It’s Northern Lights season. And if you’ve never considered traveling abroad just for the chance to see those shimmering greens light up the night sky, there are plenty of destinations that might be able to convince you. From ice hotels and snow castles to geothermal pools by arctic waters, Northern Lights hunting comes with some of the most spectacular side amenities that you won’t come across on any other vacation.
1. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta, Norway
Just outside the tourist hotspot of Alta in the northern reaches of mainland Norway is an igloo hotel with an indoor temperature of 24ºF. Fortunately, the provided reindeer hides will ensure a pleasant sleep. On top of having excellent access to Northern Lights viewing destinations, the 2,500m² hotel is also filled with ice sculptures adorning the walls and, somewhat eerily, placed randomly in the hallways.
2. Mt. Denali, Alaska, US
This is the closest you can get to the Northern Lights in the US without being in a plane, but the tallest mountain in North America has plenty of other local draws, including dogsledding and world-class mountaineering.
3. The Ice Hotel, Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
About 50 miles south of Abisko, where Sweden‘s version of the Appalachian Trail begins (or ends), is the world’s first ice hotel. This upscale establishment draws artists from around the world to design and decorate the hotel rooms every year. Thanks to its inland location, the Ice Hotel enjoys clearer skies than other Northern Lights viewing destinations in Scandinavia.
4. Ice Cap, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Thanks to 300+ days of sun a year, the Ice Cap of Kangerlussuaq, or “Big Fjord”, is the stage for so many epic Northern Lights shows that locals occasionally forget that the phenomenon doesn’t happen everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. Thanks to an international airport that serves the tiny nearby town, this is also one of the most accessible Northern Lights viewing destinations in Greenland.
5. Brough of Birsay, Orkney Islands, scotland
This tiny island can be found at the northernmost edge of Scotland. While there are plenty of B&Bs and hotels on the adjacent Orkney Mainland, the only signs of humans on the Brough are the archaeological remnants of the Picts, Norsemen, and Christian missionaries who lived here as early as the 7th century. Not a bad place to experience the mysticism of the Northern Lights, which the Norsemen believed to be the glint of the armor of the Valkyries.
6. Hotel Kakslauttanen Igloo Village, Lapland, Finland
One of the few places where you can observe the Northern Lights without having to leave your bedroom. This is thanks to the glass-domed igloos that made the hotel famous. Aside from that unique amenity, there are also “reindeer safaris” that take visitors out in to the wilderness of Lapland.
7. Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
The capital and largest city in Yukon is just a small town by most standards, but it punches over its weight when it comes to accommodations for Northern Lights hunters. Apart from a three-story log cabin and an arts center that presents aboriginal, local, and international art, Whitehorse also gives visitors the opportunity to jump into the warmth of the Takhini Hot Springs after taking in the light show.
8. The Snow Castle, Kemi, Finland
This is the largest snow hotel in the world, with some of its previous towers climbing as high as 20 meters. While visitors can expect ice sculptures similar to those found in other ice hotels, they will also be treated to a 200-seat restaurant and views of the Northern Lights over the Bay of Bothnia.
9. Grotta Lighthouse, Reykjavik, Iceland
If you find yourself in Reykjavik this Northern Lights season, be sure to take bus #11 to Lindargotu Road. Once there you will spy this lighthouse barely connected to the mainland via a causeway footpath. It may not be the fanciest Northern Lights viewpoint in the world, but there is beauty in understatement. If you get a chill out on the peninsula, there is a single, lonesome hot spring by the beach just big enough for a foot bath on the way home.