If seeing the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is on your travel list, you’ve probably already looked into the best places to see them: northern destinations like Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia among them. But have you ever considered visiting those destinations by sea rather than land? Many cruises not only offer itineraries to those regions but also offer northern lights-specific sailings, too.
Cruising is particularly appealing for northern lights seekers because the ships can access remote areas without light pollution, allowing guests to see the aurora in its full brilliance. So if you haven’t yet seen the northern lights — or if you’re looking to see them again — here are seven northern lights cruises to help you accomplish your goal.
Northern light cruises that you should check out
Viking: In Search of the Northern Lights
Over the course of 13 days, a luxurious Viking ocean ship transports guests from London to Amsterdam, then all the way up the coast of Norway and north of the Arctic Circle, before returning back south to the Norwegian city of Bergen. (Although some sailings operate in reverse.) The Norwegian fjords themselves are a sight to behold — and if they’re paired with the northern lights, that’s all the better! The sailings run from January to March when daylight is limited in the Arctic Circle, making for prime aurora opportunities. Rates start from USD 4,999 (THB 172,565) per person in 2023, and it should be noted that Viking is an adults-only cruise line.
Aurora Expeditions: Northern Lights Explorer
Considering the cruise line is named after the atmospheric phenomenon, it should come as no surprise that it offers a northern lights itinerary. At 19 to 22 days long, depending on the departure, there is plenty of time to hope for a northern lights appearance — or two, or three, or more. The sailings start in the northern Norwegian city of Kirkenes before sailing south along the coast, heading back north to the remote archipelago of Jan Mayen (a polar bear hotspot), over to the scenic fjords of East Greenland, and around the northern half of Iceland. The longer itinerary continues with a visit to the Faroe Islands and disembarkation in Bergen, Norway. Aurora offers just one of these sailings per year in September. Rates start from USD 9,705.50 (THB 335,034) per person in 2023.
Hurtigruten: The Classic Roundtrip Voyage
Hurtigruten is something of an outlier in this group because it doesn’t offer specific northern lights itineraries. But the routes of this coastal ferry company in Norway just happen to traverse the perfect latitudes to see the aurora. In fact, Hurtigruten is so confident you’ll see the northern lights during the auroral season (September 26 through March 31) that if they don’t show up on a sailing of 11 days or more, the company will give you a free six- or seven-day cruise to try again. For the best odds of seeing the northern lights, we suggest the 12-day round-trip itinerary from Bergen up the coast of Norway and back. Rates start from USD 2,309 (THB 79,706) per person in 2023.
Quark Expeditions: Under the Northern Lights
Specialising in polar voyages, Quark Expeditions knows a thing or two about the northern lights, which is why the company offers aurora sailings each fall. These 14-day itineraries cruise from Iceland to Greenland and back from September into early October. As the majority of the voyage takes place above the Arctic Circle, the odds of seeing the northern lights are high, especially as solar activity tends to peak around the autumnal and vernal equinoxes in September and March, respectively. And if they don’t show, well, you still get to explore Iceland’s Westfjords and Greenland’s eastern shores — and that’s a worthwhile journey in itself. Rates start from USD 8,501 (THB 293,455) per person in 2023.
Oceanwide Expeditions: East Greenland Scoresby Sund – Aurora Borealis
If you don’t have two or three weeks to take off work to go northern lights watching, consider Oceanwide Expeditions‘ eight-day aurora borealis sailings from Iceland to Greenland and back. The adventure begins in Akureyri, the unofficial capital of north Iceland, before heading for Greenland’s breathtaking Scoresby Sund, the largest fjord system in the world. If you do have a little more time, you can opt for the 13-day Spitsbergen – Northeast Greenland – Aurora Borealis itinerary, which embarks in the Svalbard archipelago before sailing to Greenland and down to Iceland. Both take place in the late summer into early fall, as darkness returns to the skies in the Arctic. Rates for the eight-day itinerary start from USD 4,600 (THB 158,792) per person for the 2023 sailings.
Cunard: Norway and Northern Lights
Each fall, one or two of the ships in Cunard’s legendary fleet head north for Norway, where guests are treated to scenic cruising along the coast. The 12-day itineraries depart from Southampton, England, before travelling to Alesund, Tromsø, Narvik, and Haugesund, sailing through majestic fjords along the way. Since the ships sail this itinerary from October to November, the skies will be dark enough to see the northern lights, should they decide to appear. In 2023, the voyage will be undertaken by Queen Victoria, while next season, the Queen Mary 2 and the upcoming Queen Anne will take the reins. Rates start from USD 1,689 (THB 58,304) per person in 2023.
The most affordable option on this list, British cruise line P&O operates 12-day sailings to Norway year-round, but during the auroral season, there’s a strong chance you’ll see the northern lights while onboard. Guests embark in Southampton, England, before sailing north to Norway, travelling as far north as Tromsø, well north of the Arctic Circle. We recommend splurging on a room with windows for the best northern lights viewing options. However, those in interior cabins can always run up on deck — which you should do anyway to witness the full grandeur of the atmospheric phenomenon. Rates start from USD 1,385 (THB 47,810) per person in 2023.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com
Related: This Cruise Line Promises Views Of The Northern Lights On Your Trip