozen wonderland: reindeer roaming across snow-cloaked landscapes, the eerie glow of the midnight sun and the dancing Aurora Borealis streaking across an empty, expansive sky. Despite taking up 30% of Finland’s land area, Lapland is home to just 3% of the country’s population, leaving vast stretches of the landscape here incredibly untouched.
Slide 13 of 27: Poised on the fringes of Lapland’s largest lake, the tiny village of Inari makes for an unforgettable spot to catch the Northern Lights. It's also a fascinating place for visitors to immerse themselves in the local Sámi culture and to explore the surrounding frozen landscapes. Treat yourself to a stay at The Wilderness Hotel Nellim where the hotel's glass bubble rooms offer uninterrupted views of the night’s sky to witness the Aurora Borealis.
Slide 14 of 27: Denali National Park in Alaska is vast – at six million acres it fills a space larger than Massachusetts. It's also home to North America’s highest peak, Denali, which was once known as Mt McKinley and also named the Great One by native Athabascans. To visit Denali National Park at any time of year is an unforgettable experience: an Alaskan wilderness of rolling tundra, hulking glaciers and soaring mountains, populated by bears, caribou, moose and wolves.
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Slide 15 of 27: But to visit Denali National Park in winter is to enter a magical snow-cloaked world. Travel is only by snowshoe, skis or dogsled, meaning the park is free of the streams of RVs and coaches that clog its tracks in the summer. In winter, the park becomes a ghostly, beautiful place, and one that's even more magical when the glittering, swaying lights of the Aurora Borealis dance in the sky.

Find more beautiful state parks in America here
Slide 16 of 27: Wild, rugged and remote, the Outer Hebrides – a 130-mile-long string of islands just off the coast of northwest Scotland – is a place of elemental beauty. Around 200 islands make up the Outer Hebrides, of which Lewis and Harris (actually two parts of one island) are little-known Northern Lights hot spots. Lewis' gorgeously untamed west coast is home to the Callanish Standing Stones, one of Scotland's most fascinating historic sites, and if you’re in luck, a striking foreground to a dazzling display of the Northern Lights.
Slide 17 of 27: To the south of Lewis, lies Harris, another scenic place to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis. Harris’ northern ranges are characterized by soaring mountains that loom over peat moors and reach a pinnacle at Clisham, the island’s highest peak. To the south, the landscape is dominated by the coastline, a striking blend of pristine, white sand beaches and rocky, wild shores. For your best chance of seeing the lights in Lewis or Harris, plan your trip for fall or winter.
Slide 18 of 27: As a once-in-a-lifetime experience, getting to see the Northern Lights unsurprisingly tends to come with a hefty price tag. Not so in Murmansk. While travelers flock to pricey Iceland and Norway for their Aurora Borealis fix, few think to try their luck in Russia. But close to the border between Norway and Finland is the Russian port city of Murmansk. The world’s biggest Arctic city, Murmansk is situated on Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a remote area in the north of the Arctic Circle.
Slide 19 of 27: Murmansk's gritty port and Soviet-era architecture may not immediately appeal but the city makes a great budget option for seeing the Northern Lights. Accommodation in the city and the Northern Lights tours out into the surrounding landscape are both cheap. And with Murmansk clocking up 40 days of uninterrupted night each year, there’s plenty of pure dark sky for the lights' swirling colors. Come between late November and mid-January for your best chance of catching the show.
Slide 20 of 27: Leave your home comforts behind and embark on a real adventure. A small Inuit village situated on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, Tuktoyaktuk lies 93 miles (150km) northeast of the town of Inuvik. Long the home of the Inuvialuit people, this place isn’t easy to reach and you’ll need to be comfortable with the idea of hopping in a very small airplane to get here. But it’s worth the trek – surrounded by frozen wilderness and entrenched with First Nations culture, Tuktoyaktuk is a fascinating place to visit.
Slide 21 of 27: Being so far north, the Northern Lights display in Tuktoyaktuk is a stunning one. In the depths of winter, the Aurora Borealis is dazzling here, with Tuktoyaktuk's uninterrupted, blissfully pollution-free skies providing a huge, inky black canvas for a sparkling, twisting blur of colors.
Slide 22 of 27: Set in Canada’s northwest, the Yukon is a huge stretch of the great outdoors. Roughly the size of France and sparsely populated, this expansive territory is wonderfully wild – nearly 80% of the Yukon is still untamed wilderness. While there are countless opportunities for adventure in the Yukon, its capital Whitehorse is where most visitors head to try and catch a sighting of the Northern Lights. For the best chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis come between September and April.
Slide 23 of 27: While any viewing of the Northern Lights is magical, Whitehorse knows how to make it even more memorable. The Northern Lights Resort & Spa's Aurora Glass Chalets boast floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows so guests can watch the skies from their bed. Meanwhile, the Luxury Holiday Company’s Aurora 360 Experience is truly unforgettable: its charter jet flies above the clouds to get passengers right up close to the Northern Lights. With just 70 seats available and one January flight, this is a viewing at its most exclusive.
Slide 24 of 27: While the Northern Lights steal the limelight, the Southern Lights are more overlooked. But the southern hemisphere’s electrically charged light show is just as magical as the Aurora Borealis. Unlike their northern counterpart, it’s possible to view the Southern Lights year round, however the best time to see them is during winter (from June to August) when the skies are at their darkest. Tasmania, Australia’s isolated island state, is a great place to go hunting for them.
Slide 25 of 27: Tasmania's Bruny Island, a short ferry ride from Kettering, is a good spot for catching the Aurora Australis. Here, low light pollution and wonderfully dark skies create perfect conditions for witnessing the Southern Lights. Another great viewing point is Mount Wellington, which is just a 30-minute drive from capital city Hobart. The climb up the soaring 4,100-foot (1.2km) peak is well rewarded – the higher you go, the further above the light pollution you’ll be and the better your chances are of catching a dazzling light show.
Slide 26 of 27: For a crystal clear view of the night's sky ablaze with sparkling swirls of color, few places can beat an International Dark Sky Reserve. One of only 12 reserves in the world, Lake Tekapo’s skies are wonderfully free of light pollution, creating the perfect stage for witnessing a display of the Southern Lights, the lesser-known southern cousin to the Aurora Borealis.
Slide 27 of 27: By day, Tekapo luxuriates in the undulating drama of New Zealand’s snow-capped Southern Alps, the township nestled beside a turquoise-hued lake. By night, the sky is a star-studded blanket and if you’re lucky, a jet-black backdrop for the Southern Lights’ symphony of color. The best viewpoint in the area is from the lofty Mount John Observatory. Come here between April and September for your best chance of seeing this natural wonder in action.

Check out 50 more reasons to visit New Zealand here

Nature’s greatest light show

Inishowen Peninsula, Ireland

Inishowen Peninsula, Ireland

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

A huge area, covering 4,200 square miles (11,000 sqkm), Jasper National Park is one of the world’s largest and most accessible dark sky preserves (areas that restrict artificial light pollution). In fact, the skies here are so magnificent that every October they are celebrated with the Jasper Dark Sky Festival, an enthralling event where visitors can learn how to spot the constellations and photograph the sky at night. Although, for your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, visit between fall and spring.

Nuuk, Greenland

Nuuk, Greenland

A good place to base yourself to seek out the Aurora Borealis is Nuuk. Greenland’s capital, is a color-splashed scattering of buildings, wonderfully situated at the mouth of the largest fjord system in the world. While you can take a Northern Lights tour from Nuuk to explore the surrounding landscape, the lights can be easily seen from the town itself. Two rules: come in winter and wrap up very warm – Greenland in the colder months can be a brutal place.

North West Highlands, Scotland, UK

North West Highlands, Scotland, UK

Set in Sutherland, Durness makes for a wonderful spot to try and catch the Northern Lights. Strung out along a wave-lashed coastline, the village is cradled by loch-speckled mountains. Book a stay at Croft 103, set on the outskirts of the village. This clutch of eco-cottages boast floor-to-ceiling windows and an outside bath – both wonderful front-row seats should the Aurora Borealis decides to make an appearance.

Naryan-Mar, Russia

Naryan-Mar, Russia

Situated above the Arctic Circle, Naryan-Mar sits on permafrost. This is a harsh land of short, fleeting summers and long, dark winters. Travelers willing to brave the cold and come to Naryan-Mar in fall will be in with a chance of spotting the Northern Lights. This dazzling, flickering natural display is worth the long journey to these parts – just remember not to whistle if they do appear.

Discover the best wildlife experiences in the world here

Inari, Finland

Inari, Finland

Poised on the fringes of Lapland’s largest lake, the tiny village of Inari makes for an unforgettable spot to catch the Northern Lights. It’s also a fascinating place for visitors to immerse themselves in the local Sámi culture and to explore the surrounding frozen landscapes. Treat yourself to a stay at The Wilderness Hotel Nellim where the hotel’s glass bubble rooms offer uninterrupted views of the night’s sky to witness the Aurora Borealis.

Denali National Park, Alaska, USA

Denali National Park in Alaska is vast – at six million acres it fills a space larger than Massachusetts. It’s also home to North America’s highest peak, Denali, which was once known as Mt McKinley and also named the Great One by native Athabascans. To visit Denali National Park at any time of year is an unforgettable experience: an Alaskan wilderness of rolling tundra, hulking glaciers and soaring mountains, populated by bears, caribou, moose and wolves.

Denali National Park, Alaska, USA

But to visit Denali National Park in winter is to enter a magical snow-cloaked world. Travel is only by snowshoe, skis or dogsled, meaning the park is free of the streams of RVs and coaches that clog its tracks in the summer. In winter, the park becomes a ghostly, beautiful place, and one that’s even more magical when the glittering, swaying lights of the Aurora Borealis dance in the sky.

Find more beautiful state parks in America here

Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK

Wild, rugged and remote, the Outer Hebrides – a 130-mile-long string of islands just off the coast of northwest Scotland – is a place of elemental beauty. Around 200 islands make up the Outer Hebrides, of which Lewis and Harris (actually two parts of one island) are little-known Northern Lights hot spots. Lewis’ gorgeously untamed west coast is home to the Callanish Standing Stones, one of Scotland’s most fascinating historic sites, and if you’re in luck, a striking foreground to a dazzling display of the Northern Lights.

Outer Hebrides, Scotland, UK

Murmansk, Russia

Murmansk, Russia

Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada

Leave your home comforts behind and embark on a real adventure. A small Inuit village situated on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, Tuktoyaktuk lies 93 miles (150km) northeast of the town of Inuvik. Long the home of the Inuvialuit people, this place isn’t easy to reach and you’ll need to be comfortable with the idea of hopping in a very small airplane to get here. But it’s worth the trek – surrounded by frozen wilderness and entrenched with First Nations culture, Tuktoyaktuk is a fascinating place to visit.

Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

While any viewing of the Northern Lights is magical, Whitehorse knows how to make it even more memorable. The Northern Lights Resort & Spa’s Aurora Glass Chalets boast floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows so guests can watch the skies from their bed. Meanwhile, the Luxury Holiday Company’s Aurora 360 Experience is truly unforgettable: its charter jet flies above the clouds to get passengers right up close to the Northern Lights. With just 70 seats available and one January flight, this is a viewing at its most exclusive.

Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania, Australia

Tasmania’s Bruny Island, a short ferry ride from Kettering, is a good spot for catching the Aurora Australis. Here, low light pollution and wonderfully dark skies create perfect conditions for witnessing the Southern Lights. Another great viewing point is Mount Wellington, which is just a 30-minute drive from capital city Hobart. The climb up the soaring 4,100-foot (1.2km) peak is well rewarded – the higher you go, the further above the light pollution you’ll be and the better your chances are of catching a dazzling light show.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

By day, Tekapo luxuriates in the undulating drama of New Zealand’s snow-capped Southern Alps, the township nestled beside a turquoise-hued lake. By night, the sky is a star-studded blanket and if you’re lucky, a jet-black backdrop for the Southern Lights’ symphony of color. The best viewpoint in the area is from the lofty Mount John Observatory. Come here between April and September for your best chance of seeing this natural wonder in action.

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