For when it is safe to travel again or for local explorers when allowed – updated September 2020
Seeing the Northern Lights is a highlight on many bucket lists, but this phenomenon is as expensive as it is elusive. So how can you see the greatest show on earth without breaking the bank? In this article, we will outline the five cheapest places to see the Northern Lights.
1. Abisko, Sweden
Abisko is perfect Northern Lights Territory. Located in the Skanderna mountain range you have the ideal conditions for viewing the lights, thanks to the snowy mountain peaks keeping the clouds at bay. Pair that with the low light pollution and you may even be able to catch weak auroras. Spend an evening visiting the Aurora Sky Station, where you can take an open-air chairlift up to a viewing deck in the mountainside.
Abisko has a few hotels, guest lodges and a hostel. In the Guest Lodge you can expect to pay £90 for a room and in the Hostel around £40 for a room in a 4-bed dorm. All the accommodation will offer information on Northern Lights tours. If you fancy trying out some more activities there are guided snowshoe walks, husky rides and snowmobile tours.
To get to Abisko the best way is to fly into Stockholm and then get a domestic flight to Kiruna. From Kiruna you can get a return train journey to Abisko. Use a price comparison website to compare and get the best value flights.
2. Murmansk, Russia
Russia is often forgotten about when you think of destinations to experience the Northern Lights, but it offers some of the most budget friendly options available. Murmansk is the largest city in the Arctic Circle with nearly 300,000 residents, so don’t expect to be visiting a small isolated town like other destinations on this list.
The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is Perhaps, Murmansk is so budget-friendly, because many would wonder why anyone would want to visit here as it is heavily industrialised, but it’s outside the city that the night sky really comes alive. between November to February.
You will have to travel out of town to get away from light pollution, so it makes sense to go on a Northern Lights Hunting Tour. These are available to book through your accommodation or via the local tourism office. Tickets cost around £30, making it the cheapest Northern Lights tour on offer. Accommodation in Murmansk is incredibly reasonable, with a shared room in a hostel starting at £13 and a double room at the Park Inn by Radisson going for £53. This again is the cheapest accommodation available in Northern Lights territory.
There are a few other sights to see in Murmansk, such as a decommissioned nuclear Soviet icebreaker and the walk to the Aloysius monument, which is a memorial to all those who died during the First and Second World Wars, complete with burning flame. If you want a budget, quirky Northern Lights experience then Murmansk is for you.
You can reach the city either by flying to Moscow and getting a sleeper train or by taking a domestic flight from Moscow to Murmansk, there isn’t a vast difference in price, so it depends on what you want to do. Either way, this will be the most expensive part of your journey.
3. Shetland Islands, Scotland
The Shetland Islands are the best part of the British Isles to see the Northern Lights, so if you fancy seeing the aurora at home, there is no better place. Known locally as the ‘Merrie Dancers,’ the Northern Lights are a part of Shetland culture.
You can reach the islands by ferry or by flying. A tour of the Northern Lights is not always necessary, but you can take a tour for around £50, making it incredibly budget friendly.
There are a variety of accommodation options on the islands, just note that if you want to have a chance at glimpsing the lights it would be best to stay outside of Lerwick or any town with light pollution. There are many remote hotels, Air bnb and self-catering cottages that you can choose from. You can even stay in a lighthouse!
Even if you don’t strike lucky and see the lights, there is plenty to see in Shetland, from archaeological sites to the famous Fire Festival which takes place between January to March.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland
Iceland is one of the most popular countries for tourists right now, with tourists making up nearly six times the local population. It is not only famous for the Blue Lagoon, volcanoes, fjords and geysers, you can also catch the Northern Lights here if you are lucky enough.
Whilst the city has plenty to see and do and offers a variety of accommodation to suit all budgets, you will have to get into the countryside to enjoy the unpolluted night skies. Budget Northern Light tours in Iceland can cost as little as £40.
5. Tromso, Norway
Tromso is the largest city in the North of Norway. Its location gives you a high chance of catching a glimpse of the lights, whilst even if you don’t, you’ll be glad you ventured north to enjoy all this city has to offer.
From cosy cafes to plenty of restaurants and culture in the city, you can take in fjords, mountains and islands in the countryside. The best time to catch the lights is between September to April and the city even hosts a Northern Light Festival with a Borealis Ball in January to February.
Costs in Tromso are slightly more expensive with the average Northern Lights tour setting you back £150. Accommodation is reasonable with budget hotel rooms going for £60. Tromso is ideal for those who want to make their trip about more than the Northern Lights. You can also enjoy an adventure on a dog sled or a snowmobile tour.
This is a guest post by Stuart Cooke, who loves exploring the world on a budget. Stuart is a Blog Editor at MyBaggage.com. If you need to send your luggage ahead to any of these destinations, they’ve got you covered.
All guest posts are written by the author as indicated. The information contained within each guest post is correct to the best of our knowledge. In some instances an author may have received a free trip, meal or payment in some form. When this is the case, we will inform you at the end of the post. This author works for the organisation MyBaggage.