The Northern Lights by Land, Sea, and Sky

Whether it’s waterfalls, sunrises, or the dancing Northern Lights across a dark starry sky, there is something exhilarating about chasing down stunning natural wonders. The Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, are a phenomenon that only occurs in some of the coldest, darkest parts of the world and they have been a longtime favorite challenge for tourists and travelers.

Photo Courtesy: Vacations by Rail

Todd Powell, co-founder of Vacations by Rail, describes the lights as “a living, breathing celestial event. The aurora’s movements are not just a dance, but the pulse of the night sky.” The wavering lights that appear and often change colors are likely to be the best light show you’ll ever see, and there are many creative ways to view them in style. Land, sea, and sky all provide a unique opportunity to gaze in wonder at the natural marvel.


Vacations by Rail is a leader among train vacations with the largest number of destinations and journeys available, including breathtaking views of the Northern Lights from Alaska to Norway. “On a train vacation, the journey takes center stage,” says Powell. “Trains allow travel into parts of the country that are inaccessible by other modes of transportation, all while you relax in comfortable onboard accommodations, enjoy some fantastic food, and sit back and appreciate the moment.” Trains are a way to get even closer to the elusive Northern Lights. Due to light pollution, approximately 9 -percent of the skies over the United States are not dark enough to catch a glimpse of the lights, and about 80-percent of the rest of the world's population can’t view them either, according to Powell, which means a glimpse of them may be a once in a lifetime.

Photo courtesy: Vacations by Rail

  Vacations by Rail offers more than one journey with the lights as a focal point. The Auror View at Bettles Lodge is a six-day journey that includes a two-night stay in Bettles, just past the Arctic Circle, where guests can enjoy uninterrupted views of the lights. The Alaska Winterland and Northern Lights trip is a nine-day journey that makes a stop at the Chena Hot Springs Resort for guests to unwind and then venture out to explore the night skies. “There is something ethereal about seeing the Northern Lights. They are entrancing and enchanting and are a stunning part of nature,” describes Powell. “Traveling to dark-sky places to see the Northern Lights lets people stargaze in ways almost impossible today.”


In 1997, Viking, a small ship travel company, was formed in an attempt to make travel more immersive. The goal was to truly experience the journey and the culture of each destination. Now, the company boasts over 250 awards, travels to all seven continents, and offers river, ocean, and expedition voyages that are destination-focused. If the dancing lights are your goal, Viking has put forth its In Search of the Northern Lights trip, a 13-day, three-country journey from London to Bergen, Norway, with five guided tours. Guests will travel the same waters as ancient Vikings, view historic rock carvings, explore the Sami culture, learn about the science behind the Northern Lights and have plenty of viewing opportunities aboard the award-winning fleet.

The Viking Sky | Photo Courtesy of Viking Cruise | Photo by: Alastair Miller

Artic Bath in Swedish Lapland is a brilliant blend of land and sea, as the floating 12-room hotel/spa located on the Lule River floats in the summer and freezes over in the winter. Made from local materials, inspired by a time when timber was transported by floating logs down the river, the hotel appears truly like an extension of nature.

Arctic Bath | Photo by: Daniel Holmgren

For those light chasers, between September and late March, the cabins, hotel, and spa offer stunning views in total luxury. For those guests who are feeling more adventurous and craving a closer look, Arctic Bath offers a Northern Lights Sled Tour, Snowshoe Safari, and plenty of other viewing options such as Ice Dining, Husky Tours, and more. Arctic Bath is a unique destination that blends luxury with nature and wellness with sustainable materials to luxury spa treatments for the ultimate getaway in Sweden under the northern skies.

Arctic Bath | Photo by: Daniel Holmgren


Land and sea are just two ways to catch a glimpse of the lights, but Treehotel in Harads, Sweden, offers an even closer look at the aurora borealis among Sweden’s treetops. “Treehotel is architecture and beautiful nature, combined with meeting fantastic people,” explains Tim Lillestø, the press and public relations manager at Treehotel.

Photo Courtesy: Treehotel

Treehotel is a collection of one-of-a-kind private treehouses that are comfortable, great for viewing the lights, and full of whimsy. Inspired by the surrounding environment and featured in Jonas Selberg Augustsén’s film Trädälskaren (The Tree Lover) the hotel and guesthouse have attracted guests from all over the world. Each treehouse is designed with a special concept in mind and although the Biosphere, Mirror Cube, and UFO may seem out of place in Sweden’s forests, they offer a real connection to nature among the trees. Lillestø deems “the 7th Room, while sitting on the sofa in front of large windows pointing north,” to be the best viewing option.
By Marlene Ridgway This article originally appeared in Homes & Estates magazine. 


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