Most travelers who plan a vacation to see the Aurora Borealis usually think about destinations like Alaska, Denmark, Finland, Scotland, Greenland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland, while Russia comes to mind rarely. So add to your bucket list a trip to the Kola Peninsula as an alternative to more popular travel spots to see the Northern Lights.
It’s hard to predict the best times to see the Aurora Borealis, but as a general rule, you are likely to catch the show in the darker nights from September to mid-April. The Aurora Zone, a Northern Lights holiday company that offers vacations and tours in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada explains:
“Generally, the solar activity that cause the Aurora occurs throughout the year, however, to maximize your chances of seeing a significant display you need to travel when the nights are darkest in the Arctic region. This means traveling from mid-September to March/early April. There is no better time within that period however the weather does change a great deal which is worth bearing in mind as it greatly affects the other aspects of your experience.”
I spoke with Graham from The Aurora Zone to learn more about his personal experience, and he confirmed the timeframe: “Personally I have seen the Aurora as early as the first week of September and as late as the first week of April.”
This is also what Nord Tours, a company that offers Northern Lights tours in Kola Peninsula confirms on their official website. The experience is promising as you have the chance to discover the area with guide-photographer Alexander Stepanenko who has been photographing the Northern Lights for years, developing a unique method of capturing this incredible phenomenon.
Another tour operator, Kola Travel, works closely with the Polar Geophysical Institute (PGI) in the center of Kola Peninsula to forecast Aurora borealis. They offer different Northern Lights adventures, ranging from safaris with husky sledding and snowmobiling, to cross country and alpine skiing or cultural tours and sightseeings. Custom tours are available too.
The Kola Peninsula enjoys the ideal location to allow you to observe the beautiful light show: most of its land stretches beyond the Arctic Circle. Some of the most beautiful displays are from the shores of Lake Lovozero when the lights in the sky reflect their surreal dance on the mirror of the water. Although the phenomenon is a common occurrence (and best viewed from February to March or September to October in this area) the locals still stop their routines to contemplate it in awe.
If you don’t want to count on a tour operator to guide you to the best spots to see the Northern Lights in Russia, you can always count on Salekhard, the only city in the world located on the Arctic Circle, and Severodvinsk for accommodation and a good seat to the spectacle. Or, if you dare to face temperatures that make the icebergs shiver, Dudinka is even better as the lights here are brighter and last longer.
Before you plan your quest for the Northern Lights, no matter where you go, you can also check out the 3-day Aurora forecast by the US Space Weather Prediction Center, or its shorter 30-minute forecast.