Going to see the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis may have one of the highest amounts of entries in people’s bucket lists. It seems that when people are asked about their dream vacation, most of them will include seeing the Northern Lights. Based on Livestrong.com’s World’s Most Popular Bucket List Activity for 2017, witnessing the Northern Lights is on top of the list.
If it’s also on your list, then you’d probably like these tips on how to up your chances of seeing Finland’s Northern Lights on your trip to the country.
1. Go in Winter (Aurora Season)
Your best chance of witnessing the Northern Lights is in the winter. You’ll want to go to Lapland, Finland’s northernmost region, between September to March. The Northern Lights shine on the area on an average of around every other clear night in these months.
The further north you go, the better. Consider going to Rovaniemi, Sariselka, or Levi. Kemi may also be a good region. However, if there’s a vast auroral storm, you can occasionally view the Northern Lights as far south as Helsinki. But don’t count on these opportunities, as they’re rare. Your best chance is still being up north.
2. Check the Aurora Forecast
There’s no guarantee that a forecast can allow you to witness the Northern Lights, but they do present you with the estimated times of activity and provide you a better idea of your chances.
Also, bear in mind that Finland’s weather can change very quickly. What could be a clear night at 8 pm might turn totally cloudy at 8:45. Be sure to dress appropriately, as you might have to wait outside in the cold for many hours at a time.
3. Get Away From Light Pollution
You’d be shocked at how a tiny bit of light can block the view of the Northern Lights. The key is to avoid as much light as possible. Many glass igloos and hotels advertise seeing the Northern Lights inside your quarters but don’t believe them too quickly. Go out on your own and look for a dark area to have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
In addition, if you’re staying at a hotel or in town with plenty of lighting, it can be challenging to see the awe-inducing phenomenon.
4. Have Your Own Transportation
To get to Finland’s darkest places, sometimes you’ll need to bring your own ride. During the nights, you’ll be going to different wide-open areas away from the city lights. And sometimes, walking for miles just isn’t an option, especially in the middle of the night.
It would be better for you to rent a car and drive to Lapland if you got the time since the car rental companies can cost you an arm and a leg knowing you don’t have many options. You’ll be saving a lot if you choose to rent and drive into town. However, it’s not always plausible because of time constraints, so be prepared to pay the cost.
5. Hire Someone to Take You to See the Northern Lights
You could hire some companies that offer excursions to go and see the Northern Lights. You will be put in a group, though it might seem less awe-inspiring and romantic to tour with strangers. Also, it can be a bit expensive. However, if you do like to see the Northern Lights with a guide, you should probably try it as they know particular areas that can give you a better chance at seeing the phenomenon. If you’re only in Finland for about a night or two, then hiring a guide and going on group tours might be worth the price.
That being said, you would probably be lucky and see the Northern Lights on your own without paying for a guide by following these tips and with a bit of luck!
6. Look For a Wide-Open Area
If they’re active, you can view the Northern Lights from just about anywhere. However, staying in an open space gives you a better chance at seeing them, as the lights are often lower toward the horizon. Therefore, if you’re in the middle of the woods, you may not see them well unless they’re right above you.
You can also try finding a riverbed or frozen lake that can give you a wide-sweeping view of the Northern Lights.
7. Do Your Best to Stay Up Late
Throw your schedule out of the window, as you’ll be getting up or staying up at every hour of the night.
If you stay in a glass igloo, you’ll find that they have an “aurora alarm,” but sometimes, it doesn’t go off. So to provide yourself with the best chance of getting to see the Northern Lights, you should try to stay up late and get up throughout the night to check the sky.