Photo by Vincent Guth via Unsplash

Northern lights, aurora borealis, polar lights, natural lights show. No matter what you call it, or how you describe it, this magical phenomenon is something you need to see with your own eyes at least once in a lifetime.

This colourful display can be witnessed above the frigid Arctic Circle regions in the Northern Hemisphere, so heading to Scandinavia and Canada for the light show naturally comes to mind. However, there’s an alternative destination you should consider – Russia.

Awe-inspiring natural phenomenon

Only eight countries reach north above the Arctic Circle, but without a doubt, Russia reigns supreme. Parts of Russia’s northernmost regions above the Arctic Circle are some of the best places to see these dazzling displays. Although this means freezing winters with uninterrupted nights, it’s worth it to be able to witness one of the planet’s most dazzling phenomena. The northern lights can last anywhere from a few minutes to several days and occur between September to March.

The Barents Sea in Murmansk

Murmansk: One of the best places to see the lights

Nestled in the deep northwest of Russian Lapland, Murmansk is the largest city above the Arctic Circle. Besides the well-known cities of Tromso, Norilsk, and Vorkuta, Murmansk enjoys over 40 days of uninterrupted night, making it one of the world’s premier destinations for the aurora borealis.

What determines the formation of aurora high up in the north depends on the weather when solar activity is strong and the night temperature is below 10°C. This turns the region into a backdrop for the astounding light show, peaking from January to February.

Riding fancy from Moscow to Murmansk

To make your northern lights trip to Russia even more sensational, travel on a luxury train from Moscow to Murmansk. By doing this, you’ll get to explore the beautiful capital before you hop aboard the Northern Lights Express to Murmansk. The train returns to St. Petersburg, giving you a chance to see this amazing and romantic city too. What’s best is that this ride caters to solo travellers, veterans, couples, and also families.

The Northern Lights Explorer

The Northern Lights Explorer

You’ll want to get comfortable on this 3,000-kilometre train journey. It’s a good thing the Northern Lights Explorer offers two types of accommodations – the Deluxe Gold Cabin with private amenities or Standard Plus Cabin with shared amenities. Besides comfortable quarters, dine on hot, freshly-cooked meals aboard the restaurant car that offers delicious Russian cuisine. You can even unwind at the bar, where a friendly bartender is ready to whip you up a drink or two.

Overall, the ride is safe and warm in the harsh winter months. As a bonus, taking the train is better because, versus air or ground transportation, flights might be delayed due to bad weather while slippery roads often cause traffic jams during winter time.

Highlights of the tour

The Saami are an indigenous tribe inhabiting certain parts of Europe including the Murmansk Oblast of Russia
Meet the Saami

Dressed in vibrant traditional clothes, you can have a taste of the culture and food of the Saami that hasn’t changed over the last century. The Saami settlement is located in the Murmansk region of the Kola Peninsula, right at the heart of the Russian Lapland, where countless reindeer graze.

Life here is simple, and the primary occupations of the Saami are reindeer farming, fishing and hunting. However, the Saami possess rich, unique folklore, and many still don the distinctive and colourful traditional Lappish clothing.

A sculpture at the Snow Village in Kirovsk
Visit the Snow Village

Get a taste of Russian history and be amazed by the elaborate indoor and outdoor snow sculptures Kirovsk’s Snow Village. Other fun activities include riding snowmobiles into the mountains to catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

Suffice to say, the northern lights should be on the travel list of every passionate traveller and adventure-seeker. Chasing the lights on an epic train journey is a great way to learn and discover more about Russia, and definitely an experience you’ll never forget. To treat yourself to this special winter holiday, visit Trans Siberian Rails.

*All photos belong to Sedunia Travel unless stated otherwise

Get all the latest travel stories from Zafigo. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.