An Essential Guide to Finland's Serene Lapland

The northern lights above a wooden chalet
The northern lights above a wooden chalet | © Christ/ Flickr
Jessica Wood

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, have been a source of inspiration and mystery since prehistoric times. Finnish folklore says that they are the result of an arctic fox touching the mountains and its fur leaving sparks in the sky. Others say they are caused by spirits.

Snow covered trees against the northern lights

Regardless of their true origin, more and more people are now taking the opportunity to see them in Finnish Lapland. The way the lights appear in the sky will be different for each person according to their age, quality of eyesight, and even gender. But part of the appeal is that you never quite know what you are going to see. While looking out for the lights, you can also spend time in a pristine wilderness, enjoy local foods, and hear stories from the local Sami people.

Where to Stay

Generally, the further north you go, the more impressive the lights will be, but there are places to view them throughout Lapland in specialized hotels and rental cabins. Many hotels and accommodations in Lapland have been specially designed for aurora viewing. The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, for example, has rooms shaped like glass igloos where you can watch the lights from your bed and fall asleep under the night sky.

When to Visit

It is impossible to predict when the lights will appear and how visible they will be, so there is technically no best time for spotting them. Outside of the summer months, when the sky is too bright, they can be seen at any time of the year. Midwinter is the most popular time for viewing as it is when the skies are darkest and clearest and it also coincides with winter break.

The aurora is visible at any time of night, but 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. tends to be the peak time, so it is worth staying up.

Surviving the Winter

Lapland can be chilly, even during the summer, but during winter, temperatures can reach as low as minus 40°. Since aurora hunting tends to require sitting outside in these temperatures for long hours in the middle of the night, you have to be prepared to avoid hypothermia. Be sure to wear:

A long-sleeved thermal shirt
A thick jumper, preferably made of wool or other insulated material
A snow-proof coat with a hood
Long johns or leggings woolen tights can work too)
Waterproof trousers that can fit over your long johns
Thick woolen socks
Good snow boots, preferably with ice spikes
Insulated gloves or mittens (you can buy locally produced gloves made from reindeer skin, which is a particularly good insulator)
A scarf that can cover the lower half of your face
A thick woolen hat that covers your ears. Some find a separate ear insulator helpful too.

Passing the Time

Viewing the northern lights from a hot air balloon

As you won’t be able to tell when and where the aurora will show up and it is best to stay outside to increase your chances, you can spend the time waiting by gathering around a firepit to enjoy local food and beverages, perhaps some glogi (mulled wine) or reindeer meat. It is common practice to trade stories or hear local folklore.

During the day there are plenty of other Lapland activities to keep yourself occupied, such as seeing the reindeer, getting to know the Sami people, taking a dog sled ride, and of course, visiting Santa.

No matter how often the northern lights appear during your visit, the rare chance to see them in person, take in a spectacular landscape, and enjoy traditional Lapland activities is always a worthwhile experience.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

X
close-ad
Edit article