The natural phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights, holds a special place on many a traveler’s bucket list for a reason. These beautiful dancing lights in the sky are caused by particles charged from the sun as they collide with atoms in Earth’s atmosphere. But such a simple scientific explanation does little justice to the majesty of such an occurrence, so you really have to experience the lights for yourself.
Svalbard, an archipelago of Arctic islands in Norway, offers a prime vantage point to catch sight of the Northern Lights. It’s the only inhabited destination in the world where the lights are visible during the day. Tromsø, often referred to as “the Gateway to the Arctic” and conveniently located within the auroral ring, also provides an opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis. If you’re passing through the Lofoten Islands north of the Arctic Circle, the Northern Lights may very likely make an appearance as you trek the region.
You can look out for the Aurora Borealis just about anywhere in Iceland, but if you want to stay close to modern living and city life, Reykjavík offers a few clutter-free areas to pick a spot for viewing. Your best bet is to take a stroll to the Grotta Lighthouse on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula, as it’s one of the darkest locales near Iceland’s capital.
Greenland’s sparse light pollution atmosphere makes it an ideal destination for seeking the Northern Lights. Amid the icy background of snow-capped peaks, the shimmering green lights put on a dazzling show that’s sure to top the list of your best travel experiences.
With a Northern Lights experience comes the overwhelming desire to capture the moment on camera. Make sure yours has a high-quality nighttime setting, as that’s the best way to snap a picture of the phenomenon. SLR cameras with manual focus tend to produce the best results in photographing the Aurora Borealis.
For more experienced travel photographers, it’s recommended you turn off your camera’s stabilizer and increase your ISO to a minimum of 400 to 800. Set your aperture low and use longer exposure shots of 15-30 seconds so that your camera captures more light to photograph the lights. A tripod also goes a long way in creating a steady shot.