5 of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Europe
Often referred to as ‘the greatest show on Earth’, catching a glimpse of the spectacular Northern Lights is definitely one for the bucket list. Watching the sky move and dance in a vision of colours is truly one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the world.
However, a night admiring the majestic display of the aurora borealis can be hard to come upon. The only way to get the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is by being in the right place at the right time.
With this in mind, here’s our guide to some of the best places in Europe to see the Northern Lights.
1. Tromsø, Norway
Located 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, the city of Tromsø is affectionately known as Norway’s gateway to the Arctic. Surrounded by chilly fjords and craggy peaks that remain snow-capped for much of the year, it sits on the eastern edge of the Tromsøya island and is linked to the mainland by a bridge.
When it comes to hunting the aurora borealis, Tromsø’s northern location gives you a good chance of catching the natural phenomenon, especially if you head there from September to April. This makes searching for the Lights one of the most popular things to do when visiting Tromsø.
The Northern Lights can be seen best when you’re away from the light pollution coming from the city. This Northern Lights guided bus tour will take you to the most scenic places to look for the shimmer of the Northern Lights.
A Northern Lights husky experience also makes for a fantastic evening. During your adventure, you’ll meet up to 300 huskies (with their puppies) and enjoy a hearty meal of Norwegian stockfish or salted cod in tomato sauce, around a campfire. Delicious, and definitely not one of the weirdest Nordic dishes you can find here.
Tip: If you’re in Tromsø between the last week of January and the first week of February, head to the annual Northern Lights Festival – a celebration of international music and dance.
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2. Reykjavik, Iceland
The Icelandic capital is one of the most accessible places in Europe to see the Northern Lights. The best aurora spots are along the coast or inland, away from the light pollution of the city.
Grótta lighthouse, on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula in the north-westernmost point of Reykjavik, is a good vantage point. There’s not as much light pollution along this stretch, meaning that, on clear nights in good weather, you’ve got a better chance of spotting them.
If you fancy something a bit different, why not go searching for the aurora at sea? This two-hour Northern Lights boat tour will take you from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour out into the Atlantic Ocean, where your guide will share stories and myths about the Lights while you wait for the conditions to be right (if you’re lucky enough).
The best bit is if the conditions are right for Northern Lights spotting, but it’s too windy to head out on the boat, you’ll be taken on a private bus tour to try and catch them on land!
If the Northern Lights aren’t turning up, there are plenty of other amazing things to do in Iceland; Go for a hike in the beautiful Elliðaárdalur Valley, take a dip in the famous Blue Lagoon or make your way along the black beaches of the southern coast, to name just a few.
Like Tromsø, the best months to see the aurora borealis in Reykjavik are between September and April.
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3. Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland
Right by the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is an intensely beautiful landscape of snow-covered forests, frozen lakes, and vast expanses of tundra. It’s also the ‘official’ hometown of Santa Claus. He lives in Santa Claus Village with his reindeer, huskies and elves, and his home is open to visitors all year round.
Rovaniemi is an ideal pre-Christmas holiday destination with the kids, but it has a lot more to offer than candy canes and grottos. You can hit the ski slopes at Ylläs, a popular ski resort spread across two villages, Äkäslompolo and Yllasjarvi, take a stroll along the frozen Kemijoki River, or try your hand at ice fishing or ice karting.
Of course, the main reason to go to Rovaniemi is the Northern Lights. Visible for roughly 200 nights a year in Finland, the odds are in your favour for a glimpse of them here.
There are loads of ways to hunt for the Lights, from snowshoeing to cross-country skiing. How about searching for the aurora on a snowmobile? You’ll be driven by snowmobile across a frozen lake and into the snowy forest where you can enjoy some nibbles and hot drinks around a bonfire under the open (and hopefully aurora-filled) skies.
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4. Abisko, Sweden
The village of Abisko can be found in the north of Swedish Lapland, nestled deep within the Arctic Circle. Protected by the mountains and far away from artificial light pollution, it boasts some of the clearest and most spectacular aurora displays in Europe. It’s said if you stay here for three nights between September and April, you have an 88% chance of seeing the Northern Lights, as long as the skies are clear.
When not in search of the aurora, a host of winter pastimes including husky sledding and snowshoeing are widely available. And make sure Lapporten is on your to-see list: an unusual U-shaped valley between two mountains, it’s become a popular natural attraction.
Want some awesome pictures of the Northern Lights for the family album? Book this Northern Lights photography tour. You’ll spend an evening under the stars in Abisko National Park looking for the phenomenon and learning how to take the perfect shot.
Reward Tip: The northern part of Sweden is remote, so you’ll need to fly to Kiruna and take a train or bus from there. Alternatively, Reward members can hire a car through Avis and earn CashPoints.
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5. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
Scotland remains the best place to see the Northern Lights in the UK, given its closer proximity to the North Pole. The most likely places to see the spectacle are the Scottish Highlands and Scottish Isles.
The Isle of Skye is home to no less than nine dark sky discovery sites, making it one of the best places in Scotland for stargazing, as well as hunting for the ‘wee mirrie dancers’.
For the best views, head to Glendale Beach between December and February. Be sure to wrap up warm and take a hot flask of tea – it can get mighty nippy!
While you’re on Skye, check out the preserved dinosaur footprints on An Corran beach in Staffin. And stop by Skye’s oldest working distillery, Talisker, for a dram or two of top Scotch whisky.
To make the most of your time on the Isle of Skye, why not join an organised tour and see all the sights with a local expert? On this fabulous three-day tour from Edinburgh, you’ll see all the key attractions, including Dunvegan Castle which appeared in the movie ‘Highlander’, and even go Loch Ness Monster-spotting.
Reward Tip: Book your flights to Edinburgh with Norwegian, your car rental, and city tours with Norwegian Reward, and earn CashPoints. Happy aurora-hunting!
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