Save your money, you DON’T need an expensive Northern Lights guided tour to experience the Aurora. I’ll fill you in on how we managed to see the spectacular natural illuminations without a guide. If you can follow these easy steps you can hunt the Aurora Borealis yourself, saving money and enhancing your experience.
Guided tours are sometimes a necessity in travel, there are certain places where I would not hesitate to pay for a tour, but seeing the Northern Lights isn’t one of them. You’ll have a more magical and personal experience with a real sense of adventure and achievement if you do it yourself, and here’s the recipe for success:
- Clear Skies
This is something you can’t control but you can keep up to date with the weather forecast, choosing what time to go out hunting the Aurora. We found this website to be the most accurate.
- Strong Solar Winds
Use this website to help you choose the best time to go out. Keep and eye on the strength of solar winds, and plan when you should go looking.
Go at night (obviously) and head outside of towns and cities to reduce light pollution.
- Stay within the Northern Lights Oval
Travelling to areas where the Aurora Borealis is most prevalent isn’t a case of going as far north as you possibly can. The Northern Light Oval forms a ring around the arctic circle meaning the areas within the ring such as Northern Greenland and Northern Canada for example are usually too far north for the lights to be visible. The Best places to see the lights are the Northern tips of Sweden, Norway and Finland, Iceland, Alaska and some areas of Canada such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. We went to Northern Norway, visiting Tromsø and Alta.
- Go for at least 5 days.
Going to Iceland for the weekend would be great, especially as you can now fly to Reykjavik in less than three hours from Edinburgh, Belfast, Bristol , Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and London. However, extending your trip to a week means you increase your chances of seeing the lights and allows room for bad weather.
- Go at the right time of year
September – March is the best time to go but research your chosen destination as each location has it’s own weather conditions at different times of year which may effect visibility.
- Hire a car
This allows you the freedom to drive outside of towns and cities at unsociable hours. Maximising your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
- Be Flexible
Be flexible and seize any opportunity, if the forecast shows clear skies and strong solar winds at 4am, then get up at 4am! Work around the weather because it sure as shit won’t work around you.
And finally … have a back-up plan
Unfortunately weather is unpredictable, you might have planned your trip months in advance only to discover a couple of days before departure that the approaching weather couldn’t be worse for Aurora hunting. So, even if the Northern Lights is the main reason for your visit, make sure you plan other activities in the location you’ve chosen. As I said, we went to Northern Norway to see the Aurora and we were lucky, but even if we hadn’t seen the lights, we’d still have had an unforgettable holiday as Norway is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. Don’t feel too disheartened if you don’t get to see the lights this time round, you’ll still have a memorable holiday in a stunning location. Iceland in particular has some fantastic geothermal attractions and magnificent scenery. Happy Hunting and good luck!