The Northern Lights: Trip the light fantastic
With another solar maximum predicted this winter, enhance your Aurora experience with a novel sleepover
Wednesday 23 October 2013
What's the attraction?
The Northern Lights are one of the greatest spectacles on Earth and Nasa predicts this winter to be another "solar maximum", meaning increased cosmic activity and better chances of seeing those notoriously elusive displays of ethereal red and green lights. But you'll have to travel to the far north of the planet to do so. Happily, a range of off-beat accommodation options is available this season, promising to keep you warm and entertained while waiting for the magic.
New for this season and reminiscent of a science-fiction film set, these giant, transparent, inflatable bubbles are planted deep in Finnish Lapland, in prime position to catch sight of the Aurora Borealis. Better still, they're heated, and are big enough to fit a private bathroom and double bed, meaning there's every chance you can watch one of nature's greatest displays tucked up in bed. Daytime activities include sleigh rides, ice-fishing and learning about the local Sami culture.
The Aurora Zone (01670 785 012; theaurorazone.com) offers a five-day "Muotka Fellside Auroras" trip; the price of £1,650 per person includes flights, full-board accommodation – including one night in an Aurora Bubble – and all activities. Departures December to March 2014.
Watch the Northern Lights from the world's only ice-bound ship hotel. The 120ft schooner is trapped in a frozen fjord off Spitsbergen, in northern Norway's Svalbard archipelago – one of the few places in the world where it's possible to see the Aurora during daylight hours. It has 10 well-equipped cabins, two lounges, a restaurant and licensed bar. Accessible only by snowmobile or dog sleigh and miles away from civilisation, this is a real Arctic Aurora adventure, but with a warm welcome at the end.
Magnetic North Travel (0845 5195 242; magneticnorthtravel.com) has a four-day Northern Lights Arctic Adventure; the price of £1,795 per person includes flights, accommodation, most meals, guide and snowmobile tour. Departures March 2014.
Northern Lights train
Take a luxury train across Russia in search of the Northern Lights. In the company of an expert astronomer, travel from St Petersburg to Moscow on board the Golden Eagle, which features ensuite, panoramic-windowed cabins and a fine-dining restaurant. Stop off along the way for specialist Aurora excursions and visits to the Unesco World Heritage city of Vladimir and the Golden Ring town, Velikiy.
Wexas Travel (020 7838 5892; wexas.com) offers a 10-day luxury New Year and The Northern Lights rail trip on the Golden Eagle; £6,395 per person includes six nights' full-board accommodation on the train, additional nights in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, transfers and activities. Departs 28 December.
Ice and tree hotel
Located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in Swedish Lapland, the Ice Hotel is built from scratch each year. This season, among other habitable exhibits, it will showcase a "snow Tube" to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground.
Simply Sweden (0845 8900 300; simplysweden.co.uk) offers a five-day trip, split between the Ice Hotel and the Tree Hotel – five stylish treehouse cabins nearby that offer the chance to catch impressive celestial displays. The price of £1,645 per person includes flights and B&B accommodation. Departures December to March 2014.
Set sail from Reykjavik in Iceland to Scoresby Sund in eastern Greenland: one of the world's longest fjord systems and the setting for some of the best and most reliable displays of the Northern Lights; a luxury cruiser, miles away from light pollution, means optimum viewing conditions each night. Spend your days exploring the Arctic tundra, spotting wildlife and discovering the remote Inuit communities living nearby.
Quark Expeditions (0808 120 2333; quarkexpeditions.com) has a 14-day Northern Lights cruise; the price of £4,465 per person includes all-inclusive accommodation and most activities. Flights not included. Departs 22 September 2014.
The glass igloos of the Kakslauttanen Holiday Village, deep in the snow-cloaked forests of Saariselka, Finland, are heated and provide uninterrupted views of the night sky.
Discover the World (01737 214 291; discover-the-world.co.uk) has a four-day trip that includes two nights in a log cabin, fitted with a private sauna and wood-burning fireplace, and one night spent under the duvet in a glass igloo, waiting for the lights to appear. The price of £993 per person includes flights, transfers and half board.
Aurora photography trips
Witnessing the Northern Lights is sublime, but photographing them can be tricky. These specialist Aurora photography trips will take you to prime viewing locations, in the company of expert photographers, and help you to capture that perfect image.
Taber Holidays (01274 875 199; taberhols.co.uk) has a new five-day "Great Aurora Hunt" photography trip to the Lofoten Islands, Norway, staying in fishermen's cabins and exploring the culture and history of this remote and beautiful archipelago.The price of £1,575 per person includes half board, workshops and excursions. Flights not included. Scheduled departures until 14 March 2014.
Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris (001 206 463 5383; photosafaris.com) offers an eight-day trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, to photograph the Aurora Borealis, the World Ice Art Competition and the North American Championship Sled Dog Races. The price of £2,663pp includes accommodation, most meals and tuition, but not flights. Departs 3 March 2014.
Wild Photography Holidays (01630 647828; wildphotographyholidays.com) has a new 10-day Iceland Northern Lights workshop, taking in many of the country's photographic highlights including Snaefellsnes Peninsula and the Jokulsarlon Lagoon. The price of £2,250 includes all meals, accommodation and photographic tuition. Departures February, March and September 2014.
"Always travel in hope, rather than expectation, of seeing the Northern Lights. Base your holiday around daytime activities so the Aurora itself comes as a bonus. For the best chances of seeing the lights, head north – but not too far. They are most frequently visible between about 66°N and 69°N. Also avoid heavy light pollution from towns and large ski resorts. Most organised trips include cold-weather gear, but the best investment you can make is a pair of thermal long johns." Alistair McLean, Founder of The Aurora Zone (theaurorazone.com)
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