These Are the Best Places to See the Northern Lights in March 2020
Related: This Cruise Guarantees You’ll See the Northern Lights — or Your Next Cruise Is Free
Since strong moonlight is amplified by snow (especially if you're taking long-exposure shots on a camera), the absence of a moon can help travelers spot, and photograph, faint auroras.
There's another reason to aim for the middle or end of this month: March 19, 2020 brings with it the vernal equinox, when the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth align. The northern lights tend to be a little stronger at this time of year, and in 2020, the equinox occurs just days before the new moon, making this a great time to go.
Related: The Best Places to Travel in the United States in March
Of course, if you're traveling all the way to the northernmost latitudes for your chance to see the northern lights, you might as well check out some of the region's other unusual happenings. With everything from reindeer races to snow sculpture festivals, these are the 12 places you'll want to visit to see the auroras in March 2020.
It can be bitterly cold during the winter, but Saariselkä, at 68° N in Finnish Lapland, starts to thaw in March. Nightly aurora borealis hunting by mini-bus begins at 8 p.m., while your days are filled with skiing, ice-fishing, and snowmobile rides to Raja-Jooseppi, on the Russian border.
The Iceland Winter Games (IWG) return to Akureyri, in northern Iceland, for the seventh year in a row. The competitions, which include ski and snowboard competitions, as well as Icelandic dog sledding championships, run from March 20-22, 2020. When evening falls, head out of the city for your best chances of seeing the northern lights.
If you're staying at the Reindeer Lodge or Icehotel in Kiruna, Swedish Lapland, March is an ideal time to join the eco-friendly Lip Lip tour, which combines a walk with a reindeer and a local Sami guide. Expect storytelling, myths, nature, and the northern lights. The hunt begins at 9 p.m. and goes until 11:30 p.m.
Have you ever traveled on an ice road? The frozen Mackenzie River, in the northwest territories of Canada, stretches from Inuvik to the Beaufort Sea and over to Tuktoyaktuk (an Inuvialuit village on the Arctic Ocean). It's one of the world's longest ice roads, and it's best traversed from February through mid-April.
Ever built a snow castle? If not, come to Snow King's Winter Festival, an annual celebration of all things snow, ice, and winter. Now in its 25th year, it takes place February 29 - March 29, 2020 in Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, which lie at 62° N latitude.
If waiting patiently for the skies to clear doesn't give you the workout you wanted, get to Jokkmokk, in Swedish Lapland, on March 28, 2020. This is when the Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet begins. This 137-mile race dates back to 1884, and remains the world's longest ski run.
Abisko National Park, Sweden
Late March is the last chance of the year to go on a guided northern lights-spotting hike through Sweden's wild Abisko National Park at 68° N. For four hours, travelers walk along the Abisko River, using only a hand-held oil lamp on the way to a campfire where coffee and dried reindeer meat is waiting (and with any luck, the northern lights).
The capital of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi at 66° N often sees the northern lights. This being Finland, it's also considered every tourist's duty to be fried in a smoke sauna before being immersed in a freezing lake. Or you could sign up for the far easier Aurora Borealis Ice Floating in Rovaniemi, a unique adventure from Safartica that involves being immersed in a cold Arctic lake under a night sky of dancing auroras in a warm, dry flotation suit.
It can take a lot of patience to see the northern lights, but you don't have to spend all night out in elements waiting for them to appear. At Hotel Rangá, in southern Iceland, guests can be called when the auroras appear — whatever time of night that may be. If waiting in the cold just isn't for you, watch the night sky from one of the geothermal hot tubs behind the hotel.
With the gradually increasing temperatures of March, outdoor activities become more relaxed. So how about a candle-lit dinner on a frozen arctic sea? Pine Bay Lodge, in Gussövägen, near Luleå (65 degrees north) has cozy mobile Aurora Hideaway restaurants complete with roaring fires.
If you've got kids with you, waiting patiently outdoors for the northern lights probably isn't an option. So put them in a SnowCastle made from frozen seawater. This seasonal construction of ice and snow, near Kemi's city center, is open from the end of January until mid-April, and includes a SnowRestaurant, SnowChapel, and a SnowHotel.
All you really need for northern lights viewing is a remote, dark location and clear skies. On this Aurora Service trip, the first is assured in one of six north-facing cottages near the southern shoreline of Lake Inari in Lapland. If clear skies prove elusive, the organizers put guests into a bus and go looking for a break in the clouds up to 100 km north.