Switzerland is a country known for its stunning landscapes, snow-capped mountains, and pristine lakes. However, many people wonder if they can witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights in Switzerland. The answer to this question is both yes and no.
So can you see the Northern Lights in Switzerland? While Switzerland is not the most popular destination for Aurora Borealis sightings, it is still possible to witness this natural phenomenon in certain parts of the country. But you will need tons of luck.
Switzerland is located at a lower latitude than other Northern Lights destinations, such as Iceland and Norway. This means that sightings are not as frequent or intense. Nonetheless, with the right conditions and a bit of luck, visitors to Switzerland can still experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the Northern Lights.
Can You See Northern Lights in Switzerland?
Switzerland is a popular destination for tourists looking to experience the beauty of the Alps. However, one question that often arises is whether it is possible to see the Northern Lights from Switzerland.
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, happen when particles charged by the sun meet gases in our atmosphere. Carried by the solar wind, these particles head towards the Earth’s magnetic poles. There, they mingle with our magnetic field, making beautiful light shows.
Even though Switzerland isn’t in the polar regions, you can still catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from some spots in the country. The prime time to see them here is in winter, between November and March.
Where to See Northern Lights in Switzerland
The most probable spots to see the Northern Lights in Switzerland are in the high mountainous and remote regions of the Swiss Alps. The most recent sightings occurred this year (2023) in September and November. Unlike the green lights usually seen in the north, the Aurora Borealis appears red or pink in Switzerland.
According to SRF Meteo, statistically, Northern Lights occur in only about one percent of nights above Switzerland. Over the next five years, we’ll have them more frequently. As sunspots are increasingly appearing near the solar equator, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) will likely come more often toward Earth, thereby raising the chances of seeing auroras.1
So why are the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Switzerland in high-altitude areas and remote areas? The reasons are explained below:
- High Altitude Areas: Switzerland’s stunning mountains make it perfect for catching the Northern Lights. The top spots in Switzerland to see them are up high, where there’s less light and clearer skies. Valais, Graubünden, and Säntis in Eastern Switzerland are among the best high-altitude areas for catching the Northern Lights.
- Remote Areas: Other than high-altitude spots, remote regions in Switzerland are also awesome for catching the Northern Lights. Less light pollution in these areas means better views. Engadine in Graubünden and Valais are among the top remote regions in Switzerland for seeing the Northern Lights.
According to the Swiss Newspaper Blick, the following regions have reported Aurora Borealis sightings this year2:
It is difficult to predict and to see northern lights in Switzerland. All the conditions have to be right so that the beautiful light spectacle can be viewed. This means that the solar storms and the solar wind must be strong and the sky must be cloudless. If and only if these conditions are present you can see the northern lights as far south as Switzerland.
However, with a bit of luck and the right conditions, it is possible to witness this spectacular natural phenomenon in Switzerland. Honestly, I haven’t seen them in Switzerland either, but I’m hoping to witness the next display.
Best Way to View Northern Lights in Switzerland
Honestly, as mentioned above, the odds of seeing the Northern Lights in Switzerland are pretty slim. I recommend heading over to Tromso in Norway, Kiruna in Sweden, Rovaniemi in Finland, or Fairbanks in Alaska instead. These places, up north or close to the Arctic Circle, offer better odds of catching the Northern Lights compared to anywhere in Switzerland.
To up your odds of spotting the Northern Lights in Switzerland, it’s key to know the perfect conditions for witnessing this awesome sight. Here are a few things to think about:
- Best Month to Visit: The top time to catch the Northern Lights in Switzerland is in winter, from November to February. Nights are lengthy, skies are clear—just the right combo for watching the aurora borealis.
- Clear and Dark Skies: For the best Northern Lights experience, head to spots with minimal light pollution. In Switzerland, opt for mountain areas far from cities. The darker the sky, the higher your odds. Clouds might hinder the view, so pick a night with clear skies. Look for a spot with a clear view toward the northern horizon. Also, before your trip, check the weather forecast to ensure a good view of the lights.
- Patience: It’s crucial to be patient when attempting to see the Northern Lights. There might be times when they’re not visible, even when conditions seem perfect. Be ready to stay outside for several hours in the cold, waiting for them to show up.
- Solar Activity: The Northern Lights happen due to solar activity, so pick a night when the sun’s active. Check the aurora forecast to find the best time for catching the lights in action.
Understanding Solar Activity
Solar activity, like solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CMEs), releases charged particles into space. When these particles reach Earth, they interact with our magnetic field. Some get directed towards the poles by the magnetic field.
As these charged particles crash into gases in our atmosphere—mostly oxygen and nitrogen—they light up, creating the dazzling Northern Lights. Different colors come from different gases and collision altitudes. More solar activity usually means stronger geomagnetic storms, boosting the chances of seeing vivid auroras even in places far from the poles.
Switzerland doesn’t provide weather advice for watching the aurora borealis, but you can download Aurora Forecast Apps on your phone. These apps provide predictions about when and where auroras might be visible. They use data like solar activity, geomagnetic conditions, and weather forecasts to estimate the likelihood of Northern Lights sightings in specific locations.
Here are some Aurora Alerts applications that you can download on your phone:
Basically, in Aurora viewing, KP stands for the KP index, rating geomagnetic activity from 0 to 9. A higher number, say KP 5 or KP 6, signals stronger geomagnetic storms, making it more likely to spot vivid auroras even at lower latitudes.
My Aurora Forecast app also tells you the top spots to see auroras now and offers webcams showing popular places where you can catch the Northern Lights.
Final Thoughts: Where to See Northern Lights in Switzerland
Switzerland’s known for its breathtaking mountains, but not so much for the Northern Lights. While it’s possible, it’s super rare to catch the Aurora Borealis here in Switzerland—the odds are pretty slim. In general, Switzerland’s a stunning place with loads of natural marvels, but the Northern Lights aren’t one of them. Yet, visitors can still have a blast skiing, hiking, and sightseeing while they’re here.
The big reason is that Switzerland sits too far south to be in the perfect spot for seeing the Northern Lights. Plus, there’s lots of light from cities and clouds that often block the view, even on clear nights.
If you’re dead set on seeing the Northern Lights, consider jetting off to Tromso in Norway, Kiruna in Sweden, Rovaniemi in Finland, or Fairbanks in Alaska instead. Your chances of spotting the Aurora Borealis are way higher in these places.
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- 1 SRF Meteo, Seltenes Phänomen: Polarlichter am Schweizer Himmel, SRF.ch. https://www.srf.ch/meteo/meteo-stories/seltenes-phaenomen-polarlichter-am-schweizer-himmel. Accessed on 30 November 2023.
- 2 Wagner, Jenny. Spektakel am Schweizer Himmel: Darum könnten wir heute Nacht wieder Polarlichter sehen, Blick. https://www.blick.ch/schweiz/spektakel-am-schweizer-himmel-darum-koennten-wir-heute-nacht-wieder-polarlichter-sehen-id18976657.html. Accessed on 30 November 2023.
Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.