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Experience Finland’s Northern Lights: High up in the Arctic Circle

People watching northern lights

See the aurora borealis: you can count on the Finns

For the record, the aurora borealis - or “northern lights”, so called because they illuminate the sky from the north - looks somewhat different in real life compared to what you might have seen in photos. The strong green, violet, blue or even red tones are heavily enhanced by the long exposure of a camera. It is definitely worth going on a guided “Aurora Hunting Tour”. The experienced local guides are quick to spot the aurora borealis. It is a breathtaking sight, not least because the light seems at times to dance like curtains in the wind.

Trees and northern lights

When and where to see the aurora borealis

The aurora borealis appears as a dancing veil in the Earth’s polar circles, at both the North and South Poles. In the north it is called aurora borealis, in the south aurora australis. The best chance of catching a glimpse of these lights is in the Arctic Circle, or to be precise, in Lapland. Finnish Lapland has proved to be the ideal destination. This is where the veils sweep across the sky on over 200 days a year. The optimum conditions for observing occur from mid-January to the beginning of April and from the end of September to the beginning of December. During these periods the nights become really dark again - but the day is still bright enough to experience other adventures.

Snow mobile
Accomendation in the snow

The best opportunities for aurora borealis fans

As a general rule, the further north you go, the better your chances of seeing the aurora borealis. For example, you could head to Ivalo and spend your winter holiday there. If you prefer something more peaceful, why not rent a car and drive even further north? Around 32 kilometres to the north is the tranquil village of Inari, located on the shores of Lake Inari. In winter, the huge lake is frozen solid - making it the perfect place to see the aurora borealis. The level of light pollution is low enough for you to see even fainter northern lights.

On an "Aurora" tour, you travel by snowmobile into the midst of the lake onto a small island where you wait by a warming fire in a kota, a traditional Finnish hut, until the lights appear.

Village and snow man
St. Nicolas

Magical Southern Border

Naturally, your trip to Finland could also take you south of Ivalo. For example, the village of Rovaniemi, around 300 kilometres south of Ivalo, is a popular destination. Rovaniemi is considered the “official residence” of Father Christmas and its decorations are extraordinarily beautiful, especially around Christmas time. If you are looking for sporting activities alongside hunting for the aurora borealis, Kuusamo or Ruka are the places to go (click on this link to the blog). Here you can enjoy both downhill and cross-country skiing. And whenever the sky is cloudless, you have another chance of seeing the aurora borealis. South of Oulu, the chances of seeing the northern lights are slimmer and the weather is generally not so good, with more rain and cloud.

Colourful northern lights

How does the aurora borealis actually occur?

In simple terms, the aurora borealis forms when storms rage on the sun and charged particles hit the magnetic field of the earth’s atmosphere. The particles react with nitrogen and oxygen to produce colourful lights that are visible in the night sky. The light usually shines green, more rarely blue. Violet and red are the rarest colours and only appear when the solar storms are particularly intense. The lights are most visible when the sky is as dark as possible. You should therefore plan your trip in such a way as to incorporate plenty of moonless nights. Moonlight is very bright and can significantly diminish the colourfulness of the aurora borealis. An unobstructed full moon can even outshine them completely.

Street and sky with stars

So let’s head off to Lapland!

Enjoy a comfortable Edelweiss flight from Zurich to the tranquil airport of Ivalo, right at the heart of the aurora borealis region. Rent a car or book a shuttle service through your accommodation to take you to your desired destination. There are no train connections this far into the Arctic Circle. Note that there are no scheduled buses in winter. If you want to travel around, you definitely need to rent a car. The roads are always cleared and you can drive to Utsjoki, Finland’s northernmost village, without any problems.

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