5 Places for Spectacular Northern Lights Viewing

The aurora borealis is the colorful phenomenon created when electrically charged particles within the earth’s magnetosphere collide with particles in the solar wind. The Northern Lights, as they’re also known, are best seen in late August through April from countries near the North and South poles. These neon ribbons of light are not always visible, and the colors present depend on altitude and which elements are in the air. The most common color is green, while red is more rare. Glows of yellow, pink, blue, and ultraviolet are also possible.

Weather, lunar cycle, and proximity to the sea make some cities and regions better than others for viewing. But if catching a spectacular display is on your bucket list, here are Hipmunk’s top destinations for seeing these natural wonders!

1. Fairbanks, Alaska

Located within the auroral oval — a ring-shaped region around the North Pole — Fairbanks lends itself to a steady frequency of Northern Light activity and clear climates. But travelers will have to travel a bit outside of the city limits to see nature’s fluorescent curtains. Stay at the Best Western Plus Chena River Lodge or theSpringhill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks, both short drives from the city’s other attractions should the lights not cooperate. (We’re fans of the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the Alaska House Art Gallery, and the Fairbanks Community Museum.) Alaska Tours will pick up stargazers from their stated hotel and transfer them to the outskirts of the city. Dress warmly to experience the rippling auroras outdoors, or sip a complimentary warm beverage to stay cozy inside the vehicle. Make sure to monitor the University of Alaska’s aurora forecast to get a better idea of when there is auroral activity.

2. Whitehorse City, Canada

Canada’s Yukon Territory makes for great viewing of the undulating light curtains. Head to Whitehorse City and stay at the Skky Hotel, only 0.4 miles from the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. View the aurora from a custom-built location by the Arctic Range northern lights tour company. Or, drive 18 miles north of downtown Whitehorse and view them from the Takhini Hot Springs for a memorable evening. The pools, which have been in operation for more than 100 years, are between 36 degrees and 42 degrees Celsius, offering a soothing experience. Check out the pool rental rates, which are based on number of guests.

3. Saariselka, Finland

The Northern Lights are best viewed away from city lights, making national reserves like Urho Kekkonen National Park a good option. Stay at the Holiday Club in the town of Saariselka for easy access to the park, as well as downhill and cross-country skiing. For those with a higher budget, have a distinctive experience at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort while hunting for the elusive lights. The resort, located a nine-minute drive south from Saariselka and also near Urho Kekkonen Park, offers its signature glass igloo for two or four people, a log cabin or a hybrid accommodation, which is a log cabin that also has a glass igloo. There are various other options, including staying with in the home of Mr. and Ms. Claus, which Kakslauttanen calls Santa’s Home. For extra fees, Kakslauttanen offers husky and reindeer safaris, sleigh rides and ice fishing, among other activities.

4. Karasjok, Norway

Northern Norway is an ideal location to catch both the Northern Lights and star constellations. The town often has clear skies due to its inland location, and little light pollution. Even if the capricious lights don’t show, visitors will be impressed by the clearly visible star constellations. Stay at the Scandic Karasjok, which has two restaurants and a sauna to get a complete Norwegian experience. The DenHvite Rein Motell offers cross-country and downhill skiing, as well as snowshoeing to stay active.

5. Abisko, Sweden

The typically clear climate of Abisko makes this small town an optimal place to catch the Aurora Borealis. Stay at the Abisko Guest house or the Abisko Mountain Lodge,both offering easy access to the Aurora Sky Station within Abisko National Park.Abisko.net offers three distinct northern light tours to choose from. Snowshoe to the top of a small hill overlooking lake Tornetrask, as well as wild animal trails. Rest near the fire while drinking warm drinks as onlookers stare at the sky. Or, learn how to best photograph nature’s dancing lights. Visitors have to provide their own SD memory cards, but Absiko.net provides the high-quality camera and lens, as well as detailed instructions from a professional.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 8, 2016.

Where to Travel For The Best Stargazing In The World

In most urban areas, only around 500 stars are visible on a given night, but in the prized locations highlighted below, up to 15,000 are easily seen. That’s pretty incredible. It you’re planning a trip and want some nighttime eye candy, here are six of the best places in the world to go outside and look up.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has perhaps the most ideal stargazing conditions in the world. At an elevation above 13,000 feet, it is the highest point in Hawaii. Its high elevation and location in the middle of the Pacific create excellent conditions, but the surrounding cloud layer makes it even more perfect for studying the sky. A tropical inversion cloud layer 2,000 feet thick sits below the summit, preventing pollutants and moist air from the ocean from rising up. The view itself is so spectacular that one of the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories is located at the top. The visitor’s center at 9,000 feet offers lectures, question and answer sessions, and telescope viewing.

Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania might seem like an odd place for first-class stargazing, but Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best viewing points in the world. The 82 acre park is set within the 262,000 acre Susquehannock State Forest, protecting it from light pollution. A tremendous number of stars are visible at this Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park. In fact, the sky is so dark that the Northern Lights were seen here four times in 2014, a very unusual event this far below the Arctic Circle. The park offersNight Sky Tours on Friday and Saturday nights that use lasers to identify and explain constellations and planets. Visitors can also use telescopes on site.

Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is already a stunning natural wonder with its red dunes, huge rock formations, and even a desert flowering in wet years. It’s also the driest non-polar desert in the world due to its high elevation, which makes it an exceptionally perfect place for stargazing. The newly constructed ALMA Observatorytakes advantage of these conditions and the lack of light pollution in the desert. At times, the Milky Way can shine so brightly here that it casts a shadow on the desert floor.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

In 2007, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first ever International Dark Sky Park, a designation since reserved for the best stargazing locations in the world. The beauty of the stars visible in the desert is supplemented by the striking natural setting. Owachomo bridge, perhaps the oldest bridge in the park, was created when a river changed course and carved a hole into solid rock.

Denali National Park, Alaska

The Northern Lights are caused by a coronal mass ejection, which is a gust of solar wind and magnetic fields that interact with the earth’s atmosphere. The result are stunning dancing waves of green, red, blue, and violet that are occasionally visible in northern climates. Denali National Park in Alaska is one of the best places for viewing the phenomenon. The park encompasses four million acres of federally protected land, and the cold and clear Alaskan nights made conditions ideal. The magnificent park also offers bears, wolves, caribou, and moose as well as some of the most stunning mountain views in the world.

Tromsø, Norway

Brave stargazers might seek to venture inside the Arctic Circle itself for viewing the northern lights. There’s no better place to experience the enchanted north thanTromsø. Not only does it offer fantastic views of the aurora borealis (the sun is invisible from November to January), it’s a lovely city in its own right. In the 19th century it was called the Paris of the North, and visitors can enjoy reindeer spotting, sledding with huskies, and visiting the famous Arctic Cathedral in this Norse and Sami medieval city.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on December 16, 2015.

5 Amazing Things to See and Do Outdoors in Alaska

Alaska is an incredible place to visit in every season, and no matter what time of the year you go, you’re guaranteed the chance to see and do something unforgettable.

Alaska

Photo by Jitka Siguenza via trover.com

It Pays to Be Prepared for Anything

From the northern lights to the vast tundra, Alaska can take your breath away with its sheer diversity of landscapes and natural wonders. That’s to say nothing of the diversity of its wildlife—from the oceans to the air to the land, the countryside is teeming with life, and there are some fabulous opportunities to see creatures you’re unlikely to see in most other locations. Whatever your itinerary, it’s definitely best to be prepared for absolutely anything, whether it’s by packing clothing to be ready for a sudden change in the weather, to making sure you’ve always got your camera at the ready to take the picture of a lifetime. And wherever you go, it’s always good to travel with a little cash, just to make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality. You never know when you’ll be driving past the best diner in the state, or finding that one memento you can’t do without.

Go on a Bear-Viewing Tour

Bears are one of the most iconic symbols of Alaska’s wildlife, and to see a bear is an amazing experience. A bear-viewing tour in a location such as Katmai National Park or Brooks River Falls can give you the chance to do exactly that. Some tours offer travelers an almost guaranteed sighting of bears in large numbers, for hours in a single session. A typical tour lasts five to ten hours, and involves flying over the Alaskan wilderness to reach the best spots for seeing these majestic creatures, and the opportunity to see bears in an entirely new way.

See the Northern Lights

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, is the name given to the light display that develops above the north pole. The light display is the result of solar activity that blows electrically charged particles into the earth’s atmosphere, where they collide with atmospheric particles to produce the fabulous colors. In Alaska, your best viewing opportunities come between September and April. On clear winter nights, the lights are best viewed after midnight, and in these conditions the view in the sky takes your breath away. This is definitely one time you’ll want to have plenty of warm clothing handy, and perhaps a hot cup of coffee too. Check out the local forecast to give yourself the best change of seeing this amazing light show.

Northern Lights

Photo by John Cameron via trover.com

Visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Nearly twenty million acres in size, this wildlife refuge is one of the most untouched and most wild of the US’s ecosystems. Within the refuge, the towering peaks of the Brooks Mountain Range can be seen. The mountain range is 600 miles long, and is the highest in the Arctic Circle. A multitude of animal species can be seen here—more than 135 bird species in the coastal region of the refuge, including tundra swans, loons, and the more than 300,000 geese that stop to feed in the tundra before flying south during the winter. Caribou, polar bears, wolves, grizzlies, wolverines, and other species can be found here too, and travelers can choose from a range of tour options for seeing the region, including cruise ships as well as land travel.

Go Glacier-Viewing in Tracy Arm Fjord

The Tracy Arm is simply breathtaking—a stunning fjord with mile-high sheer rock walls, rushing waterfalls, imposing mountains, and massive glaciers. The best way to see this unforgettable sight is via a cruise, which gives you plenty of time to see everything at a comfortable distance. There’s plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing too, with whales, bears, seals, and birds common sights in the surrounding waters.

Glacier Bay National Park

Photo by Lenox Yim via trover.com

Drive the Alaska Highway

Combine the classic American roadtrip with the wild beauty of Alaska, and you’ve got something incredibly special. Driving the Alaskan Highway—which runs from British Columbia in Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska—is a roadtrip like no other, thanks to the awe-inspiring scenery. The entire highway runs around 1,000 miles, and careful forward planning is essential for making this trip, as diners, motels, and other landmarks aren’t as common a sight here as they are in other states. But this two-lane highway provides plenty of eye-candy and there are enough campgrounds, restaurants, and other essentials to make the trip comfortably.

This is an article sent in by Sally Frazer