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10 Places To Catch a Glimpse of the Auroras

10. Abisko, Sweden

Between the long winter nights and the location, Abisko is a prime location for seeing the northern lights. The town only has 85 residents, and it's near an enormous lake and a national park, so light pollution isn't really an issue. Add to that the mountains surrounding the town, and you have a place with very few clouds or rain, resulting in an almost-always clear sky. There's actually a sky research station located here.

(image via Instagram)

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9. South Georgia

The southern lights—aurora australis—are often considered subpar to their northern counterparts. The truth is that they can be just as stunning. While there's a ton of land up north, places to see the lights down south are much harder to come by. One good patch to set up shop is the island of South Georgia.  There aren't a great many people here, but this is just about as far south as you can go before things become desolate.

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8. Luosto, Finland

On average, there are over 200 aurora sightings a year in Luosto. Consider Santa's Hotel Aurora, a boutique hotel run by Jari Vartanen. An aurora alarm beeps you awake whenever the northern lights appear, in response to a signal from a nearby research station. The window-covered rooms all face north, to boot. Less-pertinent, but still a plus, the meals are supposed to be phenomenal, created from ingredients sourced largely from the forest and lake nearby.

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7. The Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

It's always a good sign when you learn that someone's set up a research station to examine the auroras, and the Falklands have just such a station. In addition to their relative proximitythe islands are about 400 miles off the coast of Argentina—they also boast a charming array of wildlife, including about ten different species of penguin.

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6. Yellowknife, Canada

Much of northern Canada sits right under the auroral oval, but Yellowknife hits a sweet spot—it's remote enough that you're not in the city, but it's also got enough of a tourism infrastructure that you're not trekking around on your own. Add to that, the landscape is relatively flat, meaning there's not much between you and the lights. There are enough aurora tourism companies operating here that you can watch the lights from a hot tub, or you can head up the nearest hill to get some isolation.

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5. Stewart Island, New Zealand

The southern polar lights will occasionally venture as far north as Australia and New Zealand, but the most reliable way to see them is to venture as far south as possible. Stewart Island is just such a locale. There are two large islands that make up most of New Zealand, and Stewart Island is a much, much smaller third one just off the southern coast near Invercargill. The relative isolation creates an optimal aurora-viewing experience—in fact, the Maori name for this place is Rakiura"the land of glowing skies."

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4. Denali, Alaska

There are numerous places in and around Alaska where you can see the auroras. Fairbanks sits most directly underneath the aurora oval, though you'll want to remove yourself from the city to minimize light pollution. If the interior isn't your style, you can also try the Arctic regions. As far as timing goes, the University of Alaska actually keeps an aurora forecast that can help you plan your trip.

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3. Murmansk, Russia

As with Canada, Russia is an enormous country located pretty far north. They're not hurting for places to catch the northern lights. In extreme cases, the lights occasionally dip as far into central Russia as Moscow, but one of the most common hubs is Murmansk, a city of around 300,000 people located near Finland. Not only are you in a prime location to see the lights, but polar night here can mean 40 days without sunlight.

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2. Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard is an archipelago located between the North Pole and the mainland of Norway. The Noordelicht is a restored schooner-turned-hotel, offering great views of the northern lights from fairly remote locations in the Arctic Seas. Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linné, similarly, is a restored radio station-turned-hotel, a unique stay along with beautiful nighttime views.

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1. Antarctica

Antarctica is, of course, not a terrifically easy place to reach. Your best bet will likely be a cruise, which can take you around the continent. There are only a few touring companies that offer excursions, though. Just be mindful of the fact that you're setting foot on quite possibly the last unspoiled place on the planet.

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