Northern Lights Holidays

Book luxury trips to the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. So if you have always wanted to witness this beautiful natural phenomenon then contact us today. Whether you are looking for short breaks or soft adventure tours, our tailor-made holidays are sure to please.

You will not see thousands of different packages on our website because our holidays are about quality and not quantity. Each Aurora destination has been hand-picked by one of our travel experts and your holiday will be tailor-made to suit your exact requirements.

Whether you want a personal guide, to join one of our small groups or would like to travel independently we are sure we have a Northern Lights holiday to suit.

Where to go and what to do

Where to see

Visible in an area called the Auroral Oval, this special area forms a ring around the magnetic North Pole concentrated between 65 -72 degrees latitude, although they can often be seen outside these latitudes depending on solar activity levels. This means that countries such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland are well positioned. All of our destinations are selected because they are in great locations to give you the best chance of seeing this amazing natural phenomena.

Active breaks

The Northern Lights can only be seen at night but there is no need to worry about finding things to do during the day. We can offer a wide variety of activities in our packages such as cross-country skiing, dog sledding and snowmobiling to keep you occupied whilst on one of our trips or tours.

Best Time to See

The Aurora can be seen any time between September and March and can be visible from when it gets dark to when the sun start to rise, although the best hours are normally between 9pm and midnight. You will normally need to be under clear, dark skies although powerful aurora can be seen under clouds. Other factors to consider are what activities you would like to include in your trip, such as dog sledding or snowmobiling and whether these are going to be available when you want to travel.

TIPS FOR SEEING THE AURORA ON YOUR NORTHERN LIGHTS HOLIDAY

  1. Topping the list of tips from the Off the Map Travel experts is to plan your trip in prime northern lights viewing conditions. Firstly, choose a destination within the Auroral Oval. Once there, you need clear, dark skies. Use aurora and weather forecasts to help plan your time whilst on location.
  2. In order to achieve the dark skies that deliver the most spectacular displays, you need to get away from any nearby light pollution. You can do this by tapping into local knowledge from local guides, your hotel staff and local people you meet to point you in the direction of great aurora viewing spots and experiences.
  3. You will need to kit yourself out properly with well insulated and waterproof clothing. It is cold at the latitude’s beneath the Auroral Oval and, when you are enjoying the best display ever seen, you don’t want to have to leave because you’re cold.
  4. You need your eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. Use a red torch to find your way around as this will not affect your night vision and therefore ensure your eyes are well adjusted to best appreciate the lights.
  5. Take a camera and take photos. A photo will confirm if there are the beginnings of an aurora or not. However, don't spend the whole time behind your camera as it’s just as important to step back and enjoy them with your eyes.
  6. Just like the scouts, you need to ‘be prepared’. Even if you are just popping out to check the sky, you don't want to leave a great aurora to get changed and pack your bag only to come back out and they have gone.
  7. Persistence and vigilance is vital; aurora can come and go very quickly so always keep your eyes open for activity.
  8. Finally it is important to never give up. Snow can stop and clouds can clear for just long enough to get a glimpse of a stunning aurora even on a wintery night.

TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THE AURORA ON YOUR NORTHERN LIGHTS HOLIDAY

  1. Firstly, you need the right camera if you’re going to capture high quality images. Always use a modern digital SLR camera. Pocket compact cameras, even high-end models will not provide quality results.
  2. Get familiar with the ISO settings on your camera. Because you’re shooting the aurora in low light situations you’ll need to use a high ISO, generally this will be 800-1600 ISO for all exposures unless you are using an extremely fast lens.
  3. Just as your camera is important, so is using the right lens. If possible try to use a fast, wide angle lens. A minimum aperture of f3.5 will work but f2.8 or faster is recommended. An 18mm lens is a good minimum starting point.
  4. A stable tripod is a must. You will need to use a slow exposure to capture the lights and if you try to do this by hand you’ll only get blurry results. Forget about inexpensive, low quality tripods as they often fail under the extremely cold conditions present above the Arctic Circle. It’s worth checking if you can hire these on arrival.
  5. A relatively inexpensive pro-tip is to invest in a wireless release for your camera. This lets you take a photograph without touching the camera and works best when the camera’s shutter needs to stay open for a long duration and you want to eliminate all possibility of camera shake. A wireless remote control device is a better option than a cable releases as the cable can become hard and brittle in the extreme cold above the Arctic Circle.
  6. Be prepared for the effect that the Arctic climate will have on your camera equipment. You’ll need to bring several extra batteries as they will function approximately one third as long as they usually would under normal conditions. Also, invest in a high-quality memory card. All the prep of the right equipment will be for nothing if you have a cheap memory card, as they can become sluggish and fail in the cold conditions.
  7. A headlamp with the option of a red beam is a must. The red beam ensures that you’ll be able to maintain proper night vision while adjusting equipment and you won’t ruin anyone else’s shot.
  8. Pack a few sealable plastic bags that are big enough hold your equipment. Before you go back indoors after a night’s shooting session, put your camera gear in the sealed bag. This helps to keep condensation off your equipment.
  9. Never breathe on the front element of your lens while you are out in the cold. Ice crystals will form on the glass and cause blurriness, ghosting and overall image degradation.
  10. Infinity focus is of the utmost importance. In order to be 100% certain that your images are in focus you need to be sure that your lens is properly set to infinity. There are several ways to do this but Chad would recommend that you use the digital zoom function while in live view mode to be sure that everything is perfect.
  11. Before you book your trip, research your destination as some locations offer far better chances of seeing lights than others due to local weather patterns. Jonny would recommend locations such as Bjorkliden and the Abisko National Park which are shielded from some of the arctic weather by its surrounding mountain range.

What are Aurora

The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis (Northern Hemisphere) or Aurora Australis (Southern Hemisphere) are the result of a collision of high energy particles from the sun and atoms high in the atmosphere causing them to become what is known as excited or ionised. When these elements in the atmosphere return back to a normal state a proton is released in the form of light, the Aurora.

Origin of the Aurora

The energy that drives the Aurora is generated by the sun and the constant release of high energy particles causing what is called the solar wind. Just like a normal wind the strength and speed of the solar wind can change, depending on what is occurring on the surface of the sun. Events such as Solar flares can cause a high density of these particles to be directed towards Earth so creating a solar storm with high solar wind speeds. In turn this then increases the energy in the upper atmosphere so causing large Auroral displays.

Colours of the Aurora

Aurora can come in many different colours depending on which chemical elements in the atmosphere are excited when hit buy the solar wind. The different colours seen depend on which element is interacted with, what height they are and what state they are in. If oxygen is involved then the Aurora can be green or red, nitrogen blue or red.

Where can I see the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights can be seen anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere which is located within the Auroral oval. Forming a ring around the magnetic North Pole the Auroral oval changes in size depending on the activity levels of the Aurora, however for the majority of the time it falls within a band between 65 to 72 degrees latitude. As with any other astronomy based phenomena there are also other factors that can effect it such as weather conditions and light pollution levels.

Below you will find the latest Aurora forecast. This forecast provides you with two main pieces of information, the KP index and the Aurora Oval. For more information on each of these visual representations click on the explanation beneath each

Interested in a northern lights holiday?

If you are looking for a holiday to experience the spectacular Northern Lights, we create tailor-made Northern Lights itineraries giving you personalised experiences, based on our in-depth knowledge, to meet your exact requirements.

To speak to one of our personal travel experts about your next family trip simply call +44 (0) 800 566 8901 or leave us a message through our Contact Us page. We can’t wait to help make your next dream holiday a reality.

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