Northern Lights watching advice

Tips from our friends in the Arctic

Trip planning advice

Mikael Kangas is the owner of our supplier, Aurora Retreat. He has guided many Northern Lights tours in northern Sweden:
"Don’t set your expectations too high. If there are clear skies, you will have something probably every second day, but it’s not always the giant lights. So try and plan a nice vacation in general, with plenty of daytime activities. Don’t plan everything around the lights."

Aurora viewing advice

David Phillip's local tip
David Phillips is an astronomy expert and Northern Lights tour guide in Iceland with our supplier Explorers Astronomy Tours. Here's his Northern Lights watching advice:
"You need to be patient because they often don’t start until late in the evening, it’s so unpredictable. You could go out at nine and wait until after midnight before anything happens – but then you might get a tremendous display at two o’clock in the morning. There are a number of occasions where people are on the verge of turning in for the night, when it all starts to happen."

Activity planning tips

Roy Atkins is a wildlife expert with our supplier Speyside Wildlife. He guides Northern Lights tours in Finland, and shares his advice on watching the Northern Lights:

"If you are going to see the lights in Finland, I recommend visiting the Aurora Kota – which means 'hut' in Finnish. They show you a projection of stars on the ceiling – like a mini planetarium – while you’re sat around the outside in reclining seats. A local woman tells you about all the old aurora myths and legends; there are so many beliefs about what it was and what it foretold. But she knows all the science as well, so you can find out what is actually going on with the particles coming from the sun. You can also see “real-time” footage showing the speed the lights come and go – which is really useful."

Health & safety in the Arctic

Travel safely in the Arctic


Lapland and Iceland enjoy low crime rates, and public transport is safe and efficient.

One of the main hazards can be driving – especially during winter, when it is a legal requirement to use snow tyres, preferably with studs. Check the laws for the country you intend to drive in. Engine heaters are also recommended. Black ice is a particular danger when the temperature is just below freezing.
Look out for wildlife – collisions with deer are common, and accidents caused by moose can result in serious injury, and even death.
Snowmobiles may only be driven by those with a driving licence.
Generally in these regions, drink/drive laws are extremely strict and heavily enforced. Drinking is therefore not advised, especially in icy conditions.
Be aware that in winter, weather conditions can change very suddenly, particularly in mountainous regions.


Europeans are advised to get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before traveling to Lapland or Iceland. This does not replace health or travel insurance, but entitles you to any necessary state-provided medical treatment.
If traveling to Alaska, you will need travel insurance that covers the USA. There is usually an additional supplement for this as US healthcare is private and very expensive.
Medical facilities in these regions are generally excellent, and each town usually has at least one 24-hour pharmacy.
Mosquitoes in Lapland in late June-July are vicious. Keep little ones well covered if traveling during this time.

Northern Lights travel advice

Recommendations from those who have seen the lights

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Northern Lights watching advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Remember replacement camera batteries, thermal gear, and a torch. Be sure insurance covers camera and lenses in case of accidents on ice. - Shane Woods

Stay as long as you can, both on the vacation and in the wilderness cabin – it is amazing. Be interested in what the guides can teach you, if you are willing to ask they know so much about everything it is fascinating. Standing near our cabin in the wilderness in silence so absolute, you could hear the water in the river over 5km away. - Kathy Agashi

Book now and enjoy yourselves! Don't worry too much about not having good quality outdoor clothing, as they will provide you with everything you need. We really enjoyed all of the activities we chose, as did other people who were staying at the same time, so just book whichever ones take your fancy! - Anna Stinson

The outdoor clothing provided is excellent, but take your own base layer and a neck warmer/buff. The food is excellent but you may want to take some snacks if you don't want lunch every day. - Mary Andronowski

Pack plenty of warm thin layers to help you adapt to the constant changes in temperature (it varied between -2 and -35 degrees during the week we were there) and take some ski goggles for the snowmobiling – they really helped us! - Carolyn Dann

Take a tripod for your camera! An essential item. - Russell Needham

Travel light as you are moving around so no chance to unpack properly. I wore my walking boots all the time & didn't really need another pair of shoes. And no need to take a skirt or dress. Just spare trousers & layers - Gillian Girling
Photo credits: [People sledding: Hotel Korpikartano] [Aurora Kota: Speyside Wildlife] [Photography tip: Hotel Korpikartano] [Wilderness cabin: Sheila Scarborough]
Written by Vicki Brown
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