It's one of the most popular bucket-list activities; witnessing the magical Northern Lights. Our favourite video of 2016 so far is this footage of the paraglider, Horacio Llorens, 'dancing' with the Aurora near Trømso, Norway.

Mesmerizing, stunning and surreal are just a few words used by those lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. When the conditions are right, this fantastical display lights up the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, providing an ethereal experience.

Are you thinking about joining our Northern Lights holidays for solo travellers in Iceland or Norway? Here are five facts about the Northern Lights:

What are the Northern Lights and why do they happen?

The lights are linked to the earth's relationship with the sun; caused by the interaction of the solar wind - a stream of charged particles escaping the sun - and our planet's magnetic field and atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres; known as 'Aurora Borealis' in the north and 'Aurora Australis' in the south. Some Inuit believed that the spirits of their ancestors could be seen dancing in the flickering aurora. In Norse mythology, the aurora was a fire bridge to the sky built by the gods.

When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?

Sightings can never be guaranteed but you're more likely to see them far away from light pollution during the dark Arctic winter nights. For example, Iceland provides some of the best Northern Lights viewing conditions in the world from late August through to April, with them most active from 6pm to 2am.

How long does an Aurora display last?

The length of displays differs - it can last 15 or 30 minutes or it could extend to a few hours or longer.

How can I successfully photograph the Northern Lights?

We recommend using a DSLR camera made in the last six years, a tripod,  a wide angle lens (such as 16-35) with a minimum aperture of f4 (f2.8 is even better) and a cable release. The camera will need to be set to a high ISO as the light levels are very low and be sure to turn off all image stabilisation. Make sure you take the Aurora in with your eyes too! Nothing beats it.

What should I wear when hunting the Northern Lights?

During the winter the average temperature in Iceland, for example, is around 0°C (32 °F) and −10 °C (14 °F) in the highlands, although it can get as cold as −25 to −30 °C (−13 to −22 °F). Wearing layers is key as this traps heat more effectively. The inner most layer should be thermal and made of wool or a synthetic material, and your top layer should be a heavy fleece or ski jacket.


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