Witnessing the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) is something that was on my bucket list since my teenage years. Ever since I knew what the lights were I was waiting for the day that I could actually see these lights with my own two eyes. We made a trip up to Fairbanks, Alaska last October for this very purpose. And boy, were we pleased! I would like to share the experiences of our 4 day trip to fairbanks, in case any of you plan to undertake the ice cold trek to the final frontier (a bit much drama?!). LOL.
As opposed to a lot of cruises that go to Alaska in the summer. We decided to just take a flight out from our city in late october. Since, the northern lights are not visible in the summer due to the long days and literally no nights so close to the Arctic circle. Even though it was just october it was really cold, the average temperatures in the four days that we were there were -10 C to -20C or 14F to -4F. We had to go dressed accordingly.
With regards to flights, we took a flight from our city to Seattle and an Alaskan Airlines flight from Seattle to Fairbanks. The flight rates in October very comparatively low and we got great deals on all our flights. But keep in mind, that if you are going to alaska for the express purpose of seeing the northern lights, you have to keep looking at the solar activity and the weather conditions every day at least 15 days in advance. We booked our tickets just a few days before our trip when we looked at the weather and saw there was not a lot of cloud cover on the days/nights we were there. But seeing the lights totally a matter of luck with a little science and planning involved!
As far as the clothing goes, be prepared to wear at least three layers (thermal, shirt/pant, sweater and winter coat and a snow pant). Of course, gloves, a scarf a warm hat and comfortable snowshoes are a must.
Now for the itinerary, finally!!
Day 1: We landed in Fairbanks at about 5:00 pm in the evening, the airport is small and easy to get around. We had asked for the hotel to send us a shuttle for a ride from the airport. Once we reached the hotel, we were a quite tired due to the jet lag! Dinner was a cozy little family run Thai restaurant, walking distance from the hotel.
Day 2: A guided tour with a tour company up to the Yukon river, the Dalton Highway and finally the Arctic Circle. This tour started at 8 am and brought us back to our hotel at 2 am the next morning! Long day! The pit stops they made along the way were, Arctic circle trading post, Yukon river trading post, the trans-alaskan pipeline, Dalton highway sign and the Arctic Circle sign. We had to carry our food and drinks with us as nothing is available on the way. It truly is life off the grid! There were also no proper restrooms all the along the way except at the Yukon river trading post. So be prepared!! But we got to have our picture taken at the Arctic Circle sign! On the way back they also stopped at the trading post from around 11 pm to 1 am that night for us to be able to see the northern lights. Unfortunately the activity was not great that night and we returned back without seeing much!
Day 3: Woke up really late and a great brunch at another cozy little crepe cafe behind our hotel. The location of the hotel was so convenient, everything was literally walking distance. In spite of the cold, we dressed up in our warm clothing and headed out for a walk peering into local stores. Luckily, it was a bright sunny day! We had another night of lights viewing planned with a family who hosts tourists at their cottage away from the city. Their cottage had huge glass windows and free hot drinks, so we could sit in the warmth and comfort inside and look outside at the sky from under a blanket! 🙂 This night we had an AMAZING display of lights!! All that cold was so totally worth it!! Again, got back to the hotel at 3:00 am!!
Day 4: Again, woke up around 10 am and headed back to the cute little crepe cafe behind our hotel. We then drove to the Chena hot springs. It was a really beautiful drive, once there we visited the ice hotel and took a dip in amazing outdoor natural hot springs. what could be more comforting than taking a dip in hot water on a cold winter day! Again, we had another night of lights viewing booked with a photography tour group. They picked us up from our hotel, drove to the outskirts of the city and brought us back to the hotel by 3:00 am. We were so lucky to witness amazing northern lights again! I can tell you, there nothing like it. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in nature!
Day 5: Happy and content with our stay in Fairbanks, we packed our bags to check out of the hotel. With our bags in tow, we headed to a dog sledding place. Because, if you go to Alaska, you’ve got to see the sled dogs!! We spent about an hour there, learning about these alaskan huskies, their lifestyles, diet, etc. and taking a ride on the dog sled. The best part of that for me was getting to play and mingle with these dogs at the end! You feel so loved when with a dog :). With a heavy heart, I bid farewell to the dogs and we headed to the airport for our flight back to Seattle!
I know I have rambled on, but I was trying to fit in as much information as I can to help you, if you plan to visit Fairbanks! 🙂 Please feel free to contact me if you need any information on the hotel we stayed at, restaurant’s, tour operators, etc.
Enjoy some of our pictures!