Where to see the northern lights in Russia

Many travel lovers dream of seeing the northern lights. This miracle of nature most often appears in high latitudes, that is, closer to the poles of our planet. In Russia, the northern lights are most often observed in the Arctic, which occupies ⅕ of the country. This is a large territory, where transport accessibility and tourist infrastructure are developed to varying degrees.

There are several programs in the RussiaDiscovery collection , participating in which you can see the northern lights. In this article, we will figure out which areas are more convenient to get to and when is the best time to travel. And also tell you how to prepare for the trip to increase the chances of meeting the northern lights.

What is Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights (also known as the aurora borealis, aurora borealis, pasori, sky carnival) occur when large clusters of charged particles enter the Earth’s magnetic field as a result of solar flares. They are also called “solar wind”. These particles rush to the poles, where they collide with the molecules of our atmosphere. As a result of this interaction, photons are obtained and a glow is formed, which we can observe.

The size, intensity and colors of this natural phenomenon are affected by solar flares. And the more intense the flashes, the brighter the glow will be.

When is the best time to see the northern lights

The aurora borealis season runs from around late August to early April. As a general rule, the longer the night, the greater the chance of seeing the aurora. But the time of year and the duration of the dark time of the day are not the only conditions. To observe the northern lights, it is very important that the sky is clear, without clouds and away from city glare. Therefore, the best places to see the northern lights are often in places that are not easily accessible. But it’s worth it!

When it snows, the northern lights are more spectacular due to the contrast of the dark night sky and the white surface of the earth.

Often aurora borealis appears and disappears in the sky quickly, and it is worth preparing well for the “hunt” so as not to miss the moment. Thoughtful logistics are especially important: you need to determine in advance the place for observation and how to get there, have suitable transport prepared and be prepared for a possibly long wait in the cold.

To make your “hunting” for the northern lights comfortable, we recommend choosing convenient places of residence, which are located where aurora borealis can often be observed in the sky. For example, such as our glamping on the Kola Peninsula . It is possible that you will watch the heavenly carnival right from your window.

Top 9 places in Russia where you can see the aurora

Strictly speaking, the northern lights are best seen from space. From orbit, you can look at the so-called auroral oval, which is formed at the magnetic poles of our planet. But for now, it’s easier and more pleasant to see the glow from the ground 🙂 

1. Kola Peninsula

This is the most accessible geographically and temperature-comfortable place for observing aurora borealis. Here you can watch the northern lights from the end of August until April. In winter, the chances increase, since 42 days on the peninsula is polar night. And that means more time to see the radiance.

Program “In Search of the Northern Lights”

This is a special tour for those who dream of seeing aurora borealis. In the evenings, you will look for the northern lights in the suburbs of Murmansk, in the Lovozero tundra and on the shores of the Barents Sea. And in order for you to bring high-quality shots from the trip, a guide-photographer will accompany you on the routes.

Duration: 3 days
Arrivals and cost:  not yet determined, so it is better to clarify the information by phone +7 (495) 104-64-36 or write to [email protected]

Incredible North Program

On this journey, there is also a chance to see the aurora. But we have added a few more reasons to fall in love with this program: comfortable glamping on the shores of the Barents Sea surrounded by tundra nature, trips in jeeps and ATVs, boat trips in search of whales, local delicacies. It’s been a dream trip.

Duration: 5 days
Arrivals: August – October
Cost: for several arrivals there is a special price –  99,000  84,900 rubles per person.

2. Nenets Autonomous Okrug

The northern lights in the Arctic are bright, with overflows of different colors and a characteristic shimmer. It resembles a purple-green veil interspersed with stars. This phenomenon has significantly influenced the culture of local peoples, which the residents of reindeer farms are happy to talk about. In the old days, the Saami in the northern lights saw the souls of dead relatives rising to the sky. There was also a sign: the fast game of the northern lights portends the wind. The color of the aurora borealis had its own symbolism: red denoted the fight of dead souls among themselves, blue and blue – peace and quiet, with green – the souls of those who did not die by their own death went out to walk in the sky. 

3. Arkhangelsk region

The bright northern lights can be observed, for example, in the Kenozero National Park – there is no illumination of the night sky here. The Pomors who lived in these parts called these glows in the sky “flash” and believed that this was a reflection of the scales of fish wandering in the polar regions. When traveling around the Arkhangelsk region, aurora borealis will be a pleasant bonus to ski and snowmobile tours through picturesque forests and snow-covered lakes.

The program “On the snow-covered Lekshmozero”

Far from civilization, in a clear night sky, the northern lights are especially bright. You will settle in a small village on the banks of the Lekshmozero: during the day you will ski in the picturesque places of the Kenozero National Park, watch old wooden churches and huts, get acquainted with the traditions and culture of the locals. And at night, if you are lucky, you will see bright colors of radiance in the sky.

Duration: 5 days
Arrivals: December – March
Cost: until August 31, you can book this tour at the price of last year – 39,800 rubles per person. After this date, the cost of the tour will increase. 

4. Komi Republic

It is best to observe the northern lights in the northern regions – in Vorkuta, Inta, Pechora. The glow is usually manifested by the yellow-green glow of the night sky.

Scientists have found that the colors of the northern lights depend on the height at which the glow occurs.

5. Krasnoyarsk Territory

Large-scale northern lights can be seen throughout the north of the Krasnoyarsk Territory, but some of the brightest color overflows are most often seen on the Putorana Plateau. However, here, even without the northern lights, it is fantastically beautiful – it is not for nothing that the place is called the land of ten thousand lakes and a thousand waterfalls.

The Putorana Plateau is a unique place. Here is the geographical center of Russia, and a little to the south – the “Russian pole of inaccessibility” – the most distant point of the country from transport routes. From the beginning of September on this trip there is a chance to see the northern lights. For hundreds of kilometers around there are only mountains, the deepest canyons, picturesque fjords and labyrinths of rivers, lakes and waterfalls. 

Duration: 8 days
Arrivals: August – September
Cost:  from 240,000 rubles per person. — depends on the category of the room

6. Yamal

In winter, on the endless snowy expanses of the Yamal tundra, one can often observe the northern lights. The Khanty believe that the northern lights are a trail from the sled left by the girl Vecherina flying through the sky on a reindeer. According to legend, it was she who made deer friends with people and taught them to work together in sledding. To get to know the traditions of the nomadic Yamal reindeer herders, taste the local cuisine, listen to the legends of the inhabitants of the tundra about the aurora borealis and, if you’re lucky, admire this fabulous natural phenomenon, we recommend choosing this tour. 

Program “Visiting Reindeer Breeders”

In Yamal, the northern lights are distinguished by bright tints of different colors and a characteristic shimmer. An expedition to the Arctic Circle awaits you to get acquainted with the indigenous peoples of the North. You will live on a base far from civilization, travel across the tundra and hunt for aurora borealis.

Duration: 7 days
Arrivals: November – February
Cost:  76,500 rubles per person.

7. Chukotka

Chukotka belongs to the regions of the Far North, and the Beringia National Park located here is the easternmost protected area in Russia. Therefore, the northern lights here are the most eastern in Russia. It can be observed from capes on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. A dream worthy of brave romantics can be realized on our tours to Chukotka.

Providence Bay program

Here, if you are lucky, you will witness the most eastern northern lights in Russia. In addition, during the expedition you will get acquainted with the unique flora and fauna of the Beringia National Park and the rich heritage of the ancient culture of whalers and reindeer herders, who from time immemorial have been leading their life and economy in the most difficult natural conditions of the north. 

Duration: 12 days 
Arrivals and cost:  not yet determined, so it is better to clarify the information by phone +7 (495) 104-64-36 or write to [email protected]

8. Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

At low temperatures, the air is especially transparent and cloudiness is less likely, so at the Pole of Cold in Oymyakon, the northern lights are especially visible.

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