My experience hunting the Northern Lights.
I’ve always been asked what is my favorite trip in the USA so I decided to share in this post my experience seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska.
Of course, apart from cliches like Disney World or Las Vegas, there are also more daring trips where, besides knowing a new place, you can also come up with a new experience like I did in Alaska where I first saw the Northern Lights.
After some research I saw that the Geophysical Institute of Alaska University tracks the phenomenon and forecast about the odds of seeing the lights. According to their data the best season for seeing the lights is during the winter, between January until March.
I scheduled my trip for January 15 and went to Fairbanks which according to researchers is the favorite spot of northern lights hunters . We arrived on Friday and from the plane I realized that the trip would be surreal, after seeing this landscape from window.
We stayed at the SpringHill Suites Fairbanks Hotel which is a few minutes from the airport and as soon as I set foot to the newer heaters, minus -35 ° C was a mixture of surprise and passion because we never seen or felt anything like that in life, a landscape was a mixture of the blue of the sky and the snow white, of course I fell in love right away.
If you want to see the lights you need to find a place with the least possible interference from the city lights, also the place needs to be as dark as possible. We searched and found the Chena Hot Spring Resort. The resort is isolated from everything and offers several attractions and activities like the ice bar and the Thermal spring. It is well worth your time to spend the day, I also wrote about my experience in the resort and you can check on this post.
On Saturday we woke up early and drove around 1h and 30 min, to the resort that opens at 10AM. I was amazed by all the landscapes on the way.
The first thing that we did, as soon as we arrived, was choose the package to see the lights, we chose the most complete one called “Snow Coach Aurora Viewing Tour”, the cost is $75 per person. Included is two-way transportation to the top of the mountain in a snow bus-the top is around 2600 feet, hot beverage, soup, bonfire and a cabin prepared with heaters. The whole experience takes 5 hours in case you are not properly prepared the resort also offers special boots, pants and other accessories in general.
The shuttle departed at 10pm on point and after more than 30min going up the mountain, we finally arrived. It was almost impossible even with all the special clothes to stay outdoor, all the phones shut down, my eyelashes got frozen but as a Brazilian I was amazed with the experience. Fun fact it was my first time seeing snow haha
We got cozy in the cabin and took turns between staying inside and hunting the lights. Finally around 11:30 PM the sky began to change colors with lights dancing over my head and gradually changing their colors with shades of yellow, green and purple, just like a ballet, but instead of ballerinas we got lights in the sky. In that moment I forgot about all the cold and need to be inside and only stared at the sky enjoying that perfect choreography.
The photos below, are not mine, unfortunately I had a brand-new camera and I didn’t have time to set up properly. My camera didn’t have a screen and my phone sut down because of the cold, so I didn’t see that all my pictures were super dark. So the photos below are from photographers who unlike me equip properly equipped.
This is my favorite trip in the US so far and to finish this post I want to share some travel tips, to help you planning and get ready for your trip.
If you are thinking of taking pictures. You need a camera with long exposure, the lens need at least 10 to 20 seconds to capture the image, you also need a tripod because is almost impossible hold the camera still only holding.
The secret to winning the cold are layers, start with thermal clothes, wool, fleece and finally a good snow coat. Also, the standard accessories like gloves, scarfs and so on…
Waterproof snow boots, ski socks and foot warmers. I hate to get my feet wet and cold, so they saved my life haha
Make sure that your car has a Block Heater that heats the engine while you are parking, without it the motor freezes, they recommend use the block heater in temperatures below -15 ° C
Be careful while driving in the snow, check if your car is equipped with tire chains and watch out with the ice sheets in the road.
Have a good trip.