Photo: Kilpissafarit/Off the Map Travel

The 6 Most Epic and Unique Ways to See the Northern Lights

Insider Guides Astronomy
by Katie Scott Aiton Nov 13, 2020

The aurora borealis is a beacon for many global travelers who know how to see the northern lights. They are visible from more than 10 countries, almost all of which are located in the Arctic, and can often be observed simply by being in the right place at the right time. In an effort to lure tourists, some tour operators are getting creative in their offerings. Guests can sleep in glass hotels, soak in hot springs, and even stay in hexagonal chalets on rugged mountain peaks. But if you’re looking for the ultimate way to swoon your partner under the lights on your next trip up north, these are the six best ways to see the northern lights.

1. See the northern lights on a towed sled in Iceland

How frustrating it can be to spend hours waiting for the northern lights, only to learn that your location is a bit off for the day’s best viewing. Travel company Off The Map decided to ease the pain by offering two mobile methods for the enthusiastic aurora seeker. One method is a moving sled with a cabin on the back that offers a mobile view from underneath the stars of Iceland. Guests can lie down and watch the show from their comfortable and enclosed porch with the ability to move on if it appears the viewing is better farther down trail.

2. Find the northern lights on a rowboat in Sweden

Another of Off The Map’s vacation options takes travelers off of the land and onto a traditional rowboat on Sweden’s Torne River. Local beverage and snack options onboard add to the ambiance. The experience can be tailored to your needs, and it’s worth looking over other options in Sweden such as Off The Map’s safari camp or the photography tour in Abisko National Park.

3. Catch the northern lights on a reindeer-drawn sleigh in Finland

Another equally mobile (and strikingly romantic) option is to take a seven-night sleigh ride through the snow-capped hills outside of Harriniva, Finland. Over the course of a week, you’ll snowshoe, eat local cuisine, and spend the evenings chasing down the northern lights. With a full week to spare, you’re bound to catch the perfect view of the lights at least one night.

4. How to see the northern lights with whales in Norway

How about a bit of whale watching to go with those swirling colors? Discover The World runs four-night trips in both Norway and Iceland that pair adventurous outings that have people whale watching during the day with spending the evenings under the stars and the dancing northern lights.

5. Watch the northern lights with polar bears in Canada

The town of Churchill in Manitoba’s Northeast Corner abuts the massive Hudson Bay. The area is home to polar bears, 300 nights per year of aurora borealis displays, and the wisely trademarked Tundra Buggy — perhaps the most unique vehicle ever built for adventures in the wilderness. This contraption looks like a tour bus mated with a life-size Tonka truck. Despite the awkward appearance, the vehicle comes fully equipped for voyages out into polar bear country where you’ll find incredible views of the northern lights.

6. How to see the northern lights in a hot air balloon

This experience in Sweden’s Lapland will get you as close to the northern lights as possible. The balloon ride is part of a wild itinerary that will take you above the Arctic Circle and includes a night in a cozy teepee in a remote location in Marsdel and a snowmobile ride.

A version of this article was previously published on April 6, 2018, and was updated on November 13, 2020, with more information.

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