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An aurora is a natural light display that can appear as brilliant green, yellow, red, blue and purple light patterns, spirals or dynamic flickers covering the night sky.
The Aurora Borealis originates on the sun’s surface with a massive explosion of electromagnetic matter, which projects a stream of charged particles known as solar wind into space. When these particles approach Earth a few nights later, they distort our magnetic field. The excited, ionised atoms that enter our atmosphere through the poles emit light which, when emitted on a large scale, causes the phenomenon of the Southern and Northern Lights.
There is no best place to witness an aurora which, in our opinion, only adds to the mystery and appeal surrounding them. It is most frequently visible in high-latitude regions in the Arctic and Antarctica, but most accessible between 10° and 20° of the North Pole in a band called the ‘auroral zone’. It’s important to understand that this oval-shaped halo can shift slightly, and there are many factors at play that affect how bright the lights appear or if it’s possible to see them at all.
To increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, be prepared to venture into the heart of the Arctic, to destinations such as Greenland, Iceland, Northern Canada and Northern Norway. While aurora activity happens year-round, the best time to witness the Northern Lights is during the long winter months, when the windows for viewing them each night are longer.
In true expedition style, we encourage exploration and adventure on our Northern Lights tours. Aurora Expeditions’ Northern Lights cruises offer flexibility in challenging environments in a way that puts you amongst the action to see and do as much as possible. Our Northern Lights adventures will take you across the seas, seeking out the Northern Lights in multiple countries and landscapes. To increase your chances of seeing the lights we move to different locations around the Arctic Circle, ensuring all bases are covered.
Why Join a Northern Lights Cruise with Aurora Expeditions?
First, what is this strange natural phenomenon? An aurora is a natural light display that can appear as brilliant green, yellow, red, blue and purple light patterns, spirals or dynamic flickers covering the night sky. The aurora borealis originates on the sun’s surface with a massive explosion of electromagnetic matter, which projects a stream of charged particles known as solar wind into space. When these particles approach Earth a few nights later, they distort our magnetic field. The excited, ionised atoms that enter our atmosphere through the poles emit light which, when emitted on a large scale, causes the phenomenon of the Southern and Northern Lights. Northern Lights experiences are best with a dark sky as the aurora is not strong enough to outshine the sunlight.
There is no best place to witness an aurora which, in our opinion, only adds to the mystery and appeal surrounding them. This is why Aurora Expeditions’ Northern Lights tours don’t focus on one spot or location. The Northern Lights are most frequently visible in high-latitude regions in the Arctic, but most accessible between 10° and 20° of the North Pole in a band called the ‘auroral zone’. It’s important to understand that this oval-shaped halo can shift slightly, and there are many factors at play, like weather conditions and clear nights, that affect how bright the lights appear or if it’s possible to see them at all so our Northern Lights tour reflects this.
While aurora borealis activity happens year-round, the best time for a Northern Lights adventure is during the long winter months, when the windows for viewing them each night are longer and the skies darker. The season in the Northern Hemisphere is generally from September through April.
Unique Northern Lights Experiences
Our Northern Lights cruise sticks to the aurora zone in the Arctic Circle, but seeing the lights dance is only one part of your Northern Lights adventure. Exploring the polar regions provides you with opportunities like no other.
By night you will seek out the Northern Lights, but by day we will try to get you off the ship 2-3 times per day (depending on the weather and conditions) so you can get the most out of your time in the Arctic. Walking and bird-watching are popular activities as they offer a chance to witness the unique wildlife in the destinations you visit.
Take a polar plunge in the icy waters of the Arctic Circle, or stay above the water on a Zodiac cruise through the fields of icebergs. Zodiac cruises allow you to get closer to some of the wildlife and landscapes you’ll see throughout your Northern Lights tour. If you have the necessary experience you should also consider adding sea kayaking to your Northern Lights itinerary.
Enrichment is an important component of our expeditions – we hope that you will leave changed and become lifelong ambassadors for the natural world and the wild, important destinations we visit. Your world-class Expedition Team will be on hand to answer your questions about the aurora borealis and how it comes to appear in the night sky, Arctic wildlife, geological formations and the history of the places we visit.
Northern Lights Cruise Regions
Greenland Northern Lights
While Greenland is one of the best countries in the world for witnessing the Northern Lights, getting there can be challenging and often what holds people back. The good news is that, once you’re there, you can see the Northern Lights from almost anywhere in the country – even in the heart of its capital city, Nuuk! This is because Greenland’s population is tiny and scattered across small, remote communities, so it has minimal light pollution. Not many Northern Lights tours go to Greenland but Aurora Expeditions Northern Lights cruises explore using a small expedition ship which makes it easy to visit the prime locations in Greenland to see the Northern Lights.
Some other superb options for aurora viewing in Greenland are Kangerlussuaq, Sisimiut, Ilulissat, Kulusuk and Tasiilaq.
Svalbard Northern Lights
Every year, millions of tourists flock to the Arctic for a chance to witness the phenomenon of the Northern Lights. However, few venture to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, which offers exceptional conditions to see the Northern Lights, not to mention dramatic fjords, rugged mountain ranges and a huge variety of unique wildlife, including majestic polar bears.
Northern Lights Canada
Northern Canada is the best place to see the Northern Lights in Canada, in remote places with minimal light pollution. Nunavut in the heart of Canada’s High Arctic is a prime aurora borealis viewing country, with its close proximity to the North Pole and vast expanses of tundra. Consider visiting a remote traditional Inuit community for an unparalleled night of dazzling aurora displays.
Northern Lights Iceland
Aside from volcanoes, glaciers and geysers, one of the main reasons people have Iceland on their travel bucket list is because they dream of seeing the Northern Lights on display. Iceland is a sparsely populated country, so you don’t have to go far to get away from light pollution.
With longer hours with dark skies and clear night skies, the Westfjords and North Iceland are the best regions to head to if you want to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. There are many fantastic remote locations in South Iceland where you can witness the aurora, including the popular Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The Seltjarnarnes peninsula is a prime viewing area as there is minimal light pollution. There are also plenty of places near Reykjavík you can head to if you’re short on time, including Thingvellir National Park.
Northern Lights Norway
Norway is often the first country that comes to mind when people think of the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights are a prominent feature of the night sky throughout the country and have even influenced folklore and indigenous culture. Because Norway is so long, the seasons change at different times, with summer lasting longer in the south and winter lasting longer in the north. As a rule of thumb, the further north you go, the longer your window is for seeing them.
The ‘auroral zone’ starts in Northern Norway just above the Lofoten Islands and extends up the coast to the North Cape (Nordkapp) and beyond. You will observe the same light display from anywhere in this region, but from a different angle. Some of our favourite places in Northern Norway to witness the Northern Lights include Tromsø, Kirkenes, the Lofoten Islands, Bodø and the North Cape.
Northern Lights Cruise Activities
See The Northern Lights with Aurora Expeditions and our Expedition Team will take you on excursions unique to the High Arctic, fully included in the cost of your expedition. For those interested in a little extra excitement, there are optional activities designed to get you closer to the action. Our Northern Lights expeditions provide a mix of comfort and adventure; for those willing to explore the Arctic the memories will last a lifetime.
Whale and mammal spotting
Lecture on wildlife, our environment, history and destinations
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*Optional add-on activities are available on select voyages. They are listed on each itinerary page and additional fees apply.
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