Ultimate destinations: where to see aurora borealis in europe for the most breathtaking displays

Discovering Aurora Borealis: The Natural Light Show of the Northern Sky

Experiencing the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is a dream for many avid sky-watchers and nature lovers. This spectacular display of natural light, dancing across the night sky in vibrant colors, primarily graces the high-latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Europe, with its vast stretches of darkness and clear skies, provides prime viewing opportunities for witnessing one of the earth’s most enchanting phenomena. In this article, we explore the top destinations in Europe where you can witness the Aurora Borealis and soak in their breathtaking displays.

The Science Behind the Splendor of Northern Lights

Before delving into the choice European locations for aurora viewing, let us understand the science behind these mesmerizing lights. The Aurora Borealis occurs when charged particles from the sun, carried by the solar wind, collide with gaseous particles in Earth’s atmosphere. This collision causes bursts of light that are visible near the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. Auroral displays can appear in many colors, although pale green and pink are the most common. Factors affecting the visibility of the Northern Lights include solar activity, geomagnetic storms, and atmospheric conditions.

Chasing the Northern Lights: Top European Locations

Europe boasts an array of destinations that offer ideal conditions for Northern Lights observation. Here’s a curated list of places you should consider for your auroral adventure:

  • Tromsø, Norway

    Located above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is often referred to as the capital of the Northern Lights. This Norwegian city offers a high frequency of aurora occurrences. From late September to early April, a plethora of tours and excursions are available to take you out into the polar night for optimal viewing.

  • Iceland

    With its near-pristine natural environments, Iceland presents excellent chances to view the Northern Lights, especially from September to mid-April. The country’s low light pollution means that even locations near the capital, Reykjavik, can offer stunning displays. However, venturing to more remote areas like Thingvellir National Park further increases your chances.

  • Finnish Lapland

    Lapland in Finland provides a magical backdrop with its snow-covered forests and cozy glass igloos where you can gaze at the auroras while tucked in bed. The aurora season here runs from late August to April, with the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort being a particularly popular location.

  • Abisko, Sweden

    Often claimed to have the clearest skies in Sweden due to its unique microclimate, Abisko is another superb choice. The Aurora Sky Station on Mount Nuolja is a renowned aurora-watching location, which offers guided nights and chairlift access for a mesmerizing skyward experience.

  • Scottish Highlands

    While not as commonly associated with the Northern Lights, the Scottish Highlands offer a rare mix of stunning landscapes and aurora viewing potential, particularly during the darkest months from December to February. The Isle of Skye, with its rugged coastline and dark skies, serves as a splendid auroral observatory.

Maximizing Your Northern Lights Experience in Europe

The key to a successful Aurora Borealis chase lies in planning and preparedness. Choose a time close to the new moon to minimize moonlight interference. Ensure that the forecast predicts clear skies and increased solar activity for the best chances of viewing. Local guides and tours can significantly enhance your experience, providing not only expertise but also equipment if necessary.

Photographing the Aurora Borealis requires specific technical settings on your camera, so be prepared. Use a tripod to stabilize your camera, employ a long exposure setting, and set your aperture wide open to let in maximum light. Remember to wrap up warmly with thermal clothing, use hand warmers, and stay patient. Aurora watching often involves waiting in cold, nighttime conditions.

Embracing the Northern Lights: Cultural Significance and Mythology

The Aurora Borealis holds a significant place in the local folklore and culture of many communities. In Norse mythology, auroras were believed to be reflections of the shields and armor of the Valkyries, leading warriors who would choose who would live or die in battle. The Sami people of Lapland have many legends associated with the Northern Lights, often connecting them to the spirits of their ancestors. Embracing the cultural context can add depth to your aurora watching experience, turning it from a mere light show to a journey through local heritage and storytelling.

Practicalities and Preparations: When to Plan Your Visit

While the Northern Lights are notoriously unpredictable, the peak season for aurora viewing in Europe is from September through March. This is when nights are the longest and darkest, providing the natural canvas for the lights to display their full glory. Always check the space weather forecast in addition to the local weather to ensure a higher probability of witnessing this celestial dance. Many aurora trackers and apps available can provide real-time alerts to increase your chances of a sighting.


Seeing the Aurora Borealis is an unforgettable experience that fuses nature’s beauty with the thrill of the chase. Europe’s northern cities and natural parks offer some of the most scenic backdrops for this incredible light performance. Whether you’re a seasoned aurora hunter or a first-time viewer, following these tips and choosing the right destination will maximize your odds of a remarkable auroral display. Armed with knowledge, patience, and a sense of adventure, you’re ready to explore the ultimate destinations where the night sky comes alive with the breathtaking Aurora Borealis. Join the legion of night sky enthusiasts and set out to witness one of the most stunning natural phenomenons our planet has to offer.