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Aurora borealis: A bright outlook for winter

Sure, the days are long and dark in the Nordics during winter, but it's not all bad. Not to brag, but up here in the far north we've got the best coffee and ice cream (a winning combination), the steamiest saunas, lots of pretty fjords and some of the most entertaining Christmas traditions around.

We're also spoiled with having some of the loveliest skies come wintertime. You see, those long, dark Nordic nights produce some of the brightest northern lights in the northern hemisphere.

Your best chances of seeing the northern lights are in the countryside, far from city lights.

 

Is this natural phenomenon on your bucket list? The northern lights, also called aurora borealis, are a top highlight for many winter visitors in the Nordic region. And for good reason!

Of course, it does require luck, but here are some of Nordic Visitor's suggestions for improving your odds for seeing this natural spectacle:

  • Timing is everything. The northern lights are visible mainly between October and March each year in the Nordic region.
  • The further north, the better. The best viewing opportunities are near or above the Arctic Circle — in the latitudes 65 to 72 degrees, also known as the "auroral zone" or "northern lights belt". Many of our destinations fall into this area.
  • Check the forecast. Location means nothing if you don't have the right combo of solar activity and cloudless skies. We recommend this site for aurora forecasts.
  • Get out of town. It goes without saying that you need dark nights, but it's also ideal to get away from the glare of city lights. A stay in the countryside or a guided tour into the wilderness will greatly improve your view to the sky.
  • Stay up late. The peak time is 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Some hotels, like the ICEHOTEL in Sweden, offer a special "wake up" service if the lights come out.
  • Be patient. The lights do not appear on any kind of schedule. You may have to wait a few hours, but most northern lights tours involve some kind of activity or refreshments to keep guests entertained and warm. Unfortunately, sightings can never be guaranteed.
  • Bundle up. Thermal layers and insulated outerwear are essential, but our travel consultants can provide a more detailed list of what to pack for our winter tours.
  • Ready and steady for photos. Get familiar with your camera's settings before your trip. An SLR camera with manual focus works best. It also helps to mount your camera on a tripod, and maybe even use a remote trigger, so you don't end up with shaky, blurred images.

Ready to see the lights? See all of our destinations with northern lights tours

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Post by: Jessica

When not writing about Northern European tourist attractions, Jessica Bowe is busy daydreaming about her next trip or scouring Instagram for travel inspiration. Originally from Wisconsin (USA), she's lived in Iceland since 2008 and has since become fully immersed in Eurovision mania and Scandinavian coffee culture.

More posts by Jessica

Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way, check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.

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