When and Where to See the Northern Lights in Alaska
Summer is over, fall is here and winter is coming – that means the northern lights season is approaching. They can be seen anywhere in Alaska, although the best locations are in interior and arctic regions. The Aurora Borealis is one of mother nature’s greatest spectacles and has long puzzled and inspired generations throughout history.
You can see the Northern Lights by simply stepping out and looking at the night sky in Alaska. Watching the Northern Lights is far from the only winter attraction in Alaska; travelers mix the experience with dog sledding, skiing, festivals, snowmobiling, and other Alaskan pastimes.
When to See the Northern Lights in Alaska
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis occur in Alaska throughout the year – although they are much harder to see during the Midnight Sun (summer). Alaska is famous for being one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is between August and April. This is when there is less daylight and a darker night sky. It’s better without light pollution from the city or the moon. To get the best view of the Northern Lights, it’s best to get out of the cities and outskirts of town.
- Best time: August to April
To know precisely when to see the Northern Lights, keep an eye out for the statewide Northern Lights Forecast and the Fairbanks Northern Lights Tracker.
Fairbanks is one of the best places in Alaska for the Northern Lights
The arctic regions of Alaska are very remote and very difficult to access. The only major city (for Alaska) in the interior is Fairbanks. That being said, it’s also the coldest city in Interior Alaska and one of the coldest cities in the United States (most are in North and South Dakota).
Fairbank’s location, accessibility, and hours of darkness during the winter months make it one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Fairbanks also offers a plethora of other activities – consider their many winter tours.
- Population: 50,000 (urban area)
Fairbanks offers dedicated tours and accommodations for tourists coming to see the Northern Lights.
Those who can afford the considerable expense of visiting (often by seaplane) remote parts of Alaska can consider seeing the Northern Lights at Coldfoot, Wisman, Utquiagvik (Barrow), and Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse.
How to Plan a Trip to See the Northern Lights
It’s important to remember that the Northern Lights are at the mercy of the weather – if it’s overcast, they can’t be seen. It is best to plan multi-day nighttime Northern Lights tours to increase the chances of seeing them. Flexibility is key to having plenty of other activities planned so that if you don’t see the Northern Lights it will still have been a worthwhile trip.
Northern Light packages often include meals and accommodation in unique, secluded accommodation specially designed to watch the heavenly spectacle. Many Alaskan hotels also have wake-up calls (upon request) to make sure their guests aren’t sleeping when the lights are out.
Those who would like to do it all on their own need only book flights to Alaska (preferably Fairbanks), then book a hotel and rent a car. Alternatively, it may be more affordable for families to drive to Alaska. Be aware that this is a very long drive and will require crossing Canada (so bring a passport).
Stay at the Borealis Base Camp igloos
This sample Northern Lights package offers a two-night tour with accommodations just outside of Fairbanks on a quiet ridgeline at Borealis Basecamp. The Borealis Basecamp has 20 stylish igloos, a new village with five Northern Lights viewing cubes, and other accommodation options. They also offer activities like snow milling, snowshoeing, fat biking, and dog sledding.
- Season: August 21 – April 10, June 7 – August 18
- Price: From $1,746, two nights and two guests
Borealis Basecamp occupies 100 acres of pristine boreal forest and is immersed in the Alaskan wilderness (what better place to view the Northern Lights in Alaska)? Visitors can also book directly with the base camp and plan their own trip.