The northern lights remain one of the most enigmatic sights in travel. But the Arctic winter (Oct-Mar) is not only the best time to go aurora hunting – it’s also the perfect season to forge out into the icy seas, wild tundra and boreal forests of the far north, leaving behind the Arctic Circle in search of ever-clearer vantage points just to see the northern lights. It’s a cosmic ballet that rarely fails to impress. But you can’t just live for the night, and with a wealth of trips combining seeing the lights with everything from whale-spotting to Arctic bushcraft, there’s plenty to impress even if the lights don’t come out to play…
1. Norway – See the lights ‘guaranteed’
Expert-led lectures and dark Norwegian skies form the backdrop for ‘guaranteed’ aurora-spotting on Hurtigruten’s Astronomy Voyage cruise. Pit-stops include the spectacular Northern Cape and one of the world’s most northerly towns (Hammerfest) en route to and from turning point Kirkenes. Indeed, the tour operator is so confident that you’ll see the lights on this 12-day cruise, they promise free trips to those who don’t see them.
When: 21 Mar, 16 Oct, 7 & 13 Nov 2017
How Long: 12 days
2. Sweden – Explore the Arctic Circle on two skis
Have an aurora adventure on KE Adventure’s Inside the Arctic Circle – Skiing the Kings Trail trip. Follow the route that stretches between Abisko NP and Kebnekaise Mountain (skiing about 15km a day), with the former’s sky station and pitch-black nights ideal for seeing the lights. The route demands basic-to- intermediate skiing ability and decent fitness, but its wild valleys and panoramic views en route are more than reward.
Who: KE Adventure
When: 17Feb, 3 Mar &10 Mar 2017
How long: 9 days
3. Alaska, USA – Walk with the Reindeer
Intrepid Travel’s Alaska Northern Lights tour mingles aurora hunting with wild encounters. Explore taiga forest in wild Denali NP before hitting Fairbanks to wander with reindeer at a ranch near the base of Moose Mountain, learning about the animals and their habitat.
Who: Intrepid Travel
When: 8 Feb & 4 Mar 2017
How Long: 8 days