Tripping the Northern Light fantastic
There is no more spectacular night sky than one lit up by celestial activity. The arctic sky turns into a light show like no other
One of the most spectacular natural light shows is about to take place in our skies this year thanks to the Solar Maximum. This is the term for the period of greatest solar activity in the 11-year solar cycle of the Sun.It results in the most dynamic Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) display in a decade. But it won't last long.
To see the best of it head, north towards the Arctic. Canada and Alaska are always fine viewing points. Closer to home auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, Northern Scandinavia (Lapland), the northern coast of Norway and even over the coastal waters north of Siberia.
Get there by cruise, plane or on horseback, just make sure you get there before the end of 2015.
Where: The Atlantic Ocean and Fjords of eastern Greenland.
Why: A 14-day cruise sailing from Reykjavik across the Denmark Straight followed by weaving through the Fjords of eastern Greenland. The cruise goes via Itoqqortoormiit, on the east coast, Greenland's most northerly settlement, and has a surviving Inuit society who are happy to meet visitors. Other activities includes hiking and kayaking and even and whale spotting.
Chances of seeing the lights: Great. A two-week trip gives 14 opportunities to see the lights especially so because this is a cruise and often miles away from any light pollution.
How much: Prices start from £4,465 and include all food and drink.
The trip is September 22 to October 5 on the Sea Spirit.
Book: www.quarkexpeditions.com; Tel: 0808 120 2333
Where: The Aurora Skystation in the Abisko National Park, Björkliden.
Why: You will be able to visit the Skystation near Björkliden. A short chair-lift rides up to summit to the Skystation, where there is an outdoor viewing deck and a restaurant to view the Aurora. Even in the dark you will have views of the Tornetrask frozen lake, and while there you'll be given notes about the Northern lights and tips on how to photograph them.
Chances of seeing the lights Exceptional. The Skystation is regarded as one of the best places in the world to view the northern lights. The location is fortunate to have special climatic conditions which make it the driest area in Sweden, where it is rarely cloudy. It is also a long way out into the country and is not affected by light pollution from neighbouring towns.
How much: From £699 for four nights for two adults in a double/twin room in Hotel Fjället in Björkliden leaving on March 2. Flights, transfers and bed and breakfast accommodation included.
Book: www.skisafari.com, Tel: 01273 2240
Where: The base is at Tromsø, a lively city surrounded by blue fjords and mountains.
Why: This trip includes sight-seeing such as the Arctic Cathedral designed to look like an iceberg. At Tromsø Wilderness Camp you will slip into a special cold-weather suit and boots for husky sledding excursion through snowy landscapes. A day is also dedicated to mingling with the indigenous Sami people and to a spot of reindeer sledding.
Chances of seeing the lights: Very good as the city is in the heart of the Northern Lights zone.
How much: From £1449 for departures from February to May per person based on two sharing a twin or double-bedded room. The price includes flights, transfers and taxes.
Book: www.travelsphere.co.uk, Tel: 0800 112 3313
On horse back
Where: Trot under the colourful night sky in the south of Iceland with visits to some of the magnificent Blue Lagoon, Geysir Hot Spring area and Gullfoss waterfall.
Why You get to ride over adventurous terrain on an Icelandic horse, a pure-bred descendant of those brought to Iceland by the Vikings more than a thousand years ago. Once on the saddle, you'll tölt - a gait which is comparable to a running walk - through scenery that comprises snow-topped mountains, the largest glacier in Europe, volcanoes, thundering waterfalls and striking lunar landscapes.
Chances of seeing the lights: Chances are very good. Riding for up to six hours a day means lots of opportunity to search the skies.
How much: From £684 for departures in September and October. The price includes three nights -- accommodation is at the farm with space for two to four people per room (shared facilities) and in a hotel in Reykjavik. The packages includes two days riding up to six hours a day, but there is a body weight limit: 15st 9lbs (100 kgs) (219 lbs). Price excludes flights. Nearest airport: Keflavik
Book: www.inthesaddle.com, Tel: 01299 272997
Lights and whales
Where: Snaefellsnes Peninsula in the town of Grundarfjordur.
Why: You get a double whammy of lights and whales on this trip. Whales can be seen from the shore and you get to journey out on a boat to see the large groups of orca that frequently visit to hunt for herring. A tour of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and its sweeping lava fields plus a visit to the world-famous Blue Lagoon is also included.
Chances of seeing the lights: Fairly good.
How much: Departs January to March. This is a four-night trip from £1,121 per person (based on two sharing) including return flights with Icelandair from London, Manchester or Glasgow, transfers, four-nights' accommodation (full board), two whale watching boat trips into Breiðafjörður Bay, a full day tour of Snaefellsness Peninsula, entry to the Blue Lagoon and the services of a driver-cum-guide throughout.
Book: www.discover-the-world.co.uk, Tel: 01737 214 291
Where: This is a 16-day cruise that visits several Norwegian ports: Kristiansund, Bronnoysund, Sortland, Alta, Honningsvag, Tromso, Leknes and
Why: Cruising amongst the islands, inlets and yawning fjords of the rugged yet stunning Norwegian coastline is a magical experience, especially so when this Nordic beauty shimmers with snow.
Chances of seeing the lights: Excellent. With 16 opportunities to watch the night sky.
How much: Departing from Portsmouth on March 1 2015. Prices start from £1699 per person.
Book: www.voyagesofdiscovery.co.uk, Tel: 0844 273 1742.
Where: Luosto, a tiny Finnish ski resort and village.
Why: The Sodanklya Geophysical Observatory is based nearby, monitoring the Arctic Sky and alerting the village if conditions suggest an Aurora show is imminent. By day, there are other great winter activities, including husky-sledding and a reindeer safari.
Chances of seeing the lights: Pretty good. The trip includes two Aurora expeditions, and the hotel also has an Aurora Alarm to wake guests if there is any action overhead during the night.
How much: Departing January-March, the trip starts from £1,875 per person (based on two sharing) including flights from London, transfers, four nights' full-board accommodation, warm clothing and activities.
Book: www.theaurorazone.com, Tel: 01670 785 012
In a buggy
Where: Churchill, in the Canadian province of Manitoba
Why: The snow covered setting of arctic Canada is one of the best places in North America to witness the lights.
You will get to see them from Tundra Buggy, a specially designed vehicle in which you will drive to the wilderness for optimum chances of seeing the phenomenon. During the day you can participate in excursions such as snowshoeing treks and a dog sledding.
Chances of seeing the lights: Being right in the thick of it, the chances are excellent.
How much: This is an eight-day package which costs from £4,069 per person on an all-inclusive basis. The price includes return economy class flights to Winnipeg, flights between Winnipeg and Churchill, transfers (excluding arrival and departure transfers in Winnipeg), three nights in Winnipeg, four nights in Churchill, four Tundra buggy night trips to hunt the aurora and other activities. The package is valid for travel February 26 - March 5
Book: www.wexas.com, Tel: 0207 838 5892