Few travel experiences can match a night watching the aurora borealis dance across the sky. This surreal phenomenon -- Mother Nature at her finest -- is captivating on so many levels. For one, the vibrant northern lights look straight out of Disney World. Additionally, these “light shows” are hardly planned. You never know when or if you’re going to see them, which only adds to the excitement. You need the perfect conditions of clear skies and crisp weather, and even then, the northern lights still may not show up.
But when they do, these lights are breathtaking, mind-boggling, and moving all at once. I’ve only seen the northern lights on one occasion, but I have a trip planned to catch them again. If you’re hoping to see this natural phenomenon yourself, here are 10 hotels with northern lights views.
1. ION Adventure Hotel
Between its northern location and stunning marketing campaigns, Iceland has become synonymous with northern lights viewing opportunities. One of the hotels that made the land of fire and ice famous for the aurora is ION Adventure Hotel in Nesjavellir, just a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik and about 15 minutes from Thingvellir National Park.
The ION Adventure Hotel was constructed with as many windows as possible. It’s nestled in the remote wilderness for low light pollution and unobstructed views. Guests describe the experience as “gorgeous” on TripAdvisor, with one saying it’s “a really cool hotel with amazing design and friendly staff.” Some visitors warn that the lights aren’t as common as advertised, and that -- this isn’t uncommon in geothermally active Iceland -- you may get a sulphurous smell in your water. Maybe opt for bottled?
2. Arctic Gourmet Cabin
If private, upscale cabins with a personal chef and sommelier -- not to mention northern lights views -- sound up your alley, Arctic Gourmet Cabin in northern Sweden will blow you away. These cozy little cabins, which also feature hot tubs and saunas, are family owned and boast Scandinavian simplicity that makes the aurora the star. Even better? This community has only two cabins, which means it rarely feels overcrowded -- particularly given its remote location. The property is accessible via car or bus from Kiruna.
When it comes to traveler feedback, Arctic Gourmet Cabin delivers on its promises. TripAdvisor reviewers describe this as “an experience not to be missed” with food pairings that are “mouthwatering.”
3. Hotel Kakslauttanen
Hotel Kakslauttanen looks like a replica of Santa Claus’s fairytale home. This upscale community of glass igloos and snow-dusted log cabins is goosebump-inducing -- and that’s before the northern lights displays even begin. This hotel in northern Finland, where nature’s light show can be seen from late August to April, is one of the most famous aurora borealis getaways. Beyond northern lights viewing, this unique hotel hosts adventurous activities like dog-sled rides and reindeer safaris, with the opportunity to unwind at the scenic igloo bar in the West Village Aurora restaurant.
Guests rave about this four-star hotel on TripAdvisor, with some calling it “the best resort” and “nothing less than advertised,” while others express gratitude for the resort’s signature Northern Lights wake-up calls.
4. Aurora Borealis Lodge
Near Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the United States’ top destinations for catching the elusive northern lights, and the Aurora Borealis Lodge -- 20 miles north of Fairbanks -- is a wonderful place to do just that. Set away from the light pollution of Fairbanks proper, this cozy lodge and a private two-bedroom log cabin give visitors a good chance of viewing the aurora during any stay between August and April. The lodge also offers information sessions on the northern lights for those who just can’t get enough.
With a five-star rating on TripAdvisor, this aurora viewing lodge has hundreds of rave reviews, including sentiments like “this was so worth the money” and “cannot recommend this place highly enough!”
5. Hotel Arctic
Hotel Arctic is “the world’s most northerly four-star hotel,” a feat that makes it perfectly situated for aurora borealis viewing. Located near West Greenland’s scenic Ilulissat ice fjord, Hotel Arctic has a variety of Greenland adventures at its doorstep, although it’ll be tough to leave these accommodations during chilly fall, winter, or spring nights. Thankfully, there’s a brasserie and wine bar on site, not to mention views across the water.
Past guests gush about Hotel Arctic on TripAdvisor. Reviews range from “undoubtedly the best hotel in the Arctic region” to “Arctic luxury” and “great hotel at the perfect location.”
6. Tromso Ice Domes
Delivering a uniquely Arctic experience, the seasonal Tromso Ice Domes area is built every fall and lasts through the winter. These domes come outfitted with reindeer skins and polar expedition sleeping bags to keep you warm while waiting to see the northern lights. While the lights are a major attraction, these ice domes have quite a bit more to offer, too. Guides take guests through an impressive exhibit of ice sculptures and snowshoe tours that are followed by fresh dinners cooked on an open fire.
What’s it really like to sleep in domes made out of ice -- in frigid northern Norway, no less? Previous guests have mixed reviews. Some say it’s a “really cool experience” and “stunning” while others say it’s “not a must” on a trip north. Some folks will definitely prefer less-icy, and better-heated, accommodations.
7. Northern Lights Resort And Spa
Located in the Yukon River Valley, the cozy aurora-view cabins at the Northern Lights Resort and Spa are scenic even without the lights. These cabins, made from Douglas firs, overlook pine forests and mountains and feature rustic decor. That said, it’s hard to beat a night with a northern lights appearance at this Canadian getaway. Accommodations include Aurora Glass Chalets for optimal viewing, along with an outdoor panoramic jacuzzi to keep you warm in the cold winter evenings.
Does the Northern Lights Resort and Spa live up to its promises? According to TripAdvisor, the answer is a big yes. Guests describe the stay as a “fabulous retreat” with “great hosts” and an “amazing location.”
8. Eliassen Rorbuer
The tiny Lofoten Islands of Hamnoy are home to one of Norway’s most scenic accommodations: Eliassen Rorbuer. This community of renovated fishermen’s cottages offers a rustic look at life in northern Norway, set to the glimmer of the winter’s northern lights displays. The onsite restaurant, Krambua, serves local fish to top off that quintessential Norwegian fishing theme.
The Eliassen Rorbuer doesn’t promise utmost luxury -- they’re renovated fishing cottages, after all -- and the reviews mirror just that. Past guests say the accommodations were “incredible, incredible, incredible” with “good views of mountains,” although some were more enthused about the bunk beds (in some -- not all -- of the rooms) than others.
9. Arctic TreeHouse Hotel
The Arctic TreeHouse Hotel takes “treehouse” to an entirely new, luxury level, with upscale treetop accommodations that include underfloor heating and rainshower heads, not to mention floor-to-ceiling glass walls designed for aurora borealis viewing. These gorgeous treehouses are as cozy as can be; each has its own fireplace, sauna, and kitchenette. The window-facing beds designed for watching the northern lights from under the covers are perhaps the best touch.
Guests on TripAdvisor agree, describing their once-in-a-lifetime experiences here as “just magical” and the “best trip ever.”
10. Sheldon Chalet
Denali National Park, Alaska
Just 10 miles from the summit of Denali, the scenic and remote Sheldon Chalet is what aurora borealis viewing dreams are made of. This hotel is ringed by towering mountains that, when illuminated by the Northern Lights, look almost too good to be true. Panoramic rooms overlook the mountains and night sky, with a world-class chef to make the experience complete.
Is the Sheldon Chalet as magical as it looks? According to guests, that’s an absolute yes! One reviewer notes “Five stars are not enough. I’ve never experienced anything where I get chills and tears at the same time just thinking about it.”
Need more night-sky viewing info? Check out these six places for an amazing supermoon viewing experience in 2020.