Imagine looking up and seeing a kaleidoscope of emerald green, chartreuse and fuchsia ribbons illuminating the night sky. It’s not extraterrestrials or a hallucinogenic effect, but a natural celestial phenomenon that occurs when electrically charged solar particles encounter atmospheric gases to produce the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. No one can quite predict when and where this neon light show will reveal itself, but securing a spot in the “aurora oval,” a zone where this geomagnetic activity is concentrated, and between the fall and spring equinoxes will increase your chances. Due to its latitude, Alaska is one of the best spots in the country to marvel at the display. Here, five Alaskan resorts where you can witness the light show for yourself.
Considered the crown jewel of Alaska’s backcountry ski properties, this château-style resort just 40 miles outside of Anchorage boasts more than its average 650 inches of annual snowfall and steep and deep terrain. Its northern latitude also permits kaleidoscopic aurora viewings. Opt for a Northern Lights Wake-Up Call and front-desk staff will happily ring you in the middle of the night to let you know when the greenish-yellow hues light up the sky.
Aurora Borealis Lodge
Just 20 miles north of Fairbanks, this family-owned lodge is uniquely situated away from city light pollution and on a high ridge above the ice fog, offering unobstructed views of the northern skies. With cozy digs and large north-facing windows, it’s an ideal perch to await an undulating geomagnetic storm. Tours are scheduled during peak activity between 10:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. from mid-August to mid-April.
These solitary fiberglass domes are reminiscent of a polar expedition research station—even if they’re located less than hour from Fairbanks. Though technically off-grid, the igloo-like structures are warm and spacious, with curved 16-foot windows stretching across the roof to maximize aurora viewing without leaving your bed (or needing to lace up your snow boots).
Iniakuk Lake Wilderness Lodge
Since 1974, this fly-in wilderness lodge has prided itself on its remote location 200 miles north of Fairbanks and 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In addition to nightly aurora viewing tours (and a photographic guide to document the experience), the resort boasts fresh-baked breads and pastries, wood fires and a long list of daytime activities, including dog sledding and canoeing.
Mount Aurora Lodge
What this rustic, wood-paneled lodge lacks in luxurious amenities it makes up for in intimate service. Just outside Fairbanks and built in 1928, the property offers aurora wake-up calls and a webcam to watch from your room. Coffee and hot chocolate are available if guests need to warm up before returning to the kaleidoscopic light show outside.