Head to Head: Northern Lights

Head to Head: Northern Lights

Holidays that give you the chance of seeing the northern lights are always popular among Regent clients, and we’re not surprised. These incredible ribbons of dancing light, often brightly coloured in shades of green or purple, are a true “bucket list experience” that no picture or video can ever truly prepare you for. Hunting the aurora borealis at night, with the cold wind in your face and the night sky wild above you, is an experience that will stay with you forever.

With most auroras appearing in a band called the “auroral zone”, there are lots of options for where to go if you want the chance of seeing them. We have a collection of holidays based around the northern lights, all built around the best times to see the aurora in these specific locations.

But how do you decide where, precisely, to go?

Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Russia all offer excellent aurora-spotting opportunities depending on the time of year you travel, so it can feel overwhelming trying to decide which one to travel to.

We’ve decided to pit two of our favourite northern lights destinations, Iceland and Svalbard, against each other in a “head-to-head” showdown, so read on to help you decide which is right for you.

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When Regent first started running holidays to Iceland, it was a wild frontier where few tour operators went. Now it’s only growing more popular year-on-year, propelled to stardom by its stunning and otherworldly landscapes, its natural wonders such as its black sand beaches and waterfalls, and its friendly and welcoming locals.

Iceland is also a major aurora-hunting hotspot.

There are so many ways you can chase the northern lights in Iceland. Choose to head out in a sturdy Superjeep and dive off-road to head for the best viewpoints. Hop aboard a boat and strike out from Reykjavik harbour to see the aurora hanging high over the ocean. Travel to a remote wilderness hotel and see the northern lights from the hotel porch—or even while you’re soaking in a hot tub!

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The real advantage to travelling to Iceland in search of the northern lights is not really the lights themselves—it’s everything else you can do while you’re there. Holidays to Iceland can range from the height of luxury to rudimentary, true adventure style. You can fill the daylight hours with whale watching, spa treatments, food tasting, sightseeing, and so much more.

With increasing numbers of gourmet food options, hundreds of activities and a massive range of hotels, there is an Iceland holiday to suit every traveller, and if you travel at the right time of year you can head out in search of the northern lights on any of them.

When to travel: late autumn to early spring

How much?: Regent’s Iceland northern lights holidays start from £695 per person

Our specialist recommends: Regent’s brand new Iceland Glaciers and Mountains Adventure combines walks up spectacular glaciers with northern lights hunting around Reykjavik. Click here to find out more.

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Although a part of Norway, we think Svalbard has earned its right to be listed a prime destination in its own right. A pristine arctic frontier, here lie polar bears and endless nights—and of course, superb aurora-viewing opportunities.

During the long Polar Night, when the sun doesn’t rise for months, auroras may appear no matter what time it is by the clock. With plenty of winter activities on offer, such as husky sledding and snowmobiling, you may find your excursion lit up without warning by the flickering colours of the northern lights. With next to no light pollution and lying so far north, you don’t need to go far to find the auroras looking their best. This is one of the best places to see them, in fact, the colours vibrant and bold against the starry skies.

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Less-travelled than Iceland, Svalbard naturally doesn’t boast quite as many luxury hotels and gourmet food experiences, but you can still find delicious meals and world-class accommodation here. Along with this, its isolated position and lack of crowds mean more space and quiet for you. If you’re after a true wilderness, with incredible wildlife-spotting opportunities and plenty of adventures on offer, Svalbard is the destination for you.

When to travel: the Polar Night lasts from November to January, though auroras can be spotted at night from late autumn to early spring

How much? Regent’s Svalbard northern lights holidays start from £1595 per person

Our specialist recommends: Our Spitsbergen Polar Nights at the Funken Lodge holiday puts you in the heart of the polar night with the chance to go dog sledding, ride a snowmobile, and to head off in search of local wildlife. Click here to find out more.

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Direct head-to-head

If you want to combine the northern lights with…

A luxury hotel/wellness break

The best wildlife-spotting opportunities

The best food

A city break

Wilderness adventures

If you have small children...

If you prefer to be away from other tourists

Easier to get to

Call 0207 666 1290 to speak to an Arctic travel specialist today


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