There is a reason why so many people have major wanderlust for Scandinavia during the winter. One of the world’s coolest natural phenomena (which peaks only every 11 years) is best viewed in this region of the globe.
The northern lights, or aurora borealis, can be seen from the dark skies of Finland, Sweden and Norway. Appearing above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, the extended periods of darkness and clear nights during Scandinavian winters provide intense shows.
From ice hotels with badass bars to insulated igloo bunkers, here’s five places in Scandinavia you eventually need to catch a northern lights’ show at.
The pictures kind of say it all. The famous thermal glass igloos at Hotel Kakslauttanen in Finland are pretty damn epic. What better way to catch the northern lights than to just look up at your ceiling? This area of Finland is regarded as one of the coolest places to see a show because of its sparse trees and lack of light pollution.
Svalbard is the arctic north location of your dreams. Home to just 2,400 people (with the occasional polar bear and seal running around), you’ll be surrounded by icebergs, glaciers and mountains. Its location and extreme darkness in the winter makes the remote Svalbard the place to be from November to March.
Last winter I wrote about the one-of-a-kind Ion Hotel in Iceland for a reason. The award-winning hotel is remote enough so you can catch a northern lights show without enduring any light pollution, but is close enough to its lively capital Reykjavik for day trips. And okay, I know Iceland isn’t technically included in the geography of Scandinavia, but it’s a political entity and I’m going with it.
Besides Svalbard, another place to see the northern lights in Norway is in Alta. And make sure to stay for a night or two at the insanely cool Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, made completely out of snow and ice. Yes, that even includes the beds and cocktail glasses at its ice bar. The remote location next to the Alta River allows the lights to really stand out.
Sick of snow and ice yet? You won’t be after you see the pictures of Sweden’s coolest ice hotel. Each year the hotel melts and is rebuilt again, and it’s something you should see at least once, particularly when the northern lights appear in the winter.
Nicole Theodore is the Girls Co-Editor at Playboy.com. She is a beast at ice skating. Follow her on Twitter.