Aurora Hunter: 5 Tips for Spotting the Northern Lights

By Michelle Yastremsky

In 1619, astronomer Galileo Galilei coined the term “Aurora Borealis” to describe the lights in the Arctic Circle that dance across the skies in hues ranging from red to blue. Fascination with the lights date back to ancient times; drawings of this breathtaking phenomenon have been found in cave paintings in France dating back to 30,000 years ago!

So just how can you experience this amazing light show for yourself? Luck will always factor in, but you can increase your odds of spotting the Aurora Borealis by following these tips - happy hunting!

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Go on your first night

Increase your chances!

The first thing to note about the Northern Lights is they either show up or don’t. Conditions can be perfect, and they still won’t show up for the party. That’s why you greatly increase your chance by going on your first night, so you can continue your hunt your remaining nights if they don’t grace you with their shimmy of lights.

Download companion applications

Fellow aurora hunters have turned their passions into a tool that can be used to chase those effervescent lights. While of course they don’t guarantee you’ll see the lights, they track factors such as solar rays, wind speed and density to help predict the probability of spotting the sought-after lights.

Watch the forecast

Clear, dark skies are a must.

The forecast for your aurora hunt must be clear for a chance to witness the show. The darkness of the nighttime is more affected by the time of day and season. The summer months bring far too much sunlight in, which is why the time period between the end of September to Mid-March are most recommended.

Consider Location

Escape the cities!

Popular destinations for viewing the Northern Lights include Iceland, Finland, Norway, Canada, and Sweden. Even within those countries, it is best to travel to remote areas, far from the cities and the light pollution they bring.
You can still see the lights in Reykjavik, Iceland, but they would be far more intense in areas further out from the city such as the popular Thingvellir National Park. Consider a vacation in Iceland with a rental car so you can self-drive and find the perfect viewing spot on your own!

Go on a guided tour

Let experts help increase your chances.

Northern lights guided tour guides are passionate about the lights and helping visitors share the experience. They will be in the know on the best locations, times and conditions to experience the aurora. Most tour companies will even let you go on the tour several days in a row until you are graced with the light show at no additional fee.

Bonus Tip!

To whistle or not to whistle?

Some Native American tribes believed that whistling at the lights would make them dance for you!
Alternatively, Inuit belief claims that the lights are spirits of the dead and whistling at them will make them scoop you up and take them away- so whistle at your own risk!

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