As memories of the winter holidays slink off into the distance, many of us are steeling ourselves for several months of bleak winter weather sans the holiday cheer. But for those lucky people who live under the northern lights, the winter months are a constant and gorgeous source of inspiration.
Reykjavik is a bustling city surrounded by otherworldly wilderness
The Icelandic capital made global headlines in September when streetlights were shut off and locals were encouraged to turn down the lights at home in order to make the most of a spectacular Aurora display. In return, the city was treated to a vibrant dance of greens, lavenders and whites in the sky.
Reykjavik has a ton to offer beyond the northern lights. Residents boast of its legendary nightlife, its unique architecture, its world-class cuisine and its abundance of thermal baths. It doesn’t hurt that it’s just a short drive from some of Iceland’s most iconic sites – including the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, the Gullfoss Waterfall and the black sand beaches of Vik.
Icelandic residency requirements vary by country of origin. Europeans (citizens of the European Economic Area and the European Free Trade Association) have the easiest way in, as they are not required to obtain special residence permits for stays of longer than three months.
According to global cost of living database Numbeo, the average single person living in Reykjavik can expect to spend $1,187/month, excluding rent. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center will set you back an average of $1,500/month, according to the same source.
Due in part to its geographic isolation, Svalbard offers some of the world’s most vibrant Aurora displays
If you truly want to get away from it all, the rugged arctic terrain of Svalbard may be your best bet. Due in part to its isolation, this remote Norwegian archipelago is known to offer some of the world’s most stunning Aurora Borealis experiences. Located some 650 miles south of the North Pole, temperatures in Svalbard typically hover around five degrees Celsius in the summer, and can drop below -30 degrees Celsius in the winter.
The nightlife in Longyearbean, Svalbard’s largest settlement, may be a far cry from Reykjavik’s, but the town does offer plenty of dining options, ranging from reindeer stew to pizza to Thai curry.
Due to Its remoteness and extreme temperatures, Svalbard has traditionally attracted an eclectic mix of scientists, miners and other adventurous types willing to brave the cold. The islands don’t require visitors to obtain visas or work permits, but anyone who is not able to financially support themselves and/or does not have a place to live will be deported.
According to the website of the University Centre in Svalbard, the cost of living in the archipelago is similar to that across the country as a whole, noting that to cover food and accommodations in Norway, residents can expect to pay NOK 10,000/month ($1,180).
Residents of Triberka enjoy brilliant views of the northern lights
The surreal beauty of this remote arctic village first captured widespread international attention with the release of the award-winning film Leviathan in 2014. The grimness of the film’s vodka-fueled storyline was offset by images of Teriberka’s stark landscape. Leviathan-themed tours have proliferated, making the village increasingly accessible to swaths of tourists from around the globe. And between September and April, residents and visitors are treated to brilliant views of the northern lights over the Barents Sea.
Dining and nightlife options are limited in the village itself, but the city of Murmansk is accessible by bus or car, with trips typically taking about two hours.
Russian residency requirements differ by country, and can be quite complex. Foreigners wishing to take up residency or obtain long-term tourist visas in the country are encouraged to consult their local Russian embassies for specific details.
According to Russian rental site CIAN, one-bedroom apartments in the Murmansk Region – where Teriberka is located – were available for between $170 and $240/month as of the time of writing. Comprehensive cost of living data specific to Teriberka was unavailable.
Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Anchorage residents relish the opportunity to explore the surrounding wilderness
Throughout the fall, winter and spring months, the Alaskan city of Anchorage provides ample opportunities to view breathtaking Aurora displays. Though a yellowish green is the most common hue, the northern lights over Anchorage frequently fluctuate between blue, violet and red according to the Visit Anchorage tourism site.
Residents in the city relish its abundance of opportunities to soak up the surrounding wilderness, from exploring its glaciers and parks to hiking its coastal and mountain trails. The city offers a range of dining options from around the world.
As with Russia, U.S. residency requirements vary by country. Foreign nationals wishing to relocate to Anchorage are encouraged to consult their local U.S. embassies.
According to Numbeo, a single person in Anchorage can expect to spend an average of $1,126/month, excluding rent. One-bedroom apartments in Anchorage typically cost between $1,025 and $1,270/month depending on proximity to the city center, according to the same source.
Ingrid Burke, International Editor at Tranio.com, an international real estate broker with a dedicated and independent team of journalists and real estate investment experts. We publish real estate news, high quality analyses on foreign realty, expert advice, travel and best destinations tips, and more.