Catching a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights is a bucket-list experience you’ll never forget. However, conditions need to be perfect to witness the ethereal display and being in the right place at the right time can be tricky. With so many options of where to stay, we’ve rounded up the very best hotels for seeing the aurora borealis.
First, though, you’ll need to ensure you travel at the right time of year. For the best chance of spotting the spectacular natural phenomenon, dark skies and clear nights are essential so plan your visit between winter and spring.
When it comes to deciding on where to go, there are plenty of destinations to consider. You’re most likely to see the Northern Lights closer to the Arctic Circle in places like Alaska, Canada and Iceland but sometimes the most northerly regions of the US and UK are treated to a sighting as well.
To help you plan your trip, we’ve selected our favorite hotels to experience the polar lights. From a rugged island off the coast of Canada’s New Foundland to the ridge of a glacier in Alaska, these cozy retreats are the perfect place to hunker down while you wait for the aurora to appear.
Our roundup of the best hotels to see the Northern Lights kicks off in Reykjavik. Due to its high latitude, Iceland’s winter months have only a few hours of daylight, giving you plenty of opportunities to spot the aurora borealis.
It’s hard to think of a better setting to take in the starry night sky than from your very own cozy dome complete with a sheepskin-topped king-size bed, crackling fire and private hot tub. Located just 10 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, the luxurious accommodation boasts stunning views of the snow-capped Mount Esja.
When you’re not relaxing in your dome, knowledgeable guides are on-hand to take you on a special Northern Lights tour. After consulting the Aurora forecast, you’ll head out into the countryside to try and track down the elusive light display, taking Icelandic woolen blankets and hot chocolate with you to keep warm.
If you’re looking for a more rural Icelandic retreat, Hotel Rangá is well worth a visit. The boutique lodging is around two hours from the capital overlooking the river Yti-Rangá in the countryside near to the small town of Hella.
Any time of day or night, you won’t have to worry about missing the polar lights thanks to the hotel’s Aurora wake-up service. And on clear nights you can go on a tour with a local astronomer to learn about the solar system and visit the Rangá Observatory to take in the views and look at the stars through the high-quality telescopes.
For the best views of the stunning scenery book one of the master suites. The 775-sq-ft rooms are adorned with beautiful handmade artwork and feature generous soaking tubs ideal for warming up with a glass of bubbly after a long day exploring the Icelandic wilderness.
Fogo Island Inn
Next, we head to Canada and the spectacular Fogo Island Inn. Perched on a rocky outcrop on a rugged island off the coast of New Foundland, the striking timber-clad hotel is home to just 29 unique rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows revealing breathtaking views of the North Atlantic.
The most exclusive accommodation is the 1,100-sq-ft Flat Earth Suite which features hand-crafted quilts, a roaring wood-burning stove, soaker tub and underfloor heating so you’ll be extra snug. During your stay, you can relax in the rooftop hot tubs, listen to live music in the lounge, visit the art gallery and, fingers crossed, watch the Northern Lights illuminate the night sky from the comfort of your room.
Perhaps most impressive of all is the property’s unique operating model. The Inn is owned by a charity and all of the profits go back into initiatives to secure a sustainable future for Fogo Island. Eco-conscious travelers will be pleased to hear the Inn has made significant efforts to minimize its impact on the environment including sourcing 80% of ingredients from the island itself, using electric vehicles and enabling guests to opt in to achieve carbon neutrality during their stay.
Blachford Lake Lodge
Our list of the best hotels to see the Northern Lights would not be complete without mentioning Blachford Lake Lodge. Situated in the wilderness of Canada’s Northwest Territories, you’ll need to take a floatplane from the capital, Yellowknife, to reach this idyllic lakeside eco-lodge.
The remote location means there’s minimal light pollution making Blachford Lake Lodge the perfect setting for spotting the aurora. There are plenty of places to stargaze including two decks, a hot tub, sauna and tipi. And, if you visit during winter, you can step out onto the icy lake to enjoy the stunning vistas.
Of course, you can also take in the views snuggled under a duvet in your log cabin. The most opulent room is Sunrise 2 where Prince William and Kate Middleton stayed during their trip to the lodge.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Canada is also home to Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – a picturesque mountain resort located on the shores of Lac Beavert in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. When you’re not aurora hunting, it’s easy to fill your days snowshoeing, cross country skiing and hiking in the stunning national park. And when you get back to the hotel in the evenings you can curl up in front of the fire with a glass of wine, take a dip in the pool or relax in the 10,000-sq-ft spa.
If you want to make your stay extra special, consider booking the legendary Outlook Cabin. Aptly known as the Royal Retreat (Queen Elizabeth II stayed here in 2005), the spacious abode features six ensuite bedrooms, two wood-burning fireplaces and a roomy private patio for dining al fresco beneath the stars. There’s also a private butler on-hand to cater to your every whim, so you won’t have to lift a finger during your stay.
If it’s dramatic views you’re after, look no further than Sheldon Chalet. Surrounded by glaciers in the depths of Alaska’s Denali National Park, the secluded retreat can only be reached by helicopter.
Sitting at an elevation of 6,000 ft, with the nearest town 55 air miles away, the cozy chalet is the ideal spot for watching the colorful aurora dance across the inky Alaskan skies. Expert guides are on-hand to offer insights into the star constellations and take you to explore the surrounding ice caverns and glaciers.
The ultra-exclusive retreat has just five bedrooms featuring huge windows revealing sweeping mountain views and comfy king-size beds topped with faux-fur throws. When it comes to food you’re in for a treat: expect platters of Alaskan seafood on arrival and gourmet meals cooked by the talented resident chef throughout your stay.
Last but by no means least on our list of the best hotels to see the Northern Lights is Nellim. Located deep within the pine forests of Finnish Lapland, the family-run resort features a mix of snug rooms and traditional log cabins. You can also opt to stay in one of the Aurora Bubbles – a glass-topped igloo that allows you to watch the starlit sky from your bed.
The Northern Lights Adventure package has been specially designed to increase your chances of spotting the aurora. During your three-night stay you’ll be taken snowmobiling, husky sledding and to Lake Inari to observe the night sky and, if you’re lucky, witness the spectacular polar lights.