I used to be shocked that many individuals don’t even have Alaska on their radar for Northern Lights journeys! Go do a search, and also you’ll be inundated with Iceland and Norway, however Alaska remains to be a little bit of an outlier. And what meaning? It’s the proper place to plan your Northern Lights journey as a result of it’s not as crowded or costly!

A number of key issues make Fairbanks, Alaska, top-of-the-line locations for northern lights viewing. I’ve been there 4 occasions within the winter and have amassed a number of of my finest suggestions for experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights with the intention to benefit from your aurora expertise.

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Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Why Fairbanks, Alaska, is the most effective place for a Northern Lights Viewing

Situated slightly below the Arctic Circle, landlocked, and close to Fairbanks Worldwide Airport, Fairbanks has the proper recipe for viewing the aurora borealis.

The Aurora Oval and Kp Index

aurora oval Aurora cam fairbanksaurora oval Aurora cam fairbanks

The Northern Lights kind an oval form above the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. Fairbanks occurs to be completely positioned below the oval surrounding the North Pole. Which means that the aurora in Fairbanks is often seen instantly overhead! This distinctive vantage level is nice for aurora pictures and is just discovered below the auroral oval.

The Kp index, a measure of electromagnetic exercise within the ambiance additionally comes into play for aurora viewing. A studying of two or larger is often thought-about good for Northern Lights recognizing; nonetheless, you possibly can see Northern Lights in Fairbanks even when there may be low exercise due to its place below the aurora circle.

“You haven’t seen the aurora till you possibly can look straight up and see it overhead. Once you see it overhead – you possibly can see how a lot construction is in it. So it’s finest to come back north below the aurora oval.”

Aurora Physicist Peter Delemere

Climate in Fairbanks

Aurora season is between August 21-April 21 within the Fairbanks area. And one factor that’s required to see them is a transparent sky. You might be in luck in Fairbanks as a result of it has many clear nights because it’s situated within the inland Arctic – an space they name Alaska’s inside. By the coasts, there’s extra humidity, precipitation, and clouds. However in Fairbanks, it’s a dry local weather which means a number of clear skies!

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Stunning clear evening skies abound in Fairbanks

 â€œThe northern lights are so prolific within the Fairbanks area and the Arctic that guests who keep a minimal of three nights and are actively out in the course of the late night hours improve their likelihood of seeing the aurora to greater than 80 %!”

Discover Fairbanks

Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

The Geophysical Institute on the College of Alaska Fairbanks has earned a global fame for learning Earth and its bodily environments at excessive latitudes. It consists of seven main analysis items and lots of analysis assist services, and it makes a speciality of aurora analysis on Earth and different planets.

Anybody can go go to the Geophysical Institute and take a self-guided tour, nonetheless, I went to speak to a physicist specializing in aurora analysis, Peter Delamere. Studying the science behind the aurora on Earth and Jupiter was fascinating! I discovered what makes the totally different colours we see and the way to spot a substorm. His total recommendation was to test the northern lights forecasts and be persistent – very persistent.

A few of the smartest aurora folks on the planet are in Fairbanks, another excuse why it’s a fantastic place for a Northern Lights journey!

Go to the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks: Public excursions of the Geophysical Institute are free and provided on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. by means of the summer time. A self-guided tour brochure is on the market within the foyer of the Elvey constructing. You might be welcome to go to the constructing and take the self-guided tour Monday by means of Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Geophysical Institute Web site

The Reality About How We See the Northern Lights

Till I went to go to Fairbanks, Alaska, I believed the Northern Lights had been all simply hype. No – I haven’t joined a Flat Earth Society or determined International Warming is a hoax; I simply didn’t know if I absolutely believed in them. I had good motive to doubt them.

I had ‘seen’ the aurora borealis twice earlier than – however to my disappointment, it was nothing like what I had seen in photos and movies. There was no colour (apart from what lengthy publicity pictures might seize), and there was no dancing. As an alternative what I noticed was a grey, cloudy glowing blob. These aurora sightings might’ve been mistaken for moon glow or fog, and I by no means would have even observed them besides folks instructed me it was the aurora.

After my disappointing experiences, I began to assume that the Northern Lights had been brought on by a bizarre conspiracy by tourism departments and Northern Lights tour firms.

I instructed Peter Delamere on the Geophysical Institute about my conspiracy concept, and he defined, “When it’s faint, your eye doesn’t detect it as inexperienced; it seems as a grayish glow, and it may be a bit disappointing.”

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What our eyes see…
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What our cameras can seize

I assume I simply had unhealthy luck with the aurora depth in response to Peter. To see any colour within the faint aurora, I needed to do pictures to realize it was there as a result of it’s not at all times seen to the human eye.

Our eyes use two various kinds of cells to see mild: rods and cones. The cone cells understand wonderful element and colour however want vivid mild. Rod cells can solely see black and white and have poor decision however stay delicate even in very low mild. At evening, with none vivid mild supply, we usually solely see a monochromatic world. Nevertheless, cameras can present us what our eyes can not see. For this reason you see images with vivid inexperienced lights.

Find out how to See the Aurora in your Northern Lights Journey

Test the Northern Lights Forecasts

There are a variety of real-time aurora tracker GPS telephone apps and web sites that may assist predict the aurora. I used a mix of all of them!
Aurora Borealis Tracker
Stay Webcam
Geophysical Institute Aurora Forecast
See the place the aurora oval is at any time

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Monitoring the aurora, it’s coming our means!

Take a Northern Lights Tour

You might need to take a tour, or it’s your decision the liberty of a rental automobile and chasing the aurora by your self. Both means is nice, and I attempted out a number of different Fairbanks northern lights tours throughout my journey (extra on these within the subsequent part!).

Aurora Picture Excursions

In case your purpose is to get a fantastic photograph of the aurora, then I extremely suggest signing up for an aurora pictures workshop the primary evening you arrive in Fairbanks. In spite of everything, it is a bucket checklist merchandise for most individuals, and also you need to just be sure you know what you’re doing, because the aurora shouldn’t be a straightforward factor to {photograph}.

A 40-minute drive from Fairbanks will put you firmly within the inside – an ideal place to view Northern Lights. Simply off the Steese Freeway, you’ll discover Aurora Bear Images Workshops, a small intimate workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid house.

Frank gives starting and superior pictures lessons, and should you don’t have your individual DSLR or mirrorless digicam, he rents them together with tripods. You’ll depart with some spectacular evening sky and (hopefully) aurora images.

Aurora Viewing Tour

These excursions usually have massive numbers of individuals with a mixture of photograph addicts and simply individuals who need to see the aurora. As you would possibly guess – these aren’t my jam. I hate massive excursions and coach buses. Nevertheless, it really works for some folks, and it’s good to know that Fairbanks gives most of these excursions to get you out of the town and improve your likelihood of seeing the northern lights.

Lodges Provide Northern Lights Viewing Packages

Some motels supply aurora viewing choices the place folks can come and keep up all evening in a heat setting like a yurt or lodge however simply run outdoors and benefit from the present when it arrives. We went to Style of Alaska Lodge simply outdoors of Fairbanks they usually had an ideal setup for viewing. They’d a warm-ish yurt the place we might keep heat and wait, then run outdoors and take images simply. The log cabin lodge supplied a good looking foreground within the images.

I additionally went to and stayed on the distant Black Rapids Lodge.  It’s south of Fairbanks however regularly will get stunning northern lights sightings.  The gorgeous factor about Black Rapids is that it’s surrounded by the Jap Alaska Mountain Vary, so you possibly can see the Northern Lights over the mountains!

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It’s additionally price noting that the entire motels round Fairbanks may even provide you with an Aurora wake-up name should you join it. This implies you don’t have to take a seat up all evening ready; they do all of the exhausting work and name you when they’re out. Nevertheless – it’s exhausting to see the northern lights in Fairbanks because of the metropolis lights, so the wake-up name is finest if you end up at motels within the countryside, away from the sunshine air pollution.

Uncover the place to seek out autumn colours in Alaska

Have an Journey Whereas Viewing the Aurora

Plenty of ready is concerned when chasing the northern lights, so you might need to go for an exercise when you wait. Fortunately the folks in Fairbanks know the way to host a superb out of doors journey! Doing a quintessential Alaska winter journey whereas ready for the lights to indicate up is an effective way to maximise your time…and keep heat!

Listed below are a number of examples:

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Picture by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

Hire a Automotive and Go Aurora Chasing Independently

It’s also possible to simply hire a automobile and head out independently for so long as you’d like. Simply guarantee you will have a full fuel tank because the automobile will likely be your heat ready spot in the course of the evening. The Discover Fairbanks web site has detailed viewing areas excellent for the unbiased aurora chasers full with maps and descriptions of the place you possibly can pull over and wait. Deliver heat garments and meals and water!

My Favourite Fairbanks Aurora Borealis Excursions

Should you resolve to take a tour, listed below are six of my favorites I’ve accomplished across the Fairbanks space.

1. Aurora Bear – Images

It was 10 PM, and we had been going to the Aurora Bear Images Workshop. As we pulled into the driveway lit by torches, it gave the entire space a romantic glow within the snow. My pleasure stage perked up and my sleepiness subsided. This was a small, intimate photograph workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid house.

TIP: Do an Aurora photograph workshop on the primary evening in Fairbanks to make sure the remainder of your time in Alaska chasing Aurora will likely be photographically productive!

Frank and Miriam instantly was quick buddies as we talked of their little cabin lit by candlelight. All of us had a lifetime of travels below our belts and we bonded on journey tales over tapas as we received to know one another. This workshop was personal in that just one occasion might ebook it. Frank’s purpose was to create one thing extra private and memorable for folks reasonably than doing a tour with a big group.

“Aurora watching is an emotional factor – it’s one thing from their lifelong bucket checklist. They dream of it for a very long time. And it’s a variety of effort, time and money to get to the place you possibly can see it. After they do see it – it’s emotional and we frequently hear very private tales from folks. And that’s what makes it particular for us too.” Frank defined.

Frank supplied us with a scientific background, after which we went into pictures suggestions and settings as he primed us for the massive present. I discovered a ton about chilly climate Northern Lights pictures. Frank may even take photos of you with the lights so you will have a fantastic reminiscence of the expertise. In addition they supply different sorts of issues to do on their property, like snowshoeing whereas watching the northern lights, or you possibly can simply hang around and revel in their canines. The expertise was every part I might’ve requested for and extra.

I like this small, intimate setting a lot that I embody it on my Ottsworld Alaska Winter Tour – and it’s at all times a spotlight of the journey!

Aurora Bear Images: Learn what different folks considered Aurora Bear Images on Journey Advisor. Try all of the Aurora Bear Picture Workshops.

2. Final Frontier Mushing Co-op Aurora Night time – Journey

Amanda and Ryne, the 2 ladies who led our Northern Lights tour, had been each skilled mushing racers. They had been younger, badass, and enjoyable to hang around with. They received us all suited up for a canine sled journey, one thing I had accomplished earlier than, however I had by no means mushed at midnight. With the brand new fallen snow, the black spruce timber had been magical, all coated with dollops of white. The canines had been desirous to run, and we had been bundled up a lot that we resembled Randy from The Christmas Story.

Petrified of the chilly climate in Fairbanks within the Winter? It simply takes the suitable gear.
Try my Alaska winter packing checklist, and go ready!

After the sledding, we warmed up within the comfortable yurt and received our cameras prepared. The forecast was actually constructive for the evening, and the skies had been completely clear. As we ate scrumptious smoked salmon and reindeer sausage inside, Amanda was outdoors looking forward to the aurora. The aurora forecast was constructive for the evening.

“It’s right here!” she exclaimed and we jumped into motion.

We spent the subsequent 90 minutes outdoors watching because the lights grew in depth and began to maneuver and circulation like a wave within the sky. This was the substorms I had heard about: streaks of sunshine dancing upwards proper above our heads. At that time, I simply watched in awe. I didn’t take many photos that evening as a result of I used to be mesmerized simply watching it with my eyes. The evening was chilly however excellent. We sat by the hearth, had sizzling chocolate, and took photos, however largely, we simply loved the present.

The Mushing Co-op may even take photos of you with the aurora and do enjoyable mild pictures when you look ahead to the aurora to seem.

Unbelievable canine sledding below the starry arctic sky AND dancing Northern Lights…it was two bucket checklist objects in a single evening!

Aurora Watching and Canine Sledding: Learn what different folks needed to say concerning the Final Frontier Mushing Co-op on Journey Advisor. Try Aurora Watching and Canine Sledding.

3. Borealis Basecamp and Viewing Domes

In case you are searching for an extremely distinctive strategy to see the northern lights round Fairbanks and have a much bigger finances, then test out Borealis Basecamp. It’s a hybrid glamping and aurora expertise about an hour’s drive north of Fairbanks, the place there’s no signal of sunshine air pollution.

Borealis Basecamp is the most recent and most glamorous strategy to see the northern lights within the area. I didn’t really get to have the total in a single day expertise, however I did go there in the course of the day to take a look at the distinctive glamping constructions.

These fiberglass domes are harking back to igloos and they’re what expedition and analysis groups use within the far polar areas. Nevertheless, these igloos have been transformed to incorporate clear, curved home windows that stretch 16 toes throughout every igloo roof. This enables visitors to lie in mattress and consider the northern lights with out leaving their cozy cover.

Borealis Basecamp aurora viewing fairbanksBorealis Basecamp aurora viewing fairbanks

The igloos are under no circumstances primitive though they’re off the grid. They’ve kitchenettes, a full lavatory, an actual mattress and mattress, and they’re heated.

4. Aurora Level Tour Expertise

Aurora Level is a comparatively new expertise simply outdoors of Fairbanks that caters to quite a few folks directly. It’s undoubtedly not intimate, however it’s enjoyable and informative. That is mainly a snug viewing level reasonably than a tour. You arrive (you need to get your self there) and enter the massive constructing the place you’ll be capable to comfortably wait indoors.

Consolation is essential on this expertise. There are couches and good tables arrange. There are video games to play, sizzling drinks, and all-you-can-eat cookies. When you wait they do a lecture on the aurora explaining the what and the way of the phenomenon.

They’ve somebody who goes outdoors and does the ready within the chilly for you after which will inform you when the lights are out. They actually have a reside webcam of the sky televised within the constructing so it’s also possible to control the exercise and know precisely when to go open air.

As well as, they’ve a few pretty firepits outdoors the place it’s also possible to hang around and preserve watch on the sky. Or you possibly can hike alongside one of many many paths within the fields to maintain shifting and control the sky.

They may take photos of you and the aurora and make it easier to with your individual pictures too. This expertise is a superb discount – however you actually received’t be alone.

Reservations are essential, and you’ll have to present your individual transportation there.

5. Chena Scorching Springs Resort Aurora Tour

I’m not an enormous fan of Chena Scorching Springs – the standard has actually diminished each time I return, it’s not effectively run for my part, and it’s outdated. Nevertheless – they do have a fantastic and distinctive aurora tour they provide that’s price one in a single day keep. Plus, you get to benefit from the sizzling springs, too, in fact.

The tour is like nothing I’ve skilled earlier than. They name it a snow coach tour, however it’s not a bus, it’s an previous military-style monitor automobile linked like a prepare to different ‘automobiles’. It slowly and loudly makes its means up the mountain to the highest of Charlie Dome, the place there are two Monolgian-style yurts. That’s your base for the evening – removed from any civilization and much from the resort, too!

They supply sizzling drinks and snacks in the course of the night. Once I went, it was a full moon, however don’t let that deter you. You’ll be able to nonetheless get good pictures throughout a full moon. The truth is, I received this cool shot of a moondog and the lights on the identical time!

6. Arctic Circle Northern Mild Tour

This can be a lengthy 16-hour tour, however it’s a strategy to expertise the most effective of the area and cross the Arctic Circle!
Embark on a journey excessive above the Arctic Circle to Coldfoot by air. Take pleasure in lunch on the truck cease (a singular expertise itself), after which transition to a van for the charming return drive alongside Dalton Freeway to Fairbanks.

Alongside the way in which, we made stops to marvel on the pipeline, interact in some exhilarating sledding, and savor the distinctive landscapes of the Arctic Circle and the Yukon. Roughly 90 minutes north of Fairbanks, we stopped at a small cabin to see the aurora. It progressively emerged throughout our van journey, reaching its full, mesmerizing show by the point we reached the cabin.

This was considered one of my most memorable nights for aurora exercise, with the lights gracefully dancing throughout the sky for hours. Furthermore, the cabin provided a pleasant haven for warming up and indulging in snacks throughout breaks between aurora spectacles. This was an extended day – however it was price it.

E-book this tour by means of the Northern Alaska Tour Firm. They provide drive-up/fly-back variations in winter.

Why an Alaska Prepare Journey Ought to Be On Your Winter Itinerary

What Time Do the Northern Lights Seem in Fairbanks

The standard time the northern lights seem round Fairbanks is 10 PM to three AM. Oof – thanks, Aurora Oval, for holding me up all evening. I made a decision an Aurora Borealis journey in Alaska can be like a visit to Vegas. You find yourself in a bizarre sleep sample the place you’re awake from 10 PM to 4 AM when the lights are hopefully seen after which sleep till 11 AM the subsequent morning.

There are tons of nice issues to do in Fairbanks apart from chasing the Northern Lights, however simply don’t plan too many early-morning actions. Late nights and early mornings don’t combine!

TIP: Take a nap within the afternoon to organize in your late-night aurora chasing.

what to do while waiting for northern lightswhat to do while waiting for northern lights
Keep heat and awake with sizzling chocolate!

“The whole lot good occurs after midnight right here.”

Peter Delemere Aurora Physicist

I’ve visited Fairbanks quite a few occasions and loved viewing the Aurora Borealis there greater than I might rely. You may have every part you want in Fairbanks, Alaska, for a fantastic Northern Lights journey. The most effective half is that you just really feel like you will have a spot for your self since you’ll be blazing your individual path whereas others head to costly Scandinavian international locations. Come to Fairbanks, Alaska, to see for your self!


I used to be a visitor of Discover Fairbanks throughout this journey, nonetheless all opinions expressed listed below are my very own. This put up accommodates some affiliate hyperlinks. Should you select to buy objects by means of these hyperlinks, I’ll earn a small fee at no further value to you. These commissions assist scale back the prices of operating this website

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