The Northern Lights: Best Cruises to Book Now for 2024 & 2025

Travel Advice

The Aurora Borealis is a remarkable natural phenomenon, and witnessing it first hand is mesmerising. And, did you know, this year is set to be one of the best years ever to witness the lights? Scientists and astronomers say that 2024 is the best year to see the aurora for more than 10 years, due to the Sun's approximate eleven-year activity cycle being predicted to peak in a solar maximum, marking increased solar activity. Read our guide to the Northern Lights and our pick of the best Northern Lights cruises for anyone who's hoping to tick this magical display off their bucket list.

What are the Northern Lights?

In myth, the Aurora Borealis was thought to be spirits and souls dancing across the sky, or a fox sweeping his tail across the landscape spraying snow up into the sky. In reality this spectacular light show is triggered by a high speed collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere. This causes the rarefied gases there to glow green, red and purple across the sky in an enchanting display.

Experts recommend spending as long as you can around the Arctic Circle in an area known as the auroral oval - northern Norway, the North Cape and Lapland are your best bet. You should also get away from any light pollution, which is why an Arctic expedition cruise is perfect, taking you away from towns and cities.

The Best Northern Lights Cruises

1. Ponant

Ponant's never-before-seen itineraries on the magnificent Le Commandant Charcot venture beyond the Arctic Circle in Norway in the boreal winter, with the ship's icebreaking capabilities making it one of the only vessels that can sail this far north.

There's the option to discover the remote North Cape just as winter approaches, and see the awe-inspiring Northern Lights during autumn, or explore the beautiful Lofoten Islands, with Ponant's variety of Northern Lights itineraries that depart between September 2024 and March 2025.


2. Silversea

Silversea have long been front runners when it comes to pairing luxury with expedition, and Silversea offer a few choice sailings that combine the best standards of food, service and comfort with seeing the Northern Lights on exciting shore excursions.

Explore on a Reykjavik round-trip in September 2024 on the stunning expedition ship Silver Endeavour, visiting beautiful Greenland and Iceland shrouded in autumn colours before winter sets in - visiting during this time means longer days and more bearable temperatures - or go one up and end in New York via stops in remote Canadian next September.

3. AE Expeditions

More focussed on experience than luxury - but still offering a supremely comfortable experience - AE Expeditions' (previously Aurora Expeditions) voyages are tailor-made for adventurous travellers, with experienced and enthusiastic onboard expedition teams including naturalists, historians and geologists.

AE Expeditions will chase the lights on Greg Mortimer, which has a revolutionary X-BOW design, on 9 September 2024, on their Northern Lights Explorer itinerary. This spectacular 17-night voyage that explores UNESCO-listed Vega Island in Jan Mayen - home to the northernmost active volcanic in the world - Greenland's Scoresbysund and Iceland's remote fjords. Many experts swear that this is the best time to view the aurora, with autumn bringing fewer obscuring snow clouds overhead in the night sky than winter and the autumn equinox bringing greater solar activity. Expect everything from bird watching and whale watching to Zodiac cruises, stepping out each evening to view - with luck - the dazzling aurora.


4. Quark Expeditions

Specialising in polar expedition travel, Quark's 'Sail and Soar' 9- and 10-night Greenland itineraries on Ultramarine on the 14th and 23rd September 2024 offer chances to immerse yourself in Greenland - including exploring via helicopter rides (extra supplement applies) - in the Northeast Greenland National Park.

The world's largest national park, it covers 375,000 square miles of uninhabited Arctic wilderness and is home to wildlife including polar bears, Arctic hares and musk oxen, and walrus, beluga whale and narwhal around the coast. Whilst this is not a specific Northern Lights tour as such, most of Greenland lies within the Arctic Circle, making it a prime location for watching the aurora borealis as you step out on deck.

Arctic Expedition Cruise Guide

Your complete guide to expedition cruises in the Arctic.

5. HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

HX Hurtigruten Expeditions - now a completely separate cruise line to Hurtigruten - have just released some exciting new Northern Lights cruise itineraries, offering all-inclusive Tromso round-trips between January and April 2026 on board 335-guest MS Spitsbergen. Included excursions on the cruise include the likes of a Norwegian bonfire, Nordic sauna sessions, the polar plunge and dinner at a museum, alongside visiting destinations such as the Lofoten Islands, Senja and the Lyngen Alps. Cruises will also include a four-day pre-programme where guests will enjoy classic Norwegian activities such as Sami storytelling, reindeer feeding, dog sledding and snowshoeing under the Northern Lights, and HX's Northern Lights promise means you'll receive a credit towards another cruise if the lights do not appear during your voyage.

If you're looking to depart a little sooner, HX also have an incredible circumnavigation of Svalbard departing this September where you'll head north above the Arctic Circle during one of the best times to view the lights, with activities like dog sledding, hiking, kayaking and snowshoeing on offer. On board you can expect expert lecturers, naturalist guides and zodiacs to facilitate trips ashore, along with comfortable cabins, a fresh Nordic style and a relaxed ambience.

Northern Lights - Hurtigruten cruise

What can you do on a Northern Lights cruise?

You can combine a Northern Lights cruise with a range of exciting activities and excursions, such as visiting a snow hotel, husky sledding or even snowmobiling through the frozen landscape. Make sure you read Sharon's review of her trip with Hurtigruten for an idea of what a Northern Lights cruise involves.

Huskies in Norway
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Adventures. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Silver Origin and she has also sailed with Seabourn, Ponant and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite adventure destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

Sign up for our email newsletter

Get the latest expedition cruise news and offers direct to your inbox every fortnight.