8 Best Places to See the Northern Lights in 2024
The display will be at its strongest through April.
Usually, the Northern Lights can only be seen in countries that are part of the Arctic Circle, such as Norway, Finland, and Iceland. However, sometimes, stargazers in places as far afield as the U.S. get lucky enough to spot the aurora borealis. And in 2024, the spectacle will be the strongest it's been in the last 20 years—and visible from locations all over the world.
"According to solar activity patterns, now is also the best time to see the Northern Lights," says Matthew Valentine, head of U.S. sales at Havila Voyages. "Aurora borealis events are caused when geomagnetic storms on the sun pull on Earth's magnetic field, and this creates cosmic waves that launch electrons into the atmosphere to form the aurora. Naturally, there are high and low cycles of these solar disturbances, and 2023-2025 will be a period of peak solar activity."
Whether you go on a cruise, take a scenic train ride, or fly to a new state or country, you have plenty of options to witness this marvel while it's brightest through April. Keep reading to discover the best places to see the Northern Lights in 2024.
Best Places to See the Northern Lights in 2024
No matter where you are in Norway, it's almost a guarantee that you'll be able to see the Northern Lights.
"Rich with outdoor adventure-filled experiences, like dogsledding, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking, Norway is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights," says Valentine.
However, experts suggest that one of the best ways to witness the phenomenon is on a cruise ship. The Havila Voyages Northern Lights Promise cruise travels around Norway for 12 days, while the Aurora Expeditions Northern Lights Explorer discovery voyage starts in Norway and also explores Greenland and Iceland over three weeks.
"While venturing along the Norwegian Coast in Norway, travelers will Zodiac cruise through spectacular Trollfjord, a gorge flanked by steep mountains, and so narrow that it can only be accessed by small ships," a spokesperson for Aurora Expeditions said. Travelers will also pass through Jan Mayen, home to the huge Beerenberg volcano, which is known as the world's northernmost active volcano.
Greenland is part of the Arctic Circle, so it makes sense that it's one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. Kristen Czudak, the author behind Yonderlust Ramblings, specifically recommends Kangerlussuaq, a small town on the country's southwest coast, for peak displays.
"Greenland as a whole, and Kangerlussuaq in particular, have extremely low light pollution due to the small population, which is ideal for spotting the Northern Lights," says Czudak. To see them, you can simply look out your window or book a guided tour.
"There are far fewer crowds on Northern Lights tours in Greenland than there are in more well-known and easier-to-reach destinations, so you can have more of the experience to yourself," she adds.
If you opt for a cruise that includes Greenland, Aurora Expeditions says, "Along the glacier-covered eastern coast of Greenland, visit the Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit, the most isolated and northernmost permanent settlement in the region, and explore Scoresbysund, the world's largest fjord system and favorite hunting ground of the local Inuit."
"There are many excellent viewpoints for the Northern Lights in the 'Land of Fire and Ice' between September and April," says Birgir Jónsson, CEO of PLAY Airlines. "Travelers can plan Northern Lights Tours from Reykjavik or relax and enjoy the show from a geothermal luxury spa at night."
Laurie Hobbs, manager at Exodus Adventure Travels, shares that travelers can revel in the northern lights through exciting winter activities such as snowshoeing, dog sledding, and cross-country skiing.
Aurora Expeditions adds that, on their cruises, guests can "explore the Westfjords region, which features outstanding landscapes with sheer, table-top mountains that plunge into the sea and pristine North Atlantic vegetation." The cruises also stop at Hornstrandir peninsula, "one of Iceland's most remote and pristine regions," they say.
Alonso Marly, travel expert at Skylux Travel, notes that it's never a guarantee that you'll see the Northern Lights, so your best bet is to head as far north as possible. And in Finland, that means traveling to the Finnish Lapland in the very north of the Arctic Circle.
While here, Marly recommends admiring the lights from Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, as they have glass igloos and cozy, romantic vibes.
"The resort also organizes Northern Lights hunting expeditions for those who prefer some more action and want to catch the lights while skiing or riding a reindeer sleigh," says Marly.
If you prefer relaxing, Finland has plenty of other Northern Lights-viewing options, from seaside villas to cozy cabins with large glass windows.
"As the Northern Lights appear over Finland about 200 nights per year, I can guarantee that it is a must-visit destination for a magical winter vacation and a one-of-a-kind travel experience in 2024," adds Marly.
Certain spots in northern Scotland are prime locations to see the Northern Lights, including Inverness. The historic city is the capital of the Scottish Highlands and offers "iconic castles, majestic mountains and unique wildlife, including the famous Loch Ness monster," according to Visit Scotland.
Taylor Beal, owner and author of the travel blog Traverse With Taylor, says the lights have been shining every night this winter in these parts of Scotland. Other northern destinations she recommends are the Outer Hebrides or the Shetland Islands.
Seeing the Northern Lights doesn't always require a passport. Through April, they'll be visible from the northernmost parts of Michigan. Typically, areas in the upper peninsula offer better views, but the lower peninsula has been seeing the lights more often—thanks to the solar max Earth is currently experiencing.
"In Traverse City, visitors can spend the day tasting in the region's robust wine scene, exploring the cozy downtown, and exploring the beautiful natural landscapes and trails at places like Sleeping Bear Dunes, and by night catch a glimpse of the colorful lights," says Trevor Tkach, president at Traverse City Tourism. He also recommends going to Mission Point Lighthouse for a chance at spotting the display.
These places provide the optimal dark sky conditions that are needed for the lights to appear bright and vibrant.
Alaska is known for its long winters and dark days, which make it a great spot to catch the aurora borealis. Brittany Betts, a travel expert at SmokyMountains.com, suggests an overnight Alaskan train tour.
"The Alaska Railroad, specifically, has overnight railroad experiences that let you see the lights from a different perspective," says Betts. "You take off and hop out in different locations, spend the day doing wintery activities, and then catch the amazing views at night."
8. Jasper, Alberta, Canada
If you're planning on staying in North America to witness the Northern Lights, then heading up to Jasper in Alberta, Canada should be on your itinerary.
"Home to the second largest Dark Sky preserve in the world and due to its geographic location, Jasper National Park is an incredible place for world-class stargazing year-round, but also for seeing the aurora borealis," says Tyler Riopel, director of destination development at Tourism Jasper.
The lights are most likely to display between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. which is known as "magnetic midnight" by locals.
"The Jasper Planetarium offers numerous tour options where guests can utilize powerful outdoor telescopes to see the wonders of the dark sky," says Riopel. "For an elevated option, guests can even book the Stargazer's Lakeside Dinner, which includes dinner at Aalto restaurant with lakefront views, followed by time with some of the Canadian Rockies' biggest telescopes."
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