Posted on 19/04/2016

#Nature #Argentina

Where to go hunting for the southern lights

Even more elusive than their northern counterparts, the southern lights may be hard to track down but according to experts, it's all about knowing where to go...

Everyone knows about the northern lights, they're on every bucket list from here to South Korea. Less well known are their southern rivals which, though they make fewer bucket lists, are no less impressive if you can manage to track them down.

In fact, that's the problem. Though they appear in the exact same conditions, the aurora australis - or southern lights - are trickier to find than the aurora borealis. You need a crystal clear night, pitch black surroundings and no city lights polluting the skies but these conditions are hard to come by in the Southern Hemisphere.

In the Northern Hemisphere, you've got plenty of wide, open spaces to choose from. Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia all extend well up into the Arctic Circle, along with providing plenty of flights and tours to help you on your way. You fly into a big city, drive out to a rural hotel and wait in comfort for the night skies to light up.

Go to the other side of the planet though, and you'll soon run into difficulties. This is mainly due to the fact that the South Pole is largely surrounded by water and antarctic ice, which tends to be slightly less accessible than your average hotel in northern Norway.

That's not to say you can't see them anywhere. Several places in the Southern Hemisphere provide spectacular views of the orange, pink, purple and gold glows if you can time it right...

The southern lights are more colourful than their northern counterpart

The southern lights are more colourful than their northern counterpart Wiki Commons

Oranges, pinks and golds often make an appearance

Oranges, pinks and golds often make an appearance Seabird NZ/Flickr

A view of the aurora australis from the South Pole

A view of the aurora australis from the South Pole NOAA Photo Library

The green glow of aurora lights above the South Pole

The green glow of aurora lights above the South Pole NOAA Photo Library

The aurora australis as seen from Tasmania

The aurora australis as seen from Tasmania Standring, Will/Flickr

South Georgia is one of the southernmost islands in the world. Accessible only during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, the island is surrounded by thick ice through the winter months. The best time to catch a glimpse of the lights is in either September or March, when the weather is warm enough to thaw the ice. With no permanent residents, your best option is to take a cruise rather than try to stay on the island itself.

Stewart Island is also a fantastic place to witness the aurora australis. Located off the southern tip of New Zealand, the island's prime spot is Rakiura National Park which translates as the land of glowing skies in native Maori. You'll find plenty of accommodation here, as well as cruise itineraries.

Located off the coast of Argentina, the Falkland Islands are not often associated with the southern lights but they offer a chance of catching the light show. Home to 2,500 permanent residents and abundant wildlife, you'll find plenty of other activities to entertain you if the lights disappoint.

Argentina's Ushuaia is the world's southernmost city. Its potential for seeing the southern lights is high but unfortunately it has a reputation for poor weather all year round. Though you may not be lucky enough to get clear skies, you'll find it easy to get to with an airport in the city itself.

It may be unrealistic for most travellers, but Antarctica is hands down the best place in the world to witness the aurora australis. The lights are regularly active during the winter months but with plunging temperatures of -50 and impossibly strong winds, this destination remains off limits to most.