Best country to see northern lights

by Kelly

Looking for the best country to see northern lights? We did a huge northern lights trip across three countries to find the answer. Check out where we went, how we did it and our final conclusions!

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Why visit more than one country to see the northern lights?

You don’t have to visit more than one country, you can choose a place and go for it! But sometimes you just need to cover all bases and that was our plan with this trip! We knew that the northern lights can be elusive. The conditions could be perfect and yet the aurora may not show up. Or you could go at the perfect time and then the weather turns and you can’t see them. We decided to cover all bases and visit the three most likely places to view the lights over a 2 week period, giving ourselves enough chance to get good conditions.

Where are the best countries to see the northern lights?

We chose to visit two locations in Norway, Finland (Finish Lapland) and Sweden. We chose these locations as we read that they all have a high percentage of success in viewing the northern lights and we thought that as we would be in the region we would try to see them in as many environments as possible. Iceland was on our list but couldn’t fit it into this trip, hopefully that will be our next adventure!

Do you need a car for this trip?

We used a combination of public transport and car hire. We flew into Tromso, Norway and then travelled by boat to Lofoten, Norway. After this we caught a series of buses and trains to get to Sweden and Finland.

Is there an easier way?

These tours are really highly recommended and well organised. Check out: 7 day Magic Lapland Adventure, Northern Lights Exploration – 8 days, Aurora Borealis & Glass Igloo, Land of the Northern Lights – 5 days, Northern Norway Explorer.

Our ‘best country to see the northern lights’ itinerary

Location 1: Tromso, Norway

Flying into Tromso and beginning our trip here, spending 3 nights in the town that is meant to be the best place to see the northern lights. We decided to take a tour here as well as try to see them ourselves. We did a tour which took us out to a remote camp in the countryside. It was here we waited to see the lights. It was a great set up, there was a warm room with toilets and food, coffee and drinks provided. The hosts even had husky puppies that we were able to pat while waiting for the lights.

The countryside was lovely, it felt so remote and magical to be out so far in the snow. There was an outdoor area set up with a campfire and reindeer skins to sit on while we waited watching the sky. They also had thermal suits to wear if we were not warm enough. This was a great experience and we did end up seeing the northern lights! Our guide was really helpful and showed us what we were looking for and took some photos for us. We definitely recommend taking a northern lights tour in Tromso, it will help you get out to an area where you can see the lights more easily. There are some great ones to choose from, these are our top picks:

Best northern lights tours from Tromso

The tour we did was this Northern lights camp tour, other options we liked were:

From Tromsø: Northern Lights Tour – Search for the northern lights on this excellent tour from Tromsø. Get your picture taken with the northern lights by your guide, thermal suits provided, a fire, and warm food and drinks.

From Tromsø: Aurora Borealis Tour – This tour is excellent if you want to spend your time in a more outdoor location. They provide thermal suits, boots and hot drinks, photos will be taken for you. The stops are flexible and you will be taken where there is more chance of seeing the lights.

Tromsø: All Inclusive Northern Lights Chase Minibus Tour – This is a really popular aurora hunt, you will be driving to the best possible locations for that evenings weather. Search for the Northern Lights around the Tromsø area with an expert guide, warm up by the bonfire, a hot drink with roasted marshmallows, get pics with the lights and receive the photos after the trip, thermal suits are provided.

Northern Lights Cruise Norway –

When looking at Tromsø Northern Lights Tours we were so keen to go on a cruise to see the northern lights but they were booked out for our days, make sure to book in early so you don’t miss out! These are our two favourite options:

Luxury Northern Lights Cruise with Hot Tub & Dinner – Set sail on a small-group cruise from Tromsø on a 32-meter luxury yacht. Search for the northern lights from the warmth of an outdoor hot tub and enjoy hot drinks with Norwegian culinary delights.

Aurora Dinner Cruise by Hybrid-Electric Catamaran– Enjoy an Arctic tapas dinner while cruising in silence around Tromsø Island on a hybrid-electric catamaran tour. Discover nightlife below the surface and get the chance to see the Northern Lights.

Seeing the northern lights in Tromso without a guide

You can definitely see the northern lights on your own. There are some great spots in town however we really recommend taking a tour to give you the best chance. It is not as easy or as good as going with someone who is really experienced in finding them. If you want to try to see them on your own then some good spots in Tromso town are: the waterfront harbour area or the top of the cable car. We stayed in Tromsladen and some people have had luck seeing them there from accommodation but we didn’t. Honestly if we went back I would stay here in Tromso town and do a tour each night. It can seem expensive but it is worth it for the great experiences that are available and the higher possibilities of seeing the aurora!

Location 2: Lofoten, Norway

Travelling on a port to port ticket with Hurtigruten Cruises.

We jumped on a Hurtigruten boat to get from Tromso to Lofoten. The boat does leave at 1:30am which was not the greatest time but it makes for the best trip! You buy a port to port ticket selecting Tromso and Svolvær to book. You can choose to take a cabin or just deck space. We chose to just go as deck space as it is cheaper. It means that you will not have a cabin to sleep in or use.

You will be directed to the bar lounge area and there you will find lounges to sleep on or lazy boy style chairs. Both options are really comfortable and it is quiet and peaceful to sleep. In the morning you still stay in this area until you arrive at your destination, however you have the option to use the restaurant or café, or walk the outdoor area to take in the views. There are toilets to use right near the bar area also.

The other options are to drive yourself in a hire car or to take the bus. We chose to go with the boat over the bus as they both take approximately the same time however on the boat you have the option to spread out, walk around, use a much nicer toilet (bus toilets are always unpleasant) as well as have food available. The scenery is lovely as well, the bar has large windows which you can watch the landscape pass by.

Seeing the northern lights in Lofoten

Lofoten is one of our favourite places! We had such a wonderful time here, saw the best aurora displays of our trip and highly recommend it to anyone going to Norway.

We actually did hire a car in Lofoten as it is not a large area but it is rather spread out and to see as much as possible it is best to drive. Lofoten is actually a small island chain and one single highway runs the length of it. The E10 is the road you will mostly follow the whole way while here.

Seeing the northern lights at Ballstad, Lofoten

We stayed in two beautiful locations, the first was Ballstad which is located about half way along the Lofoten Islands. This is a beautiful area to stay as there is a lot to see here and also great spots for northern lights viewing.

We stayed at Hattvika Lodge and couldn’t recommend it more highly. It was the perfect mix of rust charming lodges with all the modern luxe necessitates required. The aesthetics of our accommodation in the hillside chalet was perfectly dreamy and I really didn’t want to leave. We also happened to see the most wonderful aurora display! We stayed here two nights which was perfect. While we were out stumbling around one night hoping to see the aurora we ran into the owner of the lodges who pointed us to the pier. It was the best advice as soon after walking there we were rewarded with the northern lights dancing overhead for hours! Check out our review on our stay at Hattvika Lodge for everything you need to know, it is really exceptional!

Seeing the northern lights at Hamoy, Lofoten

We then drove further along the E10 to Hamnoy. This is a tiny little island in the Lofoten chain and is the home to Eliassen Rorbuer. I can’t express how much I loved it here. The accommodation are renovated rorbuer which are fisherman’s cottages. They are so quaint and charming with everything you need for a great stay. After spending the day visiting nearby locations we cooked dinner and waited to see the northern lights. They came out and put on such a wonderful display! We were so happy to see them against the water of the Reine Fjord and the mountains.

Abisko Northern Lights

We then headed back to Svolver to drop off our hire car and jump on a bus to Narvik. Narvik is a town in Norway that has some good connections to northern Norway, Oslo and the rest of Scandinavia. We caught a train from Narvik to Abisko, Sweden. Abisko is known to be a great place to see the northern lights. It is quite remote and set next to a large lake that completely freezes in winter. The area is one of the darkest so seeing the northern lights is generally possible.

We stayed at the Abisko Guesthouse which was quite basic but all we needed for one night. The guesthouse is right near the lake. They run lots of activities from here on the lake but we were mostly there to try and see the lights.

That evening we ventured out, they had snow suits and boots available to borrow which was nice. We walked toward the lake, while the aurora was out it was not as strong as we had previously seen and headed back inside.

Abisko would make a great place to visit to do activities and see the aurora but I think we had been spoilt in Norway and were ready for a sleep! I think the lake is actually more beautiful by day. The following day we were leaving and the clear blue sky and the pure white of the frozen lake was spectacular.

Finland Northern Lights

We jumped on a bus the next morning from Abisko Sweden to Pello Finland. This was relatively straight forward however it did get interesting from here. We were on to our final country to see the northern lights, Finland. Specifically we were heading to the Arctic Snow Hotel in Finland (Finish Lapland). From Pello there is one small minivan that makes the trip to Rovaniemi. We were on a tight schedule to make it as it was a Sunday making everything more difficult. Where to bus arrives at Pello you have to walk down a road, across a bridge and down another two roads to get to the minivan pick up point. When you cross the bridge you are crossing from Sweden to Finland and usually there is a border control to check your passport.

Well, we were in a big rush! The bus was running late and we had to run across and down the roads to make it in time. Luckily for us we crossed the bridge and the border control was closed so we didn’t have to stop. Racing along the icy roads we made it just in time. The mini van pulled up and it was already pretty full. There was duct tape holding the dash board together and a massive crack in the windshield. That hour ride felt like a lot longer! We finally were dropped off on the side of the snowy road and told to walk down another country road to get to the hotel. Honestly I was so happy to walk in there!

Northern lights in Finish Lapland

The Arctic Snow Hotel is located just outside of Rovaniemi in Finish Lapland. The landscape here is beautiful, also set on a lake. We stayed two nights here once in their ice hotel and the other in their glass igloos! Both were incredible experiences, check out our reviews on the Arctic Snow Hotel to see what it is like.

Our favourite part was that they have an aurora alarm! This means that if you are staying in the ice hotel a staff member will come to wake you up or if in the glass igloo an alarm will sound in your room to wake you up to see an aurora. No more watching and hoping all night, you can sleep soundly knowing you wont miss it! We were woken up in the ice hotel by a lovely staff member who let us know that the aurora was out, and saw them again in our glass igloo! This hotel was such a great arctic experience!

Our conclusion on the best country to see the northern lights!

Ok so we have to weigh up the pros and cons. We are deciding on the best country to see the northern lights from our experiences in each of the countries and towns we visited then the overall winner for me would be Norway.

Norway is spectacular. Hands down one of the prettiest places we have ever been and the three locations we visited made for the most wonderful northern lights viewing. If you could only go to one then I would go to the Lofoten Islands. While we loved Tromso there is nothing like driving through Lofoten and staying at both Hattvika Lodge and Elassien Rorbuer made our northern lights experience even better. Tours are a must, while they may seem expensive they are worth it! We were so lucky to see the lights while staying at some amazing places but I would definitely also book tours to see them, particularly in Tromso!

A very close second (almost tied for first really) is Finland. Staying at the Arctic Snow Hotel was the most unique and incredible experience. I recommend staying two nights to experience the ice hotel and glass igloos. If you are really not keen on staying in the ice hotel then stay in the igloos and visit the ice hotel during the day. The aurora alarm is worth its weight in gold, not having to worry your missing it by staying inside is incredible and lets you enjoy your evening.

Sweden comes in at third place for us and this is probably because we were only in one town for one night and we were quite remote. I think it could be wonderful if you had more time and I hope we go back soon to explore more of Sweden. Check out our full blog on Abisko.

I hope this helps you in your northern lights planning. Seeing them is incredible! If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments I am happy to help.

Where Next:

Northern Lights Lofoten

Best country to see northern lights

Things to do in Tromso, Norway

Tromsø Northern Lights Tour

Norway Road Trip

10 Best Instagram photo spots in Norway

Northern Lights in Norway Tour – Best Arctic Review

Lofoten Islands of Norway

Horse riding is a must do activity in the Lofoten Islands

Things to do in Ballstad, Lofoten

Lofoten Islands hotel, Eliassen Rorbuer

Travelling in Norway Tips

Lofoten Islands accommodation, the hidden gem that is Hattvika Lodge.

What to do in Reine, Lofoten

Gluten free in Norway

Glass Igloos, Finland – review of Artic Snow Hotel Lapland Finland

Ice Hotel Finland- our review of Artic Snow Hotel Lapland Finland

What it’s like staying at Arctic Snow Hotel Lapland, Finland

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