If you’ve ever traveled far north, you’ve probably been asked, “Did you see the northern lights?” The lights are on nearly every traveler’s wish list. Even if you’ve seen photos or videos of this natural phenomenon, there is nothing like experiencing them in person. If you’re planning to travel and the northern lights are one of your must-sees, considering the time of year is essential. While your location will be a factor in whether you’re able to see the lights (they’re more visible the higher north you travel on the globe), the time of year also affects your chance of experiencing the awesome beauty of this spectacle. Knowing the best time to visit the northern lights will help you determine when to plan your trip.
What Are the Northern Lights?
Northern lights can occur any time of day, but we can only see the northern lights at night because daylight diminishes their visibility. Cloudy or overcast weather, of course, interferes with your ability to see them. At night, however, these lights can be seen for hundreds of miles. Solar activity is one of the main factors in determining when northern lights occur. It’s difficult to predict with any accuracy when and how they will happen. In fact, they take place throughout the year. With the northern lights, the best time to visit may depend on a variety of factors. However, here is what you can expect in terms of time of year:
- January through March: This may be the best time to see the aurora borealis because nights are at their longest. Longer nights mean you have a greater chance to see the lights if they appear. However, in the northern climes, the temperatures can be breathtakingly cold this time of year!
- April through August: The good news? It’s the sunniest time of year, and the days are longer than during the winter months. The tradeoff for the warmer, brighter weather is that you’re less not likely to see the northern lights in the northern latitudes.
- September and October: When it comes to the northern lights, the best time to see them could arguably be during these months. They’re often visible and the weather hasn’t yet become as cold as it will be later in the year.
- November and December: By this time, there may be snows and more cloud cover, which can interfere with your ability to see the lights. Assuming clear skies, the increasingly shorter days and longer nights boost the possibility of seeing the lights.
If the aurora borealis is on your bucket list, consider a trip to the Arctic.