Myself and a friend are looking to see the Northern Lights before March 2015. We have been looking extensively at destinations but keep facing the same issue, price. I would be really grateful if anyone had information on the best place to see the Northern Lights on a tight budget. By this I'm referring to costs of accommodation, food and activities such as boat trips and tours.
Also, could anyone recommend somewhere to find other travellers looking to join a group?
Where are you starting from?
Well we study in Maastricht in the south of the Netherlands. So Belgian airports are easily accessible. One of us is from Madrid so that is also a good starting point.
Thankyou that helps slightly - it rules out suggestions like Canada.
Unfortunately the options it leaves are all expensive places: Iceland, Norway, Finland. Russia is cheaper but difficult.
Part of the problem is there are no guarantees of seeing the aurorae at any particular time. I've been to Norway, Iceland and Russia in the winter but never seen the Northern Lights.
Norwegian air shuttle (www.norwegian.no) could be useful to you in getting to some likely spots - such as Spitzbergen or Tromso. They've made this a lot cheaper than it used to be. But then lingering in those places any length of time is going to cost.
You could also check out Icelandair to get to Reykjavik - in the UK market they often post package deals via a website called travelzoo which bundle together hotel + flight + sightseeing cheaply, maybe they do the same in the Netherlands market as I see they fly AMS-KEF.
Hostels in Reykjavik start from 16 euro for a dorm bed. I think that may be your best bet because I can't find much in the way of hostels in Northern Norway in towns of any size.
Spitzbergen would I think maximise your chances of seeing the lights. Cheapest accom I can find is here http://www.spitsbergentravel.com/Start/Accommodation/Spitsbergen-Guesthouse/
Longyearbyen is a really strange and interesting town; I've only been in summer, I think being there in the six month dark would be an experience. It's more normal these days but probably still has shades of being a mining company town with mostly short term male inhabitants - all the bars have "leave your gun outside" signs on the doors (you need to carry a gun because of the polar bears) and there are more snowmobiles than people. Reykjavik is an easier option, with its geothermally heated streets and a lot more tourist infrastructure, but it's further south so maybe that means fewer northern lights.
Good luck! :-)
After doing some more reading, apparently Spitzbergen is too far north for this time in the solar cycle so mainland Norway or Iceland are more likely bets.
This article http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-school/best-place-to-see-the-northern-lights/ suggests a town in Northern Finland as a cheaper option.
Tromso area is probably gives the best chance to see the auroras. It's position relative to the magnetic pole is ideal for seeing the auroras late at night, 21 - 01 being the best hours. In addition it has an airport With a few international flights and lots of flights from Oslo. On Bright Nights we have seen quite a lot of auroras this Autumn. Of course cloudcover is unpredictable. I live app. 60 km South of Tromso (as the crow flies), so conditions here will not be very different from those in Tromso. Of course, Tromso is a town of 70 000 People and has it's fair share of light pollution. You have to get out of the centre, I should think there are spots on the South of Tromso Island (museum area) where so much light is bloced out to give acceptable Levels of light pollution. Of course, if you can travel out of town conditions ate even better. An added attraction this Autumn might be whales. I saw at least twenty humpbacks and at least as many killerwhales during a few hours boating last weekend (I visited Tromso that weekend). I spotted the first humpback, say 10 km North of Tromso Island.
Feel free to ask if you want to know more.
Agree with others, Iceland and Norway are probably your best bets. Although northern Finland or Sweden should have them as well.
Iceland generally offers packages to see the northern lights where they take you out to an area with less light pollution and if you don't see them, you can go out again every night until you do (or you have to leave) from Reykjavik. I'm fairly certain that you can find something similar in other places, although I haven't looked as I've seen them a few times before (In CA and in Iceland).
WizzAir, NorwegianAir and of course ryanair/easyjet offer budget flights to the various destinations. Northern countries tend to be more expensive, but buying alcohol (if you plan to drink) duty-free, couchsurfing or workaways can severely cut your costs. How much time do you have? Is there anything else outside of the northern lights you're interested in seeing?
...... Northern countries tend to be more expensive, but buying alcohol (if you plan to drink) duty-free,...... can severely cut your costs. .....
Reykjavik has Duty Free ON ARRIVAL. That is a unique experience for me & I wonder why it it not world-wide. I asked if they had it at Heathrow & they do not but you can order duty free on the way out of the UK & pick it up on your way back in when you return.
I was at Lofoten last year. And you can catch the northern lights over there too. I went through travel agency -snip- and they offer really good guided and self-guided hikes in Lofoten/Norway. Do check it out! :D
[ Edit: No promos please. Sorry if this wasn't intentional. ]