Photo © Dhanachote Vongprasert
Fairbanks sits in a special area that lures people from all over the world to observe a natural spectacle unlike any other. The city’s location directly beneath the “auroral oval”—a ring-shaped region positioned over the far north—makes chances of seeing the northern lights particularly good. Other factors, including a likelihood of clear nights and frequent occurrences in winter, allow for excellent aurora viewing opportunities.
There are many ways to approach your aurora viewing getaway. Before your trip, it’s best to decide how and where you plan to view the aurora borealis. You can rent a car, drive to a nearby vantage point and wait for the northern lights to appear. You can also arrange to view the aurora from a heated “aurorium” cabin or lodge, usually part of a guided, overnight dog sled or snow cat tour. Some visitors opt for a combination flight/driving tour above the Arctic Circle for the most remote viewing. You can even lay low in your hotel and ask your lodging’s front desk to give you a wake-up call when the northern lights start their show.
Whatever your choice, book before your trip to make sure you reserve a spot, and plan to stay up all night. Prime aurora viewing hours are usually in the wee hours—late evening to early morning. While the best viewing odds are beneath the auroral oval, obviously, there are no guarantees. Weather and your whereabouts are key factors that dictate whether you get to take in the show. In Fairbanks and environs, the aurora will be visible an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear. If you stay a minimum of three nights and are actively out during the evening and night hours, your chances of seeing the aurora increase to more than 90 percent.
Whatever your chosen means of viewing and length of your stay, be prepared for a spectacular, otherworldly display, especially if it’s your first time.