by Dayna Engberg

Chasing the Northern Lights

Considered the Holy Grail of sky watching, the Aurora Borealis — or Northern Lights — is among nature’s most spectacular displays. The celestial phenomenon is caused by a collision of solar particles and atmospheric gases being deflected towards earth’s magnetic poles, where they release their energy in a natural light show of dancing fluorescent waves. Planning a vacation around this bucket-list experience? Keep reading to find out where to go, how to get there and when to visit for your best shot at witnessing this awe-inspiring event.

 

Where to Travel

The elusive Northern Lights are most visible near the earth’s poles — the higher the latitude, the better the chances. Fairbanks, Alaska and the Canadian Yukon are good places to spot them in North America, but it’s still not guaranteed. For a sure bet, you’ll have to head to Scandinavia.  Sweden, Finland and Norway all offer great vantage points with relatively consistent viewing during winter months. With its prime location North of the Arctic circle, Tromsø, Norway is our top pick.

Tromso
Tromsø, Norway

 How to Get There

It’s true that you could fly directly into Tromsø, but the best views are actually by cruise. Viking Ocean Cruises® has a special itinerary specifically for Aurora-seekers: In Search of the Northern Lights. The 13-day voyage departs from London (perfect for a little pre-cruise getaway) before venturing through the North Sea past dramatic mountain backdrops, wondrous snow-dusted landscapes and charming villages hushed in slumber. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to explore multiple northern destinations. Moreover, you’ll enjoy prime, front-row seating to the Aurora each night from your oceanfront veranda.

Insider Tip: Since Viking Ocean Cruises have no interior cabins, you’re guaranteed a room with a view.

Reindeer
Reindeer-drawn sleigh

 When to Go

With shorter daylight hours and clearer night skies, late November through early March is the best time of year to travel to Norway to see the Northern Lights. Even better, ‘tis the season for festive Norwegian excursions, from scenic snowshoe hikes to dogsledding, snowmobiling or RIB boating through pristine Arctic wilderness. With Viking Ocean Cruises, you can even join local Sami herdsmen for a tour by reindeer-drawn sleigh through the snow-covered countryside before curling up for a homemade meal and fireside stories with your Sami hosts.

 

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