The alien beauty of the Northern Lights has captivated generations of travellers. But what exactly are the Northern Lights, and how can you see them up close? Read on to find out how you can witness this amazing natural light display.
The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is a multicoloured light display that occurs in places close to Earth’s poles. The name “aurora borealis” comes from the Greek words “aurora”, meaning sunrise, and “boreas” meaning wind. This natural phenomenon, which often appears as long wavy curtains of pink or greenish light, is caused by charged particles from the Earth’s atmosphere colliding with gas particles from the sun’s atmosphere.
These collisions produce the dazzling lights, which can range in colour from the more common greenish hue to a deep red, depending on the types of gas particles involved. The Northern Lights play a role in many folklore stories in northern communities, where they were often believed to be both good and bad omens for future events.
Since northern areas tend to experience long, dark nights as the days grow colder, winter is one of the best times to see the Northern Lights. If you take your holiday in winter, you’ll be much more likely to have a number of clear, dark nights to choose from for your aurora viewing.
While there are auroras in both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres, many of the most well-known places to witness this fantastic light display are in the north. In Europe, Iceland and Norway are popular spots to check out the Northern Lights, while in North America, aurora seekers tend to head for the northwest of Canada and Alaska. The best places to see the Northern Lights will be far from light-polluted areas like big cities.