Experience the Finest of the Northern Lights in Finland
Look up at the night sky. It’s usually a midnight blue deepening into a jet black. Icy stars and shy planets twinkle and glow. If you’re lucky, have a keen eye and the sky is clear, you may see the streak of a comet, or the less supernatural lights of an airplane. Fireworks burst and scatter colour over the night sky, but they vanish in the blink of an eye. The moon waxes and wanes, giving and withholding its pearlescent glow.
The night sky is a beautiful canvas. Yet, no phenomenon transforms the night sky like the Northern Lights. Shimmering shades of green, rose, blue, ultraviolet, red streak, loop, dance, twist and smooth their way across the night sky, making a living work of art. It’s bold, its beautiful, it’s unforgettable and it’s on the list of every traveller, adventurer, scientist, romantic, artist and everyone else on the planet. The only downside? The Northern Lights arch their way across the skies of certain countries. The upside? Finland is one of them. This country has so much to offer, besides the Northern Lights. Cities steeped in history, lakes and lush national parks, gorgeous architecture, warm and hearty cuisine, welcoming locals and landscapes that will take your breath away. You may visit for the Northern Lights, but you’ll leave with so much more. So, today, let’s take a trip to the Finnish skies, following the trails of the Northern Lights and the land that lives under them.
What are the Northern Lights?
Without getting too technical, the Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora, Aurora Borealis, Polar Lights, Aurora Polaris) are actually the result of disturbances in the region of space that surrounds a planet (like ours) caused by solar wind (a stream of charged particles released by the sun). This phenomenon, happening outside our planet, emits the colours we see in the sky. You may see everything from a mild glow of green, bold sweeping arcs of colour that sweep the sky, rays of coloured lights slashing upwards and dome shaped coronas exploding with colour.
So, when can you see the Northern Lights in Finland?
While it would be great to see the Northern Lights light up the sky every day of the year, these colourful lights are only available in specific windows of time windows of time. If your sole purpose of travelling to Finland is to experience the Northern Lights, then here are your windows:
Winter first sweeps into Finland during autumn. From late August onwards (or sometimes mid-September) you can see the Aurora Borealis glow over Northern Finland’s skies. Although the days offer their own treat – watching the lush green foliage transform into the golden, brown and red shades of autumn.
Winter (November- April)
Winter stretches out comfortably over 4-5 months of the year in Finland. That gives you plenty of time to see the Northern Lights glow across the country. During the day, you can indulge in winter sports, visit Santa Claus Village or cuddle up under a blanket in in front of a fireplace.
Spring has a short but sweet love affair with Finland. While the air is sweet and the flowers are in first bloom, the days grow longer, making it harder to spot the Northern Lights during this season. Don’t give up hope entirely. If the sky is clear and you’re willing to stay up late, then you may have a chance of spotting the lights.
Just like other countries that host the Northern Lights, summer is possibly the worst season to visit if you’re chasing the aurora. Long days and the midnight sun cancel out any chance of viewing these lights.
What are some of the best places to view the lights in Finland?
Finland is undoubtedly a generous country, and that characteristic extends to the Northern Lights. Wherever you are in Finland, there is a chance you’ll see the lights (under the right weather conditions). However, we’ve narrowed down a few spots that offer the best view of nature’s most spectacular light show.
Rovaniemi: This city is one that offers gorgeous views of the lights. On average, the Northern Lights dance over Rovaniemi 150 times in a year. You may need to walk a little outside the city for the clearest view, but you can still see them within city confines.
Utsjoki: Located in the northern stretch of Finland, this largely unpopulated town sits under beautifully clear skies – perfect for viewing the lights. On the days that the lights are not so visible, you can even cross the border into Norway to view the aurora.
Kemi: If you’ve got a chance to view the Northern Lights from Kemi, take it! Rent out a glass villa and spend the night in its warm confines, gazing up at the swirl of shades in the sky.
Nellim: Whether you’re looking to rough it out in the greet doors or experience the lights in the lap of luxury, consider Nellim. The residents of this tiny lakeside town often claim that this is the best seat to view the Northern Lights from. Go dogsledding in the morning, chase the aurora at night. What could be better?
Levi: This popular resort town offers many Northern Lights tours, which include many different activities as you chase the lights.
Saariselka: For 200 days of the year, Saariselka’s skies welcome the Northern Lights. Any clear night during winter is a chance to view this phenomenon from the mountains of Finland.
Ivalo: If you’re looking for the guidance of an expert, then take a Northern Lights tour from this small village just outside Saariselka. The expert will take you to all the best parts and teach you how to photograph this wonder.
Other locations include, Sodankyla, Pyha-Luosto National Park, Oulanka National Park, Kakslauttanen, Muonio and Kilpisjarvi.
Tips for viewing the Northern Lights in Finland
Plan your trip: As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are times and places which increase the likelihood of a Northern Lights night sky. Plan your trip according to these parameters.
Check the forecast: This isn’t a scheduled show. There are different factors that go into creating this phenomenon. Before you head out, make sure you check the forecast on websites like the Aurora Forecast or the Finnish Meteorological Institute.
Gear up: The Northern Lights appear during autumn and winter. That means one thing – it’s going to be cold. Pack layers and lots of warm clothes if you plan to track the aurora outside.
Patience: You have forecasts, predictions and perfect weather conditions. However, nature goes on her own time, not ours. Carve out at least 2-3 days for the Northern Lights. The wait is definitely worth it.
Pictures: Research what kind of camera and what techniques you need to photograph this phenomenon. A simple snap on your camera phone may not suffice.
Hunt: These lights flirt and dance their way across the Finnish skies. In order to hunt them down, the best tip is visit Northern Lapland. Southern Finland entertains the lights for only 10-12 nights in a year.
Hilltops and lakeshores are great vantage points for the lights.
What are some of the ways to view the lights?
If you’re chasing the Aurora, there are different ways to do it. You can choose to snowshoe your way under the night skies, go cross-country skiing, slide across snow in a snowmobile or on a dogsled. If you’re looking for a cosier indoor option, consider booking any of these:
The Arctic TreeHouse Hotel, Rovaniemi
Kemi Seaside Glass Villas
Glass igloos in Rovaniemi and in Pyha-Luosto
Aurora Bubbles in the Wilderness Hotel Nellim
An Aurora Dome in Harriniva
You can curl up under a blanket, tip your head back and peer outside the glass windows, walls or roofs to take in this gorgeous light show.
Are you ready to chase these elusive lights? To take in the awe and beauty of nature and outer space’s greatest creation? Then head to your nearest Thomas Cook Branch or visit the Thomas Cook website to book your tickets, accommodation and buy all the forex to fly to the Finnish skies!