Chasing Northern Lights in Finland

Chasing Northern Lights in Finland

The Aurora Borealis or simply the Northern Lights is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring natural phenomena you will ever see. Chasing northern is one thing common on every traveller's bucket list. It will always leave you speechless, no matter how many you have seen them before.

Finland is often an overlooked destination to see the northern lights when compared to its neighbours Norway and Sweden. But this actually makes it more beautiful. Taking the off-beaten path to see the northern lights and at the same time enjoying dog sledding and sauna breaks. Finland might just become the perfect destination for you.

What are the Northern Lights???

If you are reading this post, then you probably know what northern lights are..... But do you really understand the science behind these beautiful lights dancing across the night sky?

Historically, the Finns believed that this phenomenon was caused by Firefox, a creature who ran so fast across the snow that his paws kicked up sparks into the night sky. Actually, the Finnish word for northern lights is 'revontulet' which translates to fox fires.

In fact, the lights are caused by the sun. When particles emitted by the sun strike atoms in the earth's atmosphere, these atoms light up, producing the beautiful colours we see in the Aurora Borealis.

Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Finland: -

While it would be great to see the northern lights all the year round, part of what makes the experience special is that you can only experience during certain parts of the year. They can be seen between the months from September to April.

September to November is considered a great time to see the northern lights. Winter is just about to begin, so the weather is not that cold. During the daytime, you can see the fall foliage and watch Finland's many lakes slowly begin to freeze over. At night, you can go chasing the northern lights.

Northern Lights over an autumn lake

If you love winters, then December will be the perfect month for you to see the northern lights. The nights are quite long, giving you ample opportunity to visit and see the northern lights. You can spend the December holidays experiencing the winter wonderland. Else you can also visit during the 'shoulder season' of March as the seasons begin to change - both are good months to visit as the skies are darker and the northern lights are more commonly visible.

Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Finland: -

Now that we know when we can see the northern lights, let see which are the best places to see them. As you might expect from a country that's as far north as Finland, there are a lot of great spots where you can see the northern lights. In fact, under the right conditions, you can almost see the northern lights anywhere in Finland.

But here are some of the best places to see them.

1. Inari - Northern Finland: -

Inari in northern Finland is a great spot to combine local culture with the aurora - including hearing ancient myths from the people who know these lights the best. See the lights reflecting on the frozen surface of the lake Inari or spend a night in an 'Aurora Bubble', which are cleverly designed pods to see the lights from the warmth of your own bed. By day, you can snowshoe, cross country ski or meet reindeer hunters.

Lake Inari

2. Lousta: -

Lousta is brilliantly set up for northern lights, often viewed from a nearby lake. There are a lot of hotels and rustic log cabins, many of which have 'Aurora Alarms' to alert you the arrival of the lights. Else you can also stay in a wooden hut in the wilderness for the ultimate aurora experience. Nearby activities include cross country and downhill skiing, and reindeer and husky safaris.

3. Oulanka National Park: -

If you are an active aurora hunter, then you will love Oulanka. Its pine forests and river valleys offer picturesque snowshoeing and cross-country skiing routes, as well as dog sledding through the fairytale landscape to nearby Riisitunturi Forest. There are rustic wooden cabins that can be used free of charge, or you can build your own quinzee, a traditional Finnish igloo made from hollowed-out snow rather than from ice blocks.

4. Kakslauttanen: -

This is an arctic resort just 30 minutes shuttle ride from Ivalo airport and is the most amazing place to see the Northern Lights. It features a number of unique accommodation choices, including log cabins, snow igloos and glass igloos. Its glass igloos, in particular, are a fantastic option for those who would like to watch the sky in comfort.

Some Useful Tips: -

Now that you know what are the best places to see the lights, here are some tips which can help you improve your chances to see them.

1. Plan your trip at the right time of the year: - 

Late autumn and winter are the best times to see the Northern Lights. The colder, darker half of the year is the only time when the light conditions are favourable for you to see the northern lights.

2. Check the Forecast: -

The Aurora Forecast is a simple but powerful website that predicts the aurora. You can easily see most of northern Europe on a single map and get a sense of your chances to see the northern lights on any given night.

3. Carry Warm Clothes: -

During this season, the climate is cold in Finland. Average temperatures range from a nighttime low of -17 to -12oC. During the daytime as well the temperatures are below 0 degrees. Pack layers and plenty of warm clothes if you plan to visit and spend a few hours outside chasing the aurora.

4. Be Patient: -

Last but not the least, be patient. Natural phenomena don't occur on command and its best to plan 2 or 3 nights if you really want to see the aurora on your trip to Finland.

Popular Day trips and tours to see the Northern Lights: -

When you are going to a new place you don't know anything about, it is always best to go with a proper guide. There are many groups who organize these tours to see the Northern Lights. Here are some of the coolest options.

  • Nordic Visitor offers tours in Sweden and Finland, but their Finland ones are pretty sweet. For example: visit Santa in Lapland (3 nights), stay in a snowcastle (3 nights), and enjoy the classic winter Lapland experience (4 nights).
  • You can also consider ice floating and aurora viewing tour from Safartica.
  • Another option is to go with Aurora Holidays, which provide aurora hunting tours along with some other cool tours like learning about indigenous Sami culture and dog sledding.
  • Aurora Service (the same who provide the amazing aurora prediction website) also offer northern light tours. They have both 3-night and 4-night options named Valhalla and Asgard and operate at 70o latitude.
The northern lights are the most beautiful natural phenomena. It is just magical. You probably won't even realize how special and rare it is to the Northern Lights dancing in the clear night sky until you see them.

At last, I would like to tell you that you just can't take photos of the Northern Light with your iPhone or a Digital Camera. You need a proper DSLR camera with long exposure and wide lens. And be ready with your camera settings and equipment at all times because the Northern Lights can appear and disappear at any moment.

Hope you find this useful and good luck Chasing Northern Lights.

Also, check out my other posts on Finland


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