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Seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a phenomenon that occurs near the north pole during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. Charged particles collide with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere, causing an aurora, or light display.

These can be green, red, yellow-green, or purplish-red and may show up as lines, curtains or waves that remain still or gently undulate in the sky. Seeing the lights is a “bucket list” experience for many people who many plan northern trips in the hopes of seeing them.

The best time to see the lights is generally from late September to early March, and one of the best places to see the Northern Lights is in Alaska. Bear Lake , located near the town of Seward offers some of the best viewing, as there is very little light pollution nearby. For this same reason, some dedicated viewers choose camping in Alaska rather than staying in a city. However, they can still be seen in cities on the clearest of nights. For example, Fairbanks, the largest city in the interior region of Alaska, is also ideal thanks to its high altitude.

Many companies arrange Northern Lights viewing tours, but really these aren’t necessary. The guide will help you find the best vantage point and arrange all the logistics, but with a little research and preparation you can do this on your own. Of course, even with all the preparation in the world, you’re still left at the mercy of the weather and the atmosphere when it comes to your chances of viewing the Lights. You can fly to Alaska, camp out in a prime viewing spot or spring for a pricey tour, but if heavy clouds decide to blanket the skies, you’ll have no hope of an Aurora Borealis experience. In some respects, it all comes down to luck.

Photo by Beverly & Pack