Many cultures interpret the Northern Lights in different ways. While the Inuit thought that the gods were playing games in the sky, the Vikings simply thought that the streaking green light was the reflection of the Valkyrie’s armor. If you ask somebody who’s seen the Northern Lights to describe them, they’re likely to stare past you for a moment as they remember not only the sight, but also the feelings that were stirred up in bearing witness to one of nature’s most exquisite, and eccentric, phenomena.
Given that the best place to see the Northern Lights is in the extreme northern latitudes of the Arctic Circle, it’s not something that everybody can see up close. Cruising is a fabulous way to get to where you need to be to witness the lights. A Northern Lights cruise can get you as close as you want to be to the sensational atmospheric happening.
What Are the Northern Lights?
Though they’ve been visible to cultures for thousands of years, the proper scientific explanation for the lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, only emerged in the 20th century. The streaky green lights that occupy the sky over the Arctic Circle are the result of electrons from sunspots colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere and being guided by the magnetic power of the poles.
What Is a Northern Lights Cruise?
A Northern Lights cruise sails north and whose purpose is to present guests with ideal conditions in which to witness the lights. By being aboard, guests can get unobstructed views of the lights without losing them to cities and their lights. Generally, the best viewing times are between nine o’clock in the evening and two o’clock in the morning.
There are cruises that go to Iceland and to Alaska, and both can provide a legitimate opportunity to see the Northern Lights. Besides the incredible celestial visuals, these cruises offer guests lots of amenities and fun things to do once at the destinations.
If you embark on an Icelandic cruise, you could end up in Reykjavic and visit the Northern Lights Center, where you can learn more about the Aurora Borealis. Alaskan cruises also offer opportunities to both witness the Northern Lights and experience local culture. From the cruise, you could tour places like Denali and Fairbanks, ride trains, pan for gold and see wildlife, too.
A 12 or 14-night cruise is not uncommon when it comes to sailing so far north. This will guarantee significant time spent staring up at the dark sky during prescribed hours. The lights are notoriously unpredictable, and can only be predicted a few hours ahead of their appearance.
When Is the Best Time for a Northern Lights Cruise?
There are times when the lights are most prevalent. From September through March, the longest nights of the year offer generally clear skies and thus, optimal viewing opportunities. However, the time of peak activity is during the Autumnal and Vernal equinoxes, in September and March, respectively. Because the lights shine brightest in dark and cold environments, winter is the best time to cruise north to see the Northern Lights.
What Should You Pack for a Northern Lights Cruise?
You’ll certainly want to pack your standard travel stuff, like toiletries, chargers, medications and such. Because these cruises are cold weather-bound, you’ll also want to pack the right kind of clothing. Layering your clothes is a smart and efficient way to stay warm while you’re cruising the northern latitudes in winter. You’ll want extra socks, sweatshirts and a nice heavy coat. Of course, when you’re aboard the cruise, but not on deck, conditions will be perfect.
The Northern Lights are waiting. Every year, people flock north to see them up close and they stand beneath the turbulent sky with its violently swirling green lights. There are cruise options that can take you there, where you can also experience other cultures and the luxurious amenities the cruises offer.