For the best chance of seeing the northern lights, travel between late September and earl April, between the autumn and spring equinoxes, when long nights prevail in the northern skies of Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Greenland. Renowned for its elusive character as much as its astounding beauty, sightings of the ethereal light show can never be guaranteed - however, our selection of winter tours and holidays have been carefully designed with aurora hunting in mind.
Best for: Outdoor enthusiasts, city center hotels and countryside retreats
With the whole country located within the all-important northern lights oval, Iceland comfortably boasts superb opportunities to witness the aurora. A land of geothermal treasures, Iceland's natural wonders have plenty to keep travellers entertained during daylight hours. Maximise chances of seeing the northern lights by heading into the countryside away from bright city lights. We recommend a stay at one of South Iceland's boutique retreats, where aurora hunters can relax in outdoor hot tubs as the northern lights dance above.
Best for: adventure-seeking families, glass igloos, ice rooms and family-friendly hotels
In Finnish Lapland the northern lights are visible on around 200 nights of the year - almost every clear night between September and April. Never miss a chance to see them by staying in a glass ceilinged igloo with uninterrupted skyward views. Ideal for families, Lapland's resort towns offer countless opportunities to explore the Lappish landscape by husky sled or reindeer sleigh. For the ultimate Lapland experience, visit santa's official home in Rovaniemi before heading out on a northern lights snowmobile safari across the winter landscape.
Best for: Arctic adventures, wilderness lodges and urban stays
Travel into the Arctic Circle to the northern reaches of Norway, or even further to the Svalbard archipelago, for the best chance of seeing the northern lights. During the dark Polar Nigths between late November and late January, the sun remains below the horizon and the aurora ribbons can be seen both day and night - take the opportunity in the Lofoten Islands to hike moonlit landscapes and snowmobile, husky sled, knit, horse ride or even play golf under the northern lights.
Best for: Wilderness explorers and modern hotels on the edge of the world
Ancient legend passed down by the Inuit people of Greenland says that the northern lights are spirits of the dead playing football with a walrus skull. Whatever the reason, witness the astonishing spectacle in Greenland's only inland town, Kangerlussuaq, which boasts 300 nights of clear sky a year, or travel to UNESCO-listed Ilulissat, where the northern lights swirl over icebergs as tall as skyscrapers. Located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the chances of seeing nature's greatest light show in Ilulissat are extremely high.
The abolity to open the shutter for long periods of time is vital when it comes to photographing auroral displays - a DSLR camera and a tripod will provide the best results. In manual mode, open the aperture to f/2.8 (or as wide as it will go) and adjust the lens to focus at infinity.
Depending on the movements of the celestial lights, an exposure of between five and thirty seconds will be required - test a range of exposures to find the ideal setting. In cold conditions camera batteries do not last as long, so don't forget to pack a spare. Speak to an Arctic Travel Specialist about photo excursions in the Lofoten Islands, Norway.