If you’ve never seen the northern lights, there’s still time to catch the spectacular display this year. The aurora borealis–named, aptly, after the Roman goddess of dawn and the Greek word for the north wind–can appear on a clear night from September through April, and is often at its most intense in February and March.
Here are three stand-out lodges that will get you up close and personal:
Sandwiched between fjord and mountain, this cozy grass-roofed lodge overlooks Norwegian tundra, through which guests can mush a team of sled dogs. Evening photography tutorials demonstrate how to capture the surest shots of the aurora borealis, and nighttime wake-up calls guarantee guests will be out of bed and camera ready when the northern lights put on their show.
The vast, light-pollution-free skies capping this family-run wilderness retreat on the banks of the frozen Tärendö River, in Swedish Lapland, offer an IMAX-worthy screen for the aurora borealis. Guests can chase it on snowshoes, cross-country skis, or nocturnal snowmobile safaris. For warmer cultural immersions, choose a reindeer barbecue in a native Sami tepee or a birchwood-fire sauna.
■ Ion Hotel: Nesjavellir, Iceland (from $276, including breakfast)
Surrounded by hot springs, lava fields, and glaciers, this Icelandic hotel features glass walls, recycled wood, and guest rooms adorned with photographs of the famous Icelandic horses, some of which are nearby, ready for riding. Glacier walks offer another eco-adventure. Back in the hotel bar, guests can toast picture-window views of the shimmering spectacle with local microbrews.
This piece, reported by Raphael Kadushin, appeared in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.