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6 amazing places to see the Northern Lights

By Catherine Leech

The greatest light show on earth is an entirely natural phenomenon – the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. Nature’s spectacular displays generally occur between October and March, visible against clear dark skies in the extremes of the northern and southern hemispheres. From the UK, whilst there are occasional sightings, the Arctic Circle is the place to head, specifically Iceland, northern Scandinavia and Greenland, where legend has it that the Northern Lights dancing in the sky are the dead playing football with a walrus skull.

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Husky sledding at Villmarkssenter. Photo: Nordic Experience

1. Take a short break in Arctic Norway

Head to Tromso, Norway’s northernmost city, inside the Arctic Circle. It’s one of the best bases from which to see the Northern Lights, combining the comforts of a city hotel with activities such as snowmobiling, husky sledding, reindeer spotting and whale-watching on your doorstep. For £85, take the 4-hour Northern Lights spotting excursion in the Villmarkssenter wilderness, away from the city lights, and gaze skywards on a base of reindeer skins. A 3-night break with Nordic Experience costs from £599 per person on a half-board basis, including flights and transfers. Daily departures between late November and March.

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Bedroom carved out of ice (Photo: The ICEHOTEL)

2. Sleep in a hotel carved out of ice

The first ever ice hotel was built in Swedish Lapland in 1989 and, each year, a new fantastical and unique creation is intricately carved from the ice. The location, Jukkasjärvi, enjoys some of the clearest skies in the Aurora zone. Take a 3-night break combining one night in an ice suite and 2 nights in more traditional accommodation. Cold weather clothing is provided and there are optional evening excursions, travelling by snowmobile, dog-sled or on horseback to see the Aurora Borealis. Three nights with Kirker Holidays costs from £879 per person including flights, excursions and accommodation with breakfast.

Inntravel - Northern Lights from the Icelandic Glacier

View from an Icelandic Glacier (Photo: Inntravel)

3. In Reykjavik you can hike on a glacier

Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is the world’s most northerly capital city. Combine whale-watching and the chance of seeing the Northern Lights with 2 nights in both Reykjavik and the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Discover the World runs this trip with daily departures between December and March including B&B accommodation, a hire car and whale-watching trip.

Headwater - cross country skiing in Venabu

Cross country skiing in Venabu (Photo: Headwater)

4. Cross-country skiing in a Norwegian National Park

With guaranteed snow and a strong chance of seeing the Northern Lights, head to Norway’s Rondane National Park, north of Lillehammer, between December and March. Based at the family-run Venabu Fjellhotel, equipment and tuition by resident local ski guides is included. During the school holidays there are activities for children from ice-fishing to a torch-lit sleigh ride. One week with Headwater costs from £1,099 per person including flights, transfers, full-board accommodation, equipment and tuition.

Activities Abroad - family adventure - image by Ville Heimonen

Northern Finland (Photo: Ville Heimonen)

5. Finland is a great option for families

Northern Finland is not only in the “Aurora Zone”, but it’s also a great place to experience a wide range of family activities. Travel with a group of other families (up to 20 people) to pretty Menesjarvi and experience kick sleds, cross-country skiing, an Aurora workshop, a visit to a reindeer farm, wilderness skills, winter fishing and a husky safari. Head out to see the Northern Lights by snowmobile-pulled sleigh or snowshoes. Activities Abroad offers a range of Northern Lights family holidays. A Christmas adventure costs from £1,625 per person for 7 nights including activities, flights, transfers, full-board hotel accommodation, expert guides and cold weather clothing.

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Greenland (Photo: Regent Holidays)

6. Head to Greenland for total wilderness

Thanks largely to the relative lack of light pollution, Greenland has the longest season for sightings – from September to April. Head to Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland for the best conditions (clear skies) and combine night-time viewings with the chance to glimpse wildlife such as musk oxen, arctic foxes, arctic hares and arctic birds. Regent Holidays offers a 4-night Winter Wilderness and Aurora holiday from October to April from £1,135 per person including hotel accommodation on a B&B basis and flights from Copenhagen.

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