The 10 world's best places to see the Northern Lights

On multiple surveys of top bucket-list experiences, people have consistently put seeing the Northern Lights at number one. Here are 10 of the best places to do it.

Northern Iceland

Iceland has boomed as the expensively hipster destination of choice in recent years, but most visitors don't get out of the south-western corner. Head north, just underneath the Arctic Circle, though, and the Aurora Borealis season is longer. Around Akureyri, where several viewing tours depart from, and countryside hotels provide perfect in-your-own-time sighting opportunities, the season runs from September to April. That means you can head there slightly off-peak, and still have enough daylight hours to properly take in the country's weird and wonderful landscapes.

Rovaniemi, Finland

In what has to be one of the most audacious marketing successes of all time, Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland has managed to brand itself as the home of Santa Claus. Which means a surprisingly large winter tourism infrastructure, plenty of flights and hotel rooms, and great opportunities to head slightly out of town to watch the Aurora in action. See visitrovaniemi.fi

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

If you wanting a big helping of novelty gimmickry served up alongside your Northern Lights experience, however, you may as well stay at the Icehotel in Sweden. Recreated by ice sculptors every year, this art-packed modernist take on the igloo offers lights-viewing experiences and conventional "warm" hotel rooms as well as thermal sleeping bags, reindeer hides and balaclavas for sleeping in the "cold" ice-carved rooms. See icehotel.com

Galloway Forest Park, Scotland

As a general rule, the further north you are, the better your chances of seeing the northern lights is. But if you're not wanting a special trip around the world purely to see the light show, then Scotland is a decent shout. The Galloway Forest Park – 90 minutes' drive from Glasgow – has been designated a Dark Sky Park – with the lack of buildings and light pollution making for near-perfect skygazing conditions. See gallowayforestpark.com

Reykjavik, Iceland

If it's getting away from cities and light pollution you want, then a fine plan is to get on a boat and head out to sea. During the winter months, several operators – including Special Tours – head out into the North Atlantic Ocean at night in the hope of a clear view. They'll also send you the pictures, taken by a pro photographer, afterwards if you're worried about bodging the camera settings. See specialtours.is

The Norwegian Coast

There's taking a boat trip, and then there's living on a boat for a few days so you can stand on the deck every night and look to the heavens. The problem with most cruises in northerly climes is that they only run during the summer months, but Hurtigruten in Norway runs the shipping services that connect towns on the Norwegian coast – and that means it still runs cruises in the winter months. Its 12 night Northern Lights special offers guaranteed sightings as it heads north into the Arctic Circle. See hurtigruten.com

Svalbard, Norway

While good chunks of Norway are inside the Arctic Circle, the islands of Svalbard to the north are deep, deep inside it. Don't expect to see any daylight during the depths of winter – although this doesn't stop snowmobiling and husky-sledding adventures or the chance of polar bear encounters. And, also, this means more time in darkness for the celestial twinkling. See visitsvalbard.com

Yukon Territory, Canada

Europe doesn't have a monopoly on the Northern Lights action, and there are several spots in Canada where you can brave the cold to see them. Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory is the main base for Aurora-spotting in the western half of the country, while the Yukon is also home to the Northern Lights Centre which puts on video demos of what to expect before heading out under the night sky. See northernlightscentre.ca

Alaska, USA

Alaska also gets good sightings of the Northern Lights – but not in the areas that most people go to. The popular cruise areas are in the south of the state, and generally too far south for reliable sightings. Head up to Alaska's vast interior, though – especially the area around Fairbanks – and this all changes. Alaska Tours runs a mammoth 15- to 16-hour driving day tour that heads out across the tundra, into the Arctic Circle and alongside the Trans-Alaska Pipeline before stopping to see if the particles are going to play up in the sky. See alaskatours.com

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Greenland

Should you wish to get properly off the beaten track, and throw in a considerable taste of adventure, Greenland may well be the spot. The Aurora Zone runs winter trips out there that puts aside plenty of time for Aurora-viewing but also includes snowshoeing, snowmobiling and watching icebergs calve off a glacier in an ice fjord. See theaurorazone.com

Take a look at some spectacular shots from these destinations in the photo gallery above.

See also: Seeking the world's No.1 bucket list item

See also: Who needs supermoons? The world's 10 most incredible light displays

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