The Best Places to See the Northern Lights in February 2019
Related:The Best Places to Travel in the U.S. in February
To see the Northern Lights you need clear skies, which isn't guaranteed in the Arctic Circle, so plan to stay at least a week. Don't worry too much about moonlight, but know that the new moon falls on Feb. 4, 2019, so visiting between a week before and a week after will guarantee you skies dark enough to amplify any displays of aurora that come your way. The last week of February 2019 would also work well (avoiding the full moon on Feb. 19).
However, there are scores of other reasons that make February the perfect time to hit the Arctic Circle and wait for one of nature's greatest displays.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
Directly beneath the Auroral Oval at 68° N, the dramatic scenery of Norway's Lofoten Islands, south-west of Tromsø, will be lit by February's gradually rising sun. Staying in traditional waterfront fisherman cabins, the three-night 'Northern Lights in Lofoten' package includes two nights out hunting for the aurora.
What do you do between hunts for the Northern Lights? A mixture of art, industry, environment, history, sports, and culture is promised by the Winter Lights Festival, which is being held from Feb. 7-10, 2019 in Iceland's capital at 64° N. Celebrating the return of daylight, Reykjavík's thermal pools and the Reykjavík Ski Resort will also take part in festivities.
The return of significant daylight in February is a big occasion for Arctic Circle inhabitants. Over in Norway, Feb. 1-3 sees the staging in the small Norwegian town of Harstad, at 68° N, of a new music festival called Ilios. It's named after the Greek sun god.
There are few better places to try your hand at Northern Lights photography than the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, whose fells and frozen lakes — Pallasjärvi and Jerisjärvi — provide the most photogenic backdrop possible. This trip is based at the historic Torassieppi Reindeer Farm at 70° N and includes a 17 km husky safari, cross-country skiing, a local cookery course, snowshoeing, a spa and smoke sauna, ice fishing, and a Northern Lights reindeer safari. It departs on Feb. 24, 2019.
Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway
Get to 78° N and you're in another world, a world where Polaris, the North Pole Star, hovers just above the horizon. Here the Polar Night drags on into February, but from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3, 2019 it will be enlightened by Polar Jazz, the world's northernmost jazz festival, which also takes place in the nearby Russian settlement of Barentsburg.
Where there are Northern Lights, there is often dog sledding, and nowhere more so than in Fairbanks, Alaska at 64° N on Feb. 2, 2019 when the annual Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race begins. While you wait for the aurora borealis, mingle with dog mushers about to embark on a 1,000-mile journey to Whitehorse in Yukon, Canada.
Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
It's not just reliable Northern Lights and relatively warm temperatures that bring tourists to Iceland in January. It's also Orca watching season here, and they can be seen from land on the western Snaefellsnes Peninsula at 64° N. Responsible Travel is holding a photo tour here starting Feb. 4, 2019.
One of northern Scandinavia's most famous Northern Lights destinations, Tromsø adds another string to its bow in the first week of February when it hosts its annual international music-centric Arctic Light Festival, which happens on Jan. 25 through Feb. 3, 2019. At 69° N, Tromsø is well into the Arctic Circle.
Caribou and Arctic foxes roam the tundra around Iqaluit, the capital of the remote Canadian territory of Nunavut. Your last chance to visit this Inuit settlement at 64° N on Baffin Island in Frobisher Bay comes this month when Great Canadian Travel conducts its final four-night trips to the region from Ottawa. Departures are daily, with the final trip leaving on Feb. 15, 2019.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Iceland
Inari, Finnish Lapland
Between searches for the Northern Lights you'll find fascinating cultures everywhere in the Arctic Circle. You can help celebrate the annual Sámi National Day on Feb. 6, 2019 at the Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos at Lake Inari, Finnish Lapland. Expect a rarefied atmosphere and, at 68° N, a very good chance of Northern Lights.
Now in its 413th year, the Jokkmokk Winter Market from Feb. 7-9, 2019 is the reason to visit this small town in Swedish Lapland at 66° N. With food stalls, live music, and handicrafts made by indigenous Sami people, it's the perfect occasion to add some culture to your Northern Lights hunt.
While spending a night on ice — and under reindeer skins — in one of Icehotel 365's “cold rooms” in January won’t appeal to everyone, February is when the Icehotel is at its quietest, though at 67° N its Northern Lights displays could also be worth shouting about.
The 24/7 Polar Night of January here at 69° N might sound tempting for Northern Lights hunting, but Kilpisjärvi is one of Finland's coldest inhabited places. So it’s best to avoid January and wait until February or March to get to this north-westernmost point of Finland. It’s close to northern Sweden and Norway.
Cruising the spectacular calm waters of the Norwegian coastline is a tried-and-tested way of experiencing the Northern Lights. From February each year ferry operator Hurtigruten's fleet of 11 ships begins its 11-night Classic Round Voyage, sailing from (and back to) Bergen, reaching Kirkenes at 69° N.