Northern Lights. A natural wonder
There are few natural wonders on earth that are as spectacular as the northern lights. This remarkable phenomena, also known as the aurora borealis, occurs when electrically charged particles carried by the Sun’s magnetic field collide with gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere. When the skies are dark, these colliding particles light up the night sky in a stunning burst of colour.
Due to the unpredictability of this incredible lightshow, it is extremely difficult to be sure when the northern lights will appear. However, there are many countries across the world where the northern lights are known to thrive and should you venture to one of these remote spots, you’ll likely catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis.
Among the many examples of nature’s outstanding beauty on display in Iceland are the northern lights. The small population, lack of light population and unspoilt landscapes make this a perfect location to watch the northern lights. It’s best to visit between September and mid April when the nights are long and dark. For a truly spectacular show, head to the Westfjords, Borgarnes, Landmannalaugar and Reykjavik where even the bright lights of Iceland’s capital cannot extinguish the auroras.
If you’d rather watch the northern lights in a remote wintery wilderness, travel to Sweden’s Abisko National Park from September to March. Nestled within the grounds of the National Park is the Aurora Sky Station that is renowned across the world as one of the best spots to see the northern lights. Buried beneath tall mountains that help to clear the skies, Abisko National Park is devoid of any light pollution giving the auroras a perfect opportunity to express themselves.
Let’s not ignore Sweden’s neighbour, Norway. It is one of the most popular destinations for seeing the northern lights, but for Norwegians living in Northern Norway, they’re part of everyday life. The world’s most northernmost town, Hammerfest, is no doubt a fantastic spot to watch the auroras but if you’d like to see the northern lights from the comfort of a secluded arctic fjord, head to Narvik. If you’re looking for somewhere truly remote move away from the Norwegian mainland to Svalbard. This frozen archipelago is home to polar bears, reindeer and arctic foxes – it is also the only place in the world where the northern lights are visible during the day.
The northern lights can be elusive making it difficult to know exactly when to spot them, but in Finnish Lapland the aurora borealis light up the sky 200 nights a year. For a truly mesmerising experience, head into the wilderness of Kilpisjarvi, Luosto or Nellim where the skies are clear, the air is clean and the lights are awe-inspiring.
Those willing to venture across the pond in search of the northern lights will discover that North America offers their very own spectacular aurora displays.
Canada’s most north-western province, The Yukon, spans over 180,000 miles and with a population of just 35,000, its stunning landscape is largely untouched. You’ll have to prepare yourself for seriously bitter sub-zero temperatures, but as soon as you witness the aurora borealis lighting up the night sky you’ll forget about the cold.
From September until mid April Alaska experiences numerous aurora displays and the city of Fairbanks is considered one of the best places in the United States to see the northern lights. Being Alaska’s second largest city you won’t find the levels of seclusion typical of northern light hotspots, yet the short winter nights make this an ideal location to watch the stunning aurora lightshow.
Whether you chose to watch the northern lights from the frozen wilderness of Svalbard or the bustling city of Fairbanks, it’ll be an experience you’ll treasure forever.
Amy Horsefield / BA Film and Creative Writing