Top 6 romantic places to see the Northern Lights

Top 6 romantic places to see the Northern Lights

Japanese legend has it that making love under the aurora borealis will bestow good fortune on a future child. While it’s unproven, there’s no doubting the romance of it

Catching a glimpse of the celestial dance that is the northern lights is one of those extraordinary experiences that almost make you cry at the bewitching beauty of it all. The first part of an auroral display usually comes from the east, as the earth rotates into the area of maximum activity. You'll most likely see a pale green column first, but this may then grow into billowing sheets.

If you're really lucky, the whole sky will be full of curving, twisting shapes. Although green is the most common colour, red is occasionally seen - but this can be considered a bad omen by some, with many superstitions around it. You can see the atmospheric gases collide over Alaska, Canada, Norway, Sweden and beyond while pulling your partner close.

Here is our guide to viewing the northern lights…

Sweden

Where: Abisko, deep in Arctic Sweden, is one of the world's northern lights hotspots. Set in a rainshadow, it's Sweden's driest (and thus most cloud-free) locale, and is well away from any light pollution. Chairlifts run up Nuolja Mountain to Abisko Sky Station for the best 360° views; you can borrow aurora overalls to keep you and your beloved warm too. Alternatively, seek out any area of high-latitude Swedish wilderness, away from the towns: perhaps the Tornedalen region (which offers snow-sports aplenty) or the tiny village of Porjus in UNESCO-listed Laponia.

When: Possible Sept-Apr. Dec-Feb offers the darkest skies, though there's often more auroral activity Sept-Oct/Mar-Apr. Most often seen 10pm-11pm.

Finland

Where: The Lapland towns of Rovaniemi, Ivalo, Oulu and Kuusamo all have airports, and make excellent launch pads for aurora-watching in the wilds; it's reckoned there are around 200 auroral displays a year up here. Good spots include cabins on the shores of Lake Inari, the Luosto's Aurora Chalet (where guests are given 'aurora alarms', which beep when the lights appear) and the glass-roofed igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen, where you can gaze up at the aurora while staying toasty in bed.

When: The lights are visible Sept-Apr. According to Dr Esa Turunen of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, "During the most cloud-free weeks of January and February the chances of seeing the lights can be 100% during a three-day stay."

Scotland

Where: The aurora does flicker over the UK, albeit unpredictably, and often obscured by cloud. The lights have even been seen in the south of England, but the best bets are the far north, more remote regions of Scotland, where they call the lights the 'merry dancers'. Try the Hebrides, where there are few streetlights and the fresh Atlantic winds help keep the skies clear. Or head for the rugged Caithness Coast or the Orkneys, where light pollution is low.

When: January is considered the best month, though sightings are possible throughout autumn-winter. Lancaster University's Aurora Watch UK< aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/alerts> offers a service where you can sign up for alerts by either Twitter, SMS or email when activity is likely.

Canada

Where: The Great White North has no shortage of prime boreal wilderness in which to aurora-watch. Some areas of northern Alberta proclaim a 90% success rate for seeing the lights while the vast Yukon is another good region. In Yellowknife, you can get a daily forecast< astronomynorth.com> for the aurora activity. In Whitehorse, there's an Aurora Centre (good views, plus an interpretation centre) while, 40 minutes away, the cabins at Lake Laberge offer a cosy, unpolluted gazing retreat. Other options include Dawson (Yukon) and Flin Flon, Grand Rapids and Churchill (all Manitoba).

When: Sept-Apr. Most displays occur close to astronomical midnight.

Alaska

Where: The town of Fairbanks is an excellent aurora compromise. There are more northerly spots - Coldfoot, Fort Yukon, Prudhoe - that see more frequent displays, but Fairbanks still has a high aurora hit-rate and is far more accessible. Also, the northern lights tend to be brighter and more active the farther south they occur, so you might get a more exciting show. Ester Dome, just outside Fairbanks, offers particularly great views of the northern horizon.

When: Sept-Apr; Feb-Mar is best for dark skies and combining aurora-hunting with daytime activities.

Iceland

Where: If you get away from the lights of Reykjavík, then Iceland - situated in one of the most active auroral regions - offers some great sky-gazing. The country is well set up for it too. For example, Hotel Rangá in the island's rural south is run by a northern lights expert; staff will wake you if the displays are good. It's also possible to consult the Icelandic Met Office for an aurora forecast (graded 0-9, 9 being maximum activity) and a cloud-cover forecast, so you can focus your search on areas where the skies will be most clear.

When: Sept-Apr. Avoid days either side of the full moon.

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