As their name suggests, the Northern Lights are best spotted in the North, and in many cases, the farther north, the better. Whilst Canada and other longer-haul destinations do regularly provide sightings of this most extraordinary of natural wonders, many of the best locations to catch a glimpse are actually much closer to home. Here's where to see the Northern Lights in Europe...
The Finns have one of the loveliest stories behind their name for the Northern Lights. In Finnish 'Revontulet' means 'fox fire' following an old folk tale that the colourful lights are caused by foxes swishing their bushy tails in the snow, sending sparks into the air. Magical. If not for that reason, then perhaps this; visitors to Finland can stay in glass ceilinged igloos at the LeviIgloos. Set amongst pine forest up in the far north in Finnish Lapland, the igloos are possibly the cosiest way to see the Northern Lights.
Thanks to its northerly location and vast wilderness, Iceland too is prime Aurora Borealis spotting ground. Escaping the (small) city glow of Reykjavik is quick and easy thanks to the lack of vehicles on the road and simple road system. Hotel Ranga, only about 90 minutes from Reykjavik, is a comfortable log-cabin style hotel on the banks of the Eystri-Rangá river. The hotel looks out over the Hekla volcano, mountains and glaciers, and the Vestmannaeyjar Islands, offers a vast range of outdoor activities, and its restaurant serves fine modern Scandinavian food. What more could you want?!
Known for its striking landscapes, Norway is also blessed with the midnight sun during summer months and habitual occurrences of the dancing Northern Lights in the wintertime. Unsurprisingly, northern Norway is generally the best region for seeing the Aurora Borealis, although sightings around the south and in cities like Oslo are not unusual. There's plenty of other activities to enjoy here too; from traditional cross-country skiing through snow draped pine forests to the fast and furious Olympic downhill ski slopes at Lillehammer.
One of the best known hotels in Sweden is the Ice Hotel, is in the far north of the country - well in to the Arctic Circle. The hotel is rebuilt annually from ice and snow has different themed rooms, where guests sleep on furs and feast on reindeer and lingonberries. Days are spent ice sculpting, ice fishing dog sledding, and on snowmobile safaris in search of elk and the Northern Lights. Celebrate spotting the natural phenomenon in the Absolut Icebar, where of course, everything is made of… you guessed it! Ice! Even down to the glasses in which the drinks are served. Please note there's no guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights at any particular time in any location. As it's a natural phenomenon it is unpredictable, plus there can also be cloud cover, generally speaking, however, the months of February and March are generally considered to be the optimum time to see them.