The Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

They’re quite the star of the bucket list, and for good reason, they’re the world’s most iconic light show after all. You’ll probably see a picture of this luminous phenomenon of our starry skies and immediately picture yourself gazing at the dancing green lights in Arctic wilderness, oh, how we love the Aurora Borealis. But it’s not all about the Borealis – the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to the Northern Lights is just as spectacular.

The lights, officially called Aurelius Borealis, feature throughout history and have spawned many legends. In fact they were named after the Roman goddess of Dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, in 1621.

Caused by the sun lying behind the formation of the auroras; the energy released during large solar explosions interacts with the atmosphere around the magnetic North Pole and causes the phenomenon approximately 100 kilometres above our heads. The lights occur all year round, but visibility is weather dependent and in parts of the world they can only be seen during certain months; in Greenland they are blocked out during summer by the midnight sun.

Other places you can see the mysterious Aurora Borealis include Alaska, Denmark, Scotland, Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden, or for the Aurora Australis, head to Southern New Zealand, Southern Australia or Antarctica.

Once you decide to observe the spectacle of the Northern and Southern Lights let us help you with the where and how. Would you like to see them after a day of snow dog racing in Alaska?  Or from your hotel outside of Reykjavik after a personal wake-up call? Perhaps a Swedish forest is your preferred viewing spot? For more information get in touch with us today.

ICELAND

Step away from the bright lights of Reykjavik and take an adventure into Iceland’s glacier and lagoon ridden wilderness to see the shimmying light show. The phenomenon is visible in the winter months between September and mid-April and is best seen when the sky is clear. Layer up because a cloud free sky means it can get very chilly.

New Zealand

The further south you go and the less light pollution there is, the more chance you’ll see the elusive Aurora Australis. The best places to catch the Aurora is the MacKenzie Region, the South Island’s Southern Coast and Stewart Island (also one of the best places in New Zealand to spot the elusive Kiwi). Our favourite spot is Lake Tekapo, home to the Mount John Observatory, where you’ll be astounded to learn about our solar system. Remember that winter is the other way round down under so you’ll have the best chance of spotting the Aurora Australis between April and September.

Sweden

Catch the lights in Sweden when the moon has set over the wintry wonderland – the best time to see it is between 22.00 and 23.00. Above Torneträsk Lake sits a scientifically proven ‘blue hole’ where the sky stays clear despite surrounding cloud cover. Being dazzled by the colourful rippling of the heavens is the definitely the best way to finish a day of dog-sledding and ice-fishing.

Alaska

There’s a high chance of seeing the lights in Fairbanks in the winter months as it’s situated within a so-called ‘aurora oval’. Make sure you get at least 20 miles out of the city for the best views – the lower the light pollution the brighter the lights. Alaska’s icy titan mountains are a stunning backdrop to see the lights ribboning across the sky and is best seen between 23:30 and 03:30 giving you plenty of time to challenge yourself with adrenaline fuelled activities in the day.

Canada

Whilst Canada has its fair share of awe-inspiring locations to catch a glimpse, the Northwest Territories such as the Yukon and in particular the frozen lakes surrounding Yellowknife are thoroughly recommended. Spending the days skiing or embarking on a bold adventure into the wilderness is the perfect complement to this night time spectacle.

Antarctica

With virtually no inhabitants or light pollution in the earth’s most southern point, Antarctica is truly the best place to see the Aurora Australis. This intrepid adventure is not for the faint hearted, but those with a daredevil spirit will be rewarded as the lights dance behind icebergs jutting out of the earth. There’s even the chance to glimpse the rare blue hues of the Aurora Australis due to increased levels of Nitrogen in the air.

Southern Australia

Tasmania and southern Victoria (drive along the Great Ocean road, anyone?) are the best places to spot the Aurora Australis in Australia due to the southerly location – Tasmania’s south coast being the prime location. We recommend a spot of stargazing on one of Tasmania’s or Victoria’s stunning beaches – keep an eye out on clear nights because sightings of the Aurora have increased tremendously in recent years.

Norway

In the centre of the Northern Lights viewing zone, you are almost guaranteed a ticket to the light show on a clear night in Norway between October and March. Tromsø and Lofoten, in the North, are both a labyrinth of Arctic fjords and makes a hauntingly beautiful background to Aurora Borealis displays. From here remember to look skyward as you embark on night time dog-sledding or cross-country skiing for an adventure with a twist.