One of the most impressive wonders of the natural world, the Northern Lights are on many people’s bucket lists as a must-see natural event.
Alongside sights such as the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls, the aurora borealis is one of the most famous natural phenomena, attracting thousands of visitors to countries in the Arctic Circle in hope of seeing the elusive spectacle.
While sightings are possible further south – and recently even as far south as Wiltshire – heading north to countries such as Finland, Iceland or Norway is your best bet if trying to see the lights.
However, with sightings also possible in more far-flung countries such as Canada and the US, choosing which once-in-a-lifetime Northern Lights trip is right for you can be tough.
We’ve rounded up some of the best holidays, short trips and packages on offer to give you the best experience possible (and the best chance of seeing the hard-to-catch lights!).
Best for budget: Reykjavik, Iceland
Perhaps most well-known for its affordable flights, Jet2 is also a big player in the package holiday market, with Which? consistently scoring it as the best provider in the UK. The company has over 20 package breaks that include Northern Lights tours, with all of them based in Reykjavik.
Running from September to April, all its packages contains special three-hour Northern Lights tours on one of the nights during your stay. Accommodation at the Grandi by Center Hotels is one of the best-value packages. The hotel is located near the centre of Reykjavik, just 1km from the main shopping street and the city’s art museum – perfect for exploring the Icelandic capital once you’ve got your Lights fix.
Four nights’ accommodation, B&B, including Northern Lights tour and return flights from £719pp; jet2holidays.com.
Best for sustainable travel: Saariselka, Finland
A company that prides itself on trips that “support communities and preserve nature”, Responsible Travel provides trips to every corner of the world while minimising the impact of travel on the environment and local community. Its website contains several incredible-looking trips, but our favourite is the tailor-made, four-night trip to Saariselka in Finnish Lapland.
Flights, airport transfers, cold weather clothing and both breakfast and dinners are included, while nights are spent in a glass-roofed Aurora Cabin, meaning that you may not even need to go on a special tour in order to see the aurora (though you do get guides anyway).
Additional activities on offer include snowmobiling, husky safaris, reindeer park visits and snowshoeing.
Northern Lights Family Holiday from £1,225pp (children under 15 from £890) for four nights, half-board, including flights and transfers; responsibletravel.com.
Read more on Europe travel:
Best for staying at the Ice Hotel: Abisko, Sweden
Located close to the Norwegian border in the north of Sweden, Abisko is well-known as one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Its tourism website claims that people staying for three nights have an 80 per cen of seeing the Lights, while those lucky enough to stay for four nights are “almost certain to see them”.
Discover the World provides three-night package tours of the area to help you in your quest to see the aurora. One of the major attractions of this package is the opportunity to stay in the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjarvi. The holiday includes two nights at the famous accommodation – with some parts newly constructed each year from ice in the surrounding area – as well as a host of other activities, including a visit to to Aurora Sky Station, which markets itself as the bestplace to see the Northern Lights.
Northern Lights, Abisko and Icehotel three-night package from £919pp, B&B, including transfers, one dinner and activities, excludes flights; discovertheworld.com.
Best for a city break with a difference: Tromso, Norway
With over 16 years of experience as “the UK’s only holiday brand solely dedicated to sharing Mother Nature’s greatest wonder”, The Aurora Zone is serious about helping travellers experience the Northern Lights.
With dozens of packages for Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland, aurora-hunters are spoilt for choice in their search for a Northern Lights trip. The Northern Lights city break to Tromso (in northern Norway) is a great pick for anyone wanting to see the Northern Lights in an especially unique setting; namely that of a busy city.
Situated 350km above the Arctic Circle, Tromso’s location makes it “a city break with a big difference”. Surrounded by rolling mountains and dramatic fjords, the town itself is often treated to Northern Lights sightings, without the need for dedicated tours trekking to the natural areas surrounding it. Nevertheless, the package does come with activities that are dedicated to helping you see the Lights in the best possible setting: aboard a Northern Light cruise and at a husky or reindeer camp on the outskirts of town.
With an afternoon also free for leisure activities, there’s plenty of time to explore the city after (hopefully) catching a glimpse of the aurora.
Tromso Northern Lights City Break package from £890pp for three nights, B&B, including activities, airport transfers and one dinner, excludes flights; theaurorazone.com.
Best for Northern Lights cruising: Norway
The “lifeblood of the Norwegian coast”, Hurtigruten has been cruising it since 1893 and currently offers several cruises along the entire length of the country’s coastline. Celebrating its 130th year in 2023, the company currently runs 32 different voyages with several covering Northern Lights locations across the country and into Finland and Sweden.
Everything from single day trips to 18-night voyages is available, with all cruises carrying a chance of seeing the Lights during the winter. Some of the three-day and four-day trips offer excellent value (starting at £246pp and £308pp respectively), but the 12-night roundtrip voyage is the best option if you’ve got the cash for it. Departing from Bergen, you’ll travel all the way to the north of the country at Kirkenes, via 34 ports including Molde and Trondheim.
Most important, however, is the cruise’s Northern Light Promise: if they don’t appear during the voyage, Hurtigruten will give you an extra free six- or seven-day classic voyage. With this guarantee and an offering of 70 additional optional activities, it’s sure to be an unforgettable 12 days.
Classic 12-day roundtrip voyage from Bergen from £1,503pp, full-board, excluding flights and transfers; hurtigruten.co.uk.
Best for skiing: Levi, Finland
Finnish Lapland is one of the best places to see the Lights, and Levi itself is one of the most popular ski resorts in the country, adding a holiday activity that isn’t available is most other popular Northern Lights locations.
Best Served offers an autumn break with a one-night stay in a glass igloo on the outskirts of town, with another two nights in contemporary accommodation. With several scenic-setting restaurants and activities ranging from horse riding to high-rope courses, there’s plenty to keep holidaymakers occupied while waiting for the Lights to make an appearance.
On day two, you’ll take a Northern Lights cruise on a pontoon ferry on a nearby lake, gazing up as you try to see the celestial show. If you’re not lucky enough to see it that evening, you’ll move to your igloo accommodation the next night, where it may be possible to catch sight of the lights from the comfort of your motorised bed.
Levi Glass Igloo Autumn package from £1,210pp for three nights, B&B, including flights, transfers and activities; best-served.co.uk.
Best for North America: Whitehorse, Canada
While TourRadar’s website presents hundreds of different packages for tours of different parts of the world, its Northern Lights tour around Whitehorse in Canada is one of the best-value trips on offer. With a hike to the AuroraCentre on the first evening, the package also offers a guided city tour, snowmobiling, ice fishing and dog sledding, among other activities. There’s also another trip to the AuroraCentre on the final evening to maximise visitors’ chances of seeing the famous phenomenon.
Three-night Aurora Viewing Basic package from £485pp, including accommodation, transport and tours, excludes meals and flights; tourradar.com.
Best for meeting Santa: Rovaniemi, Finland
Marketed as ‘The Official Hometown of Santa Claus’, Rovaniemi – the capital of Lapland – is a city surrounded by Arctic nature. The Santa Claus Village and Santa Park will obviously be extremely popular if you decide to take the kids, but attractions such as the Arktikum (a museum of Arctic history) and the Arctic Circle Husky Park will keep older visitors entertained too. Aside from this, the feel-good setting and Arctic surroundings provide an amazing chance to see the Lights at Christmastime.
Regent Holidays’ Rovaniemi package offers the above along with the obligatory Northern Light hunting expedition, with a package including activities such as a husky safari and a visit to a reindeer farm.
Rovaniemi Winter Weekend Break from £1,150pp for three nights, B&B, including return international flights (via Helsinki), transfers and activities; regent-holidays.co.uk.
Read our reviews of the best hotels in Iceland