The Northern Lights Explained: What Are They and Where Can You See Them?

Northern Lights 2021

The northern lights are a magical spectacle that can be witnessed in the skies around the Arctic Circle, including areas across Scandinavia, Iceland, Canada, and Alaska. Each northern lights season runs from September to early April. And people from across the globe flock to these locations hoping to catch a glimpse of the dancing lights. But what are the chances of getting to experience the phenomenon, and is there a way to guarantee a viewing? Sustainable travel experts Discover the World have put together a handy guide which details all you need to know about the stunning northern lights.

Also referred to as the aurora borealis, the northern lights are a natural light display in the sky. They’re predominantly seen in high-altitude regions, that occur due to magnetosphere disturbances caused by solar wind. The lights can appear to be dancing and swirling. And that’s a result of charged particles from the sun being trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. And that’s what creates these magnificent moving displays.

Luckily, the lights can be seen across the northern hemisphere in various locations, with the most popular months for aurora holidays between October and March when the nights are long. Clear skies provide optimum conditions for sightings, which typically means temperatures are cold. But temperature doesn’t make a difference to your chances of seeing them.

Northern Lights 2021

“Well worth it”

The aurora can only be seen under dark skies. Sometimes as early as 4pm in the afternoon in the far north during winter through to sunrise. Svalbard offers the possibility of seeing the northern lights at any time of day or night during the polar night. The optimal time to see the lights are typically from 9pm to 2am which is when many excursions operate.

With northern lights regularly occurring parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland are ideal for winter getaways. Complete with a fun and exciting itinerary for an unforgettable holiday.

Northern Scandinavia and Iceland are the most accessible regions for UK visitors. With Swedish Lapland one of the best locations to see the lights from the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park. Not only does this offer cloudless skies ideal for viewing the aurora, but it is surrounded by beautiful wilderness and can be easily combined with a night in the world-famous Icehotel.

Alex, one of the aurora travel experts at Discover the World says: “Wherever you go to see the northern lights, the key to witnessing them is patience. As some nights can take several hours of waiting for them to appear. But it is well worth it!”

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