Literally starting with a bang when a coronal mass ejection (basically an explosion of energy on the sun’s surface) causes light displays as far south as northern England, the Northern Lights season is well underway.
And if you want to see the stunning natural phenomena with your own eyes, now could be the best time to go.
The strength of the lights depends on electromagnetic activity in the atmosphere, which peaks and falls in an 11-year cycle. After years of fantastic displays, we’re beginning a downward slide, and although the aurora will always be present, the shows might be gradually less frequent and intense until 2020.
So, to optimize your chances of seeing those wizard wand luminous streaks, book one of these new-season tours.
The far-flung adventure
Where: Churchill, Canada
Endless stretches of Arctic tundra and a healthy population of polar bears make this remote town in the Hudson Bay a true wilderness escape.
At 58 degrees north, it sits within the aurora oval (the area where the lights are best observed), and in October, when the river freezes, energetic bears come to hunt and fight.
Next year, from March 2-10, a pop up restaurant with a transparent roof will be erected inside the 18th century Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site.
Along with a gourmet four-course meal cooked by a top Canadian chef, guests will hopefully dine out on spectacular light displays. Price is still TBC but you can join the waiting list online now. For more information, visit raw-churchill.com.
The Instagram envy inducer
Where: Rovaniemi, Finland
Standing around in the cold for hours on end waiting for a green strip of light to streak across the sky – it’s a rite of passage for aurora hunters. But Regent Holidays have come up with an alternative approach: new for this season, they’re inviting guests to float around in the cold instead.
Dressed head to toe in a dry suit, willing participants will float in a frozen lake while waiting for the lights to turn up.
The New Year saviour
There’s no guarantee the aurora will show up on December 31, but it would certainly beat any fireworks display if they did.
Anyone looking for a novel way to see in the New Year should consider Off The Map Travel’s New Year Twice trip, which zips across the border, allowing party-goers to ring in 2018 in both Finland and Sweden (there’s a one-hour time difference).
Package includes champagne from an ice bar, a gala dinner and an opportunity to dance and sauna with locals.
A three-night/four-day trip costs £1,299pp including accommodation, activities and transfers to Lulea airport. Flights extra.
The (near) guarantee
Where: Tromso, Norway
Cloud cover frequently scuppers chances of viewing the aurora, particularly along coastal areas. But one method to get round the problem is to soar above the fuzzy grey masses on a plane.
Special flights will operate from Tromso airport from January to March 2018, with a bottle of champagne stowed on board for the moment the show begins.
Magnetic North Travel offer the Aurora flight, with guaranteed window seat, as part of a three night break in a four-star hotel, costing £995pp with flights and transfers.