Seeing the Northern Lights up close and personal, as it were, features on many people's travel wish list, but their temperamental nature can leave you feeling disappointed if they don't put in a much-awaited for appearance. So for those hoping to get their kicks from arguably the world's most impressive light show, there are two main pieces of advice to give;
1 - Do your research, find out the where's and when's (and perhaps even why's) of the Aurora Borealis and their mysterious ways
2 - Plan a trip that isn't entirely centred around them coming out to play, plan other activities that excite you just as much and think of the Northern Lights not necessarily as the main attraction, but as the cherry on top of an ice cream you're going to enjoy whatever the weather!
To do our best to help up with points one and two, we've compiled a list of the 5 'best' places to get a glimpse of these elusive, electrically charged solar particles as they collide with our atmosphere. And although best is a tricky word, as it can encompass everything from places with the least light pollution in polar territories cut off from the rest of the world, to destinations that are more easily, and affordably, accessible - we've tried to cover as many factors as possible so here's what we've come up with;
We had to give this one top spot purely because it's where you'll find the incredible Abisko National Park, home to the Aurora Sky Station. A magical combination of mountain ranges holding back weather systems that would normally cloud the skies over, no towns or cities for miles around, and a latitude 121 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it boasts an impressive statistic of an 88% sighting success rate. And with a dedicated viewing areas you can enjoy watch the show in pretty much complete comfort.
Tromsø - Norway
Northern Norway is no stranger to the Northern Lights, and with long Arctic nights between September and March that's just more in hours in the day to go Aurora hunting! Being a larger destination helps too, as there are many reputable firms offering excursions that can include a number of activities as extras, such as city tours or dog sledding experiences. There are also direct flights available from London, making it a slightly easier to get to.
A surprising entry perhaps, but you don't even need to board a plane to witness the Northern Lights with a little bit of luck and planning. Last year Caithness, just 50 odd miles from John o'Groats, had more Aurora activity than many parts of Scandinavia.
With a potential 6 months of the year during which they might come out to play, Iceland is becoming an ever-popular choice for polar light chasers. Less than an hour outside of Reykjavik you'll find flat, uninhabited tundras that are perfect observation spots when conditions are right. During the day the capital is also awash with things to do, from the dreamlike warmth of the Blue Lagoon, to an ancient taste of Icelandic beer in one of the city's many cosy pubs or taverns.
There may be a long-haul flight involved, which will certainly make Canada one of the more expensive options for you to choose from, but the price does buy you some good odds. The Aurora Oval covers nearly the whole country, meaning nearly any spot gives you the possibility of an encounter, but the further north and more secluded you can get- as ever, the better your chances. So whether you fill the rest of your holiday with sightseeing in Vancouver or skiing in Whistler, you'd be unlucky to go home disappointed.
If you're planning a Northern Lights getaway soon, Aurora forecasts are available for both North America - http://www.aurora-service.org/aurora-forecast/ and Northern Europe - http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/.