When it comes to unforgettable travel experiences, a few come out on top time and time again. Taking a trip to see the Aurora Borealis is one of the most mind-blowing experiences you can have as a traveller.
Seeing the Northern Lights isn’t easy as rocking up to a destination and looking into the night sky. Many different factors affect how and if you can see the famed sky display. While you cannot guarantee to see the lights on a dedicated trip to one of the western locations to see the Northern Lights, you can increase your chances of getting a glimpse of the natural phenomenon.
When Is The Best Time To See The Northern Lights?
Dark, clear skies contribute best to seeing the lights. You need to get the timing right. September to mid-April is typically the best time to catch a sighting of the Northern Lights.
Seeing the Northern Lights in March will likely herald the best results and give you that elusive night sky show.
Another benefit of a trip in March to catch the stunning Aurora Borealis display is that it isn’t as cold as other times of the year, and yet there is still enough snow to enhance your trip and the whole travel experience. And the long nights mean better chances of seeing the spectacle without worrying about there being 24/7 darkness so that you can enjoy your days and nights.
Keep in mind, though, that the natural phenomenon is elusive, and despite making the journey to the best location to see the Northern Lights, you might still find it doesn’t provide the goods, so to speak.
What Causes The Northern Lights?
In actual fact, the lights we see in the night sky are caused by activity on our star’s surface. The Sun constantly releases huge clouds of electrically charged particles into space which can travel to other planets and sometimes reach Earth. Therefore, we see atoms colliding with particles from our star throughout time!
These collisions produce a variety of characteristic light patterns that make up what is known as ‘auroras’. Some may eventually collide with us here on Earth, while some become captured as they enter our atmosphere and speed down towards either pole – this is why aurora activity shows up at both poles.
During maximum sunspot and aurora visibility (Solar Maximum), you can expect bright colours and regular sightings of northern lights. The intensity of the light show depends on what stage we are in the Solar Cycle, which tracks 11-year phases of solar activity. When the Solar Minimum begins again in 2019/2020, the possibility of seeing the light show for many people becomes less possible.
Going back to the right conditions to see the Northern Lights, as this spectacular is coming from our sun, you need optimal conditions and the correct timings to get the best view.
What Else Do You Need to Know?
Don’t Just Visit For The Lights.
As it isn’t guaranteed you will be treated to a night sky festival; you should make sure to book other activities on your trip to avoid disappointment. This way, you can have some fantastic experiences and still have stories to regale people with when you get back home, even if you didn’t get to see the lights this time.
The Lights Are Unpredictable.
While you can download an app to help you maximise your chances of seeing the lights, this oto can be wrong. You need solar flares on the sun or solar wind off the lights to be visible. This isn’t always something you can predict, and even if the conditions are perfect, it doesn’t always mean they will show.
Be Prepared for Volatile Weather.
Much like anywhere in the world, the weather can be volatile. This doesn’t mean you won’t get to see the Northern Lights but knowing you can experience rain, sleet, hail and snow all in one day can allow for a more comfortable trip. Plan for this and make sure you have packed accordingly.
Tours Give You A Great Chance of Seeing the Lights.
You can’t just expect it to turn up and see the gifts. Far from it. You need to put in the research to make your trip as successful as possible. This means knowing exactly where you need to be at what time.
You can book with experienced tour operators who have made a career of chasing the lights and will have a more in-depth knowledge of the local area and conditions to maximise your chances. Plus, if you don’t get to see them, you may well be offered the opportunity to rejoin them another night to reduce the disappointment.