Northern Lights in Greenland
Experience the best Northern Lights in the world
Welcome to what may be the best Northern Lights in the world
We have no doubts in Greenland Travel: If you want to watch the Northern Lights, Greenland is one of the best places – only a 4½ hours non-stop flight away from Copenhagen, Denmark.
It is a challenge to explain northern lights to people, who have never seen them. They are not only about the physical experience of standing speechlessly and viewing them up in the sky, but also about a feeling of being overwhelmed by the elusive, extraordinarily beautiful sight.
The light you watch here and now will never come back. It is clearly one of the greatest and prettiest appearances of the polar night.
As they say so poetically at greenland.com:
”In a way, the Northern Lights are part of Greenland’s physical visual identity. With their arctic touch they grab down from space and fill the polar night with myths, magic and clear winter experiences.”
In this inspirational guide you can learn more about:
• How to watch the Northern Lights
• Myths and legends
• Good spots to view the Northern Lights
• How to continue your trip
The perfect time of year for Northern Lights
The Northern Lights appear all year round, but they are only visible on a dark sky. In Greenland you can best watch them from the end of September to March or April, depending on where in Greenland you are.
In Kangerlussuaq, Sisimiut and Ilulissat, there are guided northern lights tours during the winter. We would almost dare to promise you the sight of northern lights on a winter trip to Greenland.
In recent years, northern lights trips to Greenland have become very popular. You can get on a non-stop flight from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Kangerlussuaq, where the Northern Lights often are there to see.
MYTHS AND LEGENDS
Arsarnerit – the ones who play with a ball
The Greenlandic expression for Northern Lights is ”Arsarnerit” and means ”the ones who play with a ball”. According to the old Inuit myths, the Northern Lights appear on the sky, when the dead’s souls play ball with a walrus’ cranium. This explanation wouldn’t quite stand a chance today as superstition is getting overruled many places.
The scientific explanation of the Northern Lights is that the sun’s electrically charged particles meet molecules and atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere at a height of about 60 miles. This encounter results in an incredible phenomenon with “curtains” in countless colors flapping across the sky. Yellow, green, red, white – depending on where you are, the curtains will be of different colors. No matter what color, the sight is glamorous.
Most people, as mentioned, do no longer believe in the cranium story. That doesn’t keep people in Greenland from whistling up towards the sky, trying to make the Northern Lights show more vividly. This is another myth going around. The strange thing is that it often works. But watch out for the Northern Lights not to reach out and get you, if you try. Anyways, if you dare, go ahead and try.
In certain other cultures people believe, that children conceived under the Northern Lights will become intelligent. That is why a trip to the Northern Lights is something especially wonderful for visitors from these cultures.
Play with the northern lights
In connection with your trip to Greenland, there are several excursions, on which you can get outside and experience the Northern Lights. The ones keen on data will enjoy such a guided tour, because the guide will tell you many exciting stories. On top of that, the trip is usually spiced up with a hot drink.
There is another way to keep warm underneath the Northern Lights. Play! Playing underneath the Northern Lights is just so much fun! Many watch the light with awe. There is good reason to. It is an unusually beautiful natural phenomenon. Anyway, try to imitate the Northern Lights’ play on the stage of the sky. Lie down on your back and form an angel in the snow. Or take a ride in the snow on your back, a sled or just a plastic bag.
Obviously, not everyone likes it, but something quite so fantastic happens in the moment you let go and play together with nature. And this definitely is playing with nature, not in it. Try it – no matter if you are 5, 30 or 70 years old!
What is Northern Light?
The Northern Lights are electrically charged particles from the sun that hit our atmosphere. They create a phenomenon of light with changing colors that reveals how far above the surface of the planets those particles meet the atmosphere.
It was the at that time not quite as beloved scientist Galileo Galilei, who in 1619 invented the expression ”Aurora Borealis”. It means something like “The northern dawn”. There is actually an equivalent in the southern hemisphere, called “Aurora Australis” or ”Southern Lights”. They strangely enough move simultaneously. The common term for northern light and southern light is polar lights (Aurora Polaris). Winds from the sun also create polar lights on other planets with a magnetic field, such as Jupiter or Saturn.
The belt of light
Even for Greenlanders it often comes as a surprise, that the Northern Lights can’t be seen in the entire country. In the most densely populated areas in Greenland, Northern Lights are visible. That is why people take for granted, that it can be seen everywhere on the Northern part of the northern hemisphere. But that is actually not true. The longer south you go, the weaker it gets. Finally it totally disappears.
Most Greenland-travelers arrive in Kangerlussuaq, where the Northern Lights really get their entry on the northern belt of light. It can only be seen on dark and clear nights. We recommend that you move away from artificial light in order to enjoy the entire experience, performed by the flapping curtains.
Good spots to see the northern lights
The Northern Lights can be viewed at a lot of places in Greenland. The great light show is best watched on a dark and clear night sky between September and the beginning of April. Depending on where in Greenland you are, colors will be different and beautiful no matter what.
One place gets mentioned over and over again, when we talk about Greenland’s best and most accessible Northern Lights destination: The airport settlement Kangerlussuaq with its unique inland location, leeward to mountains and ice with more than 300 clear nights per year, is a delicacy for lovers of the Northern Lights.
There are different opinions about the best spots to watch the Northern Lights. There still is no scientific evidence on where it is best to view them. But in fact, there has been a research station in Kangerlussuaq for decades, with focus on research on exactly that: the ionosphere and the Northern Lights.
Moreover, Kangerlussuaq is easy to get to. Almost all flights from Denmark, and hence Europe, arrive here. It only takes a 4½ hours direct flight and you are right in the middle of a Northern Lights paradise.
Our best sold trips to Greenland are 5-day journeys to Kangerlussuaq during the winter. On these trips, our travelers get to experience the Northern Lights, the Greenland Ice Sheet and dog sledding.
In Kangerlussuaq as well as in Sisimiut you can go on a Northern Lights excursion, where you drive out to the nature, away from artificial lights from houses and street lanterns. Obviously, it is not necessary to leave the the town to watch Northern Lights, but conditions away from artificial street lights make them easier and more beautiful to watch.
Sisimiut is located right north of the polar circle. You can get there by plane from Kangerlussuaq. The flight only takes about 30 minutes. During the winter, many of our travelers combine visiting Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut on the same trip.
Sisimiut with its more than 5,500 inhabitants is one of the larger towns in Greenland. Here you will find the modern Greenland side by side with the original culture of the Inuit. Sisimiut is very attractive for active travelers. There are many possibilities for winter activities such as dog sledding, snow mobiles and cross-country skiing.
In Ilulissat in the Disco Bay there are excellent opportunities for seeing the Northern Lights as well. Ilulissat means icebergs and this name refers to the town’s location as a neighbor to the Ilulissat Icefjord. In that way, you can get to see the Northern Lights dancing above the impressive icebergs.
A number of our very popular trips combine Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat. On such a trip you can experience the Ice Cap, the Icefjord as well as the Northern Lights at once.
Nuuk is Greenland’s capitol, located south of the polar cirlce. In Nuuk, the Northern Lights often are very significant, even though Nuuk is Greenland’s most lighted town with its many street lamps. They brighten up the dark, arctic night. But in spite of them, there are many places, where you easily can enjoy the full view of the Northern Lights.
NORTHERN LIGHTS WEATHER FORECAST
On this American website, you can see where the Northern Lights currently are expected to be seen. The page gets updated every half hour.
Do you want to experience the Northern Lights in Greenland?
It is very easy to get closer to a Greenland trip in order to watch the Northern Lights. You “just” have to decide, when you want to go, pack your suitcase and get on a plane. Obviously, you also should book a trip and pull out your credit card. But this is an easy exercise for most people.
A 5-days stay in Kangerlussuaq is one of our most popular trips to Greenland.