Alaska Northern Lights Tours

Alaska Northern Lights Viewing  (:59)

First things first: When do the northern lights appear? Not during the summer midnight sun, because it doesn’t get dark! But from mid – August to mid-April, it’s possible to see the northern lights in Alaska.

Why Alaska?

If you’re browsing northern lights–viewing vacations, you’ve likely seen trips to Norway, Canada, Sweden, Iceland, and Greenland. They’re all great places, but here are 4 reasons why Alaska tops the list:

  1. Easy travel from the lower 48. You can book nonstop flights to Anchorage year-round from major U.S. hubs (like Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Portland), so you can get here in just a few hours—no passport required.
  2. Fall or winter. From mid-November through March, you can check into a lodge or look for the lights each night as you try a different activity, like ice fishing or dogsledding. And if you’re on an aurora quest from mid-August to mid-September, (Fall) there’s still time to enjoy summer activities, like visiting Denali National Park or taking a glacier cruise.
  3. Great odds. Visitors to Alaska who spend 3 nights looking for the lights from Fairbanks have a 90% chance of spotting them!
Jump to our list of recommended tours

How to Increase Your Chances of Seeing the Lights?

There’s no guarantee, of course: Clouds may cover them, or they may simply not show up in your location. Fortunately, there are a couple ways to greatly improve your chances of seeing the aurora:

  1. Plan 5 - 7 days for your trip and dedicate at least 3 nights to looking for the lights, so that you, too, will have a 90% chance of seeing them. It can work as a three- or four-day trip centered on a weekend, but then you will need to be more focused.
  2. Go to Fairbanks and the aurora oval.The main auroral band crosses the state in an arc north of the Alaska Range, which makes Fairbanks and the surrounding area Alaska’s sweet spot for northern lights viewing. And it’s easy to reach: You can fly into Fairbanks and be at a world-class aurora–viewing venue in under an an hour.

What's an Aurora Vacation Like?

Think of it as a quest. You are trying to witness one of the grandest spectacles in nature. The aurora can be elusive and must be pursued. It’s an adventure! (With a huge payoff.)

You’re going to be up late. Most tours focus on the hours between 10pm and 3am. Many tour operators will provide large parkas and bunny boots to keep you warm, as well as warm beverages and light snacks. If you’re at a lodge, you can arrange for a wake-up call if you’re not able to stay up. You’ll sleep in late the next morning (and that’s easy to do in winter when the sun doesn’t rise until 10 or 11am!). You might spend the afternoon enjoying an exhilarating winter experience like dog sledding or snowmobiling. You’ll return to your hotel or lodge for an early evening nap, and get ready to do it all again!

Here are our top tours for seeing the northern lights in Alaska:

Lodges & Overnight Tours

  • Northern Alaska Tour Company offers 3-day/2-night (and longer) trips from Fairbanks to Coldfoot Camp above the Arctic Circle. Located halfway between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, this is an exceptional spot to see the lights.
  • Iniakuk Lake Wilderness Lodge, a fly-in luxury wilderness lodge inside Gates of the Arctic National Park, offers one of Alaska’s most exclusive experiences for viewing the northern lights. Step outside or scan the sky from the lodge’s huge picture windows.
  • Just an hour from Fairbanks is Borealis Basecamp, where you can book your own clear-roofed igloo for the night.
  • Salmon Berry Tours offers 6-day/5-night packages from Anchorage. You’ll work your way north, stopping in Talkeetna, and look for the northern lights each night once you reach Fairbanks.

Evening Tours

  • Aurora Pointe is a northern lights–viewing venue just 15 minutes from downtown Fairbanks. You’ll find a beautiful, warm space serving coffee, tea, and locally made snacks while you wait for the lights to make their appearance.
  • With Alaska Wildlife Guide, you can leave from Fairbanks and combine a soak in Chena Hot Springs with your search for the aurora.
  • Travel beyond the Arctic Circle to see the lights with Northern Alaska Tour Company. Drive, fly, or do both!
  • For something really unique, head out with Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service for a night of ice fishing. You’ll be nice and warm in a cabin out over the lake as you cast your line and enjoy refreshments. The wide-open view is perfect if the aurora makes an appearance.

Other Tips

  • Don’t completely count out Southcentral Alaska! This area—Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, and the Kenai—can all boast nights with terrific auroral displays; they just don’t happen as frequently as they do around Fairbanks and parts north. Interestingly, if you visit this area in August–September and March–April, you’ll have a little better chance than up north, since nights are slightly longer in Southcentral during those times. For more, see our Anchorage aurora guide.
  • Southeast Alaska also experiences auroras, but the frequency falls off the further south you go. Add in the frequency of clouds in this region and it’s best not to travel here if your primary goal is to see the lights.
  • Pack the right clothing. The aurora’s 7-month season runs from late summer to early spring, and nighttime temperatures range from the summery 60’s to subzero. Explore detailed advice on picking the right clothing to be comfortable during your stay.
  • Get local advice. Check out our Alaska aurora tips and Kory’s Fairbanks Aurora Advice.
  • Sign up for Bob's northern lights email series and get the free guide on how to maximize your chances of seeing the northern lights!

Aurora Ice Fishing

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

Season: November–March $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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Remote Wilderness Lodge

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

Season: February 20 - April 10 $8,295+ 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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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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Evening Viewing, Minutes from Fairbanks

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

Season: Mid-August to mid-April $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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Clear-Roofed Igloos

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

Season: Aug 21 to Apr 10 $1746+ shoulder 2 nights 2 guests 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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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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Arctic Circle Fly, Drive and Overnight Adventures

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

Season: Aug 21 to Apr 21 $799+ per person 2+ nights

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

Season: Aug 21 - April 21 $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

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