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 continues to be a little bit of an outlier. And you already know what which means? It’s the right place to plan your Northern Lights journey as a result of it’s not as crowded or costly!

Just a few key issues make Fairbanks Alaska probably the greatest 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.

northern lights fairbanks alaska
Northern Lights in Fairbanks

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

Situated just under the Arctic Circle, landlocked, and close to a global airport, Fairbanks has the right recipe for viewing the aurora borealis.

The Aurora Oval and Kp Index

aurora oval

The Northern Lights type an oval form above the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. Fairbanks occurs to be completely positioned underneath the oval surrounding the North Pole. Because of this the aurora in Fairbanks is usually seen straight overhead! This distinctive vantage level is nice for aurora images and is barely discovered underneath 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 greater is usually thought of good for Northern Lights recognizing; nevertheless, you’ll be able to see Northern Lights in Fairbanks even when there may be low exercise due to its place underneath the aurora circle.

“You haven’t seen the aurora till you’ll be able to look straight up and see it overhead. While you see it overhead – you’ll be able to see how a lot construction is in it. So it’s finest to come back north underneath 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 that means numerous clear skies!

northern lights trip fairbanks
Stunning clear evening skies abound in Fairbanks

 “The 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 through the late night hours enhance 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 finding out Earth and its bodily environments at excessive latitudes. It consists of seven main analysis models and plenty 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, nevertheless, 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 right way to spot a substorm. His general recommendation was to verify the northern lights forecasts and be persistent – very persistent.

A few of the smartest aurora individuals on this 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 supplied on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. by the summer time. A self-guided tour brochure is obtainable within the foyer of the Elvey constructing. You might be welcome to go to the constructing and take the self-guided tour Monday by 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 Fairbanks Alaska I believed the Northern Lights had been all simply hype. No – I haven’t joined a Flat Earth Society or determined World Warming is a hoax, I simply didn’t know if I totally believed in them. I had good purpose 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 footage and movies. There was no coloration (apart from what lengthy publicity images may seize), and there was no dancing. As a substitute what I noticed was a grey, cloudy glowing blob. These aurora sightings may’ve been mistaken for moon glow or fog, and I by no means would have even seen them besides individuals informed me it was the aurora.

After my disappointing experiences, I began to suppose the Northern Lights had been some bizarre conspiracy by tourism departments and Northern Lights tour firms.

I informed Peter Delamere on the Geophysical Institute about my conspiracy idea 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.”

northern lights with the naked eye
What our eyes see…
northern lights viewing
What our cameras can seize

I assume I simply had dangerous luck with the aurora depth based on Peter. To see any coloration within the faint aurora, I needed to do images to comprehend it was there as a result of it’s not all the time seen to the human eye.

Our eyes use two various kinds of cells to see mild: rods and cones. The cone cells understand fantastic element and coloration however want vibrant 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 vibrant mild supply, we usually solely see a monochromatic world. Nevertheless, cameras can present us what our eyes can not see. That is why you see pictures with vibrant inexperienced lights.

How you can See the Aurora in your Northern Lights Journey

Examine the Northern Lights Forecasts

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

northern lights phone app
Monitoring the aurora, it’s coming our method!

Take a Northern Lights Tour

It’s possible you’ll wish to take a tour, or you might have considered trying the liberty of renting a automobile and chasing the aurora by your self. Both method is nice and I attempted out a number of totally different Fairbanks northern lights excursions throughout my journey (extra on these within the subsequent part!).

Aurora Picture Excursions

In case your purpose is to get a fantastic picture of the aurora, then I extremely suggest signing up for an aurora images workshop the primary evening you arrive in Fairbanks. In spite of everything, it is a bucket listing merchandise for most individuals and also you wish to just remember to know what you might be doing because the aurora shouldn’t be a simple 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 Pictures Workshops, a small intimate workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid dwelling.

Frank gives starting and superior images courses and in the event you don’t have your individual DSLR or mirrorless digital camera, he rents them together with tripods. You’ll go away with some spectacular evening sky and (hopefully) aurora pictures.

Aurora Viewing Tour

These excursions usually have huge numbers of individuals with a mixture of picture addicts and simply individuals who wish to see the aurora. As you may guess – these aren’t my jam. I hate huge excursions and coach buses, nevertheless, it really works for some individuals and it’s good to know that Fairbanks gives a lot of these excursions to get you out of town and enhance your likelihood of seeing the northern lights.

Lodges Provide Northern Lights Viewing Packages

Some accommodations provide aurora viewing choices the place individuals 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 and so they had an ideal setup for viewing. That they had a warm-ish yurt the place we may keep heat and wait, then run outdoors and take pictures simply. The log cabin lodge offered an exquisite foreground within the pictures.

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

Fairbanks Aurora

It’s additionally value noting that all the accommodations round Fairbanks may also provide you with an Aurora wake-up name in the event you join it. This implies you don’t have to sit down 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 as a result of metropolis lights, so the wake-up name is finest when you’re at accommodations 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

A whole lot of ready is concerned when chasing the northern lights, so chances are you’ll wish to go for an exercise when you wait. Fortunately the individuals in Fairbanks know the right way to host outside journey! Doing a quintessential Alaska winter journey whereas ready for the lights to indicate up is a good way to maximise your time…and keep heat!

Listed here are a number of examples:

Fairbanks northern lights tours
Picture by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

Hire a Automobile and Go Aurora Chasing Independently

You too can simply lease a automobile and head out independently for so long as you’d like. Simply guarantee you may have a full gasoline tank because the automobile shall be your heat ready spot in the midst of the evening. The Discover Fairbanks web site has detailed viewing places good for the unbiased aurora chaser full with maps and descriptions of the place you’ll be able to pull over and wait. Deliver heat garments and meals and water!

My Favourite Fairbanks Aurora Borealis Excursions

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

1. Aurora Bear – Pictures

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

TIP: Do an aurora picture workshop the primary evening in Fairbanks to make sure the remainder of your time in Alaska chasing aurora shall be photographically productive!

Frank and Miriam instantly was quick pals as we talked of their little cabin lit by candlelight. All of us had a lifetime of travels underneath our belts and we bonded on journey tales over tapas as we obtained to know one another. This workshop was personal in that just one celebration may guide it. Frank’s purpose was to create one thing extra private and memorable for individuals moderately than doing a tour with a big group.

“Aurora watching is an emotional factor – it’s one thing from their lifelong bucket listing. They dream of it for a very long time. And it’s a variety of effort, time and cash to get to the place you’ll be able to see it. Once they do see it – it’s emotional and we regularly hear very private tales from individuals. And that’s what makes it particular for us too.” Frank defined.

Frank offered us with a scientific background after which we went into images suggestions and settings as he primed us for the massive present. I discovered a ton about chilly climate Northern Lights images. Frank may also take footage of you with the lights so you may have a fantastic reminiscence of the expertise. In addition they provide different sorts of issues to do on their property like snowshoeing whereas watching the northern lights, or you’ll be able to simply hang around and luxuriate in their canine. The expertise was the whole lot I may’ve requested for and extra.

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

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

2. Final Frontier Mushing Co-op Aurora Evening – 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 obtained us all suited up for a canine sled journey, one thing I had completed 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 canine had been wanting 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 precise gear.
Try my Alaska winter packing listing and go ready!

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

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

We spent the following 90 minutes outdoors watching because the lights grew in depth and began to maneuver and move 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 footage that evening, as a result of I used to be mesmerized simply watching it with my eyes. The evening was chilly however good. We sat by the fireplace, had scorching chocolate, and took footage, however largely we simply loved the present.

The Mushing Co-op may also take footage of you with the aurora, in addition to do enjoyable mild images as you await the aurora to seem.

Unbelievable canine sledding underneath the celebs AND dancing aurora…it was two bucket listing objects in a single evening!

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

3. Borealis Basecamp and Viewing Domes

If you’re in search of an extremely distinctive option to see the northern lights round Fairbanks and have a much bigger funds, then take a look at 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 option to see the northern lights within the area. I didn’t truly get to have the total in a single day expertise, however I did go there through the day to take a look at the distinctive glamping buildings.

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 ft throughout every igloo roof. This permits friends to lie in mattress and consider the northern lights with out leaving their cozy quilt.

Borealis Basecamp aurora viewing fairbanks

The igloos are by no means primitive though they’re off the grid. They’ve kitchenettes, a full toilet, 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 individuals without delay. It’s undoubtedly not intimate, however it’s enjoyable and informative. That is mainly a snug viewing level moderately than a tour. You arrive (it’s important to get your self there) and enter the massive constructing the place you’ll be capable of comfortably wait indoors.

Consolation is vital on this expertise. There are couches and good tables arrange. There are video games to play, scorching drinks, and all-you-can-eat cookies. Whilst 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 also have a dwell webcam of the sky televised within the constructing so you can too regulate the exercise and know precisely when to go open air.

As well as, they’ve a few pretty firepits outdoors the place you can too hang around and preserve watch on the sky. Or you’ll be able to hike alongside one of many many paths within the fields to maintain transferring and regulate the sky.

They’ll take footage of you and the aurora and show you how to with your individual images too. This expertise is a good cut price – however you definitely received’t be alone.

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

5. Chena Sizzling Springs Aurora Tour

I’m not a giant fan of Chena Sizzling 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 value one in a single day keep. Plus – you do get to benefit from the scorching springs too in fact.

The tour is like nothing I’ve skilled earlier than. They name it a snow coach tour, but it surely’s not a bus, it’s an outdated military-style monitor automobile related like a prepare to different ‘automobiles’. It slowly and loudly makes its method 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 scorching drinks and snacks through the night. After I went it was a full moon, however don’t let that deter you. You possibly can nonetheless get good images throughout a full moon. Actually, I obtained this cool shot of a moondog and the lights on the similar time!

6. Arctic Circle Northern Gentle Tour

It is a lengthy 16-hour tour, but it surely’s a option 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 best way, 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 one among my most memorable nights for aurora exercise, with the lights gracefully dancing throughout the sky for hours. Furthermore, the cabin supplied a pleasant haven for warming up and indulging in snacks throughout breaks between aurora spectacles. This was an extended day – but it surely was value it.

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

What Time Do the Northern Lights Seem in Fairbanks

The everyday 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 is sort of a journey to Vegas. You find yourself in a bizarre sleep sample the place you might be awake from 10 PM to 4 AM when the lights are hopefully seen after which sleep till 11 AM the following morning.

There are tons of nice issues to do in Fairbanks moreover 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 lights
Keep heat and awake with scorching chocolate!

“Every part 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 may depend. You could have the whole lot you want in Fairbanks Alaska for a fantastic Northern Lights journey. And the most effective half is that you just really feel like you may have the place to 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, nevertheless all opinions expressed listed below are my very own. This submit accommodates some affiliate hyperlinks. In the event you select to buy objects by these hyperlinks, I’ll earn a small fee at no further price to you. These commissions assist scale back the prices of operating this web site


By Tina T

Hi I'm Tina, a website author with an unmatched passion for her craft. With an unwavering commitment to quality, she combines her love of design and writing to create captivating online experiences that leave users amazed.

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