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.
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.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
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
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.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip 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 — and this is still in our DNA today. 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 certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.