11 Unexpected Places to View the Northern Lights

Ready, set, glow.

Every winter, thousands seek out the elusive Northern Lights, a celestial phenomenon that occurs when solar wind hits Earth's atmosphere. Witnessing the glow of green and purple lights swirling in the sky (usually, but not exclusively, during winter) is a mainstay on most travel bucket lists.

You probably know about popular locations for chasing the aurora borealis — Iceland and Alaska, to name a few—but we rounded up some under-the-radar destinations that you may not have considered, some in the contiguous U.S.

Prefer to travel somewhere more well-known? We have you covered there, too. But there are tons of ways to make these popular Northern Lights destinations unique, from floating in a frozen pond in Finland to sleeping in a bubble room in Iceland.

While there's no guarantee you'll see the Northern Lights in any given location—they are infamously fussy, requiring perfect timing and weather conditions—we think any of these 11 spots are worth visiting anyway.

northern lights in michigan
Getty Images

Upper Peninsula, Michigan

If you're lucky, you can spot the Northern Lights without leaving the U.S. A great place to start is Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which benefits from northern geography and minimal light pollution. Head straight to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, a 550-acre space in Emmett County off the coast of Lake Michigan. For the best viewing, the park's website recommends looking north after midnight, but if you don't catch the Lights, the stargazing is always incredible.

bubble hotel room outside with northern lights in background
@bubbleiceland, Instagram

5 Million Star Hotel in Skálholt, Iceland

Just under two hours east of Reykjavik, the 5 Million Star Hotel is one of the coolest places you'll ever stay. It offers nine individual bubble rooms, each with an unobstructed view of the night sky and its 5 million stars. Each heated bubble comes with a double bed, lamp, and outlet for phone-charging.

Ferdamenn Islands, the company behind the hotel, offers a complete Golden Circle tour package for those wanting to soak up more sights during their visit. The tour stops at iconic Icelandic landmarks, like Gullfoss and Thingvellir National Park, before returning to the hotel in the evening.

northern lights in fairbanks, alaska
Getty Images

Fairbanks, Alaska

Thanks to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, Alaska is one of the world's best places to see the Northern Lights. To up your chances, visit the central city of Fairbanks, about a six-hour drive north of Anchorage. Fairbanks has a longer-than-average aurora season (August through April) and tons of great hotels and lodges for cozying up. Book a stay at one of the region's hot spring resorts (Chena Hot Springs Resort is always a good choice), many of which offer Northern Lights packages.

ice hotel with northern light in background, sweden
@icehotelsweden, Instagram

ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

Maybe you've heard of Sweden's famous ICEHOTEL, a full-fledged complex made entirely of snow and ice. The exact design changes every year (it melts in the spring and must be rebuilt every winter), but the ICEHOTEL always has a restaurant, artist-designed suites, a main hall with frozen chandeliers, and a reception space for weddings.

Located in the small town of Jukkasjärvi, which also happens to be a great spot for Northern Lights chasing, the ICEHOTEL has you totally covered. They offer several excursions that take guests away from all light pollution, with guides to show you the best photo angles and share the mythology surrounding the aurora. There's even a horseback tour for people who really want to connect with nature.

northern light in voyageur national park, minnesota
Getty Images

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

Located near the Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park received its International Dark Sky Park certification in late 2020, validating it as one of the best places to see constellations, the Milky Way, and, yes, the Northern Lights.

To get the full Voyageurs experience, rent a houseboat to camp out overnight (one-third of the park is covered in water). Check out Rainy Lakes Houseboats or Ebel's Voyageur Houseboats for a wide array of options ranging in size and amenities.

woman floating in the ice under the northern lights
Safartica.com

Aurora Ice Floating in Rovaniemi, Finland

Finland is a popular place for chasing the Lights, but to make your experience unique, check out Safartica, a Finland-based tour agency famous for its Aurora ice floating excursions.

The tour is well-named: You put on a special dry suit, dip yourself into a frozen lake, and float on your back as you look up at the Northern Lights. The suits are specifically designed to help you float and stay warm, so you really don't have to do any work. Even better? Safartica keeps the exact location of the lake a secret, so you and your group have the space all to yourself.

isle of skye scotland milky way night sky
Getty Images

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Scotland may not come to mind when you think of the Northern Lights, but parts of the country are on the same latitude as Stavanger, Norway, and Nunivak Island, Alaska. The famous Isle of Skye is home to nine Dark Sky Discovery Sites, making it one of the best places in Scotland for stargazing and Northern Light hunting.

Glamping fans should check out the Shulista Croft Wigwams, situated on the beautiful Trotternish Peninsula. With en-suite bathrooms, kitchenettes, and flat-screen TVs, they're about the most comfortable accommodations you'll find in the Scottish wilderness.

outdoor bed with northern lights in background
Off the Map Travel

The "Aurora Bed" in Tromsøya, Norway

Watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of a king-size bed? Sign us up. That's just one perk of Off the Map Travel's Aurora in Bed package, a four-day, three-night itinerary curated by Arctic travel experts. This package includes every step of your trip: an airport pick-up in Tromso, accommodations at Villa Telegrafbukta, private chef-prepared meals, and excursions ranging from fjord cruises to dogsled rides. (You even have 24/7 access to a chauffeur-driven Tesla.)

The highlight of the package, of course, is the villa's rooftop balcony with an "Aurora" bed. Cozy up under goose-down duvets and sheep's-wool blankets, sip a mug of hot tea, and watch the dancing night sky until you fall asleep.

northern lights in yellowknife canada
Getty Images

Yellowknife, Canada

Located in the Northwest Territories, the city of Yellowknife is called the "Aurora Capital of North America"—a fitting title, given that the Lights are visible a staggering 240 days out of the year. For a viewing experience that won't give you frostbite, book one of the cozy teepees at Aurora Village, an Aboriginal-owned company that provides guests with hot beverages and wood-burning fires. Upgrade your stay for a three-course meal served in your private teepee.

northern lights in greenland
Getty Images

Greenland

Greenland is one of the best locations on the planet for viewing the Northern Lights—in fact, there's hardly anywhere on the huge island where you can't see them. To improve your chances, Greenland Travel suggests these four places: Kangerlussuaq, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, and Nuuk.

Each location benefits from relative accessibility and up to 300 clear nights per year, as well as many options for guided tours. Ilulissat might be the most beautiful spot, thanks to its coastal position on Disko Bay, which means you'll see staggering icebergs and fjords in the distance, hopefully illuminated by a celestial show.

hot air balloon in the sky, northern lights
Off the Map Travel

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Swedish Lapland

Just when you think you've exhausted options for unique hotels and tours, Off the Map Travel swoops in with yet another one-of-a-kind Northern Lights viewing experience: Aurora in the Sky, a three-night tour that lets you chase the Lights in a hot air balloon.

Starting and ending in Swedish Lapland, the tour includes meals, private transfers, accommodations in lodges and glass teepees, and snowmobile rides across the wilderness. The featured balloon ride, which takes place on the second night, rises about 130 feet to get you that much closer to the stars and—fingers crossed—Lights.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles