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1. Svalbard, Norway
This is about as north as you can get. The Norwegian archipelago sits halfway between the North Pole and Norway, between the 74th and 81st parallel. Most Aurora hunters believe the further north you travel, the better the show. The season for the Northern Lights is between November and February, but most people come to Svalbard to experience another natural spectacle: the Polar Night. From around mid-November until the end of January, the island is plunged into a blue twilight, and the chances of seeing the Aurora are greater. That’s not to say the sunlight doesn’t have some advantages; Svalbard is a great place to see polar bears, reindeer and walrus, or to try your hand at a snowmobiling (which is like dune bashing, but on snow!).
How to get to Svalbard: You can fly from Abu Dhabi or Dubai to Oslo, via Doha, and then onto Longyearbyen. This is Svalbard’s main settlement and has a Basecamp hotel. You could also go to Tromso, a city in the north of the country which could be more accessible.
2. Kakslauttanen, Finland
Picture this: you’re lying in your warm glass igloo, or your private log cabin equipped with an open fire and sauna, in the middle of the Lapland gazing up at the bright Aurora gaze. This could be your reality at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland and would be an unforgettable way to spend a family holiday over Christmas. The Resort is just a few hours from the Russian border if you wanted a road trip, or you could hop on a dog sled and travel in a more traditional manner.
3. Jukkasjarvi, Sweden
This northern Swedish village is the perfect place to escape the UAE’s heat. It is home to the world’s first ice hotel, where almost everything is made from snow and ice. You can take night flights from Jukkasjarvi, which is in the Kiruna region, or keep your feet on the ground and visit the Esrange Space Centre, where you’ll get a good view of the stars if the Northern Lights aren’t visible. If you don’t want to stay at the ice hotel, there are plenty of alternatives that also offer fun winter actives like snowmobiling or sledding.
How to get to Jukkasjarvi: You can fly to Kiruna from Dubai, with a short stop in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. If you fancy a slightly more unique route you could take a night train from Stockholm, which offers various levels of comfort (details and prices are on the Swedish national rail website).
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is the most accessible and affordable place to see the Aurora, but it’s fast becoming more popular. It attracts thousands of visitors in the winter months, and not just because of the Lights. There’s also the hot springs, Geysir and blue ice. The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa is located between Keflavik International Airport and Reykjavik and is open 365 days a year. A standard online day ticket costs around Dh160, and a luxury ticket costs around Dh800*. Fun fact: Iceland is also a great place to see Games of Thrones filming locations.
How to get to Reykjavik: You can fly with Finnair to Keflavik via Helsinki. There’s plenty of accommodation choices, but some of it can be on the pricey side. Guest houses like the Alba Guesthouse can offer cheaper alternatives. If you fancied an extra trip, you can fly from Reykjavik to Greenland, where you can see the Northern Lights from late September to mid April.
5. Northern Canada
While a journey to Canada can be a long one, the Aurora Oval covers most of the country so it’s worth it. It can be seen from provinces including Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Yukon, Northern Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Northwest Territories. There’s a brilliant online map by Canadian Geographic which shows the Aurora locations. This Dark Sky Finder also lets you identify the best Aurora viewing spots. When you’ve had your fill of Aurora you could spend the rest of your holiday at one of the many skiing resorts. Whistler Backcomb, a favourite with skiers the world over, sits on an impressive 8000-acre site in British Columbia. A 90-minute drive south will take you to Vancouver, a great city that also has its fair share of nature sights including waterfalls and whale-watching opportunities.
6. Scotland, United Kingdom
Scotland has more than just castles, shortbread and mountains going for it. In February, Caithness, in the very north of Scotland, was one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. If you plan to visit the UK in the winter months and want to tick the Aurora Borealis off your bucket list, it’s worth travelling north. As well as the lights, the country also has some beautiful winter wonderlands in places like Cairngorms National Park and Aviemore. You could try your hand at munro-bagging (otherwise known as mountain climbing) up Cairn Gorm, or renting a bicycle to pedal through the Royal village of Balloter or the nature reserves near Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish home.
How to get to Scotland: You can fly to Glasgow or Edinburgh via a number of places including London, Manchester or Doha, and then hop on a train and travel 3 hours to Aviemore. Or fly to Inverness if you’d like to be further north.
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*First published November 2016. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.