Where and when to see the northern lights in 2024

northern lights appear as dancing ribbons of green in the sky above a snowy mountain top.
Northern lights above Abisko National Park, Sweden. (Image credit: Daisy Dobrijevic)

Nothing quite beats seeing the northern lights, or aurora borealis, in all their glory. But where and when can you see them? 

Lucky for us the next few years are going to be the best for seeing the northern lights due to heightened solar activity as we approach "solar maximum" in the current solar cycle.

So if you are planning a trip to see the northern lights now is the time to do it. Not sure where to go? Here we have rounded up some of the best places to see auroras around the world. 

Related: Aurora colors: What causes them and why do they vary? 

The northern lights are created when energized particles from the sun slam into Earth's upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million mph (72 million kph), but our planet's magnetic field protects us from energetic assault.

As Earth's magnetic field redirects the particles toward the poles the dramatic process transforms into a cinematic atmospheric phenomenon that dazzles and fascinates scientists and skywatchers alike. The southern lights, or aurora australis, are produced in the same way. 

We asked Tom Kerss, astronomy, author and northern lights expert what three pieces of advice he would give to someone wanting to see the northern lights. 

a man wearing a blue coat smiling with green aurora in the background.
Tom Kerss

Tom Kerss is an astronomer and the author of numerous best-selling books about the night sky for both adults and children, including Northern Lights, Diamonds Everywhere and the Starry Stories Series.  

What are your top tips for seeing the northern lights?

1. Unless you're lucky enough to have the lights come to you, seeing auroras is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Fortunately, we can forecast where and when they are likely to become visible, so you can increase your odds. Being in Norway between late September and mid-March, during the darkest, moonless nights, and being mobile will greatly improve your chances. 

2. It's important to persevere! The arctic nights can be extremely cold, but you'll need to push yourself and stay up late to make the most of the auroral zone. On good nights, the Lights are visible as soon as it gets dark, but you should try to stay up until after midnight.

3. Taking your own photographs of the Northern Lights is so alluring, and very rewarding. Today's cameras — including smartphones — capture super, colourful and clear shots. But try not to get too carried away. Make sure you absorb the luminosity, colour and subtle movement of the Lights with your own eyes. You'll make pictures in your mind that you can't share, but you can feel!

What is your favorite aurora fact?

My favorite fact about auroras is that they appear not only on Earth, but on many other worlds. Every planet in the Solar System (except Mercury) exhibits auroras, as do several moons and even a comet! Moreover, we've measured auroras on other stars, and possibly even exoplanets, and they can teach us about the environments and interiors of these remote worlds.  

Where to see the northern lights in Europe

If you live in Europe, the easiest thing to do is head to the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. Many local people speak English in those regions and there are lots of tours available.

Wherever you plan on going, bear in mind that cloudy skies may make it difficult to catch auroras on any one particular night. If possible, leave yourself extra time to accommodate inclement weather.

Here is a list of some possible European northern lights trips and tour providers:


Northern lights display during a Hurtigruten Astronomy Voyage, Norway.  (Image credit: Eva Stiegler, Hurtigruten)

Hurtigruten Coastal Express

Astronomy Voyage

Bergen — Kirkenes — Bergen 

Price: From £2942pp, includes breakfast, lunch and dinner + exclusive excursion to the Tromsø planetarium.

Duration: 12 days 

Northern Lights Promise:  If there is no recorded sighting of the northern lights while sailing, Hurtigruten will give guests a free 6- or 7-day Classic Voyage to redeem the following season. Terms and Conditions apply.

If you're interested in booking the Astronomy Voyage head over to Hurtigruten's official site.

If you're looking for the ultimate skywatching and cultural experience in Norway, we recommend taking the Hurtigruten Coastal Express along the stunning Norwegian Coast. 

There are a number of voyages available as well as specialized "Astronomy Voyages" that include additional astronomy lectures from an onboard astronomer and a visit to Tromsø's impressive planetarium and science center. 

You can read more about what it's like to experience the Hurtigruten Astronomy Voyage in our article

The Northern Lights Company

The Northern Lights Company based in stunning Vesterålen, Norway, offers various 4, 5 or 7-night northern lights trips between September and April. 

All tours include transport, accommodation, aurora chasing by night as well as daytime activities so guests not only get to see beautiful Norway but also experience it. 

From eagle safaris and visits to the local Sami Reindeer farm to aurora research at the Andøy Space Centre and photography trips. There is something for everyone with the Northern Lights Company.

Visit Tromsø

Visit Tromsø sells aurora-watching trips around the city of Tromsø in Norway. The largest urban area in Northern Norway and the world's third largest city above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø lies just within the Northern Lights Oval, the region above Earth's geomagnetic North Pole where aurora displays are most likely to occur.

Visit Tromsø sells 'aurora chases,' dynamic night hunts for aurora displays in the aurora season between September and April, and slower-paced 'experiences' such as dog-sled and boat trips and overnight stays at aurora hotspots. Tromsø can be accessed by plane from Norway's capital Oslo; adventure seekers are sometimes rewarded by an aurora display during their incoming flight.


Northern lights above STF Abisko Turiststation, January 2024.  (Image credit: Daisy Dobrijevic)

Lights over Lapland

Lights over Lapland sells a range of aurora-watching packages that take skywatchers to Sweden's northernmost region, Lapland. Lapland straddles the border between Sweden and Finland, with both sides offering excellent aurora viewing opportunities in winter months and the midnight sun experience in summer. 

Lights over Lapland operates on the Swedish side of the border with most of its tours aiming for Abisko National Park (not far from the Esrange Space Center which runs rocket tests for ESA and is gearing up to perform the first satellite launches from continental Europe).

"Abisko has developed a reputation for being the No. 1 aurora-watching destination on the planet, due to the fact that it is located in a very special microclimate with less precipitation than any other location on Earth that is located within the aurora zone," photographer Chad Blakley, who is a co-founder of Lights over Lapland, told Space.com via email. 

If you want to see what it's like to chase auroras in Swedish Lapland check out our article on what it's like to put Abisko's "cloud-busting weapon" to the test


Aurora over Kirkjufell, near Grundarfjordur, Iceland. (Image credit: David Clapp via Getty Images)

Guide to Iceland

Guide to Iceland sells a range of aurora-watching packages on the North Atlantic island, including bus tours, boat tours and hunting trips. Situated just below the Arctic Circle, Iceland provides a decent chance of catching the Northern Lights during winter months. If that doesn't work out, you can instead relax in the island's powerful natural hot springs and outdoor pools.

Viatour northern lights night tour from Reykjavik

Viatour operates evening aurora-watching trips from Iceland's capital Reykjavik. The bus tour takes tourists across the island to its most popular aurora spots. The operator says that those who don't get to see the northern lights during their trip can join again at no additional cost. 

Arctic Adventures

Arctic Adventures offers a large number of tours from day trips to multi-day excursions to experience the very best of Iceland. There is a range of northern lights tours available whether it be traveling by bus, boat, or multi-day hiking tours. Experience the majestic northern lights with Arctic Adventures and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Where to see the northern lights in North America

Alaska's arctic environment is the perfect place to see the northern lights.  (Image credit: Patrick J. Endres via Getty Images)
Northern lights photography

If you're interested in trying to photograph the northern lights check out our guides on how to photograph auroras, as well as the best equipment for aurora photography.

There are plenty of options for good aurora viewing in North America. While far-eastern Canada tends to be cloudy, the shore of the Hudson Bay, the northern Canadian towns of Yellowknife or Whitehorse, or the west coast of Alaska are usually good bets. (The city of Fairbanks itself can be a great choice for seeing northern lights without needing to go too far in the wilderness.)

Alaska Tours

Alaska Tours offers a range of packages from one-day trips to week-long tours that take visitors past the Arctic Circle to the heart of Alaska's wilderness, where the chance of catching the glowing auroras is among the best in the world. 

Aurora Borealis Yukon 

Aurora Borealis Yokon runs one-day to five-day aurora-watching trips in the Yukon territory in northwestern Canada. A direct neighbor of Alaska, Yukon offers pretty much the same aurora-observing conditions during the winter months.

Churchill Arctic Adventures

In the east, Churchill Arctic Adventures offers trips to Churchill, Manitoba, on the western shores of Hudson Bay. The company operates dedicated 'aurora domes,' heated cabins and other outposts in the boreal forest that allow visitors to observe the magnificent lights in perfect comfort. If the aurora doesn't show up, then perhaps some of the polar bears residing in this region may. 

Can I see the northern lights from my home?

Submit your photos!

If you capture an amazing photo of the northern lights and would like to share it with Space.com and our news partners for a story or gallery, send images to spacephotos@space.com.  

The "standard" aurora borealis, observable in the Arctic regions, is generated by the solar wind, which constantly flows toward Earth. It manifests itself into a large "ring" above Earth's geomagnetic North Pole and is known as the aurora oval. 

During times of heightened solar activity, the aurora oval can expand more southern latitudes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center maintains a detailed 30-minute aurora forecast where you can see the predicted extent of the auroral oval and the probability of auroras. The aurora borealis is visible most nights, weather permitting, within a band several hundred miles wide that's centered at about 66 degrees north — about the same latitude as the Arctic Circle.

But geomagnetic storms, caused by coronal mass ejections (CME), can ramp up the northern lights considerably and make them visible over much wider areas. In early November 2023, for example, a powerful geomagnetic storm sparked auroras as far south as Greece and Turkey.

Related: Aurora myths, legends and misconceptions

As the solar cycle intensifies, such occurrences might become more common (or rather, slightly less rare). We recommend keeping an eye on Spaceweather.com for alerts of possible incoming geomagnetic storms as well as NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center

Yet even the most powerful geomagnetic storm will fail to deliver the experience unless other factors cooperate — a cloud-free sky, not too much moonlight, nighttime hours and absence of light pollution. (City-dwellers have to get out into the countryside for an aurora experience no matter how strong the geomagnetic storm supercharging the sky might be.)

But you can have an aurora experience without even leaving your house if you so choose. Our northern lights webcams article offers aurora views from some iconic locations from across Europe and North America, all in one place. 

When to see the northern lights

If you're planning an aurora-viewing trip, the best time is throughout the winter months. Anytime between late September to late March is a good time for northern lights hunting as the long nights provide ample aurora viewing opportunities.

The good news is that the sun's approximately 11-year solar cycle of solar activity is ramping up as we approach solar maximum. This means that the next few years will be the perfect time to plan a northern lights adventure.

The northern lights can appear for long periods or short bursts lasting only a few minutes (if that!) so the best way to see them is to wrap up warm, and wait. I have been on several northern lights hunts and sometimes they can appear when you least expect, so unless you're already outside and ready, you'll miss them completely. For me, the wait is all part of the experience, especially when you're out aurora hunting with other like-minded individuals. It provides the perfect opportunity to share aurora stories, do a spot of stargazing and simply enjoy the shared experience of the night sky

graphic showing what you need to see the northern lights the five items listed are clear skies, warm clothes, patience, suitable location, and a little bit of luck. On the right of the text are some graphics of warm clothes, a starry sky, four leaf clover and a north compass sign.

Hunting the northern lights is an unforgettable experience. (Image credit: Daisy Dobrijevic)

Northern lights forecasts

You can get an idea of how active the northern lights are likely to be in your area by keeping tabs on a short-term aurora forecast, such as the one provided by the Geophysical Institute. One predicting the next half hour is available on NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Website. Also, a citizen science website called Aurorasaurus gives on-the-ground instant information from aurora enthusiasts wanting to alert the community to new sky shows.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Daisy Dobrijevic
Reference Editor

Daisy Dobrijevic joined Space.com in February 2022 having previously worked for our sister publication All About Space magazine as a staff writer. Before joining us, Daisy completed an editorial internship with the BBC Sky at Night Magazine and worked at the National Space Centre in Leicester, U.K., where she enjoyed communicating space science to the public. In 2021, Daisy completed a PhD in plant physiology and also holds a Master's in Environmental Science, she is currently based in Nottingham, U.K. Daisy is passionate about all things space, with a penchant for solar activity and space weather. She has a strong interest in astrotourism and loves nothing more than a good northern lights chase! 

With contributions from
  • dcr66
    To be honest I have never paid explicitly for some tours to see Northern Lights. They are more visible than you think and you just need to know when. I do know people that pay $$ to go see these things in Norway. Then I showed them the pics I took from a plane window.

    If you are flying from North America to Europe the great circle route usually takes you up to Greenland and Iceland. If the flight is night time, then get a window seat on the left side of the plane. Don't sleep and keep your eyes peeled when you are up there. Very likely you will see the green curtains easily up near the horizon. My daughter despite never seen them before saw it flying to Europe. Same can be done if your route takes you over Anchorage Alaska, the right side of the plane. I used to see it all the time on the fueling stopover to Anchorage AK back in the 80s and 90s.

    Less likely these days except on certain China based airlines. The polar route from North America to Asia that goes over the North Pole. You should be able to see the green curtains on either side when you are in the artic circle.

    The Prairies in Canada but avoid the summer because you will be in astronomic twilight essentially. I lived in Winnipeg for some years in the 1980s and I see them all the time. All kinds including the white sheet that cover the whole sky and bright enough to read.
  • michael'Buzz'collins
    Yes, luckily some only have to travel a short distance out to your back door!
    As Recently the Aurora Borealis, thankfully (no clouds 🙏)was able to be viewed in NW Donegal, Eire

    As I recently saw the repeat of Alexander Armstrongs Iceland visit on RTE
    ( as I missed it on ch5)

    So wasn't expecting to see this wonderful cosmic display!!

    Here are a few pictures that people took from their backyard from Burtonport to Buncrana, Inc Churchill,

    As I see another Churchill featured below in Manitoba as if seeing the Northern Lights isn't enough, it's program on Ch4/BBC has featured it as it has the most concentration of polar bears too
    (, because of the ice melting!)



    Simply outta this world,so to say😇