Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for the very first time and I was finally able to check it off last year. Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions especially in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Aurora Borealis is a result of disturbances in the magnetosphere due to solar winds that alter the trajectories of electrically charged particles that enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with oxygen and nitrogen gases, a beautiful light show is seen (enough of the science of Auroras)… The beautiful display of green, blue, red, purple, orange lights in the night sky is one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen. December through March is the best time to observe Aurora Borealis and can be seen in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Sweden, Finland and Norway. Spotting the Aurora is pretty difficult as they are very elusive and weather is a key factor as you need clear and dark sky free of clouds.
I was considering a trip to Iceland but eventually after a lot of thinking I decided on traveling to Finland rather than Iceland. After a lot of research, I figured that my chances of seeing the Northern Lights will be higher in Finnish Lapland rather than Iceland (I don’t want to get into the science of it). To me, Lapland looked like a scene straight from ‘Frozen’! And so Finland was it for me!
Lapland is the largest and least populated part of Finland (less population = less light pollution = higher chances of seeing the aurora). Lapland has five national parks and is blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes. While in Lapland you can go to Rovaniemi to meet Santa Claus, celebrate a festival with the locals, visit a reindeer or husky farm. I was delighted to find that traveling to Finland was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. So, Finland was on… and now I had to narrow down to the places I wanted to visit. I came across Kittilä and Inari and I knew what I wanted. I loved the pictures of Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Village in Inari (but it ended up way over my budget so I chose another Glass igloo resort nearby). So, after all the planning my itinerary was Inari, Rovaniemi and Helsinki.
This blog is all about traveling to Finland for seeing the Northern Lights, so without beating around the bush any more, I will get to that.
My trip began as I landed in Helsinki and boarded a flight to Ivalo a few hours later as there were no direct flights to Ivalo from my hometown. The flight from Helsinki to Ivalo was about an hour and a half long. And we reached Ivalo just in time for brunch and I wanted to try reindeer meat (heard a lot about reindeer meat) and I loved it! I thought reindeer meat would be gamey and tough but it was soft, juicy and delicious. Full belly, loads of beers and some snacks later I was on the way to Inari Wilderness Hotel. The hotel offers a wide variety of accommodations in wilderness rooms, cozy log cabins, luxurious Arctic suites and unique Aurora accommodation. I booked a 3-night stay in their special Aurora cabin. I booked several activities offered by the hotel like Northern Light safari, husky safari, reindeer farm visit, ice fishing and snowmobile safaris.
After I checked in at the hotel I lazed around for a while after which I had lunch and went to check out Inari Lake and what a sight it was! I felt like I was in fairytale land. I was ‘standing’ in the middle of the lake and that in itself was an experience that will last forever. That night I was taken for Aurora spotting but unfortunately wasn’t able to see them as the sky was very cloudy. So at around 1 am I went off to sleep.
The next day I toured around the town and tried many things but that story is for another day as this blog is all about my experiences chasing the Northern Lights. The second day wasn’t any better than the first day but I saw a little glow in the sky amid some clouds. Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time star gazing standing in the middle of the lake!
But on my last night, I got lucky and Auroras appeared and it lasted a good 3-4 hours. Alas! it was my last day in Inari and I had to leave but strangely I wasn’t too sad. I knew I can still see more of them as I was still around. My next stop was Rovaniemi, the capital city of Lapland and the official home town of Santa Claus. It is another great place to see the Northern Lights. The three days I spent here was utterly blissful. Be it the Santa Claus Village, Provincial Museum Arktiku, Ranua Zoo, or Korundi House of Culture or the quaint little restaurants in the city. This city certainly is one of the best places I’ve visited in many years.
Lappish traditions and culture blended with snow and ice just makes this city all the more special. This trip just made me wish that I planned this vacation during Christmas. Spending time here made me realize how age-old traditions meet modern life. Soak in the region’s rich culture and heritage, breathtaking scenery and fabulous architecture while staying in Rovaniemi. I stayed at another great property the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel and this time I did not need help spotting the Northern Lights. And it was just fabulous. The skies were lit! I felt like I was in heaven.
My next stop was Helsinki, after getting there I checked in at Sokos Hotel Vaakuna. I was saddened that my Finland travel had come to an end. The next 3 days in Helsinki was spent roaming around the city and little bit of Aurora hunting. Finnish saunas are a must-try while you are in Helsinki. As the city is a little more populated and crowded, it may be a little difficult to spot them easily. But you could go to clear and open space to spot the Northern Lights.
Few tips to survive the extreme weather when traveling to Finland:
- Rent a four-wheel-drive to travel locally if your budget allows it
- Carry a LOT of warm clothes
- Stay in places with sauna wherever possible
- If alcohol keeps you warm carry some with you, especially during those long hours of Aurora chasing
- Follow Aurora Alert and Aurora Forecast to predict the probability of seeing auroras
While traveling to Finland to spot the Auroras the one thing to consider is that they are fickle and no one can predict their occurrences in advance. You can get a prediction 2-3 days before their occurrence. You need patience and perseverance to spot them but like all things, the first spotting is a truly miraculous experience and is completely worth it! That was my entire experience of watching the Northern Lights. I will be back soon to share my other experiences from my Finland trip. Hei Hei!