Alaska Northern Lights Tours
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Great odds. Visitors to Alaska who spend 3 nights looking for the lights from Fairbanks have a 90% chance of spotting them!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Northern Lights Tours
Aurora Ice Fishing
Spend the evening ice fishing from a warm hut, situated in an unobstructed viewing location
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!
Remote Wilderness Lodge
View the aurora from the comfort of a remote wilderness lodge in the Brooks Range
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.
Multi-Day Winter Vacation
Experience Alaska's iconic winter activities + northern lights viewing
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.
Evening Viewing, Minutes from Fairbanks
Wait for the northern lights to appear in a warm, inviting space
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.
Gaze up at the northern lights from your private Igloo, just north of Fairbanks
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.
Aurora + Hot Springs
Soak in the healing waters of Chena Hot Springs, a prime location to view the lights if the forecast is good!
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.
Arctic Circle Fly, Drive and Overnight Adventures
Drive north (or fly) from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle
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
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