Shadow Of The Bear Is A Truly Bizarre Annual Phenomenon

There's Something Weird Going On Here

Stuck in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina sits Cashiers, a town known for not much besides a bizarre annual phenomenon called "Shadow of the Bear."

On the side of the 4,930-foot Whiteside Mountain, an enormous "bear" casts its shadow for 30 minutes (starting at 5:30pm).

The shadow shows up each day from late October through early November (and makes a reappearance from mid-February to early March).

Over the years, the "bear" has become a major draw for tourists who are, presumably, already in the area to take in some scenic fall foliage. The best place to view the shadow is off Highway 64 at Rhodes Big View Overlook.

If you're not headed down that way in time for the shadow, you can see it below.

shadow of the bear

Photo: Jerry Jaynes/Getty

Before You Go

Alaska: View Northern Lights in the U.S.
Northern Lights and stars in Alaska

Why Go: Alaska's location within "the zone" means you're almost guaranteed to see spectacular light displays. Be sure to move further away from city lights of Fairbanks into the region's vast wilderness areas of Denali and the Yukon Territory.

Insider Tip: Check the University of Alaska's Northern Lights forecast to help schedule your viewing trip.

Best Viewing Locations: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Alaska Travel Guide
Denmark: Visit Remote Norwegian Sea Islands
Flickr: ArcticBjarki
Differences in altitudes and gases create a variety of colors, but green is still the most common aurora

Why Go: North of Scotland between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, the Faroe Island archipelago is mostly known for puffins and Viking folklore. While its stormy weather mimics that of the British Isles, visitors to this Denmark-owned province could also see the iridescent lights.

Best Viewing Locations: All islands within its archipelago

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Denmark Travel Guide
Scotland: Watch the Sky for a Weather Break
Flickr: madmack66
An aurora with arcs in different shades of green

Why Go: The British isles are known for stormy, foggy, and cloudy weather--far from ideal conditions for observing the sky, but on those rare occasions when thick cloud covers break momentarily during dark winter months, you've got a good chance of witnessing the display in parts of Scotland's north.

Best Viewing Locations: Aberdeen, Isle of Skye, Northern Highlands, Dunnet Head

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Scotland Travel Guide
Canada: Go North of the Border for Great Views
Tania Spencer/GNWT
Northern Lights and illuminated Teepee in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Why Go
: Areas around pristine Lake Superior in Ontario and Northern Canada's tundra back-country are prime viewing spots. Head to the town of Whitehorse within the Yukon Territory to best see the swirling lights. Sometimes, the glowing sky can be seen as far south as the American border, but stick to Canada's vast wilderness for your front row seats.

Best Viewing Locations
: CalgaryOntario, Yukon Territory, Manitoba

Plan Your Trip
: Fodor's Canada Travel Guide
Greenland: Experience Great Auroras All Over
John Kjær/Greenland Tourism
Northern Lights are in Greenland all year but they can't be seen during summer's Midnight sun

Why Go: Greenland still remains a final frontier for the average traveler and from its interior ice remains optimal location, however more accessible areas south and east of Greenland provide just as good viewing opportunities. You can see northern lights from most parts of the country (similar to Iceland).

Best Viewing Locations: Kulusuk, Ammassalik

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Europe Travel Guide
Finland: Listen for Your Aurora Alarm
Courtesy Visit Finland
Aurora Borealis with green and purple in Northern Finland

Why Go: Head to Luosto in Northern Finland to the Aurora Chalet where, upon arrival, you'll be handed an "Aurora Alarm" which beeps once Northern Lights appear. In the nearby town of Sodanklya, the Northern Lights Research Center relays your message via the hotel. On chilly cloudless nights, you're also bound to catch the lights shimmer in the skies over the town of Nellim, close to Lake Inari--Finland's third largest lake.

Best Viewing Locations: Luosto, Nellim, Utsjoki,Ivalo, Kakslauttanen

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Finland Travel Guide
Iceland: Explore Beyond Reykjavík's City Lights
Flickr: ArcticBjarki
Iceland's Northern Lights and some city light in background

Why Go: Leave the bustling nightlife of the capital city and head out into the wide open plains of Þingvellir National Park--a UNESCO Heritage Site where the North American and Eurasian continental plates meet to cause a rift valley. Under clear dark skies on a freezing night in early March was where I first witnessed the lights dance across the Icelandic sky. Though the show only lasted for 12-15 minutes, it felt like an hour.

Best Viewing Locations: Outside Reykjavik, Þingvellir National Park, the entire country.

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Iceland Travel Guide
Sweden: Learn about Beautiful Blue Holes
Fredrik Broman/ courtesy
Swedish Lapland's Aurora Borealis: green is the most common Aurora color

Why Go: The area around Abisko in Swedish Lapland is scientifically proven to be an ideal viewing spot due to a unique micro-climate. Close to Abisko National Park, the dark winter night is perfect for sky watching. The 70km (43mi) long lake helps create the infamous "blue hole of Abisko"--a patch of sky that remains clear regardless of the surrounding weather patterns.

Best Viewing Locations: Kiruna, Abisko, Swedish Lapland

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Sweden Travel Guide
Russia: Brave the Arctic Cold for Arctic Lights
nouskrabs via Getty Images
An aurora dances above the horizon in Russia

Why Go: In Northern Russia, you've got a good chance of seeing Aurora Borealis. The Kola Peninsula's proximity to the Northern Lights zone also makes it a key area and the town of Murmansk is a popular base . . . if you can handle the below freezing temperatures of a typical Siberian winter.

Best Viewing Locations: Murmansk, Siberia, Kola Peninsula

Plan Your Trip: Fodor's Europe Travel Guide
Norway: Observe Polar Night and Polar Lights
Courtesy Johnny Mazzilli/Innovation Norway
Northern Lights near the town of Svovaer in the Lofoten Islands

Why Go: The northern town of Tromsø teems with Aurora Borealis activity when those extended summer days are long gone. Its location above the Arctic Circle, and within the Northern Lights zone, makes it one of the top places to view shimmering green lights. The town also boasts the world's most northerly university, brewery, and planetarium. You can cruise Norway's fjord-lined coast aboard a Hurtigruten ship and get wake-up calls to head out on the deck when the lights appear.

Best Viewing Locations
: Tromsø, Alta, Svalbard, Finnmark

Plan Your Trip
: Fodor's Norway Travel Guide

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