Best places to discover the Northern Lights

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If you've been dreaming of seeing the Northern Lights, now is the time. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, these magical, colourful swirls of light formed when particles from the sun's atmosphere come into contact with particles from the Earth are seen most during the winter months. Check out our pick of top places where to catch one of nature's most spectacular phenomena…

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Between the 74th and 81st parallel, Svalbard is well up into the Arctic zone


1. Svalbard, Norway
You can't get much higher than Svalvard. Up between the 74th and 81st parallel, this Norwegian island is well up into the Arctic - and generally the higher the latitude, the better your chances of seeing the Lights. You can witness the Northern Lights here between November and February, but the majority of visitors come to experience a different natural phenomenon: the Polar Night. Between mid-November and the end of January, Svalbard is without daylight. With a blue twilight the lightest it gets, your chances of seeing the Aurora are increased. If you visit at other times of the year though, you'll have a much better chance of seeing reindeer, walrus and polar bears.

Getting there: There are flights from the UK to Oslo, then onto Longyearbyen - the main settlement on Svalbard and logical base for a visit.

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Thousands of Britons flocked to Iceland this year to catch the magical display of lights


2. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is still the most affordable and accessible place to see the Northern Lights, but it's getting more popular. In January 2015, 9,003 Britons visited Iceland, probably because last winter was predicted to be a peak season for the Aurora B. Lights aside, there's still plenty to do in Iceland. The Blue Lagoon stays hot all year round, and you can go snowmobiling and skiing, as well as hunting out Iceland’s Game of Thrones locations, obviously.

One of the most unique places to watch the night's sky is from the Northern Lights Bar at the award-winning boutique Ion Hotel. Set against a backdrop of mountainous lava fields and surrounded by hot springs, Ion Hotel is less than an hour's drive from Reykjavik. The eco-conscious hotel comprises 46 rooms featuring furnishings made from driftwood and other natural materials, an outdoor geo-thermally heated hot tub and Silfra Restaurant, serving modern Nordic cuisine.

Check out further accommodation options in Reykjavik on Skyscanner.net.

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At 65 degrees, Fairbanks, Alaska, is within the so-called "aurora oval"


3. Fairbanks, Alaska
The Northern Lights can be seen to some extent anywhere above 60 degrees north latitude. At 65 degrees, Fairbanks is within the so-called "aurora oval," the area where Northern Lights occur most often and are brightest, so you're almost guaranteed to see spectacular swirling light displays here. Put distance between yourself and city lights and head to the region's vast wilderness areas of Denali and the Yukon.

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Head to Jukkasjärvi, Sweden for starry skies, Aurora Borealis and snowmobiling


4. Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
The village of Jukkasjärvi in the Kiruna region of Sweden is home to the country's first ice hotel. Night flights to see the Northern Lights operate from Jukkasjärvi, but down at ground level, take a tour of the Esrange Space Centre, where you can admire Sweden's starry skies if the Aurora isn't visible. As well as catching some colourful rays, you can also try your hand at fun snow sports such as snowmobiling.

Getting there: The northern part of Sweden is pretty remote so you'll have to fly to Stockholm before flying, driving or getting the train to Kiruna.

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Aviemore, Caithness and the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland are all good spots to witness the spectacular phenomena


5. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
You needn't leave the British Isles to glimpse one of nature's most magnificent displays. When the weather conditions are just right – when the thick cloud cover momentarily breaks during winter months – you can glimpse the ethereal show. In February this year, the coast of Caithness in the far north of Scotland was one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis. Try Aviemore and the Cairngorms National Park.

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