Chasing the Northern Lights


According to the Daily Mail (make of that what you will), seeing the Northern Lights is one of the UK’s most common bucket list entries. Witnessing the aurora borealis comes third in the list of 25 things to do after retiring, just pipped to first and second place by sightseeing and cruises respectively. This all means it makes complete sense to combine the top three with a sight-seeing cruise to the lands of the Northern Lights.

What is this Witchcraft?

Fortunately for non-believers, the northern lights have absolutely nothing to do with witchcraft and foul play – it is simply a natural light show caused by collisions between electrically-charged particles from the sun and the Earth’s natural gases. The dancing and swirling lights of green occur in an irregularly shaped oval around the North Pole (there are also the Southern Lights which are present around the opposite pole), and have been mystifying onlookers for thousands of years.

The Northern Lights can be a little bit unpredictable, making it difficult to identify when and where they will be present. However, you can hedge your bets by turning up in locations which regular play host to the lights at their most common performance times.

Northern Lights - Diana Robinson

Where Can I Find Them?

Surrounding the North Pole, the Northern Lights do sometimes stretch as far south as the UK – visible from some parts of the Outer Hebrides and Shetland Islands. However, if you are looking to increase your chances of witnessing the phenomenon, then it is advisable to venture to the countries of Scandinavia or Iceland.

Just shy of 18 months ago, we listed these six locations which are perfect for glimpsing the dancing Northern Lights. And we still stick by these choices.

When’s the Perfect Time?

The Northern Lights make their most frequent appearance between then end of September and March – when the days are dark between 6pm and 1am. Unfortunately the lights will hide behind clouds, meaning you’ll need a lovely clear night for them to be present at their resplendent best.

So the best bet is to give yourself a few days of Northern Lights spotting in case unfavourable conditions take over.

How Do I Get There?

Unless being pulled for miles by sled dogs sounds like a dream journey to you, a cruise is perhaps the best way to tour around the beautiful cities of Scandinavia whilst trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. Cruising far out at sea through the darkness of night could significantly increase the chances of spotting the lights – due to the lack of aurora borealis-bothering light pollution.

Sled Dog - EveryDamnNameIsInUse

Although it will be a bit chilly on the top deck, so better wrap up warm and stock up with hot drinks.

How Do I Increase My Chances?

Although there are never any guarantees that you’ll be welcomed by the lights, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance of a sighting. As well as heading over to Northern Light hotspots at the right time – it is advisable to venture out into the sticks. As touched on above, the lower the level of light pollution, the greater the chance of spotting the lights.

Most tourist destinations throughout the Scandinavian countries and Iceland offer Northern Light tours, taking you out of the city centres and into the wild for an optimum chance for a good spotting.

If this has inspired you to venture out to view to Northern Lights or tick off any other bucket list entry, visit the Cruise1st homepage or call our dedicated team on 0808 2746 777 for a huge selection of cruise deals.

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Beverly, EveryDamnNameIsInUse


About Author

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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