Sample Alaska Excursion: Northern Lights Photo Tour

Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs, Coldfoot

Explore some of Alaska’s best and most accessible spots to catch the magical Northern Lights in late fall, winter and early spring. The following four-day tour puts you under the aurora oval’s (the magnetic halo that circles the North and South poles) best locations.

Day 1 Fairbanks
Begin in Fairbanks, Alaska’s third-largest city, and the largest in the Interior region. You can catch a commercial jet or drive about six hours from Anchorage on the Glenn Highway. Daylight gets down to just a few hours in mid-winter, giving you plenty of time to catch the Northern Lights. If you stay several nights in Fairbanks, you have a very strong chance of seeing the Lights, partly due to the Interior’s higher-than-average number of clear nights. You can arrange a “Northern Lights wake-up call” with front desk staff at your hotel.

Several Northern Lights photography workshops and tours are available in Fairbanks and cater to a range of skill levels.

Day 2 Chena Hot Springs
If you don’t already have a car, rent one for the 56.5-mile drive from Fairbanks to Chena on the Chena Hot Springs Road, or take the Chena shuttle. Chena Hot Springs resort is open year-round, but is a popular winter tourist destination due to its thermal springs and constant aurora activity. You can soak in the natural hot springs while watching the Lights, or drink a martini in a glass made out of ice in the Aurora Ice Bar.

Photography tour and workshop operators in Fairbanks can also take you to Chena.

northern lights photo tour

Day 3 Coldfoot
On your third day, drive back into Fairbanks and complete your Northern Lights photography tour with an overnight trip to Coldfoot, Alaska. Head to the Fairbanks airport and purchase a round-trip flight for the fastest route to Coldfoot. Several Fairbanks-based air carriers provide service to the Coldfoot Airport.

Located 250 miles north of Fairbanks and almost directly in the center of the aurora oval, Coldfoot is one of the best spots in Alaska, and maybe the world, to photograph the Northern Lights. With more clear nights than anywhere else in Alaska, as well as very little light pollution, this area is an excellent spot to photograph the aurora borealis. The quaint community offers a handful of lodging options for visitors.

Day 4 Fly back into Fairbanks to complete your trip.

Optional Add-on: Interested in taking the 6-hour road trip from Fairbanks to reach Coldfoot? Extend your stay by 1 day to enjoy the journey and drive directly from Chena Hot Springs to Coldfoot. Driving the Elliot and Dalton Highways offers incredible scenery that is well-worth the effort to reach the Far North and the aurora oval.