The Northern Lights are a sight like no other. The ethereal dance across the dark sky amazes those who spot them – we think they’re the world’s finest natural phenomenon. With that in mind, we thought we’d share our favourite places to witness them in 2019.
1. TROMSO, NORWAY
Tromso is at the centre of the northern aurora zone, meaning the odds on spotting them are definitely in your favour. We love Tromso because, while the main draw is undoubtedly to see the Northern Lights, there’s plenty to enjoy on the ground. Opt for adventurous excursions, including husky sledding, snowmobiling, hiking, kayaking and whale safaris, or head to Fjellheisen, the cable car behind the city’s Arctic cathedral. Once at the top, a number of delightful walks afford superb views of the city below.
We’ve not even mentioned the lively nightlife. From traditional Norwegian cuisine to more typical home comforts, everybody is catered for here, while for those who want to stay up after hours, Tromso boasts more pubs per capita than any other city in Norway. Skål!
With a population of just 2,600 and three hours from Oslo by plane, Svalbard is remote – and it’s this that makes it the ultimate winter experience. In winter, the sun barely appears above the horizon, giving it an eerie, mystical feel, while its topography is both dramatic and beautiful – think snow-laden peaks, towering glaciers and ice fields as far as the eye can see. The total lack of light pollution makes for a terrific Northern Lights experience. Wintry excursions are all on offer here too, though Svalbard has an ace up its sleeve: polar bears. There are more of them than people, so pack your camera and hop on a photography excursion – the month of September is best for combining both polar bears and the Northern Lights.
3. ICEHOTEL, SWEDEN
The name says it all, doesn’t it? Nestled in Swedish Lapland in the tiny village of Jukkasjärvi and dotted with glassy lakes, snow-clad fir forests and reindeer, the original ICEHOTEL won’t disappoint – it was, in fact, named as one of the ‘world’s greatest places’ for 2018 by Time Magazine. After nights spotting the lights in the virtually pollution-free north Swedish Lapland, discover the incredible architecture of the hotel itself as you sleep in an expertly-carved -5c ice room, kept warm by reindeer furs and woken the next day by a glass of hot lingonberry.
4. ROMANTIC ICELAND
One of the most popular and well-known Northern Lights destinations, Iceland’s delights are endless – and ideal for a bit of romance. The ‘land of fire and ice’ is packed full of adventure, with everything from self-drives among epic waterfalls and erupting geysers to soaks in the famous Blue Lagoon. And, if you’re looking for the ideal romantic retreat, Hotel Grimsborgir, surrounded by Iceland’s natural scenery and on the doorstep of UNESCO-listed Thingvellir National Park, is unparalleled. This luxury hotel is ideal for the adventurous, with horse-riding, quad-biking, snowmobiling and glacier hiking on offer. Plus, its rural location means chances of catching sight of those famous lights are even higher – and can even be done from a private hot tub. Why not combine Iceland’s iconic Golden Circle sights and south coast with the Northern Lights for the ultimate romantic break?
5. GLASS IGLOO AND ICEHOTEL HOLIDAY, FINLAND
Some would say we’ve saved the best until last with this bucket list experience. You’ll start with a stay in the snow-carved rooms of the ICEHOTEL alongside sauna soaks and hearty Lappish cuisine before swapping to a heated glass igloo for the most magical of private performances – seeing the Northern Lights from the comfort of bed. What’s more, if you do fall asleep, a “watcher” will act as an aurora alarm, so you don’t miss a second.
Alongside this unique accommodation, there’s plenty of winter activities to enjoy, too, from snow sculpting and ice fishing to snowmobiling and husky safaris; it’s the ultimate polar adventure.