What Are the Northern Lights and What Causes Them? The northern lights are generally referred to as the polar lights, or aurora polaris. They are a natural phenomenon found in both the northern and southern hemispheres. The scientific name for the northern lights is aurora borealis. The scientific name for the southern lights is aurora australis. According to the Library of Congress Northern Lights page, it all starts with the sun, which periodically ejects clouds of gas that take two to three days to reach Earth. These gasses collide with the Earth’s magnetic field. This causes complex changes to happen that generate currents of charged particles.
The northern lights are most often seen at higher latitudes in places like Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Antarctica. They are also more frequent and spectacular during high solar sunspot activity, which cycles over every 11 years. According to NASA, the current solar cycle is expected to peak in 2025. However, the aurora sky continues to be visible every year in the higher latitude regions.
Many cities around the world are considered prime spots for seeing the aurora sky. It’s important to know the best time of year to visit since the lights tend to be more visible during certain seasons.
Fairbanks, Alaska (August – April)
Tromsø, Norway (September – April)
Lapland, Finland (September – March)
Orkney, Scotland (September – March)
Yellowknife, Canada (November – April)
Jukkasjärvi, Sweden (September – March)
Reykjavik, Iceland (September – March)
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (September – March/April)
One way many tourists, honeymoon couples, and photographers like to experience the northern lights is from an Airbnb. Many of these rental homes and cabins feature stunning views of the lights from the Airbnb’s very own front porch. Here are a few of the most popular rentals:
A Cabin in Luleå, Sweden
This 157ft 2 cabin is just five minutes from the town of Lulea in Sweden. Situated in a residential area, this is a popular spot for couples with nearby trails for running and skiing and a stunning view of the northern lights over the frozen lake. The cabin is just 30 feet from the water and features a nearby sauna and options for renting bikes, fat bikes, a rowboat, fishing rods, snowshoes, and skates from the host.
A Home in Akureyri, Iceland
Stay the night in this spacious home located just six minutes from Akureyri. Spend the day skiing in Hilidarfjall and explore the shops, galleries, restaurants, and museums in Akureyri. At night, relax in the hot tub and enjoy an excellent view of the northern lights.
A Log Cabin in Whitehorse, Canada
Those who want to spend a few nights in an off-the-grid tiny house (but with Wi-Fi) can stay in this quaint and secluded log cabin in Canada. The newly constructed house has heated electric baseboards and a log cabin aesthetic for a cozy hideaway. The house sits in the Yukon Wilderness, snuggled between Lake Laberge and various walking trails. It is also a prime spot for aurora lights viewing since it is far away from any light pollution to disrupt your view.
A Cottage Near Búðardalur, Iceland
This Icelandic country-style cottage sits in the remote mountains of west Iceland. It’s a 15-minute drive from Buðardalur, a small village with shops and local restaurants. The cottage has modern features and amenities to keep you comfortable during a cold winter night.
A Farmhouse in Grundarfjörður, Iceland
Embrace a classic rural Icelandic experience in this quaint studio house sitting at the edge of a farm. You’ll probably encounter the many sheep, goats, horses, and the owner’s other farm animals during your stay. You can explore the water cave, lava fields, black beaches, bird life, mountain views, and sunsets all before taking in the beautiful northern lights at night.
A Luxury Villa in Vesturland, Iceland
Those wanting a more luxury experience can spend the night at this luxury villa in Iceland. The house has plenty of space for a big group and features luxuries like a hot tub and a sauna for the cold Icelandic winters. Guests are frequently impressed by the beautiful and modern amenities the house has to offer. Just take a look at the photos!