Posted: 18/01/2013 at 19:21
I saw them last year from Finnish lapland. Any trip to the far North of the world is really expensive, I found. Canada would be cheaper than Scandinavia if it weren't for the cost (and time) of getting there. The magnetic north pole is in Canada, and the lights appear within an oval around it, so that's probably the best place to be. Northern Scandinavia is also good, as is Iceland, if you can catch some clear nights. It is possible to see the lights from the UK, but you'll get much better displays further north. Unlike the UK, from within the Arctic circle you're likely to see something even if geomagnetic activity is low.
March and September are usually the most active months (around the equinoxes), though no-one knows why. It's best to avoid nights with a full moon, as this can wash out faint displays (so check the lunar calendar before you book!), but clouds and light pollution are your worst enemy.
The lights we saw were great, but geomagnetic activity was low so it was a quiet display - more of a linear glow than dancing swirls. Even when the sun is at the height of its 11-yr cycle of activity, you still get quiet periods, and the current solar maximum is being a bit lame compared with the last one. Annoyingly, there was a geomagnetic storm just the week before we went! These storms produce good auroral displays - www.spaceweather.com is a good site for news and predictions. There's a link to a photo gallery, which gives you some idea of what you can see from various places. The Lofoten islands in Norway seem to come up a lot! The Hurtigruten ferry service runs up the coast of Norway, and you can get good discounts on last minute cruises. I know people who have seen the lights while on such a trip, but it's difficult to get good photos of them from a boat!
If you can afford to splash out a bit, I highly recomment the amazing glass igloos at Kakslauttanen in Finland. If you're lucky enough to get an aurora overhead, you can watch it from the warmth and comfort of your own bed!
Hope everyone who wants to see the lights gets to do so, it's a great experience.