The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are an incredible natural phenomenon and seeing them is a true bucket list experience. But where are the best places to view these amazing lights? From as close to home as Norway to as far afield as Canada’s Yukon, we have ideas for everyone for the 2021/2022 season!
Thanks to its location within the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks, Alaska is known as one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. They are most visible between August and May, with the sweet spot between 22:00 and 02:00 every night.
Stay at Bettles Lodge, a fly-in property located in a prime spot under the aurora band of highest frequency activity. Staff here even provide wake up calls when the viewing is at its best so you won’t miss a thing (or any sleep)!
Tromso, Norway is the perfect location to see the Lights closer to home, with the best time to visit between October and March. Visit in January to get the chance to attend the annual Northern Lights Festival too. The town of Tromso itself is a great place to stay, with more pubs and bars per capita than anywhere else in Norway.
Stay at the Thon Hotel, in the centre of the city, for the perfect duality of city excitement and a front row seat to Mother Nature!
Kiruna is a remote area of Swedish Lapland that offers a more unique Northern Lights experience. The best time to visit is between October and March, although they may be visible a little outside of these months during periods of clear weather.
Lulea is another great option, which offers a host of other winter activities alongside Aurora Borealis viewing, including dog sledding and ice fishing.
The Northern Lights can be viewed up to 200 nights of the year in Finland. As well that, you can also go dog sledding, ice fishing and snowmobiling. Rovaniemi is also the home of Santa so a trip to Finnish Lapland could make a magical Christmas holiday for the family.
To make your trip extra special, spend a night or two at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel.
With its otherworldly landscape, geothermal pools and volcano tours, Reykjavik is also a popular place to see the Northern Lights. For the best viewing, visit between September and April.
Spend time at Hotel Katla in the more isolated region of Vik in southern Iceland for an uninterrupted Northern Lights encounter. From here, you can also take snowmobiling tours, play a round of golf at the nearby course, or go for a glacier hike.
You cannot get much more remote than the Yukon, in the north west of Canada’s vast expanse. Its location in the Arctic Circle makes an incredible location for viewing the Aurora Borealis from August to April.
Stay in your own cabin at Southern Lakes Resort, which is accessible only by floatplane from Whitehorse. As well as the Northern Lights, go dog sledding with the resort’s own pack of huskies.
New Years' Eve is usually a great excuse for a party across the world. While the parties may be different in 2020, the hope for the future that is at their heart will be stronger than ever as we look forward to a brighter 2021.
In the meantime, take a look at some of the best celebrations below and look forward to the New Year with us.
Sydney is normally host to one of the most iconic New Year celebrations in the world. As one of the first places to see in the New Year, spectators usually line the streets near the Harbour to see an incredible firework display from the sails of the Sydney Opera House. The Harbour Light Parade, where more than 50 illuminated boats float past is also a great tradition.
Scotland celebrates Hogmanay, usually with a three-day celebration, beginning on December 30 with a torchlight procession through the streets of the city. A huge street party and outdoor concert with a firework display over Edinburgh Castle traditionally follow on December 31 with the first ceilidh of the New Year on January 1.
In France, the New Year or ‘St. Sylvestre’, is traditionally celebrated for the entire month of January. On the night of December 31, the heart of the action is usually found on the Champs-Elysees. Of course, you could always opt to spend the stroke of midnight sharing a kiss beneath the sparkling light show of the Eiffel Tower.
New York’s infamous ‘ball drop’ is arguably the most iconic of the world’s New Years’ Eve celebrations. The tradition began in 1907 and, though it may be a little different this year, it usually attracts around a million visitors to the city. If you don’t fancy being in Times Square, there are many hotels which offer New Years’ packages, including The Knickerbocker, where you can watch the celebrations below from their rooftop.
For something a little different, a trip to the Bahamas over New Year could be the answer. Nassau usually celebrates with a ‘Junkanoo’; part party, part procession, part carnival which dates back to the 16th century and normally winds through the streets until well after sunrise on January 1.
Koh Phangan is home to the most famous full moon party in the world and New Years’ Eve is no exception. The celebrations usually centre around Sunrise Beach in Haad Rin. This is not an option for the faint of heart; the party is known to begin as soon as the sun goes down on December 31 and continues well into the afternoon of January 1.
Dubai has often been quoted as hosting the largest firework display in the world, lighting up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and Burj Al Arab as well as a stretch of beach. The best seat in the house is in front of the Dubai Fountain.
In Las Vegas, you could be forgiven for thinking that any night was a celebration, so on New Year, the city must do something special. In a ‘normal’ year, you would expect to find celebrity-hosted nightclub parties and world-class dinner shows. Many casinos also have firework displays at midnight that can be viewed from throughout the Strip.
Rio's Copacabana Beach is usually the centre of New Year celebrations as revellers, dressed in all-white, celebrate Réveillon, a party infused with religious, traditional, and superstitious beliefs. Fireworks and live music set the mood, as people make offerings to Lemanjá, the goddess of the sea to bring them good fortune in the New Year.
Today (November 26) is American Thanksgiving, a day put aside for American people to give thanks for what they have. Though it may be a little different in 2020, it is a hugely important holiday across the pond.
So what exactly makes a traditional Thanksgiving holiday for our American cousins?
Every year, during a ceremony at the White House shortly before Thanksgiving, the President receives a gift of live turkeys. During his presidency, George H. W. Bush set a new tradition, where a ‘pardon’ is issued to the birds, who then live out the rest of their lives on a farm.
The 2020 pardon happened on Tuesday (November 24), where Donald Trump pardoned turkeys named ‘Corn’ and ‘Cob’. Following the pattern of recent years, the turkeys will be sent to live out the rest of their days at Gobblers Rest at Virginia Tech College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.
The meal you eat on Thanksgiving is the centrepiece of the celebrations. At first glance, the feast looks a lot like what you might expect to find on a British Christmas table, including the obligatory turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.
From there though, it swerves a little to include mashed potatoes (instead of our more favoured roasted ones), sweet cornbread and sweet potato. Dessert is distinctly American too. Pie is the traditional choice and popular flavours include pecan, pumpkin, apple and even sweet potato.
Breaking the wishbone of the turkey is a tradition for many families, with the hope that when the bone is snapped, the person who is left with the biggest portion will have their wish granted that year.
The practice is actually an old tradition dating back as far as 700BCE and came about as ancient civilisations believed that birds, such as turkeys, ducks and chickens, were oracles and could tell the future.
Like many things in 2020, the annual Macy’s Parade may be a little different this year. Since 1924 though, watching the parade on television as the marching bands, floats and huge helium-filled balloons move through the streets of New York, has been a beloved tradition on Thanksgiving morning for many American families.
Like the Macy’s Parade, another staple of Thanksgiving television is the annual football game. The first NFL game was played on Thanksgiving Day in 1934, with a game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, which came about because the owner of the Lions’ wanted to improve his teams standing. They have played in also every Thanksgiving game since, with a hiatus only for World War II.
From the traditional turkey dinner to a specific movie you watch with your nearest and dearest every Christmas Day afternoon, Christmas is all about family, friends and the traditions we build with them.To celebrate the holiday, here are some of the ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.
Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade has been a staple tradition every November since 1905 and is one of the largest Christmas parades in the world. Although the practice is becoming less common, people have traditionally taken part in ‘mummering’ (in Newfoundland & Labrador) or ‘belsnickeling' (in Nova Scotia), where people visit others’ homes in disguise and their identity must be guessed. Once their identity is known, they are usually offered food and drink by the host.
The USA is home to its fair share of unusual Christmas decorations, including California’s Surfing Santa Competition. In Hawaii, a traditional Christmas dinner is often a spit-roast pig, in Montana, residents take part in the annual Ice Climbing Festival and in Alabama, Elfapalooza hosts the second largest congregations of elves in world.
Although Christmas is not a national celebrated holiday in Japan, that does not exclude its citizens from having their own, quirky festive tradition. Following a successful marketing campaign in 1974, the fast-food chain KFC has provided Japanese families across the country with their Christmas dinner – “Kentucky For Christmas!”
Traditions here vary according to region and culture but braaing, like a British BBQ, is a big deal here. No Christmas celebration is complete without boerewors sausage and steak. For dessert, malva pudding, a caramelized sponge containing apricot jam, is often served with custard. In some areas, the caterpillars of the Pine Tree Emperor Moth (or Christmas Caterpillar) are considered a festive treat and are said to bring good luck in the coming year.
The Swedish Yule Goat dates back to ancient pagan festivals but its most modern incarnation arose in 1966 when a giant straw goat was erected in Castle Square, Gavle, a tradition which continues to this day. The Gavle Goat is 42 feet high, 23 feet wide and weighs 3.6 tonnes. You can even watch a livestream of the area throughout the Christmas period.
Like South Africa, Christmas in New Zealand is a summer celebration so a popular way to celebrate is with a ‘barbie’ on the beach. New Zealanders also have a unique Christmas tree tradition; many families have a pohutukawa tree, a coastal species that blooms a bright-red colour in December.
Have you heard the legend of Krampus? He is said to be the evil accomplice of St. Nicholas who wanders the streets in search of badly behaved children. Throughout December, Austrians all over the country will often don terrifying masks and pull pranks to scare adults and children alike. There is even a Krampus festival held every year in Vienna.
Norwegian folklore suggests that on Christmas Eve, spirits and witches take to the skies to cause mischief. As witches often use brooms as their preferred mode of transport, it is tradition for Norwegian households to hide anything the witches might have been able to use so that they can’t be found.
Iceland is home of the Yule Cat, which is said to roam the countryside at Christmas. The legend was traditionally employed by farmers to incentivise their employees; those who worked hard would receive a new set of clothes and those who didn’t could be devoured by the cat-like beast. Today, Icelandic families often gift each other clothes to avoid an unfortunate demise.
Spooky Season is well and truly here … and it is a BIG deal in the USA and Canada. To celebrate this most creepy of seasons, we wanted to share some of the most haunted places on the continent with you.
Are you brave enough to incorporate any of these into your next road trip, or have you experienced any paranormal activity at any of these locations? We would love to hear!
‘Lizzie Borden took an axe …’ You know the rhyme, right?
The Borden family home, and site of Andrew and Abby Borden’s brutal murder in 1892, has now been turned into a museum and bed & breakfast where guests can walk in the footsteps of the family and even stay the night in one of its reportedly haunted rooms.
Andrew & Abby’s daughter Lizzie was long suspected of committing the crime but was never charged, due to a lack of evidence.
Opened in 1829, Eastern State was the first US prison to implement solitary confinement, meaning prisoners had virtually no human contact during their stay (hoods were even placed over their heads when they were moved).
Take a tour of the prison, including the cell of infamous criminal Al Capone. You may see an apparition. Many visitors have also claimed to hear the whispers of the former prisoners.
This ship, which is now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California, has had many lives. It started as a luxury cruise liner in 1936, its passengers including Audrey Hepburn & Elizabeth Taylor. It became a war ship called the ‘Grey Ghost’ in 1939.
Today, the ship is said to be haunted by those who died aboard, including a young sailor who was crushed in the engine room and a crew member who was murdered in cabin B340.
Massachusetts couple F.O. & Flora Stanley opened this hotel, the inspiration behind Stephen King’s ‘The Shining’ in 1909 … and reportedly never left.
Mrs. Stanley is reported to play her piano in the music room at night and Mr. Stanley is said to show up in photographs. Bags have been reported to be unpacked, lights turn on and off and children’s laughter has been heard in the hallways.
Stay the night, if you dare, or take a tour of the premises.
The facility was opened to patients in 1864 and by 1950, it had 2,400 inhabitants even though it was only designed to house 250. Hundreds of patients, who suffered from a range of afflictions like alcoholism and epilepsy, died here and their spirits are said to haunt the asylum.
You can now tour the building, which officially closed in 1994.
If you travel to Vancouver, go for dinner one night at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, built above an underground railway track and said to be haunted by four ghosts, including the conductor of a trolley car that forms part of the restaurant's décor.
He is said to sit at the tables in the trolley, rearrange table settings and create inexplicable cold drafts.
Along with being one of the most luxurious hotels in Canada, it is also rumoured to be one of the most haunted.
Built in 1888, it is reportedly home to several ghosts, including a bride who allegedly died falling down the hotel’s marble staircase and a bellman named Samuel McAuley who haunts the corridors dressed in full uniform. During your stay, listen out for the ding of an elevator when no one is around or doors that appear to open on their own.
There are reports that there is a specific room at this 1913 hotel that has blood trickling down its walls. Guests have also reported seeing a female apparition crying in the hotel’s lobby while others have heard rattling silverware, strange noises and the vague feeling of a presence while staying here.
Visit at your own risk!
The castle, built in the 1890s by Robert Dunsmuir, is one of Victoria’s most loved tourist attractions and one of its most haunted. Visitors have reported hearing a mysterious piano playing and others claim to have seen a woman in white, supposedly Mrs. Dunsmuir, looking out the window.
Many attribute the castles’ supernatural proclivity to Dunsmuir’s untimely demise just a year before the building was completed.
Now a Keg steakhouse in downtown Toronto, the mansion was once the home of industrialist Hart Massey and his family. Legend has it that after the death of Massey’s daughter in 1915, their maid was so distraught that she completed suicide in the building.
Many diners have reported having seen the maid and several other spirits. So much so, in fact, that the staff at the restaurant keep a ‘ghost log’ to document encounters.