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Every traveler’s bucket list should include seeing the aurora borealis, or the northern lights, at least once. This awe-inspiring display occurs when solar particles enter the earth’s atmosphere, and on impact emits burning gases that produce various colored lights. The natural light show can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days, and these magnificent places around the world offer some of the very best places to say for those who hope to watch.
Located 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle on Greenland’s west coast, Hotel Arctic is renowned for its one-of-a-kind setting at the mouth of a fjord, as the world’s northernmost four-star hotel. The region also enjoys an average of 300 clear-sky days every year, making it ideal for aurora seekers, with the phenomenon most frequently appearing from early September through early April. Choose the Puisi Suite and you’ll enjoy spectacular sea and iceberg views while waiting for the lights to appear – or if you’d prefer something more unique, the quirky igloo accommodations with aluminum exteriors are also a favorite. They come with modern comforts, including electric heating, while the magnificent beauty of nature is right at your doorstep.
Blachford Lake Lodge is located a half hour’s floatplane ride from the town of Yellowknife, which is right underneath the auroral oval, the best place to be for aurora watching, with viewing available from mid-August to the end of September, and from December through mid-April. Choose to stay in the main lodge, or enjoy a Canadian pioneer experience by staying in one of the log cabins that include outdoor fire pits as well as woodstoves for heat. One of the best ways to take in the light show is from the hot tub – just slip in and watch the spectacle, with the lights shimmering across the horizon. When you’re ready to tuck into your cozy down duvet for the night, you can rest peacefully knowing that you’ll be awakened should the display take place while you’re sleeping by signing up for the “Aurora-watch” service.
From the UFO to the Bird’s Nest, the Mirror Cube and just about everything in between, the Treehotel offers a number of very unique options for spending the night in the untouched Boreal Forest of Swedish Lapland, which happens to be an amazing place to watch the northern lights. Enchanting and whimsical, Swedish architects transformed the typical treehouse into something strange and somewhat futuristic. Each is unique, like the mirror cube, a hideout sitting among the trees, camouflaged by mirrored walls reflecting its surroundings. The base is made up of an aluminum frame around the tree trunk, with walls covered with reflective glass. Other suites include one that resembles a flying saucer. No matter which you choose, you’ll enjoy far-reaching views across the Lule River, while the lack of light pollution makes it perfect for observing celestial displays.
While the variety of log cabin accommodations at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort are all outstanding, it’s the glass igloos that really put it on the map as an Arctic hot spot. A romantic night under the stars is already fantastic, but getting a crystal clear view of the aurora from your own private igloo steps things up quite a bit. The Igloo Village housed here boasts thermal glass igloos, all designed to stay frost-free, allowing guests to enjoy astounding views of nature’s incredible light show from the warmth and comfort of their own hut.
Experience what it might be like to live in an igloo, albeit a rather luxurious one, where you’re practically guaranteed a peaceful night’s sleep with the snow muffling out any sounds from the outside world. The sparse trees and complete lack of light pollution reveal millions of stars every night – and during the peak winter months, some of the best views of the aurora borealis on earth. The main hotel also includes the world’s largest smoke sauna, complete with its own restaurant, and an ice bar and snow chapel that is rebuilt every winter.
One of the world’s most stunning mountain retreats, Alyeska Resort has also been acclaimed as one of Alaska’s top places to see the Northern Lights. Located 40 miles from Anchorage, the luxury chateau-style hotel is surrounded by lush forest and the towering peaks of the Chugach Mountains along the state’s south-central coast, just below a popular ski mountain. Its relatively remote location makes it a great spot for viewing the northern lights and staff will arrange wake-up calls to allow guests to enjoy them in all their glory, even during the wee hours of the night. In the morning, re-energize by taking a refreshing dip in the saltwater pool or indulging in a hot stone massage. Dog-sledding and snowmobile tours are available, as well as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, biking and skijoring.
The Icehotel is one of the world’s best ice hotels, offering the ultimate Arctic vacation with some of the best northern lights viewing on the planet. Located in Sweden’s Abisko National Park, the temperature inside its “cool rooms” generally hover around 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Not to worry though, the staff will supply you with an expedition sleeping bag (rated to 13 degrees below Fahrenheit) and there is a “survival course” held every evening, where you’ll be informed about what to wear and how to use the features of the sleeping bag in order to retain as much heat as possible. If you aren’t up for the adventure, there are more traditional rooms too.
This beautiful winter wonderland is another one of the world’s best places for viewing the northern lights, which can be seen on just about every clear night. If you don’t want to sit and wait, the hotel also offers overnight excursions to search for them – either via a snowmobile or dog sled team.
Surrounded by beautiful winter wilderness this hotel on the shores of Lake Inari near the Russian border offers an especially quiet, remote adventure. The chilly, clear nights mean that there’s a good chance to catch the shimmering lights in the skies over the lake, which is one of Finland’s largest. Here you can bed down in heated glass pods known as “Aurora Bubbles,” which contain a double bed and toilet area allowing guests to watch for the stunning sight of the aurora in comfort, rather than the cold. As this area is only subject to very limited light pollution, it has an especially impressive Borealis-viewing record. The hotel also offers the use of outdoor equipment like toboggans, kicksleds and skis, as well as a traditional Finnish sauna for warming up after the day’s activities.
Carved entirely out of ice, this extraordinary hotel looks like something straight out of Disney’s hit movie Frozen. You’ll be ideally positioned for seeing the aurora, as it sits just outside of the city of Alta, which is famous for its high-frequency viewing due to the dry winter climate and lack of light pollution. The hotel opens in January every year and melts away again in the spring. Beds are made of reindeer fur and warm sleeping bags to keep you nice and cozy in the hotel’s interior temperatures which remain a constant 19 to 24 degrees Fahrenheit. When you need to warm up, just hit the hot tub, where you might just get lucky and enjoy the light show as you soak in the soothing waters. The hotel also has an ice bar made from solid blocks of ice and serves stiff drinks in ice glasses, while its restaurant is known for its fantastic dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients.
Set against an out-of-this-world backdrop of mountainous lava fields about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the Ion Adventure Hotel is a great base for exploring Iceland’s unique environment. Its floor-to-ceiling windows offer panoramic views of the geo-thermal area and mountainous region – as well as the aurora borealis. The farm-fresh cuisine at its Silfra Restaurant & Bar, Northern Lights Bar serving up Icelandic gin and partially exposed Lava Spa, make for the ultimate Icelandic experience – even before you step foot outside. It also offers easy access to the “Golden Circle” which includes magnificent Gulfoss Falls, Geysir and Thingvellir National Park.
Located in the far north of Scotland in a wild, rugged landscape along the coast, Croft 103 offers awe-inspiring views of the aquamarine sea and soaring mountains. In this majestic wilderness area, you can easily sit for hours and do nothing but watch the endless beauty and brilliant skies. If you’re lucky, the aurora will make an appearance as the icing on the cake. Sitting in the outdoor claw foot tub on the terrace at Hill Cottage is the perfect spot for awaiting their arrival.
With the Yukon one of the best spots on the planet to see the northern lights, Inn on the Lake in Whitehorse is ideal for catching the display. It also offers a host of outdoor activities, meaning you can borrow a pair of snowshoes to head out into the wilds or even drive a dog sled while keeping an eye out for solar activity. Other options include ice fishing, flight-seeing tours, cross-country skiing, or just kicking back in the comfort of your room, with the opportunity to take in the action from there too. You’ll also find a cozy fire in the great room, a spacious deck, a music room and solariums that are perfect for relaxation.
Located high above the Arctic Circle in a remote area with very little light pollution, Lyngen Lodge provides an ideal intimate refuge. It’s also an outstanding place for viewing the northern lights, with dramatic snow-covered mountains and fjords that create an especially spectacular framework for the display. They can often be seen right from the lodge by heading out on a viewing platform, or from the comfort of an outdoor Jacuzzi. Afterward, warm up in the sauna or next to the large open fireplace in the main lounge. This small scale accommodation also offers warm hospitality and fabulous meals. Guided activities include dog sledding, snowmobiling, a boat fjord safari, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Fairbanks has long been renowned as one of the best spots in the world for viewing the northern lights, and Chena Hot Springs Resort, far away from the light pollution of the city, provides a stunning backdrop. Guests can enjoy watching the display from the hot springs, and the resort sends out an alert when the lights appear via an aurora alarm service. The hotel also offers nightly snow coach tours to search for the aurora, traveling to a higher elevation to increase the odds of viewing the elusive phenomena. Activities like dog-sledding tours and flight-seeing are available too.
Located two hours away from the capital city of Reykjavik in a rural area, there is no light pollution here to diminish the wonders of the northern lights. The hotel also turns off its outside lights to provide even more optimal conditions for viewing. In addition to the aurora, the hotel is tucked between the East Rangá River and the Mount Hekla volcano, and every room has an outstanding view. You can watch from a hot tub or specially made benches for lying on and gazing at the sky. If you’re ready for bed, you don’t need to worry about missing out as you can always request a wake-up call if and when the lights appear.
Hotel Budir sits among the black lava fields on the tip of the remote Snaefellsnes peninsula, offering aurora-watching in style. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the hotel bar overlook a striking volcanic shoreline to the glacier-topped mountain beyond. In the wintertime, just cozying up next to the warmth of the fireplace and sipping hot chocolate while watching the northern lights outside can be the highlight of an amazing experience here. Arrive with an appetite, as its award-winning restaurant is not only known as one of the country’s most romantic, but the cuisine that includes unique fish dishes and delectable desserts is highly acclaimed.