From private sleeping pods with transparent windows to bars offering local Icelandic beer, here are the best places to see the Northern Lights.
I didn’t think much about the aurora borealis until I saw those great Coca-Cola ads in the early ’90s, the ones with polar bears looking up at a sky streaked with swooping greens and purples. Ever since I’ve been dying to see the show—with or without polar bears.
A tour guide can take you to the lights—Cox & Kings (coxandkingsusa.com) arranges custom aurora borealis tours in Iceland and Sweden—or you could plan your own trip. You should be between latitudes of 65 and 72 degrees for ideal viewing, according to Cox & Kings’ European destination manager Bernhard Steiner. Book soon: The season runs from late November until March.
Iceland Design Hotel
Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel, which opened earlier this year, was once an inn for workers at the Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Plant. These power plant workers enjoyed a gorgeous view: The hotel sits atop a foundation of pillars that dramatically jut out of the slopes of Mount Hengill. There are a ton of places to stargaze: through floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the hotel, or from the Northern Lights Bar, which earned its name because of its panoramic views. The bar offers mostly Icelandic beer from local microbreweries. www.designhotels.com/ion
Finland Sleeping Pods
Nellim Wilderness Hotel has long been a prime northern lights viewing point. This month the hotel introduced supercool pods known as Aurora Bubbles—tiny private rooms with transparent glass ceilings, so guests can fall asleep looking up at the sky. The cozy restaurant serves very Nordic, wintry-sounding foods: fish from Lake Inari, reindeer, local forest mushrooms and Arctic berries. www.nellim.fi
When researching the northern lights, you hear a lot about light pollution, which is another term for electricity. Basically, the farther away you are from lightbulbs, the better your chances of seeing the show. So it makes sense that a cruise is a great option. Hurtigruten operates 11 ships that travel up and down the coast of Norway. There’s an emphasis on local foods, like king crab from the Arctic waters of Kirkenes (right on the Norway-Russia border). www.hurtigruten.us