January 29, 2017

There aren't many places more romantic to propose than under a sparkling Northern Lights show.

But planning that kind of unforgettable night takes some serious work. But keep a few things in mind, and you should be able to put together a seamless surprise.

Pick your destination

There are several places that can offer an amazing view of the Northern Lights. Try Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Alaska, Finland, Greenland, Canada, or Scotland if you're looking to make it a true vacation. There are even some spots in the lower 48 that offer views of the light show, if conditions are right. (Hint: Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania, is a great spot for taking in the night sky.)

Choose the right time of year

The Northern Lights are about to go into a dull decade where they may not appear as vibrant or often as you'd expect. This pattern—10 years on, 10 years off—happens because of the sun's solar cycle, which is when all of those energized particles are tossed in the air and react with the Earth's atmosphere, resulting in the Northern Lights. You will still be able to spot them during the winter months: generally October through early April. (Want to know more about the fading lights? Here's an explainer into the science.)

 Jamen Percy/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Check conditions

Not only do you need to make sure you're in the right place at the right time of the year, you need an incredibly clear night to get a peek at the Northern Lights. What that means: steer clear of cities, and make sure the weather forecast predicts a night clear of snow, rain, or clouds.

Dress appropriately

Unless you want your romantic proposal to be upstaged by constant shivers and the urge to run back into the comfort of a warm car, layer up! There's a good chance you'll have to do some driving and walking to find the perfect viewing spot. Dress in layers of sweaters, and bring along a thermos of coffee, hot chocolate, or whiskey to toast your upcoming nuptials.

Hire a tour guide

There are plenty of Northern Lights tours that run throughout any destination that regularly witnesses this phenomenon. If you want to skip the work of regularly checking in to weather stations, team up with a true professional. For example, Arctic Shots, a tour company based in Iceland, has helped a number of couples make that big step while simultaneously enjoying the Northern Lights. Send a few messages to tour guides in the destination of your choice and let them in on your little secret. Not only can they help everything flow as seamlessly as possible, many also offer private tours so you don't have to ask the big question in front of an audience. Some companies also combine lodging or other experiences with their aurora tours. For instance, Canadian tour guide Northern Tales offers spa visits and cabin stays with their Northern Lights tours.

If you don't succeed, try again

Many tour operators offer a second tour at a discount price, or for free, if you don't catch the lights the first time around. So, keep patient and keep multiple nights of your trip open for second-chance tours. It'll be worth the wait.

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