The Northern Lights are a natural phenomena that lights up the sky with a stunningly beautiful palette of colors. People travel far and wide to remote destinations, often to polar or sub-polar regions, for the chance to witness the Northern Lights unobstructed by man-made skyscrapers or urban pollution. To this day, the Northern Lights are renowned as one of the most incredible sights to witness on the face of the Earth.
Experienced adventurers have traveled to many different locations for a tantalizing view of the Northern Lights. Many seasoned Northern Lights chasers (as serious fans are sometimes called) highly recommend Iceland and, especially, Greenland.
Both of these island nations are located on the borders of the Arctic Circle, and both are relatively speaking sparsely populated—meaning fewer sources of human-made light such as high-rises and other large light-producing structures. The northern climate and unobstructed views of the sky make for perfect conditions to view the Northern Lights in all their glory. As a result, explorers who long to see the celestial beauty of Aurora Borealis should consider taking a trip to Iceland and especially Greenland for an adventure not to be forgotten.
Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights reflect off the Arctic waters of East Greenland. Photo: Acacia Johnson
Any remote northern destination offers conditions necessary to witness the Northern Lights. Out of all those possibilities, Greenland is arguably one of the best places to see the Northern Lights.
Greenland is the world's largest island with an area of over 2 million square kilometers. However, the population of the entire island is just over 56,000 people. Much of the island remains uninhabited by humans, which means there is very little artificial light on the island compared to other parts of the world.
Artificial light interferes with the natural light produced by the Northern Lights, potentially limiting or, in some cases, blocking all visual sight of the Aurora Borealis. Areas with little artificial light are perfectly suited for stargazers to enjoy the rare experience of the Northern Lights, and Greenland provides those opportunities in spades.
Exploring Iceland and Greenland for Northern Lights
To witness the Northern Lights in all their glory, you first need to travel to the best place to see the Northern Lights. For that opportunity, we recommend you book a spot aboard the Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & East Greenland adventure with Quark Expeditions.
This is 14-day adventure begins in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik where you'll board your ship for a voyage towards East Greenland. During your adventure, you'll come upon beautifully rugged cliffs, incredible fjords, and all that the land has to provide. The journey through Greenland lasts from Day 5 through Day 12 of your entire adventure, providing ample opportunities to enjoy the land and await that magical moment for when the Northern Lights first appear in the sky.
Best time to visit Iceland and Greenland for the Northern Lights
A Quark Expeditions guest is mesmerized by the emotional experience of witnessing the Northern Lights
in Greenland. Photo: Nicky Souness
Visibility is absolutely necessary for an opportunity to see the Northern Lights at their optimal time. When it comes to the Northern Lights, visibility is at its greatest when the nights are longer so that there's enough darkness for Aurora Borealis to emerge from across the night sky.
At the same time, you want to make sure that you're traveling in a polar region like Greenland at a time of year when it's not so cold that the conditions are unbearable. Thankfully, there is a sweet spot for the ideal conditions for the Northern Lights. That time of year is from late September into October when the summer season is at its end and the nights begin to get longer throughout the fall.
Warmer times of the year also mean conditions are ripe for exploration across the land. There's plenty to see and do throughout Greenland and your experienced expedition team will do their utmost to get you off the ship and out into the polar environment as often as possible. Plus, depending on the conditions, it's quite likely you'll have an opportunity to witness polar bears on the hunt for their next meal along the coastline.
What is the best way to see the Northern Lights?
Greenland is an ideal destination to witness the Northern Lights, but you don't necessarily have to be on land for that experience. One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is by sea, which is why a polar cruise may be your best bet to see the Northern Lights.
Remember to time your adventure around late September and October for the best time of year to see the Northern Lights. Experienced travelers have found that the Northern Lights are particularly common during an equinox, a time of year when summer turns to fall or winter turns to spring. That's why a passage aboard the Under the Northern Lights: Exploring Iceland & East Greenland adventure may be your best way to see the Northern Lights.