by Nick Trend, The Telegraph, December 27, 2017
The season for aurora watching is well under way, so we’ve picked out 10 of the best options this winter, from cruises along the Norwegian coast and a husky safari in Greenland to snowmobiling in Alaska and a glass-roofed igloo in Finland.
1. On a no-fly cruise
Take a 12-night Norway and Northern Lights cruise on P&O’s Oriana, departing from Southampton on February 22, 2017. First port of call is the scenic Norwegian town of Andalsnes on the Romsdalsfjord.
Heading north of the Arctic Circle, the ship docks at Tromso, a city used to spectacular natural light shows, and Alta, where the first Northern Lights observatory was built in 1899. The last stop is Stavanger, in the heart of the fjord region, before the ship heads for Britain. Prices start at £1,099 for an inside cabin, including all meals.
Bookings: 01670 785012; pocruises.com
2. At the Swedish Icehotel
Stay overnight at the Icehotel on the four-night Visit Abisko and Icehotel itinerary in the far north of Sweden, offered by Aurora Zone between mid-December and the end of March.
Three nights at the three-star Abisko Mountain Lodge provides a good chance of viewing the Northern Lights, with experts on hand to answer questions. The fourth night is at the Icehotel, in Jukkasjarvi, with a tour of the snow and ice architecture.
Activities includes a photographic workshop, ice-fishing and a husky safari. Prices from £1,555 including flights.
Bookings: 01670 785012; theaurorazone.com
3. Snowmobiling in Canada
Join a snowmobile expedition into the frozen landscapes of the Northwest Territories on a four-night Aurora at Blachford Lake itinerary, offered by tailor-made specialist Discover the World between December and April.
A two-night stay in the region’s capital city, Yellowknife, includes the late-night snowmobile journey across the frozen Great Slave Lake for a chance to see the Lights from a remote cabin. Take a 30-minute transfer by seaplane to Blachford Lake Lodge which activities including snowshoeing and ice-fishing. From £1,421 excluding flights.
Bookings: 01737 214250; discover-the-world.co.uk
4. On a city break in Iceland
Explore Iceland’s buzzing capital city on a three-night Reykjavik and the Northern Lights package based at a four-star hotel organised by Taber Holidays between October 1 and April 8. An evening excursion by super-jeep takes guests away from the city’s artificial light for a better chance of seeing the natural display.
The itinerary also includes a full-day Golden Circle tour to see the country’s geological highlights, including the hot spring at Strokkur, waterfall at Gullfoss and the Unesco World Heritage Site of Thingvellir National Park. From £965 including flights.
Bookings: 01274 875199; taberhols.co.uk
5. Astronomy voyage in Norway
Learn about the Northern Lights on a 12-day Astronomy Voyage offered by Scandinavian cruise specialist, Hurtigruten, accompanied by expert lecturers Dr John Mason (a physicist) and Ian Ridpath (a writer and broadcaster).
The cruise departs from Bergen with six departures over the winter months, and ports of call include Trondheim, the Lofoten Islands, Honningsvag and Tromso for an excursion to the Northern Lights Planetarium. Hurtigruten promises passengers the chance to book a complimentary week-long Classic Voyage if the Northern Lights fail to appear during this cruise. Prices from £1,420, excluding flights.
Bookings: 020 3131 5321; hurtigruten.co.uk
6. Husky safari in Greenland
Transfer from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, to Kulusuk in Greenland on an 11-day East Greenland Dog Sledding Expedition offered by Regent Holidays. Preparations for the expedition take place in Tasiilaq in south-eastern Greenland, before heading out by dog sled, through Ammassalik Island in the company of native mushers (dog handlers).
Over five days there’s ample opportunity to view the Northern Lights from remote mountain huts. Note that this tour requires physical fitness and stamina. Prices from £3,745 including flights and an overnight stay in Reykjavik.
Bookings: 020 3131 5559; regent-holidays.co.uk
7. On a photography course
Join Swedish nature photographer Fredrik Broman on a four-night Winter Photography Workshop departing in mid-January and mid-March 2017 (exact dates to be confirmed) through Artisan Travel.
The itinerary introduces participants to the skills of capturing the best images in unique light conditions, including the Northern Lights, with instruction on editing. Also included are ice fishing, a husky safari and a Sami reindeer experience.
Accommodation is at the lakeside Sorbyn Lodge and in traditional “lavvus” (tepees) at the Aurora Safari Camp, both in the far north-east. Prices from £1,625 excluding flights.
Bookings: 01670 785085; artisantravel.co.uk
8. In a glass-roofed igloo
Sleep under the stars and, with luck, the Northern Lights during a three-night stay at Kakslauttanen in Finnish Lapland through specialist operator, ScanAdventures. In the far-flung Urho Kekkonen National Park above the Arctic Circle, guest can choose from a choice of igloos built with a clear, thermal glass-domed ceiling and a cosily insulated interior.
Combi-cabin igloos, sleeping up to six, come with open log fires and a private sauna. Departures run from early November to early April and prices start at £1,599 including flights. A £200 per person supplement applies to Kelo Glass igloos, based on four people sharing.
Bookings: 020 7529 8759; scanadventures.co.uk
9. At 40,000ft
Take to the skies for a three-hour flight operated by Aurora Flights UK (booked through Omega Holidays), which operate small jets from London and regional airports between early November and late March.
Flying to the northern edge of British airspace, close to the Shetland Islands, departures are timed to coincide with darker periods in the moon’s phases and the flying height of up to 40,000ft ensures maximum visibility. Starting at £219.95 per person, the price includes a preflight presentation, the services of on-board astronomers and snacks.
Bookings: 01524 375500; omega-holidays.com
10. Off the beaten track in Sweden
Escape to the remote village of Karesuando to stay 160 miles north of the Arctic Circle on a seven-night Aurora Hunter itinerary offered by Transun from January to March. Accommodation is in the relaxed Davvi Arctic Lodge, where solo guests, as well as couples and families, are well-catered for as the single rooms (with a double bed but smaller shower room) carry no additional supplements.
Optional excursions include husky safaris, ice fishing and an overnight stay in a cosy igloo with an ice bed. Price from £1,119 including flights.
Bookings: 01865 265200; transun.co.uk