If seeing the Northern Lights isn’t on your bucket list yet, what are you doing? The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are a natural yet almost unexplainable phenomenon, a silent yet spectacular sight. When you see them, you can’t help but open your eyes just a little wider, breathe just a little deeper, and appreciate nature just a little more. The sight is so awe-inspiring that it seems to be out of this world. But luckily, we don’t have to leave this world to peer into the next. Here are 11 of the best places to catch sight of the northern lights around the world.

Fairbanks, Alaska

northern lights in alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska has so many winter sports, it’s the perfect place for active travelers (or spectators)! The official state sport is dog mushing; events include the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race (held each February) and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (held each March). You can ski or snowboard—popular peaks include Mount Aurora and Moose Mountain—or take a more leisurely approach by heli-skiing or snowmobiling. Fairbanks also hosts a variety of festivals, such as the Tanana Valley Farmers Market (open late May to late September), the Sandhill Crane Festival (mid-August), and the Equinox Marathon (mid-September). As for the northern lights, Fairbanks offers clear skies, long hours of darkness, and low precipitation, making it an ideal location for Nature’s show. The town offers a myriad of tours and packages to catch a glimpse. 

Best time to visit: end of August to April

Roundtrip flights to Fairbanks (FAI): starting from $321*

Yellowknife, Canada

best places to see the northern lights

As the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, Yellowknife, Canada is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights. Located in the traditional land of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, you can learn about some of the town’s history and land from the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center or the Aurora Emporium Art Gallery. When you’re ready to get outside and explore, go hiking and skiing (try Frame Lake or Niven Lake) or check out Cameron Falls or the Prelude Lake Territorial Park. In March, you can even attend the SnowKing Winter Festival to watch the greats build giant snow castles on the Great Slave Lake.

You can chase the northern lights in a snowmobile or dogsled. If you’d rather choose an Aurora Village’s tour, you can catch the show from teepees erected on the Ingraham Trail. Talk about sightseeing in style! 

Best time to visit: end of August to April

Roundtrip flights to Yellowknife (YZF): starting from $623*

Manitoba, Canada

manitoba canada

For somewhere truly off-the-beaten-path, the town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. The only ways to get there are by plane or train, as there are no roads leading into Churchill. This removes the town from the hustle and bustle of city life—quite the rustic charm. The peak season for northern lights is from January to March, but a visit in late November will give you a chance to spot some polar bears, and in the summer months, the beluga whales can work you into their schedules, too. Churchill boasts northern lights visibility up to 300 days of the year, though, so you’ve got plenty of options!

You can visit the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, 30 minutes from town, to learn about Churchill and its surroundings. If you’re looking for more ways to see the northern lights besides just, you know, going outside, check out Nat Hab’s Aurora Pod and the Aurora Dome. Both offer a panoramic view of the spectacularly streaked sky from a heated seat. 

Best time to visit: end of August to April

Roundtrip flights to Winnipeg (YWG): starting from $561*

Cherry Springs State Park

northern lights in the us

Want to stay in the mainland United States? Cherry Springs State Park in northern Pennsylvania is one of the best places to see the northern lights in the US. Though it was named for its wild cherry trees, it’s famous for its dark skies. In fact, the International Dark Sky Association designated it a Gold Level Dark Sky Park in 2008. While the sun’s out, you can explore the rural town of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, less than half an hour away.

Once the sun goes down, the dark skies come alive with not only the northern lights, but also the moon, the Milky Way, constellations, and possibly asteroids or meteor showers. Each June, the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg holds the Cherry Springs Star Party, and in September—the ideal month to see the northern lights—the Central Pennsylvania Observers hold the Black Forest Star Party. At these public events, hear from professional astronomers and witness their observations of the sky. Amateur and professional astronomers alike can stay overnight at the park with advance registration.

Best time to visit: September

Roundtrip flights to Pittsburgh (PIT): starting from $87*

Ilulissat, Greenland

greenland destinations

Ilulissat means “icebergs,” and the iceberg that sank the Titanic may even have been born near this Greenland town. This super-cold, charming coastal town sits on Disko Bay in Greenland, almost 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It’s home to stunning views, the northern lights (of course), and even Sermeq Kujalleq, the fastest-moving glacier in the world. You can visit this glacier up close in a kayak, in a boat, or on foot, and witness mini glaciers breaking off from the glacier giant.

In town, visit the Ilulissat Museum, the Ilulissat Art Museum; or the famous Church of Zion. In the winter (which lasts most of the year), try snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or dogsledding. If you visit in April, you can attend the Arctic Palerfik, the last dogsled race of the season. And to end the day with a bang—or perhaps a soft flutter—look up from just about anywhere and witness those graceful lights dancing and lighting up the already-majestic sheets of ice. 

Best time to visit: end of September to April

Roundtrip flights to Ilulissat (JAV): starting from $831*



It’s probably no surprise that Iceland in general gives hopeful viewers a good chance of seeing the northern lights. Even better, though, Reykjavík, its capital, offers city life and entertainment to explore while you wait for the cover of darkness. You can check out Hlemmur Food Hall to explore Icelandic cuisine, catch the Iceland Airwaves international music festival (each November), visit the Harpa Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre, or see the sights from the Perlan Planetarium—which boasts a rotating glass dome, a restaurant, ice cave tours and more.

When you’re ready to see the northern lights in Iceland, you’ve got plenty of options. You can see the northern lights from the town, on the water (which may involve impromptu whale-watching), on a tour by bus or jeep, or by driving yourself in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. On a self-driving tour, be aware of potentially icy roads! Although Iceland uses geothermal energy to heat their roads and melt much of the snow and ice (!), when you get further from the city, it can still be quite slippery.

Best time to visit: September to March

Roundtrip flights to Reykjavik (KEF): starting from $439*


Sumburgh may not be the tip of the iceberg, but it’s the tip of the island—the Shetland Islands in the United Kingdom, that is. Since it’s so far north in the UK, it’s also one of the best places to see the northern lights! For history buffs, Sumburgh won’t disappoint—once occupied by Norsemen, Sumburgh retains impressive memorials to its history, including buildings and artifacts from the Neolithic Period, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. There’s also a lot of wildlife to see: from killer whales, harbor porpoises or gray seals to birds like puffins and fulmars. But onto the main attraction: the Sumburgh Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse has a magnetometer, installed by Lancaster physicists, to monitor the northern lights. With any luck (read: clear skies) you’ll have a chance not only to help monitor them, but also to sit back, relax, and enjoy their beauty. 

Best time to visit: October to March

Roundtrip flights to Sumburgh (LSI): starting from $298* from London


tromso norway

Known as Norway’s gateway to the Arctic, Tromsø has got it all: landscapes and wildlife, beaches and mountains, and a happening town too. You can travel the Arctic fjords, especially Kvaløya and Sommarøy, by snowmobile or electric boat. Sommarøy, a small fishing island an hour’s drive from Tromsø, boasts beautiful beaches. In the summer, it offers opportunities for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and diving.

Need some more insanely beautiful views? Hike the 1200 Sherpa Steps or take a four-minute gondola ride up the Storsteinen mountain for breaktaking views of Tromso. You can even take a tour of the surrounding waters to look for orcas, humpback whales, and seals. And the urban scene has the Arctic Cathedral (Tromsdalen Church), a planetarium and science center, and, of course, countless local restaurants and cafes. To chase the northern lights, you can opt for a van or a bus—or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try a sled drawn by huskies or reindeer! 

Best time to visit: end of August to April

Roundtrip flights to Tromso (TOS): starting from $578*


santas village finland

Finland’s northernmost region, bordering Norway, Sweden and Russia, is known for having not four, but eight different seasons, from nightless nights in the summer to polar nights in the deep winter. Here, you can experience a variety of climates as well as a variety of activities. Lapland is Santa’s home; you can visit Santa’s Village, ride a reindeer-drawn sleigh, go sledding and explore the magical village. Of course, there are lakes and mountains for hiking, skiing, snowboarding, ice-climbing, or even ice-karting. When the sky grows dark (or at least darker), watch for the northern lights by snowmobile, a reindeer-drawn or horse-drawn sleigh, or even from the comfort of your bed, depending on where you stay. The best places in Lapland to see the northern lights and experience the region include Rovaniemi (the capital), Kemijӓrvi, and Sirkka

Best time to visit: October to April

Roundtrip flights to Kittila (KTT): starting from $662*



Want to get somewhere off the beaten path? Estonia is a small country that many may overlook at first glance, but those who decide to visit are in for a treat. Tallinn Old Town offers fascinating architecture, parks, and other landmarks. Check out the Tallinna Raekoja Plats, a square only a 15-minute drive from the airport. The Kumu Art Museum, near the city center, not only displays art, but displays Estonian history. Tallinn does not guarantee a view of the northern lights, but your best bet is to drive to the northern peninsula, about 20 minutes from the airport, and see what you can spot from Viimsi, Paljassaare, or Tammneeme. This is the destination to explore a town and culture you might have heard about but have never considered. Check this one off your off-the-beaten-path bucket list

Best time to visit: end of September to April

Roundtrip flights to Estonia (TLL): starting from $433*

St. Petersburg, Russia

st. petersburg russia

St. Petersburg is one of Russia’s most famous cities for good reason. It’s hailed as Russia’s cultural capital, rivaling Moscow (Russia’s political capital). There’s lots to see and do here—just ask the 7 million tourists that visit annually! Besides the northern lights, some of the best things to do in St. Petersburg include visiting cathedrals, palaces, skyscrapers, and art museums. By day, check out Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Grand Peterhof Palace, or the State Hermitage Museum—and when it grows dark, look for those northern lights. They are visible from the city itself, or you can travel a few more hours (by plane or train) to Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, or Naryan-Mar, for a less obstructed view. 

Best time to visit: end of August to April

Roundtrip flights to St. Petersburg (LED): starting at $552*

So for those seeking scientific beauty—or beautiful science—you have quite a few options to find such a view. Why stop at one destination, though? Take a tour of the “aurora belt,” making your way through some of the best places to see the Northern Lights and learning about new cultures while you’re at it. And at the end of the day, when the skies are darkest, bask in the wonder and mystery of the aurora borealis.

best places to see the northern lights

Ready to plan your own trip to see the northern lights? We’ve got student discounts on flights and hotels to anywhere you want to go, so search flights now and see how much you can save.

*All flight prices were current at the time of writing and were priced for flights between February – April 2022. Flight prices are subject to change and cannot be guaranteed until ticketed.