A Celestial Spectacle: Lapp up the Northern Lights in Finland
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Photo by Antti Pietikäinen – Lapland Material Bank

Nature has begun its repose: the excitement of the sunny season is on the wane as greenery fades and summer days dwindle. But while the Earth tucks in for its wintery slumber, the sky awakens. Around the poles, the atmosphere comes alive with a magnificent light show. Due to their proximity to the North Pole, the people of Finland have been well acquainted with this phenomenon for centuries. Northern Lights appear when sun particles become trapped in the upper atmosphere. But before the science behind the phenomenon was unravelled, humans looked to myth. Dubbed revontulet in Finnish, meaning “fox fires”, the Northern Lights get their name from a mythical Arctic fox with a flaming tail – that sets the sky on fire. According to Finnish lore, the hunter who catches the coveted fox will attain fame and wealth.

“Though I have been a first-hand witness to Northern Lights my entire life, they still have a powerful effect on me every time I see them,” says Hanna Ojanperä, the plant manager at VEEN’s plant in Ylitornio. “I live in the middle of nowhere, with no light pollution at all – just total darkness with a star-dotted sky. My bedroom window opens up to the north, so I can see Aurora from my bed. Imagine seeing Northern Lights when you wake up in the middle of the night. It’s like a beautiful dream.”

Go on your own fire fox hunt and find the elusive Northern Lights in Finland. But to catch a glimpse of nature’s light show, timing is key. The sky must be dark for the northern lights to be visible, so the summer season, with its midnight sun, won’t do the trick. To ensure the right level of darkness, shoot for a visit to Finland between mid-September and late March to ensure the needed level of darkness. It’s going to get glacial, so if you’re viewing outside at a non-heated location, dress for the occasion. Wear thick, waterproof thermal clothing. If your viewing includes a physical activity, layer up the wool and fleece for easy removal if you start to warm up. Bring on the hats, scarves and mittens – wear gloves underneath if you plan on using a camera. The Northern Lights can pop up any time after sunset and before sunrise but midnight lights have the highest probability of being visible. They can last from a few minutes to, with a bit of luck, a few hours.

Other factors also affect the Aurora’s appearance: the sky has to be clear, cloud-free and void of artificial light. Avoid cities and areas with bright lights or pollution; aim to watch somewhere surrounded by nature. For the sky to be clear enough for Northern Lights, stars must be visible, too. Aurora trackers like the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s Auroras Now! can be helpful in planning your viewing. Sometimes thought to be only green, the fickle lights can also be pink, yellow, violet or white, so be careful not to mistake them for a cloud.

“One of my very first memories features Northern Lights. I was about three years old and my mother pulled me on a sled. I lay on there on my back, in total darkness, watching the flaming sky,” reminisces Tuukka Rautio, production assistant at VEEN’s plant.

Touted as one of the world’s best places to see the Northern Lights, Finland’s sparsely populated northernmost region, Lapland, is an unbeatable Aurora watching location. While southern Finnish skies see the Northern Lights 10-20 nights per year, in Lapland they’re a regular occurrence, lighting up the sky about every other night during the viewing season. And it never gets boring, even for locals. “The first Northern Lights of the year are always unexpected,” explains Maie Smolkova, the purchasing and logistic manager at VEEN in Ylitornio. “They come as a surprise, reminding us of the coming winter season with all its magical coziness.”

Lapland offers a range of one-of-a-kind viewing experiences, from thrilling outdoorsy exploits to sojourns in heated comfort nests, so visitors can pick and choose their ideal setting for the Northern Lights spectacle.

Pyhä Ski Resort

Located on the edge of Pyhä-Luosto National Park, a fairy tale winter wonderland, this peaceful ski resort features a memorable Northern Lights experience in a real snow igloo. Inside the igloo, the temperature is always below zero, so don’t hold back on the fleece and padded outerwear. Igloos come with a fur-blanketed bed and a Northern Lights alarm system: when the alarm goes off, simply peek outside. If you prefer a no-snowpants-required Aurora experience, Pyhä Ski Resort also offers heated Aurora Igloo Huts complete with a glass ceiling and a rustic cabin vibe.

Arctic Treehouse Hotel

These luxury tailor-made treehouses on the Arctic Circle make Aurora viewing accessible through and through. Each treehouse is thoughtfully designed with panoramic glass windows and beds perfectly positioned for watching the show up in the sky. The treehouses are nestled in a pretty patch of pine, so keep an eye out for Finland’s famous snow-spangled tykky trees; if nature was an artist, tykky trees would be her sculptures.

Northern Lights Safari

To experience the Northern Lights and boundless nature head-on under open skies, look no further than the Northern Lights Safari. Go night-time Aurora hunting via emission-free, silent-engine electric snowmobiles. After taking in the dancing celestial lights, top it off with a traditional Finnish dinner by the fire in a snow-surrounded private hunting cabin.

Northern Lights Village Saariselkä

Nestled in an enchanting wintry forest of snowcapped trees, the Aurora Cabins in Saariselkä are perfect for those looking to encounter the Northern Lights in comfort. Guests can take in the view while cozying up under a laser-heated glass roof on a king-sized bed. For those looking to brave the arctic wilderness, the Northern Lights Village also offers up-close-and-personal outdoor experiences like Northern Lights viewing from a heated sleigh or Aurora searching on snowshoes.

Ylläs Log Cabins

Rustic, wood-panelled and secluded, Ylläs Log Cabins provide Aurora views from the comfort of your cozy couch or snug bed. The cottages are located in Ylläs town, where street lights are shut off every night from October to mid-February to make the Northern Lights as visible as they can be. Each of the seven cabins has an electric sauna and includes Northern Lights alarms. An additional viewing spot is their Fire Place hangout, where guests can make an open fire right on the Äkäslompolo Lake beach, barbecue it up and enjoy the sky’s light show lakeside.

Harriniva Torasieppi

Located on the shore of a crystal-clear lake, Harriniva Hotels & Safari’s Torassieppi showcases a prime Aurora experience in a far-flung spot. If you’re ready to take on the arctic cold, try chasing the Northern Lights on a night-time reindeer-drawn sleigh ride. For an unparalleled Aurora experience, opt for a one-night sleepover under the open sky. While Harriniva also provides cushy log cabins surrounded by pine trees, guests can book a lakeside Aurora Dome for exclusive glamping under the Northern Lights. The luxury tents come with a warm bed, fireplace and see-through wall facing the sky above the Toras-Sieppi Lake.

Teepee Wilderness Camp

Modeled after nomadic Sámi reindeer herders’ kota tents, Teepee Wilderness Camp offers guests a taste of the tradition, with a sprinkle of indulgence. The heated luxury tents are secluded and moveable, the perfect base for your Aurora search. To cap off the five-star experience, the tents include a private chef and butler to take care of all your needs. Your only task is keeping your eyes peeled for the sky’s merry, colorful dance show.

Across the Arctic Circle, the Earth’s final frontier puts on a dazzling show: Northern Lights astound the eyes and soul in a place where wilderness dominates. Lapp up the wonder in Finland – a once-in-a-lifetime experience.