Where Should I Go to See the Aurora Borealis?

I’ve always wanted to watch the Northern Lights over the night sky. Where’s the best place to go see them?

Feb 4, 2013
Outside Magazine
alaska canada russia northern lights aurora borealis travel

The beautiful northern lights as seen from Alaska.    Photo: Roman Krochuk/Shutterstock


If you want to cross “watching the Northern Lights” off your bucket list this year, you’re in luck. Thanks to the natural cycles of solar activity, the earth is in the midst of a peak period of Aurora Borealis activity. This flashy electric dance of atoms in the sky forms when highly-charged electrons carried by solar wind react to elements high in the earth’s atmosphere. You’ll find a great explanation on its origins at Howstuffworks.com.

The basic rule: the closer you get to the magnetic pole, the better your chances of spotting it. So, Alaska and Canada’s Northwest Territories are the prime locations—although it’s been known to creep much farther south, as folks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will tell you. I’d recommend these towns in North America for the greatest chance of success, especially between now and April, when the nights are longer and clearer. Consult the Geophysical Institute’s Aurora Forecast page, and remember: the farther you get from civilization—lights, people, electricity, etc.—the clearer the sky will be.

Fairbanks, Alaska
Yellowknife, Canada