Have you seen the light? William Gray, author of 'The Northern Lights Travel Guide', picks five bright ideas for witnessing the aurora borealis
1. Spend a night under the aurora in a wilderness cabin deep in the heart of the Yukon
Yellowknife juts into Great Slave Lake and enjoys plenty of clear skies during winter. A gateway to the Canadian Arctic, the city sits 400km south of the Arctic Circle and offers a range of wilderness trips in search of the aurora.
Twenty minutes by Cessna ski plane from Yellowknife, a winter visit to Blachford Lake Lodge plunges you into the boreal wilderness of a remote 14-mile long lake near the East Arm of Great Slave Lake.
Aurora packages start at around C$1,135 for two nights in cabin accommodation, including a photography presentation, free AuroraWatch (wake up) service, Tire sur la neige feast (maple sugar on snow) and an interpretive cross-country ski, snowshoe or hiking trip. Accommodation, meals and use of the hot tub are included, but dog sled rides, snowmobile rentals and guided touring are optional extras.
2. Cruise along the Norwegian coast, aurora chasing on a Hurtigruten liner
Tromso, Kirkenes and Honningsvag are just some of the ports of call frequented by Hurtigruten cruiseships – a fleet of smart red, black and white vessels that serve communities along the length of Norway’s crinkle-cut coast and provide tourists with a superb opportunity to hunt for the Northern Lights from the deck of a ship.
Several winter voyages are offered each year, including themed ones dedicated to astronomy or New Year celebrations.
3. Camp at the Abisko Sky Station as some of the clearest auroral displays glow
When it comes to aurora watching in Sweden, one place hogs the limelight: Abisko National Park. Located 100km west of Kiruna (one of the principle access points for travellers arriving in Swedish Lapland), Abisko is world-renowned for its Northern Lights displays. This is partly due to the national park’s exceptionally clear weather – a microclimate that is believed to be generated by a so-called ‘blue hole’ of cloudless sky over Lake Tornetrask.
Abisko is also well away from light pollution and boasts the Aurora Sky Station for a grandstand view of the night sky. The Aurora Sky Station is reached by chairlift from the Aurora Mountain Station where overnight accommodation is available. A limited number of tickets to the Sky Station are issued each night, so be sure to book in advance.
4. Enjoy delicious local seafood before soaking in an outdoor hot tub under the aurora
Possibly the best place to stay in Iceland for Northern Lights watching, Hotel Ranga is just a two-hour drive from Keflavik airport and offers four-star, ranch style accommodation in 51 beautifully furnished rooms, including sumptuous suites themed on the seven continents. Standard doubles cost from around €225 between September and April.
The hotel’s glowing reputation for aurora viewing is partly down to its location – far from any sources of light pollution. Members of staff also go out of their way to help you witness the phenomenon, providing aurora wake-up calls, expert lectures on the Northern Lights and tips for viewing them.
When not craning your neck at the cosmos, you can relax in the hotel’s hot tubs and linger over its fabulous gourmet cuisine, based on fresh local produce such as salmon and lobster.
5. Explore the wilderness by dog sled, then snuggle up in a glass igloo
Kakslauttanen Resort in the Saariselka fell region of Finnish Lapland has a mixture of traditional log cabins and futuristic glass igloos. The latter are specially designed for watching the Northern Lights, even when you’re snuggled up in bed, and come complete with toilet and luxury bed. Snow igloos are also available. The 40 log cabins at Kakslauttanen include five Queen Suites, a honeymoon turf chamber and a traditional farmer’s log house. All are equipped with fireplace, toilet, shower, sauna and kitchenette.
A wide range of activities is available at the holiday village including reindeer sleigh safaris, cross-country skiing, ice swimming, dog sledding and snowmobiling.
You can also meet Santa here and enjoy a hot drink and ginger biscuit served by one of his elves.
Will’s new 83-page ebook, The Northern Lights Travel Guide, is available in Kindle format for just £1.99 and covers everything you need to know in order to witness the phenomenon, from where to see the Northern Lights and places to stay, to aurora photography, tour operators and essential travel tips.
Few UK operators have a more specialised knowledge of Iceland, Lapland and the Northern Lights than Discover the World . As well as a comprehensive range of year-round self-drive and fully escorted itineraries, it offers several trips dedicated to viewing the aurora borealis.