New ways to see the Northern Lights
Does patiently staring up at the sky sound a bit tedious? Then enliven your aurora experience on a tour mixing in some husky sledding, snowshoeing or 4WD-driving.
Alternatively, the eight-room Aurora Estate, opening in December, sits right next door to Ylläs, Finland's largest snow resort, meaning the Borealis can be combined with bouts of downhill and cross-country skiing.
Image: Andøya Space Centre, via Vol
The Nation family, self-proclaimed ‘Aurora addicts’, have been pursuing the dancing streaks around northern Norway for seven years. They even called one of their children ‘Aurora’.
Visitors can spend nights ‘hunting’ the Lights with the Nations, and daytimes touring a reindeer farm and trying the simulator at Andøya Space Centre, where devoted Northern Lights scientists work.
If even that’s not aurora-focused enough, then there’s always the new Aurora Festival, launching in Swedish Lapland next 15-17 January. Expect indoor recreations, astronaut talks, evening searches and photography demos.
Image: Oljetanken via Oljetanken
Sparsely populated and replete with blue-coloured icebergs, western Greenland is an incredible place to see the Borealis. During brief interludes of daylight, visitors can ride five-seater planes low over the inland Ice Cap, which is approximately 14 times the size of England.
Alternatively you could sleep in a converted oil tank. Converted into a three-floored modern retreat, Oljetanken is found within the rugged Lofoten Islands in the town of Skrova, near to its white-sand beaches and whale sashimi restaurants. Optimistically, there’s also a rooftop hammock for al fresco sky surveying.
Image via Kakslauttane
Up in northern Finland, the well-regarded Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort has just launched a new concept: Kelo-Glass Igloos. These are a sweet combination of log-cabin comfort, igloo style and glass-roofed transparency.
As such the two-person pods are cosy, cool and idea for laying supine as the Scandinavian sky does its famous thing. Better yet, they’re also unusually spacious, suiting long stays.
Image via Visit Scotland
Then again, you could just keep to the UK. Less reliable, northern Scotland nevertheless boasts regular annual Lights sightings. One option is its new North Coast 500 driving route, looping around from Inverness.
Try the Caithness coast either side of John o’Groats. An evocative lighthouse at Dunnet Head, the British mainland’s northernmost point, makes for especially fabulous snaps.
Another good Scottish spot is the Shetland Islands, as you might expect for somewhere closer to the Arctic Circle (400 miles away) than London (600 miles). January’s the best time. Turn on the free Aurora Watch UK text-message alerts, hole up in a warm pub and wait.
Image via Wiki
Another Northern Lights hub is UNESCO-protected Luleå, a cute, red-cottage town in Swedish Lapland. From 19-23 December another spectacle grabs attention, however, as the annual winter market begins.
Along with handicrafts and festive entertainment, there are hot chocolates for kids, local mulled wine for adults and, very probably, nips of something stronger for St Nicholas.
Off the Map Travel claims to be launching the first ever ‘Northern Lights retreat’ this winter. Held from 7-11 March at a remote Arctic lodge in pristine Finnish Lapland, the bliss-out pairs gasping at green, red, blue and purple streaks with yoga and meditation classes.
Dips in hot tubs and ice holes also feature, as guests focus on developing healthy physical and emotional habits. By night, though, they’ll focus only on the Borealis.