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16 of the World's Best Places to See the Northern Lights

Light Show of a Lifetime

The Northern Lights—often referred to as the aurora borealis or polar lights—is the natural phenomenon that occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun travel in solar winds and interact with Earth's magnetic fields, typically in high-latitude regions. Those hoping to take in the unmatched light show this winter should consider one of these destinations.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve experience long hours of darkness from late September through early April so visitors have ample time to plan their visit and try and spot the beautiful aurora.

Iceland

Iceland's high latitude makes it a phenomenal destination to take in the northern lights. Darkness peaks around the holidays so visitors to the capital city of Reykjavik will have many opportunities to experience the once-in-a-lifetime light show.

Lofoten, Norway

Situated just beneath the auroral oval, this colorful Norwegian archipelago features a rich history to complement its near flawless locale for northern lights viewing. Visitors can book a cozy cabin for several nights to increase their chances of seeing the natural light show.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Montana's Glacier National Park is a year-round draw for travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of the northern lights but spring is the ideal time to visit as you'll benefit from longer and darker nights.

Tromso, Norway

Tromso boasts the ideal location for northern lights viewing so visitors will simply have to rely on clear skies and solar activity to capture the perfect shot of the aurora borealis.

Yukon Territory, Canada

Bordering Alaska, Canada's Yukon Territory is another renowned destination for northern lights shows. Whether venturing into the remote wilderness via snowmobile for a better view or watching from the comfort of an outdoor hot tub, you're unlikely to come away disappointed.

Svalbard, Norway

Located in the Arctic Ocean between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard Islands are home to thousands of polar bears as well as some of the best polar lights viewing anywhere in the world. A majority of Svalbard's residents live in Longyearbyen, which draws plenty of visitors when daylight disappears from November to February.

Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland

The capital of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi is not only a premier place for viewing the northern lights but it's known as the official home of Santa Claus, making it the perfect holiday season destination. Families will especially be charmed by the Santa Claus Village and SantaPark.

Scottish Highlands

The northern regions of Scotland are the best places to visit if you want to increase your chances of seeing the northern lights in the U.K. The Scottish Highlands, which include the Orkney Islands, are ideal as they allow visitors to escape the city lights and the light pollution that can spoil good chances.

Swedish Lapland

Like Norway and Finland, Sweden boasts the ideal conditions for northern lights viewing, especially the Lapland where places like Abisko National Park offer dark skies and little to no light pollution.

Superior National Forest, Minnesota

Minnesota's Superior National Forest offers excellent opportunities to see the northern lights. Hike Oberg Mountain for some of the best views over Lake Superior.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Latitude and low light pollution make Michigan's Upper Peninsula a sensational spot for northern lights viewing in the Midwest. On your way, be sure to stop at Headlands International Dark Sky Park for world-class stargazing and a shot to see the aurora borealis from the undeveloped shoreline.

Kola Peninsula

Russia's Kola Peninsula is located almost entirely in the Arctic Circle, making it one of the top destinations to see the northern lights. However, the peninsula's location also means the winter weather can be quite severe.

Northern Maine

Northern Maine is another phenomenal domestic destination for Americans seeking to experience the northern lights. Head to Moosehead Lake—the state's largest lake—on a clear winter night and you could be treated to the show of a lifetime.

Ilulissat, Greenland

This coastal town and its Ilulissat Icefjord—a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2004—provides the perfect backdrop to the polar lights. Many visitors choose to experience them via a dog sledding tour.

Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

If the Yukon doesn't deliver on your trip to Canada, travel east to Churchill, Manitoba. Scientists have been coming to this Hudson Bay town for years to study the eye-popping natural phenomenon.

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