Best Places to Stay to See the Northern Lights
These eight hotels offer comfort and luxury in addition to prime sightings of the aurora borealis.
The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, occurs when charged particles from the sun collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, a phenomenon that happens most often near the North Pole. This means that intrepid travelers hoping to catch a glimpse of this fleeting, elusive natural wonder will need to head to far-flung locales—in the dead of winter.
Luckily, seeing nature’s great fireworks display doesn’t have to require giving up creature comforts. Here are eight luxury hotels in the best destinations for Northern Lights sightings. (Book your stay between November to March to increase your chances of seeing the show.)
The Ion Adventure Hotel, Iceland
Situated in what can only be described as the middle of nowhere, the Ion Adventure Hotel (pictured above) offers panoramic views of the surrounding geo-thermal area and mountainous region. Sit back with a cocktail made from Icelandic gin or an Italian wine in the Northern Lights bar and wait for Mother Nature to come out and play. The hotel is located an hour from Reykjavik and within easy driving distance from Iceland’s “Golden Circle” of natural wonders, including Thingvellir National Park, the hot springs at Geysir, and Gulfoss Falls.
Inn on the Lake, Yukon, Canada
You could borrow a set of snowshoes and head out into the wilds of the Yukon while you hope for solar activity —or you could stay in your suite and watch from the cozy comfort of your room at the Inn on the Lake in Yukon, Canada. The rustic hotel’s far-flung locale not only offers a chance to see the aurora borealis in action from your bedroom, but also opportunities to take part in classic winter activities like snowmobiling, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and ice fishing.
Treehotel, Swedish Lapland
If you want to get closer to the stars, climb a tree. Located deep in a pine, Sweden’s famed Treehotel is in a prime location to spot the Northern Lights. Book one of the hotel’s surreal rooms—the Mirror Cube, the UFO, and the Bird’s Nest are just a few of the options—and sign up for the Northern Lights photography package. The hotel’s experts will help budding photographers and old pros alike capture the dazzling display with a DSLR and tripod, plus plenty of organic baked goods and hot beverages to keep you going through the long dark night.
The Hotel Arctic, Ilulissat, Greenland
Situated 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the west coast of Greenland, the Hotel Arctic is the world’s northern-most four-star hotel and ground zero for aurora borealis. When you’re not looking at the sky, watch the namesake icebergs (Ilulissat means iceberg in Greenlandic) as they float on Disko Bay while dining at the award-winning Ulo Restaurant. Make the journey between mid-September and mid-April and stay in a room with an extraordinary view of the icebergs.
Lyngen Lodge, Norway
Set in secluded grove high above the Lyngen Fjord, the Lyngen Lodge provides decadent comfort to aurora borealis chasers. Sit by the fireplace in the great room while admiring the views of the Lyngen Alps, or relax in a Jacuzzi under the stars. Hit the Northern Lights like a pro after a seminar on the celestial phenomenon, and get tips on capturing the lights from the in-house photographer. If you’re feeling more adventurous, take command of a dog sled, sign up for a boat safari through the fjord, or go snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing.
Blachford Lake Lodge, Yellowknife, Canada
This rustic, remote hotel is located in Yellowknife, Canada, and accessible only by float plane (passengers have to sign a waiver before boarding it). But that doesn’t stop avid adventurers, who head to the lodge and log cabins for a chance to spend their nights watching for the Northern Lights and their days enjoying the hotel’s hot tub and viewing deck, as well as the lounge, bar, and library. The spot even offers an Aurora-watch wake-up service, so guests won’t miss a single moment of the light display—or shut-eye. For an even wilder experience, opt to camp out in a heated tent complete with roaring log fire.
Hotel Rangá, Iceland
Located two hours from Reykjavik, there’s no chance of light pollution diminishing the wonder of the Northern Lights at this four-star hotel. Watch the display from the hotel’s hot tubs, stay up late sipping Brennivín, Iceland’s signature liquor, eat perfectly prepared reindeer and salmon at the on-site restaurant, or head to bed after requesting a wake-up call if the lights appear. The hotel sits nestled between Iceland’s East Rangá River and the Mount Hekla volcano, and every room has an incredible view.
Levin Iglut, Finnish Lapland
Sleep under the night sky in a glass igloo, which may be the most ingenious way to see the aurora borealis. The Finnish hotel also offers a Northern Lights house, which is partially subterranean and topped off with large windows for surveying the beguiling landscape and the stunning skies. The house features a gold suite that looks straight out of Versailles, bringing a touch of old-world luxury to the great outdoors.