The Best Way To See The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights is a magical experience and everybody must experience it at least once in their lifetime. Unfortunately, unpredictability of spotting the Northern Lights leaves lots of Aurora enthusiasts disappointed.
We are just back from our trip to Sweden where we hunted the Northern Lights. From the time we started researching to the time we were back from this trip, we have learnt so much about the Aurora hunt. We learnt so many lessons along the way and we don’t want you guys to make the mistakes we made.
So based on our real life experiences, here are some of the tips on The Best Way To See The Northern Lights
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1) Best Location To Watch The Northern Lights
Location, Location, Location… It is probably single most critical factor which will determine whether or not you’ll catch Aurora. Some of the best locations to spot the lights are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Canada and Russia. The higher above the Arctic Circle you go, the higher your chances are.
From the research we have done, we have found that Abisko in Sweden is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights. Aurora is never guaranteed but if you have some facts in place, you feel much more comfortable. Statistics says that if you spend 3 nights in Abisko, you have 88% chance to catch the aurora show. And if you spend 5 nights in Abisko, you increase your chances of spotting the lights to 98% probability!
Abisko is considered one of the best places to watch Aurora thanks to the surrounding mountains which block clouds and prevent precipitation. We spent this winter (Dec 2017) hunting Aurora in Abisko and can say from the experience that it is for sure one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights.
2) Best Time To Watch The Northern Lights
September to March is considered to be the best season to catch the Northern Lights. Although the solar activity which causes Aurora Borealis takes place all year around, winter months are the best simply due to longer hours of darkness. And to see the lights, it must be dark around.
3) Plan Around KP Index
The KP index is a very important factor when forecasting the Northern Lights. It measures the strength of geomagnetic activity on a scale from 0 to 9, which is directly proportional to the strength and brightness of Aurora Borealis. In simple terms, the higher the KP index, the better chances of a bright Aurora show.
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4) Be Away From Cities
Clear skies (no clouds, no snow, no mist, no pollution) is another necessary condition to catch the Northern Lights. In cities like Reykjavik and Tromsø, you may be able to spot Aurora but our advice to increase your chances is to be away from the cities. Look for a dark space close to the nature.
5) Stay Longer
The Northern Lights are never guaranteed. One day you will have a KP index of 6 but you will not get clear skies, another day you have absolutely clear skies but no solar activity. Then yes, you finally have both clear skies and good KP index… but damn it, the moon is too strong and outshines the aurora show.
That’s why in order to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights, we would highly recommend you to stay for longer time.
6) Download Aurora Forecast Apps
There are now many apps available which tell you the hourly forecast or live data about the Aurora probability. “Aurora”, “Aurora Tonight”, “Aurora Forecast” are some of the apps which we used and it gave pretty accurate information. These apps are very handy when it’s -30 degrees outside and you don’t want to dress up just to realize these is no aurora happening outside.
Some places also have live webcams which you can check to know if you can spot aurora or not and if so, how the strength looks like. We used https://lightsoverlapland.com/webcams/ to see the live view of Aurora in Abisko, Sweden.
7) Stay Insulated
When you are hunting the Northern Lights, you may have to spend hours outside. So do make sure that you are covered head to toe. Staying warm will help you fully enjoy the Northern Lights experience.
These are our lessons learned while catching the Northern Lights this season. Have you experienced Aurora already? Let us know if we have missed any tips.
If you need any more info on planning the trip, please leave us a comment below.