Olnes, Alaska

Photo: Borealis Basecamp

September is settling in. Families are saying goodbye to summer over Labor Day weekend. Children are gearing up for school, even though it’s going to look a lot different this year. Couples are considering fall getaways to pick apples and pumpkins. Not you. You’re already thinking about winter.

You’re thinking big this year. After being cooped up for months—the months you should have been playing outside—you’re no longer willing to put off your dream trips. The northern lights have lingered on your list for years. They kept getting pushed aside for closer, warmer, or just plain easier trips. It’s time to stop putting this one off.

This trip begins with a flight to Fairbanks. You’re only using the largest city in Interior Alaska for its airport. From there, you’ll rent a car—be sure it’s a four-wheel drive—and head north on the Elliott Highway. About 45 minutes into the drive, you’ll take a sharp left. The dirt road looks like it heads into the middle of nowhere. That’s the best place to search for the northern lights.

The middle of nowhere turns out to be Borealis Basecamp. The camp sits on 100 acres under the aurora oval, a ring-shaped zone where the northern lights tend to shine the brightest. It’s surrounded by a pristine snow forest and has views of Wickersham Dome (a great hike) in the White Mountains. You won’t notice any of these things. You’ll be completely focused on the camp’s igloos.

Yes, you get to stay in an igloo. It’s not a traditional igloo made of blocks of snow. It’s better and a hell of a lot more comfortable. This is a modern, fiberglass igloo, similar to the ones used by polar expeditions and research stations. Each one has a 12-foot ceiling, a heater, a kitchenette stocked with supplies for warm beverages, and a real bathroom with L’Occitane en Provence products. There’s even a skylight, perfectly positioned above the bed, for you to keep an eye out for bright streaks. A large yurt, the camp’s home base, provides everything else—including Alaskan sourdough French toast for breakfast and Alaskan king crab or sockeye salmon for dinner—you need for an Arctic retreat. You finally have something to look forward to this year.

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