Alaska Northern Lights Tours

The aurora borealis can dominate the sky over Alaska with dazzling, magical displays unsurpassed anywhere in the world. Given the right conditions and viewing locale, these dancing bars of light might shimmer right over head, ranging from subtle green columns to vast red curtains that fill the entire sky. Thousands of people travel to Alaska every winter to see and photograph this otherworldly polar phenomena. Here’s how to join the quest.

Alaska Northern Lights Viewing  (:59)

When is the best time to see the Aurora?

The viewing season lasts almost seven months, so the best time to seek the aurora really depends upon what else you want to do during your visit. Depending upon cloud cover and weather, Alaska nights can be dark enough to highlight great auroras between mid-August through mid-April. It’s a myth that you must travel to the state only during the deep winter, when darkness can last 16-18 hours per day. Sometimes the season’s most spectacular auroras occur during September or October, or during March and April.

Are you interested in winter sports—dog mushing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling? January through March will be your prime time. Holiday oriented? Try weeks during November and December. Want to drive the road system, do some hiking and maybe even visit Denali National Park while the road’s still open or the Kenai Fjords on a boat tour? August through mid-September can deliver fabulous aurora viewing too.

The aurora doesn’t care about the date—as long as it’s dark at night!

Jump to our list of recommended tours

Where Can I See the Aurora?

Try Fairbanks first. While the aurora can appear over every part of Alaska, from Barrow to Ketchikan, the chances improve with latitude. The main auroral band usually crosses the state in an arc north of the Alaska Range. So this interior city and the surrounding area (including Chena Hot Springs) is probably the state’s sweet spot for northern lights viewing. It’s where the frequency of bright displays dovetails with ease of accommodations and travel logistics. You can fly into Fairbanks and be at a world-class aurora viewing venue in less than an hour. Tours: Arctic Circle Day & Overnight Adventures, Aurora Pointe, Multi-Day Winter Northern Lights Tour, Northern Lights & Chena Hot Springs, Aurora Ice Fishing, & Borealis Basecamp clear-roofed igloos.

Auroras may occur even more often in and beyond the Brooks Range—Bettles, Coldfoot, Wiseman, Fort Yukon, Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) and Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow.) Here's a cozy wilderness lodge we recommend.

But don’t count out southern Alaska! Southcentral Alaska—Anchorage, the Mat-Su valleys and the Kenai—all experience nights with terrific auroral displays. Just not as often as Fairbanks and parts north. In a natural paradox, nights will be slightly longer in Southcentral than in the Interior during the weeks just before and after the equinoxes, slightly improving the prospects for August-September and March-April. See our Anchorage aurora guide.

Southeast Alaska locales also experience auroras, but the frequency falls off as you go further south. Add in the cloudiness of the region’s rain forest climate, and you should not travel to these areas primarily to see auroras.

What Does an Aurora Vacation Look Like?

  • First, think of it as a quest. You are trying to witness one of the grandest spectacles in nature, but one that can be fickle and shy, somewhat like a wild animal. Just as brown bears loom unpredictably during a photo safari into Denali, or killer whale pods might not surface during the first hours of a cruise, the aurora can be elusive and must be pursued. It’s an adventure! (With a huge payoff.)
  • Most people spend about five to seven days start-to-finish, which gives time to wait out cloudy weather or less-than-prime forecasts. It can work as three- or four-day trip centered on a weekend, but then you will need to be more focused.
  • Dedicate at least three nights to viewing the aurora. Finding a venue or a situation where you can comfortably stay up between 10 pm and 3 am increases your chances and adds to the fun. When prospects are good, the aurora can erupt at any moment.
  • Fill your days with other activities. Every community beneath the aurora offers many options for outdoor adventures and indoor attractions all season long. What exactly you do will depend upon the date you arrive. For ideas, start with three of our advice pages—Things to Do in Alaska, Winter Vacation Tips and Alaska Travel Tips.
  • The aurora’s seven-month season spans from late summer to early spring, with possible night-time temperatures ranging from the summery 60s to subzero cold. We have detailed advice on picking the right clothing to be comfortable during your stay.
  • Variety. Aurora viewing has inspired a whole support industry, especially in Fairbanks and surrounding communities. You can book a package or combine a variety of experiences. It’s possible to ride a van to the Arctic Circle one night, hunker down inside a cozy lodge, clear-roofed igloo or special aurora watching facility with webcams (and hot chocolate) on the second, then go night-time ice fishing or soak in the hot springs on the third. Or, work with a local itinerary specialist to book a custom northern lights package. These options will include expert guides to maximize your chances and explain what you see.

Check out our Alaska aurora tips and Kory’s Fairbanks Aurora Advice.

Evening Viewing, Minutes from Fairbanks

Wait for the northern lights to appear in a warm, inviting space

$40 per person 4 hrs

Just a short 15-minute dri­ve from down­town Fair­banks, wait for the north­ern lights to appear in a warm, invit­ing space. Cozy up to the fire, sip on cocoa and cof­fee, and step out­side when moth­er nature puts on a show. Although the cen­ter is a short dis­tance from town, it is far enough away so that you won’t have to wor­ry about light pol­lu­tion inter­rupt­ing your view as you stand gaz­ing under the vast, star­lit sky.

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Arctic Circle Fly, Drive and Overnight Adventures

Drive north (or fly) from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle

$509+ 14 - 15 hrs

Stand out on the Arc­tic tun­dra under the north­ern lights, expe­ri­enc­ing their eerie glow on a one-day tour you won’t soon for­get. From Octo­ber to April, you’ll depart from Fair­banks on this one-day adven­ture and get a majes­tic flight­see­ing trip to the remote town of Cold­foot, above the Arc­tic Cir­cle. Explore this fas­ci­nat­ing town and look for the mys­te­ri­ous lights over­head. Then dri­ve south and get a close up of all the ter­rain in between, seeing  ...more

Season: Aug 21 to Apr 21 $699+ per person

Spend some time above the Arc­tic Cir­cle under the mys­te­ri­ous, eerie north­ern lights. From mid-Sep­tem­ber to late April, when you have the best chance of wit­ness­ing phe­nom­e­non of the auro­ra bore­alis, you’ll fly from Fair­banks to the remote vil­lage of Cold­foot, in the Brooks Moun­tain Range. After the spec­tac­u­lar flight­see­ing expe­ri­ence, you’ll have either 3 days/​2 nights or 4 days/​3 nights to explore this rugged, fas­ci­nat­ing land­scape, with  ...more

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Multi-Day Winter Vacation

Experience Alaska's iconic winter activities + northern lights viewing

Season: Nov 01 to Mar 28 $115+ 4 hrs - multi-day packages

Won­der­ing how folks up here deal with Alaska’s long win­ter days? It’s easy when the inky night sky comes alive with an amaz­ing light show like the auro­ra bore­alis. Brav­ing the cold is noth­ing if you get a chance to see the lights danc­ing and wav­ing over­head. Com­bine your auro­ra view­ing trip with a few oth­er high­lights planned out by Salmon Berry Tours, and you’ll expe­ri­ence the best of win­ter in Alaska.

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Aurora + Hot Springs

Soak in the healing waters of Chena Hot Springs, a prime location to view the lights if the forecast is good!

Season: Aug 22 to Apr 03 $175 per person 10 hours

Join Alas­ka Wildlife Guide in explor­ing one of Alaska’s most desired attrac­tions, Chena Hot Springs Resort. From vis­it­ing the most north­ern Ice Muse­um, soak­ing in the all-nat­ur­al hot springs to view­ing the breath­tak­ing North­ern Lights dance across the sky, this tour will be a high­light of your Alaskan experience.

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Aurora Ice Fishing

Spend the evening ice fishing from a warm hut, situated in an unobstructed viewing location

$199+ 4+ hours

See­ing the North­ern Lights is an unfor­get­table win­ter­time expe­ri­ence. Of course, you nev­er know quite when (or even if) Moth­er Nature is going to unleash the dis­play into the night sky. So while you wait, you’ll be try­ing your hand at anoth­er activ­i­ty that’s unique to the Alaskan win­ter: ice fishing!

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Clear-Roofed Igloos

Gaze up at the northern lights from your private Igloo, just north of Fairbanks

Season: Aug 21 to Apr 10 $389 shoulder, $449+ Peak & Holiday 2+ Nights

Locat­ed on a qui­et ridge­line out­side of Fair­banks, the Bore­alis Base­camp offers 15 ele­gant clear-roofed igloos that have been cus­tom designed and specif­i­cal­ly posi­tioned to max­i­mize your view­ing of the North­ern Lights. You’ll also have the chance to take advan­tage of the camps many win­ter activ­i­ties like dogsled­ding, snow­ma­chin­ing, snow­shoe­ing, and fat-tire biking. 

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Remote Wilderness Lodge

View the aurora from the comfort of a remote wilderness lodge in the Brooks Range

$7,495+ per person 3-5 nights

If you want to view the north­ern lights, this fam­i­ly owned lodge offers a remote and exclu­sive expe­ri­ence north of the Arc­tic Cir­cle. Whether you are dogsled­ding, snow­shoe­ing or just scan­ning the skies for the north­ern lights, you will still be able to relax in com­fort and nev­er feel like you are rough­ing it.

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