When it comes to natural phenomena, not much can rival the level of fascination caused by the elusive Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. Last year, when news broke that the lights will dim for a decade after 2016, tourists flocked to Scandinavian countries such as Iceland or Norway in droves, hoping to catch a final glimpse of the alluring aurora. It is worth noting that even though this means the lights will occur less frequently, they will not be completely gone — so all hope is not lost.

The unique celestial display occurs due to the collision between charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare and atoms and molecules in the atmosphere. This results in bursts of light, called photons, which then make up the aurora. Collisions with oxygen produce red and green auroras, while those with nitrogen result in pink and purple ones. This reaction surrounds the polar regions of the earth, occurring at an altitude of 65 kilometres to 650 kilometres in a zone called the “Aurora Oval”.

northern lights
The Northern Lights form one of nature’s most awe-inspiring phenomena.

While Iceland and Norway are well-known spots where one can catch the dazzling display in the night sky, you can view it from other parts of the world, too — as the phenomenon occurs near the magnetic poles. It takes place as far south as New Orleans in the Western hemisphere. In fact, we know a few lucky friends who were treated to the magical displays from their plane window.

Described as mirror-like images that occur at the same time, the Northern Lights and Southern Lights (Aurora Australis, which occurs in the South) can be seen in some rather unexpected places around the world. As with many natural phenomena, the lights are unpredictable and it’s hard to confirm the best time to see them. Your best bet? September to March, when the lights occur more frequently. Additionally, you can download astronomy guide apps such as Star Walk and check out sites such as Aurora Forecast.

If you find yourself booking a flight to Iceland, stop. From Australia to Michigan, here are 5 other places outside of Scandinavia that offer equally glorious views of Mother Nature’s light show.

1
New Zealand

With New Zealand boasting some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it is one of the few places one can view the Aurora Australis. Although the Southern Lights are harder to catch than their northern counterparts, winter months promise more regular occurrences.

Where: Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, which are internationally recognised as having some of the darkest skies in the world. Also, consider visiting Stewart Island and The Catlins.

(Image credit: Reuters)

2
Tasmania

Tasmania is one of the best vantage spots in the world to view the Southern Lights, due to its proximity to the earth’s magnetic field. In fact, the lights can be seen all over the island. Large mountain ranges and light pollution may restrict views of the Southern Lights, so take a trip to its beaches and wide shallow bays to get a better, unobstructed look.

Where: Australian photographer Matt Glastonbury has two favourite spots — Dodges Ferry about 40 kilometres east of Hobart and Cockle Creek on the southern tip of Tasmania.

(Image credit: Matt Glastonbury)

3
Canada

The world’s second largest country, Canada, is another must-see spot for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. In addition to its rugged wilderness and remarkable wildlife, it boasts towering mountain ranges, flowing rivers and lakes, and the largest non-Arctic ice field — perfect for admiring the Aurora Borealis.

Where: Mucho Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia offers a picturesque backdrop for catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights. The city of Whitehorse (pictured) in Yukon also boasts a number of rental lodges and retreats.

 (Image credit: Getty Images) 

4
Michigan

This July, Michigan was treated to a rare Northern Lights display because of a geomagnetic storm from the sun. Although it doesn’t occur that often, the state is known for being a good vantage point for the celestial light display, due to its latitude and relatively low light pollution.

Where: Lake Superior (pictured) provides some of the best Northern Lights views, due to its very dark night skies. Go along the South Shore, where one can see right down to the horizon and be treated to an 180-degree unobstructed view of the night sky.

 (Image credit: Getty Images) 

5
Scotland

Besides being known for scotch whisky and golf, Scotland also boasts impressive views of the Northern Lights. Along with Ireland, it remains one of the best places to witness the phenomenon outside of Scandinavia.

Where: The Moray Coast, as well as Galloway Forest Park (the only dark sky park in Scotland), which offers three hundred square miles of wilderness.

 (Image credit: Getty Images) 

Dewi Nurjuwita
Senior Writer
Dewi Nurjuwita is a travel and design writer who can be found exploring the streets of foreign cities with passport in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.