Where to See the Northern Lights: Spring Equinox
The northern lights may be synonymous with the darkest winter months, but the spring equinox in March is actually one of the best times of year to see nature’s light show. Find out why – and where to experience your own equinox aurora.
There are two equinoxes each year – the autumn equinox in September and the spring equinox. Equinox literally means ‘equal night’ in Latin: it’s when we experience equal hours of day and night, roughly 12 hours of each, all over the world.
Not only is an equinox a pretty interesting astronomical event, it’s great news for aurora hunters, too. During the autumn or spring equinox, the chances of the northern lights making an appearance is higher, with brighter and stronger displays on the cards to boot. It’s all thanks to the magnetic field of the solar wind change – which causes the northern lights – reaching optimum configuration during an equinox.
The science behind the aurora borealis may be fascinating, but seeing the lights for yourself is an ethereal experience. And while there’s no guarantee they’ll make an appearance, no matter how meticulous your trip planning, it’s safe to say your chances are best during an equinox.
Whether you want to keep an eye on the long-term aurora forecast and book a last-minute trip, or plan ahead and ensure you’re in a prime location next March, here’s our pick of the places to see the northern lights during the spring equinox.
When it comes to booking an aurora-hunting holiday, Iceland has it all. It offers a perfect blend of opportunities for adventure, relaxation and picturesque road trips – as well as excellent conditions for northern lights spotting, with milder temperatures than Scandinavia at the same time of year. Just a three-hour flight from the UK, a long weekend visit is very much doable – making it ideal for a last-minute aurora getaway this spring equinox.
If you’ve only got a few days…
Northern Lights, Glaciers and Waterfalls is one of our most popular self-drives from October to April. It’s a four-day trip that’s been designed with viewing the northern lights in mind. Stay at Hotel Husafell, an irresistible bolthole in the west of Iceland surrounded by nature including Hraunfossar waterfall and near to Langjokull glacier. You can even ask the hotel to give you a wake-up call if the elusive lights make an appearance when you’re asleep.
Alternatively, push the boat out – almost literally – and combine two natural wonders in one trip! Aurora hunting pairs with orca watching on our expertly-guided small-group holiday Orcas and Aurora based on the rugged Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if there was somewhere way up north – say in Swedish Lapland – bang in the middle of the auroral oval (the sweet spot for the northern lights) where the night skies were usually clear and you could perhaps stand on top of a mountain, miles from any artificial light, to get a really good view of the night sky? Well, it just so happens that such a place does exist. It’s called Abisko National Park. Not only does Abisko have more nights of clear skies than anywhere in Europe, but its Aurora Sky Station provides the perfect grandstand for aurora seekers.
For a truly unique place to stay
Not far from Abisko, the Icehotel is not only a bucket list place to stay, but it is also a hub for winter activities ranging from ice sculpting to a snowmobile safari tracking down the northern lights. For the best of both worlds, choose our Northern Lights, Abisko and Icehotel short break.
A place that has wide open spaces, hardly any light pollution and dramatic scenery sounds too good to be true. But it does exist, in the north of Norway – and it’s as good for northern lights viewing as it sounds. You’ll find excellent aurora excursions from the vibrant city of Tromso, or head to Svalbard for a truly unique winter holiday.
For something really special…
Bookmark the Hurtigruten Classic Round Voyage for next year’s spring equinox. It’s been described as the world’s most beautiful sea voyage – not least because you’ll get the chance to see the northern lights dancing in the skies above the wide-open seas from deck.
The northern lights are no stranger to Finnish Lapland, putting in an appearance roughly 200 times throughout the year. So head here during an equinox and it’s likely you’ll be in for a real treat. There’s some fantastic accommodation on offer: you could spend the night in an glass igloo for aurora gazing all night long.
For a cosy place to stay…
The Iso-Syote Winter Hideaway is one of our best-selling trips, and it’s easy to see why. Stay in a cosy log cabin with panoramic views of the lakes and forests of the beautiful Syote National Park, complete with big skies and hardly any light pollution for the all-important aurora gazing.
It’s hard to beat Canada for an aurora holiday in the wilderness. The country’s northern provinces extend deep into the Arctic Circle, with idyllic snow-covered scenery for the perfect backdrop to the northern lights.
To get away from it all…
Blachford Lake in the Northwest Territories is so remote, it’s only accessible by air. It’s right under the aurora belt, so you’re chances of being treated to the northern lights are good – all in the middle of the epic wilderness. Take a seat in the outdoor hot tub and watch the lights dance overhead.
Looking for the ultimate winter adventure with a difference? Step forward, Alaska. The sparsely populated state is like nowhere else in the world, with part of it located right under the aurora oval. Base yourself in Fairbanks for an aurora hunt, though the lights do put in an appearance all over the state.
For something completely different…
Combine a northern lights quest with the unique spectacle of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. It includes two evenings of aurora hunting and the chance to get an insider’s look at a race across the world’s toughest terrain.