How to See the Northern Lights by Train

Courtesy Vacations By Rail

Sit back, relax, and watch the dancing lights come to life.

While the holiday season is over, it doesn’t mean you still can’t see some of the best lights in the world. I’m talking, of course, about the Northern Lights. With several cold, dark months still ahead, now is the perfect time to check out one of nature’s greatest wonders. But, the best chance of viewing the aurora borealis is to travel to the northern (and southern) extremes of the planet—which can be a chilly trek, to say the least. 

So what if there were a way you could venture to prime viewing locations with modern comforts and even luxury amenities? Well, as it happens, there is: it’s via train travel. Vacations By Rail, a full-service rail-tour operator, is offering tours that hit regions across the globe that are ideal for seeing the Northern Lights. 

Steve Heyano/Courtesy Vacations By Rail

The Aurora Viewing at Bettles Lodge in Alaska, for example, includes a ride on Alaska Railroad’s Aurora Train bound for Fairbanks. While onboard, you get to sit in the Vista Dome Car, watching the wilderness pass you by. You will then fly to Bettles Lodge, passing over the Yukon River into the Arctic Circle, where a nighttime bonfire brings guests together as the dark sky gives way to the Northern Lights. Visits to downtown Anchorage and Fairbanks are included, as well as other winter activities like skiing, over the six-day trip.

You can also head to classic aurora-viewing spots in Norway and Sweden as part of The Northern Lights & Lapland tour. On this 11-day itinerary, you take a scenic journey through the mountains of Dovrefjell on Dovre Railway to reach Trondheim, one of Norway’s oldest cities. The fifth day begins with a 452-mile journey to Bodø along the Nordland Railway, where you’ll cross the Arctic Circle and have their first chance to spot the magnificent Northern Lights. 

Other opportunities to catch the light show are during a two-day visit to the Lofoten Islands before heading to Swedish Lapland via the Ofoten Railway. Here, in Kiruna, you can enjoy the famous Ice Hotel and have your last chance to spot Northern Lights.

Jeanne L. Baker/Courtesy Vacations By Rail

Lastly, there’s the 12-day train trip that takes you into both Russia and Norway to see the aurora. The Golden Eagle - Arctic Explorer - Quest for the Northern Lights includes a journey on the Golden Eagle train that voyages into the Arctic Circle and has an on-board astronomer to give you all the information on the Northern Lights. You then get a chance to see them during your stay at the Snow Hotel in Norway and during a visit to Murmansk, which is halfway between Moscow and the North Pole. 

Snow-capped mountain tops, charming towns, luxurious train cars, and the Northern Lights. What more could you ask for in a winter getaway?