An Amazing Addiction 🌌
Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomena, what I bet most of us wanna see at least once in our lifetime. Finally in 2017, I made a trip to Iceland, and it worth every penny. The sight was beyond amazing. Here are my top 5 tips to help you plan your trip.
1. Where to go 📍
Aurora occurs around the magnetic poles of the Earth. On the north they call it Aurora Borealis, on the south Aurora Australis. The northern hemisphere is more touristic. Mostly Auroras is visible in a band known as the “Auroral Zone”. Therefore I recommend to choose your destination in the zone. Sometimes this zone can expand. In America northern Alaska and Canada, in Europe mostly Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and the northern part of Russia are the best places. For more spectacular view avoid light pollution.
2. What time of the year 🤔
Aurora occurs whole year. BUT! the light summer months render them invisible, so the best time is from September until the end of March. January to March are the most popular seasons while they bring the longest dark nights. Once darkness falls, Aurora can be visible at any time.
3. The kp index ⬆
Well it is impossible to forecast when or where will Aurora occur. But you can help yourself. Kp index gives you a lot of informations. This value determines the strength of the geomagnetic storms which cause Aurora. The scale varies between 0-9, the higher the value the wider the zone is. Most of the time the index is between 1-3. Which gives you a visible aurora in the zone. The day when I visited Iceland the index was above 6!!!!. It was even in the news reports. The next two maps (NOAA), shows the expansion width of the aurora zone.
4. The weather ⛅
The weather is really important too. During a cloudy, stormy night you will probably see nothing. A clear sky gives the best view. Here I will tell you what you can expect from different locations:
- Iceland and Norway can be a good choice if you wanna avoid very cold winters. While the warm Golf stream ends up here, temperature rarely goes below -10 ℃ during wintertime. But a lot of cyclones occur in this region, so the weather is quite changeable, in is not that common to have a perfect clear sky.
- If you don’t mind the cold Lappland can be a good choice. Here the temperature can drop below -30 ℃ -40 ℃ degrees, but you have bigger chance for a cloudless sky.
5. The accommodation 🛏
Choosing the right accommodation plays an important role in the overall experience. As I mentioned try to avoid light pollution, so choose a place far from the cities. There are a lot of amazing igloos and arctic houses whit glass decks, but these are quite expensive. You can also book wooden houses far from the cities. Some of the hotels have aurora alarm, they will bell you any time of the night if Aurora occurs. Here you find some extraordinary accommodations:
- Iceland: Ion Adventure Hotel, The Buubble
- Finnland : Kakslauttanen Arcktik Resort, Kukkeli Aurora Cbins, Star Arctic Hotels, Polar Aurora Cbins, Northern Light Village, Arctic Glass Igloos, Santas Igloos, Arctic Tree House
- Sweden: Icehotel
- Norway: Kirkenes Snowhotel, Sorrisniva Igloo
- Alaska: Borealis Basecamp
+1 Apps and Web pages 🖥
There are plenty of cool websites and apps where you can check the aurora situation.
- On aurora service you can see the current status and the short term forecast of the Kp index, and the expansion of the zone. It is a really handy webpage, and they also have daily aurora forecast and an aurora alter sms.
- On the website of the NOAA you can find also a short term forecast (click here).
- If you are traveling to Iceland, on the website of the Icelandic National Meteorology Service the cloud coverage map shows where you have the best chance to have a clear sky (click here).
- If choosing Norway, on the site Norway Light you find suggest for different cities to hunt or not (click here)
- The webpag of the University of Alaska has real time aurora zone maps for the whole world (click here)
- The Finnish Meteorological Institution has also a forecast map for different cities (click here)
Some of the apps are free, some have expansions for money. On my iPhone I used Aurora Tonight, it is also available for android devices. There are more complex apps with more data or map like the Northern Light Forecast and Aurora or the Aurora Forecast, Aurora Now etc. You should look around in your app store and find what fits you the best.