Nature’s Holiday Lights

Here’s where to get the most amazing waterfront seats for the Northern Lights, Mother Nature’s megawatt display.

Writer Anna Lee Gresham


Hudson Bay offers a stunning tableau for the lights. Head to Churchill, Manitoba, for a five-day Fire & Ice Adventure, which includes lodging and gourmet dinners in a custom lodge on the edge of the water. Guests can snowmobile, snowshoe, and build an igloo. At night, they’ll seek the lights. From about $5,125 USD, including airfare from Winnipeg, Manitoba;

Cruising is perhaps the easiest way to experience the aurora over water. The five-day Astronomy Voyage off Norway’s north coast features an onboard lecturer, Dr. John Mason, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, who explains the science and myths behind the display. The specialty trip, offered by century-old Hurtigruten (formerly Norwegian Coastal Voyage), was first available in February 2009 and proved so popular that the line planned two sailings in 2010: February 3 and March 11, about $1,650 USD, depending on airfare from original destination; Fjord Travel offers five-day winter excursions from Oslo to the Arctic city of Tromso, a center for aurora research. Go dogsledding or trek with reindeer by day, and see the lights at night. From about $1,500 USD;

Stay in the lively capital, Reykjavik, and book an excursion to see the lights at We like the modern-chic 101 Hotel. From $368 USD;

These colorful swirls and streaming arcs appear when charged particles from the Sun’s atmosphere collide with particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. Because the Earth’s magnetic field is weaker at the North and South Poles, Sun particles are more likely to seep into the Earth’s atmosphere in these areas. Different colors signify different gases being released; for example, the most common color, greenish yellow, signifies oxygen; nitrogen produces shades of red or blue.

Published December/January 2010

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