The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon where the winter night sky comes to life with dancing lights in the sky.
The Aurora Borealis, with their vibrant colors and ethereal beauty, are often associated with countries in the arctic circle such as Norway, Iceland, and Finland in Northern Europe.
However, many people wonder if it’s possible to witness this awe-inspiring spectacle in Switzerland.
In this article, we’ll explore whether seeing the Northern Lights in Switzerland is possible, the best times to catch them, and the alternative European destinations where the Aurora Borealis can be observed.
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Are The Northern Lights Visible in Switzerland?
While Switzerland may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking about the Northern Lights and it is certainly not the best place to see the Northern Lights either, it is indeed possible to see them in certain parts of the country.
It’s important to note that Switzerland is not in the prime Aurora zone for the Northern Lights, which is closer to the Earth’s magnetic pole. It is usually between 65-70 degrees North, so can only be seen in far northern places like Norway, Finland, Alaska and so on.
However sometimes, when the solar flares from the sun are extremely strong, the Aurora Borealis can also be seen as far south as Switzerland. This is something that happened last between October and November of 2003, when the northern lights were seen in many places across the country.
When Can You See The Northern Lights in Switzerland?
To have a chance of witnessing the Northern Lights in Switzerland, you need optimal conditions, including a high level of solar activity along with clear, dark skies that come with a polar night.
The Northern Lights are a result of solar particles colliding with the Earth’s atmosphere, and their visibility depends on the strength of these solar storms.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Switzerland is during periods of heightened solar activity.
The Northern Lights occurrence follows an 11-year cycle, with peaks of solar activity known as the Solar Maximum. During these periods, which can last for a few years, the chances of seeing the lights increase.
Luckily, predictions show that between 2025 and 2028 will have high solar activity and give the Northern Lights enough energy to be seen from as far south as Switzerland.
To be lucky enough to see the Northern lights in Switzerland, you want to be on a mountaintop facing north with very little light pollution in the months of March or September.
Personally, I used an app when I was in Norway to see when the most solar flare activity was around so I could know if it was worth staying up to see them. And given the chances of it happening in Switzerland are nearly zero, you should definitely only look when the solar flares are extreme. Check out an app like Aurora Alerts or similar, they can be quite helpful for such things. We found their accuracy pretty good in Norway.
Where Can You See The Northern Lights in Switzerland?
To increase your chances of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights in Switzerland, it’s advisable to head to locations with minimal light pollution and clear views of the northern horizon.
Some regions in Switzerland that offer better opportunities for Northern Lights sightings include:
The Swiss Alps: The high-altitude regions of the Swiss Alps provide darker skies and less light pollution. Mountain villages and resorts, such as Zermatt, Verbier, and Davos, can offer favorable conditions for spotting the lights.
Jura Mountains: The Jura Mountains, located in the northwest of Switzerland, are known for their tranquil landscapes and relatively dark skies. These areas can offer better chances of seeing the lights, particularly during solar maximum years.
There is even a map on the darkest places in Switzerland that you can see to seriously determine where you should go to have the best chances.
In What Other Countries in Europe Can The Northern Lights Be Seen?
If you’re determined to witness the Northern Lights and since Switzerland doesn’t seem to be the most promising destination, there are other countries that offer better opportunities for experiencing this natural wonder when you visit Europe.
Northern Norway is widely regarded as one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. Cities like Tromsø, Alta, and the Lofoten Islands in the Norwegian archipelago are popular Northern Lights hotspots due to their ideal location close to the earth’s magnetic field along with dark but clear skies.
Iceland is another well-known destination to see Northern Lights from. The country’s northerly location along with its remote and sparsely populated landscapes make it a great place to see them from. Also, its geothermal hot springs and glaciers, create a surreal setting for experiencing the lights too.
If you visit Finland, especially the northern Lapland region Finland, chances are you will see some epic Northern Lights displays. Towns like Rovaniemi and Ivalo provide excellent opportunities for viewing the lights while also immersing yourself in some unique Finnish culture.
Northern Sweden, particularly the areas around Kiruna and Abisko in Swedish Lapland, offers remarkable chances of witnessing the Northern Lights. The region’s minimal light pollution and vast wilderness contribute to an unforgettable experience.
Scotland, in the United Kingdom, is also a solid place to see the Northern Lights. The Scottish Highlands offer occasional glimpses of the Northern Lights. The rugged landscapes and remote locations provide a chance to witness the lights without venturing too far north but there is less of a guarantee here.