Of all the world’s most dazzling natural phenomena, few can top the northern lights, or aurora borealis (signifying the meeting of Aurora, Roman goddess of the dawn, and Borealis, the Greek north wind). Created by solar winds interacting with charged particles in the Earth’s magnetic field, the lights appear as otherworldly streaks of green, red, yellow, and purple dancing across arctic skies. Countries in the far-northern latitudes, optimally between 10 and 20 degrees from the magnetic North Pole—the so-called “northern lights oval”—are most likely to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, which occurs predominantly between late September and late March, often close to midnight.
From the snow-enveloped wilderness of Siberia to the northernmost tip of Canada, here are some of the best places to see the northern lights. So wrap up warmly, pick a crisp, clear night, and cross your fingers.