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Northern Lights: Here are the best tips to help you spot the stunning display in the US and abroad


This winter, head north and bring your warm hat and mittens with you as you watch the stunning Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, vividly light up the sky.

The display is expected to be even stronger and brighter than it has been in the past because of the sun’s recent activity.

“Recent observations of sunspots, a measure of how active the sun is, show a dramatic increase from this time last year, and we are approaching the expected peak of the 11-year solar cycle in 2024 or 2025,” New Scientist reported.

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“This means that over the next few months in the Northern Hemisphere, the Northern Lights will probably be stronger than they have been for at least a decade.”

With that in mind, now may be the time to pack your bags and get a close look at the dancing waves of light — but where should you go to capture the magic?

Northern Lights in America

If you don’t want to break out your passport this season to take in the views, here are a few options located right here in the U.S. that will not disappoint.

Check out these ideas. 

Fairbanks, Alaska

northern lights in fairbanks alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the best places in the world to take in the unbelievable sights of the Aurora Borealis. (Getty Images)

Fairbanks, Alaska, is not only one of the best places in the country to view the vivid light display — it’s one of the best locations in the world.

“Because of its location within the auroral oval and dark skies, Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, and lucky for American travelers, you don’t even need a passport to get there,” Travel and Leisure shared.

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The aurora oval is a “a ring-shaped region hovering over the far north where Northern Lights activity is concentrated,” according to travelalaska.com.

The view of the lights can be seen from just about anywhere in Fairbanks which means you can enjoy a magical display as you drive late into night.

Lake Superior, Michigan

Northern Lights over Lake Superior

Lake Superior, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is filled with stunning views of the Northern Lights, thanks to its latitude and low light pollution. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Michigan is a great place to view the Northern Lights when in the U.S., specifically near Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula.

The state has two important factors that make it such a great location for taking in the sights: latitude and low light pollution.

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“The Upper Peninsula is blessed with hundreds of miles of shoreline along the south shore of Lake Superior, which provides some of the best Northern Lights viewing in the lower 48 due to the very dark night skies,” Pure Michigan shared online.

“When looking north over Lake Superior, one can see right down to the horizon and take in a 180-degree unobstructed view of the night sky.”

Priest Lake, Idaho

In far-northern Idaho, you can find Priest Lake, which has become a major spot for aurora hunters.

“Priest Lake, in far-northern Idaho, has been my most reliable and rewarding location for viewing the northern lights,” Visit Idaho stated.

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The marina will also join in on the fun by turning out the lights, so enthusiasts can get a good look at the night sky.

Northern Lights in Europe

If you don’t mind planning a holiday getaway this winter, take a quick trip across the pond to see the Aurora Borealis from these unbelievable sights.

Tromsø, Norway

Northern Lights Tromso, Norway

Tromsø, Norway, might just be the most picture-perfect place to view the Aurora Borealis because it’s located north of the Arctic Circle. (Zhang Cheng/Xinhua via Getty)

When picturing the landscape surrounding the Northern Lights, you probably imagine something exactly like Tromsø, Norway, which is why it is widely considered one of the top places to see the Aurora Borealis.

Tromsø is the third largest city north of the Arctic Circle. It “lies just within the Northern Lights Oval, the region above Earth’s geomagnetic North Pole, where aurora displays are most likely to occur,” according to Space.com.

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The stunning display can be seen from September to April.

You will not miss out on taking in the beauty of the sky when in Tromsø, thanks to the many travel sites and guides that offer aurora chases.

Swedish Laplands

Northern Lights in the Swedish Laplands

The Swedish Laplands offer stunning views of the Northern Lights and even have an observation tower at the Aurora Sky Station; there, you can get an even closer look at the dancing lights. (Gul Meltem Temiz Sahin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Sweden has become a top place to view the dancing lights in the Northern Hemisphere; the Lapland region, in particular, is the most popular.

“Not only is Abisko, Swedish Lapland, within the aurora oval but the surrounding mountains also keep the skies clear and there’s barely any light pollution,” Swedish Lapland shared online.

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In Abisko, you can find the Aurora Sky Station. It has an observation tower and experts available to answer any questions about the display, the Space Tourism Guide shared.

Jökulsárlón, Iceland

Take in the sights of the Northern Lights at a magical glacier lagoon in Jökulsárlón, Iceland. (Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)

One of the most unique places to see the magnificent Northern Lights display is found at the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.

“Jokulsarlon’s secluded location ensures minimal light pollution, providing the perfect setting to witness the stunning colors of the Aurora Borealis,” said Arctic Adventures.

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“The best time to observe the Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon is during the late evening and early night hours when the darkness enhances their visibility,” the website also notes.

Time of year and time of day are two very important factors when choosing to see the Northern Lights on display in Iceland.

Tips for Northern Lights sightings

Couple standing near camper van under Aurora Borealis

The Space Weather Prediction Center shares four tips for the best Northern Lights viewing experience. (iStock)

When it comes to seeing the magical dancing lights in the sky, there are a few factors that you may want to take into account in order to maximize your viewing pleasure.

Geomagnetic activity

When the geomagnetic field is active, the aurora will be brighter, stronger and further from the magnetic poles, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). 

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The best time to see the Northern Lights is when the planetary K index is at an eight or nine and the aurora moves toward the equator, the weather service site also said.

Location

There are so many places across the world to view the vivid display, but you’ll want to make sure to find a location that has no obstructions.

Aim to find a place that has minimal tree lines or hills so that the northern horizon can be fully seen.

A couple enjoy view of Aurora Borealis and stars in glass igloo in Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland

In order ot maximize viewing pleasure, find a place that has no obstructions and is completely dark — and look at the sky between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time. (iStock)

Darkness

Go at night, away from the city lights, in order to capture the best view of the Aurora Borealis.

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“The full moon will also diminish the apparent brightness of the aurora (not the actual brightness),” the SWPC continued.

Timing

northern lights//aurora borealis split

Here are the best places to see the dancing lights that shine in the sky during the upcoming season — and a few helpful tips to maximize your experience. (Zhang Cheng/Xinhua via Getty/iStock)

The Northern Lights are usually on full display from September to March or April, but the best time to see the lights are in the late evening or early morning.

“Best aurora is usually within an hour or two of midnight (between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time),” the SWPC reported.

“There may be aurora in the evening and morning, but it is usually not as active and therefore, not as visually appealing.”

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