Ten Ways to See the Northern Lights

The Daily Telegraph, February 10, 2012

Adrian Bridge suggests ten different ways to see the Northern Lights, one of the greatest natural shows on earth.

Ten ways to see the lights

1 Cruise to northern Norway

The Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten (0844 448 7601, hurtigruten.co.uk ) has launched a number of new charter flights in response to a surge in demand. A five-day “Arctic Highlights Voyage”, sailing from Tromsø to Kirkenes and back, costs from £949 per person, including flights, on selected departures in November and December. In addition to time in Tromsø (home to the Arctic Cathedral, Polar Museum and a Polaria Centre containing bearded seals), optional excursions include husky dog sled rides, a visit to North Cape, snowmobiling and a trip to the border post with Russia. There are longer cruises sailing from Bergen and an “Astronomy Voyage” led by a Northern Lights expert.

2 Ice Hotel in Sweden

Sunvil Discovery (020 8758 4722, sunvil.co.uk ) offers trips to Kiruna in Sweden incorporating stays in the nearby Jukkasjärvi ice hotel and visits to the Abisko Aurora Sky Station, the least cloudy spot in Sweden and one of the best places in the world to view the lights. From Abisko it is possible to ski and snowboard. Four night-trips cost from £1,104 per person, including flights, transfers – and a night in the ice hotel.

3 The Joanna Lumley route

Specialised Tours (01342 712785, specialisedtours.com ) offers a seven-night “Land of the Northern Lights” tour in Norway following a route similar to that taken by Joanna Lumley for her celebrated BBC film. Costing £1,495 per person, the trip includes a railway journey across the Arctic Circle, an overnight sea trip, two nights in the Lofoten Islands and a stay in Tromsø (where Lumley saw the lights). An evening “Chasing the Northern Lights” around Tromsø with Lumley’s guide can also be arranged.

There are many different ways of seeing the lights

4 On the beach

If you fancy spending longer in the Lofoten Islands, Taber Holidays (01274 875199, taberhols.co.uk ) is offering a four-night trip departing on February 23 that includes a visit to the Polarlight Centre at Laukvik, a Northern Lights walk on the beach and a short course on how best to capture the lights on film. From £1,432 per person.

5 Lights and the Blue Lagoon

Iceland is another favoured viewing spot, with additional attractions including a soak in the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, riding, outings in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and time to dip into the bars of Reykjavik. The Hotel Ranga in the south of the country, close to the volcanic Mount Helka and several glaciers, makes for a great base. Discover the World (01737 214 291, discover-the-world.co.uk ) offers three-night self-drive trips, with flights and accommodation from about £540 per person.

6 A lake in the Yukon

Frontier Canada (020 8776 8709, frontier-canada.co.uk ) offers trips to the Yukon in Canada with a three-night stay at the Inn on the Lake, full board, costing from £575 per person (flights excluded). Activities in winter include cutting through the almost yard-deep ice to fish for trout. A five-night stay at the Blatchford Lake Lodge (guests last summer included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) costs from £1,659 per person, including transfers by ski or float plane from Yellowknife but not international flights. A trip here can be combined with a few days’ skiing in Whistler. The Northern Lights season in this part of the world starts in August.

7 Reindeer sleigh safari

Finnish Lapland is noted for its clear skies and a very high hit rate when it comes to the lights, with viewings in the season occurring on average on two out of every three nights. Optional extras here include safaris by reindeer, contact with the Sami people (the indigenous people of the Arctic), a night in an igloo – and a nightcap in the Ice Bar. Lots of saunas, too. Transun (01865 265200, transun.co.uk ) offers a seven-night Arctic Spirit Northern Lights tour, based in the Davvi Arctic Lodges in the far north of Finland between January and April, from £1,049 per person.

8 Aurora hunting

While viewings can never be guaranteed, the Aurora Zone (01670 785012, aurorazone.co.uk ) specialises in trips that maximise the chances by ensuring on its tours to northern Finland and Sweden that, if the lights don’t come to you, you can try to go to them. The way it works is that on nights of unclear visibility two small groups set off in minibuses in different directions in a quest to find the lights – which while not visible from one spot may be clear a few miles away. On board, expert lights-trackers armed with the latest weather and auroral forecasts keep in touch by short-wave radio so that any sighting can be shared. A four-night tour based in Finnish Lapland costs from £1,045 per person.

9 'Flightseeing’ in Alaska

Fairbanks in Alaska is another aurora hot spot – though with temperatures in winter dropping to as low as -40F, you do have to dress the part to enjoy it. Bon Voyage (0800 316 3012, bon-voyage.co.uk ) offers a five-night trip from £1,785 per person that includes two nights in Fairbanks and five nights at the Chena Hot Springs resort, an hour’s drive away. Variations on the lights-spotting theme offered here include an Aurora Ice Museum tour, husky dog mushing sessions, and “flightseeing” trips by plane across the Arctic Circle.

10 Room at the Yorkshire inn

Don’t want to travel too far? There have been several strong sightings in northern England and Scotland already this year. The Tan Hill (01833 628246, tanhillinn.co.uk ) in the Yorkshire Dales has been inundated with guests hoping to enjoy the lights show – as well as a meal and a drink in what is the highest inn in the country. Admittedly the chances of a sighting are a lot lower than up in the Arctic Circle, but then the cost of coming here is hardly astronomical.