When Is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights?

Last Updated: Feb 10 2019 15:59
Reading time: 2 mins, 6 secs

Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis or Northern Lights. Here, at 65° N on the southern edge of the Arctic Circle, you can see auroras almost every night.

The capital of this long and thin country's capital, Oslo, is too far south of the Arctic Circle to see the aurora borealis. So it's to northern Norway you should head, and Tromsø is firmly in the middle of the auroral zone.

What are the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are the visual result of solar particles entering the earth’s magnetic field at high atmosphere, and ionising. Their intensity depends on the activity of the sun, and the acceleration speed of these particles.

They appear as dancing lights high in the sky and vary in colour, usually being green, but occasionally

The Northern Lights aren’t going to disappear.

Scientists do believe, however, that the Northern Lights brighten and become more visible in line with the sun’s activity. The sun has what scientists refer to as a solar life cycle and it occurs over the duration of about 11 years. The sun is currently approaching its solar minimum, the period of the least solar activity. With fewer sunspots and solar flares, the ionization and excitation of the particles needed to produce the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis happen far less frequently.

Best places to see the Northern Lights

Northern Lights near Tromsø

The city of Tromsø is a popular place for Europeans to take a weekend break in winter just hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Although you can sometimes see them from the town.

Northern Lights Near Reykjavík

Although you can see the Northern Lights from the capital if they're intense, it's wise to plan at least a short drive away from light pollution to maximize your chances.

Northern Lights Near Hella

The reason to come to Hella is Hotel Ranga, which — in addition to an aurora alert service and outdoor hot tubs — features an on-site observatory with astronomers on hand to help you take full advantage of any clear skies.

Northern Lights near Svalbard

Between mainland Norway and the North Pole, this island realm of fjords, glaciers, mountains, and polar bears is, at 78° N, as far as you would want to go to see the Northern Lights.

Hunting for the Northern Lights can be done in a variety of ways, but each method seeks the same result: a magical, ethereal display that will last in your memories for life.