The Best Places to See the Northern Lights on Your Honeymoon

Whether it's your honeymoon or an anniversary trip, witnessing the Aurora Borealis is an undeniably romantic experience.
The Northern Lights, aurora borealis, lighting up the night sky.
Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon / Getty Images
Suzie Dundas - The Knot Contributor.
Suzie Dundas
Suzie Dundas - The Knot Contributor.
Suzie Dundas
The Knot Contributor
  • Suzie is a freelance writer for The Knot, with a focus on honeymoon content and couples’ travel.
  • She’s written for publications like Outside Magazine, TripSavvy, Insider, Playboy, Forbes, SkyLife Magazine, Popular Mechanics, the SF Chron and more.
  • Suzie is an avid traveller, and she’s both stayed in luxury over-the-water villas in the Maldives, and slept in the plastic tube of an indoor playground at an airport when he...
Updated Mar 28, 2023
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Almost any place in the world can be a romantic destination for a honeymoon or celebratory getaway. If you're looking for something that will always be romantic, regardless of where you stay or what city you're in, there's an easy solution: book a trip to see the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights.

If you're wondering where to see beautiful northern lights, there's a simple answer: go north. You don't have to take a pricey northern lights cruise or book an expensive, multi-week vacation to the far-north reaches of Europe to see swirls of pink, blue, and green punctuating the otherwise jet-black sky. The northern lights are viewable from anywhere in the world above the 60th parallel, including regions across the USA and Canada, which is more or less in line with the Arctic Circle. Here's your must-read guide to planning a romantic northern lights trip, plus tips on where to see them and what hotels to book for your honeymoon or a couples getaway.

In this Article:

What are the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)?

Considered one of the most beautiful phenomena on earth: the northern lights are bright swirls of colorful light in shades of pink, orange, purple, yellow, and green that swirl across the sky near the planet's poles. The aurora borealis (or aurora australis, in the southern hemisphere) occur when gas particles are emitted from the sun. When those particles hit the magnetic field around the earth, they become charged. And when those charged particles meet oxygen and nitrogen (which is the majority of our atmosphere), the reaction takes the form of colorful, uncontrollable sparks of light. From afar, to us tiny humans on the surface, they look like colorful waves of light in the sky.

What are the Best Times of Year to See the Northern Lights?

A couple watches the Northern Lights in winter on the Lofoten Islands, Norway.
Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld / Getty Images

The best time of year to see the northern lights is during winter—but it doesn't have anything to do with the time of year. The sun emits gas particles year-round, so the aurora borealis is technically happening all year. But it needs to be dark to see the aurora, which is why the Northern Lights are generally thought of as a winter phenomenon. Winter brings long, dark nights, creating the perfect backdrop for the world's most beautiful nighttime show.

Perhaps, more important than when to see the Northern Lights is where to see the Northern Lights. The earth's magnetic field is weakest at the North and South poles, meaning those charged gas particles from the sun are more likely to make it through the atmosphere above them. If the charged particles can't make it through the magnetic field—which they generally can't in areas where the field is stronger—there's no chance of seeing the aurora.


The Northern Lights flicker over the White Mountains National Recreation Area in Alaska.
Patrick J. Endres / Getty Images

Where to See the Northern Lights in Alaska

Of all states in the US, Alaska is the most well-known for northern lights viewing, and certainly the most reliable. You can see the aurora borealis more or less anywhere north of Anchorage, though Fairbanks is generally considered the best place to see the aurora in Alaska. That's due to several factors, including low light pollution, a relatively far-north location within the state, and generally clear nights. Since Fairbanks is inland, it's not subject to the fog and clouds you're more likely to find at night in coastal towns like Anchorage or Homer.

Fairbank's aurora season lasts for a whopping nine months, between mid-August and mid-April. There's no chance of seeing them in the summer, when the town sees close to 24 hours of daylight in the peak of summer.

Alaska Northern Lights Tours

Since you can see the Northern Lights from so many places in Alaska, there are all kinds of tours available, ranging from single-day tours based in one city to multi-day vacation packages throughout the Last Frontier.

For a romantic one-day Northern Lights tour in Alaska from Fairbanks, book the hot spring and northern lights tour with Alaska Wildlife Guide. You'll likely see the aurora while soaking in the natural, snow-covered pools of Chena Hot Springs (usually around a toasty 106 degrees Fahrenheit).

If you're planning to fly in or out of Anchorage and only have one day to spare, consider adding an evening Aurora tour with Alaska Photo Treks. The guides are all highly skilled photographers who will teach you the basics of capturing the aurora, and the company keeps a close eye on the aurora forecast to find the best places and times to catch the dancing lights north of the city.

Alaska Northern Lights Cruises

Alaska may be the cruise capital of the US, and while it's tempting to book a romantic summer cruise, a spring or fall cruise will offer the best chance to see the aurora. Many Alaska northern lights cruises leave from Vancouver, British Columbia, making them much easier to reach than flying to mainland Alaska.

Honeymooners with vacation time should consider the two-week Yukon and Denali Cruise from Holland America. The cruise makes stops between Vancouver and Anchorage and includes a wilderness tour by train through Denali National Park and a visit to Dawson City in Canada's Yukon (also a prime location for spotting the Northern Lights). Cruise in April or September tour to maximize your aurora-spotting chances.

The Best Alaska Hotels for Seeing the Northern Lights

If you want to see the Northern Lights in a long weekend, head straight to Fairbanks. You can fly round trip through Fairbanks or fly into Anchorage and take the Alaska Railroad Aurora Winter Train to Fairbanks. The glass-domed train passes some of the most beautiful winter landscapes you'll ever see.

For a luxurious stay in Fairbanks, make your reservations at the aptly named Borealis Basecamp. The romantic hotel is about 30 minutes outside the city and offers both glass-roof igloos and high-end cubes with floor-to-ceiling windows. As you can probably guess from the name, all rooms are positioned for perfect Northern Lights views from the comfort of your cozy bed. Most packages include meals and adventure activities ranging, from hiking with reindeer to taking a helicopter to a private mountain-view hot spring.

If you're intrigued by the idea of aurora borealis photography, look at the Taste of Alaska Lodge on the city's outskirts. The lodge has more of a cozy log cabin feel, with quilted comforters in the suites and traditional Alaskan decor throughout the lodge. It's family-owned and the current owner is an expert in aurora photography. Each evening, visitors can gather on the purpose-built viewing deck (clad in loaner clothing to keep warm) for photography tips and tricks. The owner also takes his own photos most evenings and shares them with guests just in case their photos don't pan out. It's a warm and cozy place that oozes true Alaskan hospitality.

And if you have more time to spend in Alaska, head even further above the Arctic Circle to the Brooks Range. Iniakuk Lake Lodge is a luxury fly-in, fly-out lodge with exceptional aurora viewing and daytime activities like dog sledding and wildlife viewing at the remote Gates of the Arctic National Park.


The moon shines over the Northern Lights at the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier in Iceland.
Arctic-Images / Getty Images

Where to See the Northern Lights in Iceland

It's hard to find somewhere in Iceland that isn't ideal for seeing the northern lights. That's not only because the country sits so far north (the capital, Reykjavík, is on the 66th parallel, roughly even with southern Greenland) but because it has minimal light pollution. With only five cities with more than 10,000 people, you can count on extremely dark skies almost every night. While the aurora borealis can be tricky to see from Reykjavík (though certainly not impossible), pretty much everywhere else in the country is created equal when it comes to the aurora. Most of the "best" places in Iceland to see aurora are considered so because of their beautiful landscapes, not necessarily because the aurora is spotted more frequently in those areas.

Iceland Northern Lights Tours

If you want to maximize both your Northern Lights viewing and chances for taking beautiful photos, sign up for an Iceland Northern Lights tour. You can take evening tours from Reykjavík with companies like Reykjavik Excursions (which offers a free second tour on the off-chance you don't see the lights), or opt for a higher-end, multi-day tour. Arctic Adventures offers a full-day adventure tour with aurora-viewing stops at gorgeous locations like Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, or you can book private trips for an exclusive Northern Lights experience where you'll stay in luxury hotels.

The Best Northern Lights Hotels in Iceland

For a romantic Northern Lights hotel in Iceland where the aurora is always the priority, consider Hotel Rangá. The posh hotel is about an hour and a half south of Reykjavík and offers several aurora-viewing amenities, including wake-up calls if the lights suddenly appear, an on-site observatory with a nightly astronomy guide, cold-weather exposure suits to keep travelers warm, and a 24-hour bar so you can watch the skies with a hot toddy in hand.

For a more unique stay, consider the Buubble Hotel—and yes, the spelling is correct and the name gives away what you can expect from the rooms: they're clear bubbles, perfect for two people. It's one of the best northern lights hotels in Iceland for couples who don't have a car as the bookings are only available as part of a tour. Tours include pickup from Reykjavík, an overnight stay in one of the hotel's furnished and romantic aurora bubbles, and stops at popular sites like Thingvellir National Park and Gullfoss Waterfall. Package rates start around $1,000 per person.


The Northern Lights shine across the sky at Festhelltinden peak and Hamnoy in Norway.
Francesco Vaninetti Photo / Getty Images

Where to See the Northern Lights in Norway

Like Iceland, Norway also has a small population and a lot of space, making it less susceptible to light pollution. And it doesn't hurt that the country's landscapes are gorgeous, creating stunning locations for viewing the Northern Lights.

However, unlike Iceland, much of Norway is below the Arctic Circle, including its capital city of Oslo. So you'll need to head north for the best chance of seeing the aurora. Some popular places to see the Northern Lights in Norway include Tromsø (a two-hour flight from Oslo) and Senja, just south of Tromsø. Senja is also well-known for its gorgeous island landscapes, making it an ideal choice for more adventurous couples.

If you already planned your Norway honeymoon to include the very popular Lofoten Islands (a 2.5-hour flight from Oslo), you'll be happy to know there are several great places to see the lights on the Lofotens. On nights when the aurora borealis is dancing, you'll see people gathered on beaches like Uttakleiv, Haukland, and Vic.

Norway Northern Lights Tours

Norway is a long and narrow country—though it's only 267 miles wide, it's more than 1,000 miles long. So taking a Norway Northern Lights tour can be a good way to see the country's highlights without worrying about transportation logistics.

Magnetic North Travel offers customized three-to-six-day honeymoon Northern Lights tours from Tromsø, including opportunities to see the Northern Lights on a fjord boat tour and from a wooded wilderness camp. But if you'd prefer a shorter (or more affordable) option, you'll find plenty of single-day northern lights tours from Tromsø, including a northern lights dinner cruise or taking a reindeer-pulled nighttime sleigh ride.

The Best Northern Lights Hotels in Norway

It's hard to find a hotel north of Oslo that doesn't have fantastic viewing opportunities, but a few northern lights viewing hotels in Norway are especially well-suited to couples.

For a romantic stay near Tromsø, Lyngen Experience Lodge is an ideal option. Room options include igloos, houses, or lodge rooms, and the hotel can provide transportation from the city center. Couples can watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of their luxe rooms or the hotel's on-site gourmet restaurant and fill their (limited) daytime hours with activities like dog sledding or snowmobiling.

On Lofoten, couples can't do better than the Nusfjord Arctic Resort. Set in a historic seaside fishing village, the hotel's rooms are all high-end, renovated cabins on a calm ocean inlet. It's well-known for its open-air spa (where you may see the aurora borealis during your massage) and offers activities ranging from on-site wine tastings to Northern Lights tours with an expert photographer. You can also book complete Northern Lights packages that include your room, aurora tours, and gourmet meals.


The Northern Lights appear close to Yellowknife in the Canadian Northwest Territories.
Vincent Demers Photography / Getty Images

Where to See the Northern Lights in Canada

Where to see the Northern Lights in Canada comes down to two words: "north" and "remote." The Arctic Circle cuts across the top of the country, so destinations north of that boundary (like Iqaluit, in Nunavut, and most of the Northern Territories) are the best places to spot the aurora. Unfortunately, they can be very difficult to reach.

Fortunately, however, Canada's central reaches (like northern Alberta) aren't very populated, so even though they're south of the Arctic Circle, you still have a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights. The area around Jasper National Park is generally considered the best place to see the Northern Lights in Canada outside of the Arctic Circle since it's one of the world's largest easy-to-reach International Dark Sky Preserves.

Canadian Northern Lights Tours

Honeymooners will likely be able to find a Northern Lights tour in most cities of central or northern Canada, but two of the best aurora tours are in Churchill and the Yukon. The best Northern Lights tour in Churchill is with Churchill Wild, a company that combines polar bear safaris with Northern Lights viewing activities. The company runs several lodges throughout Manitoba that include bear safaris, northern lights viewing, gourmet food and drink, and transportation from Winnipeg.

In the Yukon, Fresh Adventures runs affordable Northern Lights viewing trips that include wildlife viewing in Yukon Wildlife Preserve; rates start at a fairly reasonable $1,150 per person. For something more luxurious and romantic, explore Canada's northern lights tours with the True North Collection, which offers luxurious five-day trips starting and ending in Whitehorse.

The Best Hotels in Canada for Northern Lights Viewing

In the Yukon, most hotels are locally owned and fairly casual, but that doesn't mean they aren't perfect for a northern lights honeymoon. Whitehorse's Blachford Lake Lodge has multiple aurora-viewing platforms and a huge outdoor hot tub with near-perfect views of the night sky, and Northern Lights Resort and Spa has glass-walled cabins and day trips to nearby hot springs.

If you're keen on visiting the Northwest Territories, stay at the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife. From there, you can book dozens of aurora-viewing adventures, including photo tours and visits to remote teepee villages.

If your time is more limited, fly into Calgary or Edmonton in Alberta and make the short drive north to Jasper. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is one of the most elegant hotels in Canada and offers easy access to Jasper's Dark Sky Park and high-end aurora-viewing tours. In Manitoba, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge has a social atmosphere, cozy rooms far removed from development, and, no big deal, the chance to see both polar bears and the northern lights on one trip.


The Northern Lights flicker over the standing stones at Callanish, Scotland.
Luca Quadrio 500px / Getty Images

Where to See the Northern Lights in Scotland

Scotland is one of the easiest countries to reach in Europe, making it a top place to see the northern lights if you're already planning a romantic European trip. Of course, Scotland isn't as far north as places like Alaska or Iceland, so the chances aren't quite as high of seeing solar activity every night. But if you want to maximize your chances, head north to beautiful parts of Scotland like the Shetland Islands, the Isle of Skye, or the Orkney Islands.

Scotland Northern Lights Tours

Scotland is one of the most rewarding places to take a northern lights tour as the phenomenon doesn't happen as frequently as it does in the Arctic Circle, so it feels extra special when you see it. It also means you can increase your chances of seeing the lights by anticipating light pollution and knowing what cities and valleys are most likely to have clear skies—two skills a professional guide can provide. Spirit Journeys offers a multi-day northern Scotland tour with visits to dark sky parks (and opportunities to visit distilleries in the Scottish Highlands), and cruise companies like Holland America and Viking offer multi-day boat tours of the Highlands where you can spend all evening gazing at the sky.

Scotland Northern Lights Hotels

If you're in Scotland just for the Northern Lights, head to the Pennan Inn on the North Sea. The small B&B caters to aurora viewing, and the owner is an avid aurora photographer who leads custom tours for guests and offers "aurora wake-up calls" so you can snuggle in bed while someone else watches the skies. And for a truly romantic hotel on the Isle of Skye, consider the Flodigarry Hotel. Housed in a sprawling country estate on the ocean, the hotel has easy access to wilderness, plus a whiskey lounge and sprawling gardens.

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