Northern Lights Hunting: 6 Unlikely Destinations to See Aurora


The aurora borealis might well be one of the most fascinating shows that nature has to offer. Northern Lights hunting enthusiasts often sacrifice long nights in the cold just to catch a glimpse.

As the name suggests, this dazzling show often appears close to the North Pole. However, there are a number of unlikely destinations further south where you could chance upon it. These are often in Dark Sky locations and parks where light pollution is low.

These are great spots to combine a daytime adventure in nature and a night sky experience. Some of these are in the upper states of North America while others are outside the states. Without further ado, we present to you the six most unusual places to see the aurora.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

One of Scotland’s best kept secrets is its unexpected sightings of the aurora. Not many think of Scotland as a Northern Lights hunting destination. However, it happens to be on a similar altitude as Nunivak Island, Alaska and Norway.

The Isle of Skye is a particularly great viewing spot as it is home to a number of Dark Sky locations. These are ideal not just for aurora chasing but also as stargazing spots.

Other regions in Scotland where sightings are likely include the northern Sutherland coastline and the northern tip of Caithness. Shetland, the Isle of Harris and the Isle of Lewis also boast incredibly clear dark skies and vast open spaces ideal for the experience.

The best times to sight this rare phenomenon here falls around the equinoxes in March, September and October.

Rovaniemi, Finland Aurora Ice Floating

Even though Finland is a popular aurora hunting ground, you can have one of the most unique viewing experiences here. It involves getting into a frozen lake and floating along as you take in the amazing light show. This is known as an aurora ice floating expedition. Though you will be in a frozen lake, you will not feel the cold as you will be wearing a special kind of dry suit to keep warm. The experience typically happens in a secret location, making it ideal if you love seclusion.

Northern Finland is one of few places on the planet where the aurora does not wait for winter. You can spot it starting in August all the way to April. Moreover, great viewing spots are just a walking distance from the city center in Rovaniemi. At times the display is so intense that you can see it clearly even with light interference.

Some of the best spots around Rovaniemi include Ounasvaara and the Arctic Garden Museum and Science Center. You can also catch stunning aurora photography moments with water reflections on Koivusaari Island.

Unusual Places to View the Aurora Borealis in the US


Priest Lake, Idaho

In the lower 48, one of the best Northern Lights hunting spots is in Priest Lake, located in Panhandle National Forest, Idaho. Though this is a popular spot for vacationers during the day, not many know of its nighttime secrets. Being relatively free of light pollution, its dark night sky is ideal for the natural show.

The lake is about 300 feet deep and 19 miles long and is popular for fishing and boating. Whenever the elusive aurora decides to appear, the show is phenomenal. It lights up the sky and casts a dreamlike reflection on the clear waters. Though it is a rare occurrence here, it is certainly worth your while hunting it down.

The best time of year for sightings is between September and March. Experts recommend the week following a new moon as a great time for hunting.

Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park

While you are in Washington, make your way to the North Cascades National Park for the best aurora views. Just like most of the unusual aurora destinations on our list, Cascades Pass offers rare opportunities to catch the show. However, when it does appear, it is mind-blowing to say the least.

The best part about chasing the aurora here is that this park is among the least visited in the US. Therefore, you are likely to have the entire space to yourself or share it with just a handful of people. During the day, take in the beautiful sights of waterfalls and mountain peaks. There are sparling lakes and ancient forests to explore as well.

If you visit in winter or fall, you might just catch the mysterious display. The best time is between December and March. But it can start as early as end of September and run to the beginning of April. Peak solar activity here is expected in 2024 and 2025 during winter and fall. So you have sufficient time to prepare.

Dark Sky Spots Where You Can See the Northern Lights

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

The 82-acre Cherry Springs State Park is the best dark sky location in the entire region of eastern US. It was the very first Gold Tier Dark Sky Park according to the IDSA (International Dark Sky Association). Not surprisingly, it draws stargazers and astronomy lovers from all around the world. This unique spot boasts between 60 and 85 clear nights every year, when you can count at least 10,000 stars.

On its Overnight Astronomy Observation Field, you get a panoramic view of the sky at night. It is the best setting for unforgettable light shows when conditions are right. The best time for Northern Lights hunting here falls around the equinox in autumn all the way to the end of September. While you are here, you might also catch the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way.

Colorado Plateau

Though the aurora is not as common in Colorado as it is in other places, when it does appear the wait is worthwhile. The state is home to the six internationally recognized dark sky communities. These are located in Silver Cliff and Westcliffe.

What makes Colorado special for Northern Lights hunting is the fact that its Dark Sky locations are the highest in North America. At 8,000 feet and higher, they are the closest you can get to the show while in the US. The best time to enjoy the light show here is during the winter months when skies are typically clearer.

There is plenty to see in Colorado both during the day and night as you wait for the show. Take a hike through its stunning canyons or a mountain adventure in Rocky Mountains. If you love wildlife tours, you will enjoy being in Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. Get a glimpse of the past in Fort Collins’ underground city for an intriguing historical experience.

Let the Aurora Come to You in These Unlikely Spots

No matter where it finds you on the planet, the Aurora Borealis offers an unforgettable visual experience. In some of these unique Northern Lights hunting spots, it may have a different look compared to Alaska and Finland.

Because of the distance and the angle, you will likely see it on the horizon. But the fascination that comes with watching these ribbons of light is just as remarkable. So, if you cannot chase the show all the way up to the north, let it find you in these unusual places.

If you find yourself in the South Pole or somewhere close to it, look out for its elusive sibling the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights).

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