They hang like eerie rainbows in the night sky—neon green, bright pink, fluorescent orange, and bright, bold blue. Stand and stare long enough and you’ll see them move like fractals on a screen saver. Find a quiet spot and you might even hear them make a bizarre crunching sound.
Witnessing the aurora borealis, or northern lights, is an experience unlike any other. It’s one of the few moments in the natural world that appeals to an innate part of us, making hairs stand on end. The spectacle is the result of charged particles colliding with Earth's upper atmosphere, caused by solar wind. Glimpsing it is rare.
Naturally, then, it’s important to know where to go. Here, in no particular order, are the best spots to see the northern lights—including three in the U.S.
This inland city is the closest you can get to the Arctic without actually being there—it’s just two degrees south of the Arctic Circle. In winter, that means the northern lights shine with frequency. For optimal viewing, head out to geothermal-powered Chena Hot Springs Lodge, which is far enough away from downtown to dull light pollution. Another bonus of being there: You can marvel at the aurora from a giant hot tub.