Top 5 places to see the Northern Lights

Tuesday, 27 December 2011 9:00 AM

Top 5 places to see the Northern Lights (photo: Thinkstock)

Top 5 places to see the Northern Lights (photo: Thinkstock)

The phenomenon that is Aurora Borealis lights up the skies of the northern polar region with spectacular displays of dancing light, illuminating the landscape with neon glimmer and swirling waves of blue, red, green and pink.

NASA has predicted 2012 to be the best conditions for decades to see this natural wonder, so on that note – here’s's top five ways to see the Northern Lights:

On water: Norway
For an illuminating experience on the water you'd be hard pressed to beat a Norwegian ferry cruise.

Hurtigruten, Norway's coastal ferry has been carrying passengers, post and fish along the fjords for more than a century, and there's a fairly good chance of see the Aurora on any of its trips between October and March. 

A selection of packages for trips on Hurtigruten are available, including flights, transfers and additional accommodation.

Up a mountain: Sweden
Sweden has a dedicated Northern Lights centre – the Aurora Sky Station up Mount Nuolja in the Abisko National Park.

Located about 250km inside the Arctic Circle, as you would expect the Sky Station offers a great chance to see the stunning aerial display.

An evening trip up Nujolja is included in the Northern Lights Holiday offered by Arctic Direct. A four-night break will cost you from £925 per person, which also covers flights from Heathrow to Kiruna, via Stockholm. This trip also includes husky sledding, and a day of snowmobiling with and indigenous Sami guide.

Christmas lights: Finnish Lapland
If you want to combine the charming festive charm of Lapland, the snow, reindeer and of course a visit from the real Father Christmas, with the chance to see the stunning Northern Lights, then Finnish Lapland is the place to consider.

Between November and January the sun doesn't rise above horizon, creating an eerie atmosphere of eternal dusk. Aside from adding to the festive charm of Finnish Lapland, on a clear night this makes it the perfect place to view the Northern Lights.

The Kilpisjarvi area in northern Finland is the best area to see the lights, but for a more family friendly Christmas holiday you could always take a festive package to the ski resort of Levi and add on an excursion to see the lights – the best of both worlds.

On the road: Iceland
Travel operators Discover the World offers a three-night fly-drive holiday in Iceland from £300 per person.

This price includes flights from London to Keflavik; car hire and B&B accommodation at the Hotel Ranga.

About a two hour drive from Reykjavik, Hotel Ranga sits in a wonderful rural location under the vast open skies of the beautiful south. With superb uninterrupted 360° skies for miles around, it isn’t surprising that the Ranga is blessed with some truly amazing displays of the northern lights during the months of September to March. 

Closer to home: Scotland
Even visible in the north of Northumberland, the Northern Lights do occasionally touch the UK – although clear displays are elusive.

Having said this, with a bit of research and a clear night you won't need to travel to Scandinavia and spend thousands of pounds.

Naturally, the further north you travel in Scotland the better chance you have of seeing a clear and breathtaking display – not least because the highlands have far less light pollution that areas closer to the main cities.

The east coast's Moray Firth is widely regarded as the best place in the UK to see the Northern Lights. The seaside town of Nairn is a great wee place to call home during your quest to see the Aurora.

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