Tag Archives: northern lights

Seeing the Northern Lights

What is an Aurora really?

Auroras occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the earth’s atmosphere” The colour of the aurora depends on the specific type of atom that is hit by the solar winds. The reason why the Auroras ‘dance’ is that they move along the atmospheric currents and follow the magnetic poles, which are called the ‘auroral ovals’.


The winter months are the holiday season, the time of magic, and seeing the Northern Lights is always pretty high on the average person’s bucket list. Normally to see the Aurora you need to go north, but it may not be as far north as you think. With some careful planning and a little bit of luck, here are a few places you can get to, to see the Northern Lights, without having to empty out your bank account in order to do it.

Yellowknife in Canada

Why not go to the ‘northern lights capital of the world’, located in the North West of Canada? All you need is a starry night and you could be in with a chance of seeing the Aurora. Plus Yellowknife is known as the ‘diamond capital of the world’ as well. So there is no shortage of swanky shops. Take a taxi or hire a car in Yellowknife to be in the city centre in no time at all.

Ivalo in Finland

A place of beautiful scenery and fascinating wilderness and the hometown of expert Aurora Hunter; Andy Keen, who has several years of experience photographing Auroras, Ivalo is a great place to see the Northern Lights. He’ll take you out in search of the Aurora for £150, and with his expert knowledge in tracking Auroras, this could be invaluable if you have your heart set on seeing the Aurora.

Shetland in the UK

Surprisingly enough there is an ‘Aurora spotting’ location right in the UK. With the right latitude and closer to Norway than bigger cities like London, Shetland gets much less light pollution, so hunting for the Aurora is easier than expected if the conditions are right.


Unfortunately the Northern Lights are a random occurrence, and so are unpredictable. You may not be lucky in that they don’t happen to come out when you want. With this in mind it is sometimes better to go to your destination with several other things planned; ice skating or seeing an opera for example. Because if you book a holiday just to see the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora doesn’t turn up for one reason or another, you will feel like it’s a wasted trip.

So get out! See the world!

Planning A Trip To Iceland

I’m looking at taking a trip to Iceland this winter in the hope of seeing the elusive, mysterious Northern Lights. It’s been on my ‘do before I die’ list for as long as I can remember, and this year the aurora is supposed to be particularly spectacular. Fortunately, thanks to the tiny area of inhabitation in Iceland and the compact nature of Reykjavik, a trip to Iceland can be done in a weekend. However, going to Iceland isn’t like a standard weekend away to Europe, and a little more planning needs to be done.


Firstly, there is the matter of money. The Icelandic Króna (ISK) can be tricky to come by outside of Iceland, and many foreign exchange desks won’t stock it at all. You can also expect to get a pretty poor exchange rate whenever you try to exchange your own currency for króna, so if you feel you will need cash, use your card to withdraw it at an Icelandic ATM. However, a better idea still is to simply use your card as normal. Inform your bank that you will be in Iceland to ensure it isn’t blocked, and spend away. Almost everything, including taxi fares, can be paid for with a card.

Secondly, the language. Icelandic is spoken by less than 350,000 people worldwide with the vast majority residing in Iceland itself, so it is not expected that any visitors will speak Icelandic. A few token words (hallo = hello, bless = goodbye, takk = thank you, já = yes, nei = no) is enough to be polite, but almost everyone will speak immaculate English. Danish is also very widely spoken if this is more comfortable for you.

The weather in Iceland is incredibly volatile, so it’s important that you go prepared for all eventualities, particularly throughout winter. It is not at all uncommon to see heavy snow on the same day as brilliant sunshine and pouring rain, so go for layers. Warm layers are particularly important, along with something fully waterproof, but most important should be sensible, walking-friendly footwear. Much Icelandic activity takes place in the rugged nature, so you need shoes that will allow you to walk on slippery, uneven and challenging terrains.

Finally, there’s the small matter of the Northern Lights themselves. There is no way to predict when they will make themselves seen, but there are Northern Lights forecasts online which can suggest how likely it is that they will appear. You will need to leave the bright lights of Reykjavik and head north further into the Arctic Circle for the best chance. You can either join a tour which will take a group of you up together with a tour guide or hire a car so you can drive yourself up into the countryside in the hope of spotting the incredible Aurora Borealis.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some flights to book…