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Top 8 ways to experience the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are Scandinavia’s most spectacular natural wonder and, unsurprisingly, one of its biggest draws. And, spotting the ethereal display is easier – and more luxurious – than you may think. From Finland to Norway; Sweden to Iceland; Scandinavia and the Nordics offer endless ways to witness the aurora, from heated glass igloos to treehouse hotels alongside gourmet dining and thrilling winter adventures. Discover our curated selection below. 1. In a glass igloo in Finland Finnish Lapland is a fairy-tale destination of snow-dusted forests, frozen tundras and some of the most unique luxury accommodation in Europe. And, the most iconic of the latter is surely the glass igloo, the country’s design-led domes that allow for wonderful views of the celestial ballet from the comfort of your own motorised bed. We particularly love the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel that allows you to get closer to the aurora than ever, with panoramic views from a cosy treetop chalet, while the Levin Iglut Glass Igloos allow for uninterrupted viewing throughout the night from the cosiest of vantage points. And remember, whilst winter’s snow is magical, the glorious colours of autumn also make for a wonderful backdrop to a glass igloo – with the Northern Lights making their first appearance as early as August. 2. From a log cabin in the wilderness Perhaps the quintessential winter experience, snuggling up by a roaring log fire in a log cabin after relaxing in your private sauna is made all the more magical when you step outside to view the aurora – or watch from your private hot tub. Finnish Lapland’s boutique adults-only offering, Beana Laponia, offers the choice of viewing the Northern Lights from the warmth of the hotel or a more remote Sami lavvu tent beside a roaring campfire. Sweden has its fair share, too: the Fjellborg Arctic Lodge, for private rent only, is all Scandi-chic features and fur-trimmed accents with a private outdoor hot tub – the perfect vantage point for prime Northern Lights viewing with a glass of champagne. 3. With a stay at an ICEHOTEL Bedding down among snow and ice is a rite of passage for the winter traveller, and it’s hard to beat the original: Sweden’s world-famous ICEHOTEL. Here, you’ll have the option to seek the lights on thrilling snowmobile tours, before returning for a drink in the ICEBAR and to sleep atop a bed carved from ice. Be sure to keep an eye – and ear – out for the aurora alarm, signalling the appearance of the lights. Neighbouring Finland and Norway offer their own ice-clad versions, too, adding to the experience everything from snow saunas to remote ice domes. 4. On a husky sled or snowmobile The chance to witness the lights on a husky sled or snowmobile is true bucket-list stuff. There’s even chances for thrilling, unforgettable overnight husky expeditions to remote camps, watching for the aurora as you eat around a roaring campfire. It’s all perhaps most spectacular, however, in Svalbard, that far-flung archipelago to the north of Norway. Home to polar bears and walruses, from here you can sled to the remote Camp Barentz with the help of an expert guide to view the aurora away from any light pollution. You can even witness them during the day on snowmobiling trips during Svalbard’s ‘polar night’, when the sun never rises above the horizon for three months in an ethereal blue haze. 5. From a luxury hotel in Iceland’s national parks The land of ice and fire is filled with dramatic, wild backdrops: think spouting geysers, colossal glaciers, powerful waterfalls and sprawling lava fields. Add in its world-class Northern Lights viewing and it all makes for a truly epic adventure, with luxury hotels an excellent base from which to view the aurora in remote national parks. The minimalist, design-led ION Adventure Hotel has a huge glass expanse in its spectacular Northern Lights bar for world-class viewing of the star-spangled sky, or one up still is Deplar Farm, the ultimate wild retreat. Here, stylish features and a luxe spa lie alongside snowmobiles and off-road vehicles for the chance to see the aurora in almost total solitude. 6. From the treetops There are a vast number of experiences to be had in Sweden, but if you’re chasing the Northern Lights, northern Sweden lies under the auroral oval, making it one of the best places for viewing the display on a clear night. There can be little more special – or romantic – than seeing the lights from a treetop cabin with your loved one; it’s especially perfect for a honeymoon. Sweden’s Treehotel offers seven treetop rooms with their own distinct styles and designs, as well as the chance to picnic in the snow under the stars and, with luck, Northern Lights. 7. On a city break It may surprise you to know that you can in fact view the aurora without venturing too far from the beaten path. Tromso, known as the Northern Lights capital of the world, offers world-class aurora viewing from the comfort of a city, with chances to head out on husky sledding and distillery tours alongside its roaring bar scene. Over in Sweden, the frozen city of Lulea has a gorgeous Old Town as well as completely frozen surrounds that create a ‘sea of ice’ for sledding, ice skating and more – all lit up by the Northern Lights for six months of the year. 8. On a Santa break One that children and adults alike will remember forever, there’s nothing much more special at Christmas than visiting Santa in his true Finnish Lapland home. Both Harriniva and Rovaniemi offer Santa experiences, where you can husky sled, feed reindeer and, of course, meet the man himself. There’s even more magic at the end of the day as you step out of your cabin or glass igloo to catch sight of the magical aurora. Whilst it’s Christmas that’s the main event, Rovaniemi’s Santa’s Village is open everyday of the year, so you don’t have to wait until December to meet the famous man in red. Dave Warne is Product Director at The Luxury Holiday Company. The Luxury Holiday Company offers completely bespoke holidays designed to deliver unrivalled luxury, arranged by specialists who have more than 200 years of collective travel experience. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. Sorry to change the topic but I read somewhere about the Southern Lights. As I’d never heard of them before is it fair to say that they are not as spectacular as the Northern Lights. Do people in the Southern Hemisphere travel to see the Northern Lights?

    1. Interesting question Jeff! The aurora australis is also spectacular, but perhaps less popular as it can only be seen from the very south of areas like Tasmania, New Zealand and Antarctica, whereas the Northern Lights are perhaps more accessible (particularly from Europe!) and seen from a wider variety of places.

  2. Seven great ways of seeing the Northern Lights. But we’ve only just got through this Christmas and packed the decorations away. Let Santa have a well deserved holiday. Too early to be thinking about next Christmas, let’s leave it at 7 for now.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. If I ruled the world, which my husband believes I do, no one would be allowed to buy presents, send cards or put up decorations before December 10th. Two weeks preparation for a festival that’s becoming increasingly pagan is more than enough.

    2. A fair point, however Santa holidays in December get booked up very early, so sometimes we need to think about the festive season earlier than we perhaps wish to!

  3. A glass igloo, that’s such a good idea and so sweet. I think I’d be too scared of closing off the outside in case I miss anything, especially if you have a lot of waiting around hoping to spot the lights. “Celestial ballet”, I like that. I am curious though, what do you mean by a motorised bed, like the bed itself or the actual igloo can be transported? If I’d already seen the lights and can easily retire without panicking I’d miss anything then I’d probably want to do perhaps just one night in the ICEHOTEL. You can’t not really, it’s so novel and I would love to be able to tell people I stayed there, it would make a great talking point.

    1. A stay in a glass igloos is truly memorable, agreed Gem! Yes, the bed itself is motorised for prime positioning to view the lights – however, there are also hotels in Finland that offer portable ‘aurora wagons’. These are movable cabins can be moved to different areas like forests and frozen lakes for truly remote Northern Lights viewing! ICEHOTEL is another great option, though – and, as you say, so unique.

  4. All this seems as if it’s from another world with huskies, ice hotels, polar bears, rooms in trees, strange lights in the skies. It’s Frozen meets His Dark Materials meets Game of Thrones.

  5. You had me at glass igloo! Oh my god, that is beautiful right there. Can’t imagine a more unique way to enjoy a spectacular phenomenon as the Northern Lights. Although, it’s kind of scary too, being out there in the vast icy lands. Still, I’ll be sure to take note and consider this when planning my trip there.

    1. Definitely keep it in mind! It’s a truly unique and memorable way to experience the aurora.

  6. A trip to see the Northern Lights is most definitely on my ‘to do’ list. I understand it’s a natural phenomenon so nothing is guaranteed but when and where would you suggest is the absolute best place and time to go, not just to see the lights, but also to experience the destination.

  7. My dream is to see the aurora with my very own eyes. I cannot describe how wonderful it is for me and I would trade all my travel plans altogether if given the chance to stay in a glass igloo. I really wouldn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of an aurora alarm.

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