Favorite Travels: Aurora Viewing in Alaska

Over the coming months, I”ll be posting a series about my favorite trips of all time. Who knows? Maybe my favorite destinations are yours too.

Top of the list: Aurora Borealis viewing in Alaska.

I flew into Fairbanks and spent a few days at nearby Chena Hot Springs Resort. I visited in March (which I read offers high probability of viewing the lights). The temperatures ranged from negative 20 to 10 degrees each day. Disembarking the plane that first night as I bundled up in my subarctic down coat, I watched in awe as hearty Alaskans put on lighweight windbreakers.

Wildlife on display inside the Chena Hot Springs Hotel

My agenda in Alaska was simple. See the elusive Northern Lights, and see them I did…

Chena Resort offered trips at midnight to the top of a nearby hill where a Mongolian style yurt was erected for shelter. Inside the yurt, we huddled around space heaters drinking hot chocolate and from time to time sauntered out to view the lights. Towards the end of our viewing at about 3:00 am, I had to use the outhouse in negative 20 degrees! I put it off as long as I could thinking I could wait till I got back to the room, but no such luck. Let me tell you, I’ll never forget that experience of a “refreshing” blast of cold air!

But when I look at the gorgeous ripples and patterns in the sky, I think it was oh so worth it.

In addition to viewing the Aurora, a few other fun events were going on at the time. If you’re considering a trip to Fairbanks, March is an excellent time.

I attended the Fairbanks Ice Festival and admired the most amazing artistic creations.

I also watched the Open North American Mush Champioship, and even went on my own dog sled ride. I don’t have to tell you how amazing these dogs are, do I? They have the keenest sense of hearing. The musher barely said something under his breath, and the dogs followed directions.

When I wasn’t mushing or gazing at lights, I scurried out in my bathing suit despite the freezing temperatures to soak in the Chena Hot Springs. Be warned! Your body will be warm, but you’ll have icycles growing off your eyelashes!

On the way to the airport the last night, I was driving my rental car when I noticed the subtle green hue of the Aurora rise from the horizon. I pulled over to the side of the road, got out, and watched the lights dance around in the air, bidding me farewell.

Have you ever seen the Aurora Borealis? Are you a cold weather traveler or a heat seeker?


26 thoughts on “Favorite Travels: Aurora Viewing in Alaska

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  2. Stunning photos!!

    Friends of mine have recently travelled to Alaska and loved it. I’m much more a warm weather person so I enjoyed the experience through their stories and photos because I don’t see myself going there. I find France cold in November so I’d never tolerate the low temps! πŸ™‚

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Corinne,
      Like you, I’m not what you would call a “cold weather girl” at all, but a good coat goes a long way… I know what you mean though. I have to put on a sweater in 60 degree weather!

  3. Beautiful post, Mary. I can’t wait to go there one day. It’s definitely on my list πŸ™‚ One of my best friends lives in Fairbanks in a remote little cabin and is a snowbiker. She uses the same trails as the musher-trainers and always marvels at how SILENT they are. Amazing animals.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Becca,
      So cool! I saw so many little cabins tucked back in the woods and snowmobiles parked out front. It was such an interesting perspective on American “culture” and the lifestyle is really distinctive there. So your friend does snowbiking? I’ve never heard of that! Those dogs are so loveable and the relationship between musher and dog is really interesting to observe!

  4. Gorgeous photos! Also: doggies! πŸ™‚

    The Aurora Borealis are on our list of must sees too. We always assumed we’d head to Iceland to see them…but perhaps Alaska will call us instead? So many places, so little time!

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Jessica,
      I fell in love with those dogs! It was actually a pretty easy time getting to Fairbanks… I don’t know where you live, but I researched Iceland too and that seemed longer and more expensive trip. Though that won’t stop me- I’m planning Iceland for next year. Thank you for stopping by!

  5. This is just lovely and stunning! Something I’ve always wanted to do…thanks for all the beauty here. πŸ™‚

    P.S. Loved your comment re: gelato classes in Italy! On my travel list now πŸ™‚

  6. Those are really great pics, Mary… Gotta add northern lights to my bucket list… And that ice phone booth is hilarious! I’ll bet you had a lot of fun with all that snow & ice.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Ryan,
      The snow festival was really amazing, and the fun thing about Fairbanks that time of year was that there strange ice sculptures everywhere outside office buildings, gas stations, etc. It was like public art!

  7. Great travel adventure Mary! Watching the aurora is definitely on my list, what an amazing sight it must have been. I’m looking forward to your other favorite trips of all time..

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  9. Beautiful! So jealous. I was actually dreaming up a trip to Alaska this summer for about a month before I found out I won the IFWTWA scholarship and the Alaska cruise, although now I’m a bit torn about what to do since the cruise is only IN Alaska for 25 hours total, and I feel like that will just be a tease. I wonder if that’s what those Alaska cruises are designed to do…

      • Oh yes I’m definitely going – just thinking that I need to plan another Alaska trip that gives me some more ground time as well! I’m sure I’ll want to go back even more after the cruise.

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  12. Hi from Spain,
    fantastic blog and pictures!! I would like to get your permission to use the ice mermaid pic for a monograph which content is about sirenes and mermaids. It is just a task for my high school. Thanks and congrats for your blog.

  13. Pingback: The Young and The Restless: Five Emerging Blogs In Adventure & Lifestyle Design | Ryan Goes Abroad

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