You may have heard about them, googled them and most likely wondered how, where and when you can get to see them with your own eyes. Well you’ve come to the right place. Lapland is one of the rare places in the world where nature's own light show illuminates the night sky. Below you can find out everything you need to know about this natural phenomena we call, the Northern lights.
The science behind it:
We know - science may be a bit complicated at times, but we’re going to try to make it easy. It all begins from the sun. The northern lights occur when high energy particles from the sun, which are known as the solar wind, collide with the Earth. Most of these particles divert away from us, but some get caught up in the Earth’s magnetic field flowing towards the pole areas at a high speed and then slam into the neutral atoms in our atmosphere heating them up and creating the most magnificent colors in the sky. This is complicated business, but to put it simply, the swirling lights are created when particles of the sun collide with the atoms and molecules in our atmosphere.
Beliefs and Myths:
Now we know the science and the reason that we’re lucky enough to see these magical lights, but before science could explain it, people had created many beliefs and legends about the magical green lights. Some of these tales were driven by fear, some by inspiration, yet all were striving to make sense of the magic.
Lapland is filled with these legends and tales. The Finnish word for Northern light is ‘Revontulet’ and translated to Fox Fires, which relates to a nordic creature, the FireFox who if caught was believed to bring one a great amount of fame and fortune. The myth was that the Northern lights were created by the fox’s flaming tale, whipping snowy crystals to the sky and by its fur scratching trees and thus setting the skies on fire. On a more darker note the ancient Finns also believed that the green lights appeared in the night sky as haunted spirits of the dead, whereas the Sami had a belief of mystical curses in the sky.
There are many more beliefs tied to these mystical spirals of light from different parts of the world - perhaps you will hear some while sitting around a fire on your very own Northern Lights tour.
When is it best to see and where can you see the Northern Lights?
The most ideal time to watch the Northern Lights begins in the fall. The end of August and September are great months to catch the Northern Lights as the dark nights begin to creep in, the sky is often clear of clouds and the temperature is not yet too cold. The most popular months for watching the Aurora’s tend to be between December and the beginning of April. In December and January, the nights get longer and the days get shorter, thus with less hours of daylight the chances of watching the sky glow increase. From February to early April, the days do get longer and the sun begins to shine, but to balance it out, the sky clears up and thus the chances of gazing at the illuminated sky are still strong.
Lapland is situated in the Arctic Circle and deep within the Aurora region making it one of the most ideal destinations to watch the Northern Lights. The most central and popular area to admire the phenomena within Lapland is the city of Rovaniemi. Rovaniemi is located at the beginning of the Arctic Circle where temperatures are relatively mild compared to the more northern parts of Lapland. When there is solar activity and weather conditions allow it, chances are you can even catch the Northern Lights directly from the city center as well. Other great locations are Pyhä-Luosto, Saariselkä and Inari.
Why take a guided tour to watch the Northern Lights?
A guided tour of the Northern Lights hunt, guarantees you the best chance of getting to see the lights as the skilled tour organizers understand the weather conditions and know exactly where to go to secure a safe spot. Lapland is filled with places to catch the lights, but the wisdom is to know how to grab the right place at the right time. Your guide can quickly identify if the weather at the selected location allows viewing the green lights or not and decide on the next move. On a guided tour there’s only one clear goal - you must see the northern lights!
On top of this, the guide usually comes with a professional camera for Northern Lights photography, so that you can return home with the perfect souvenir. Even though seeing the phenomena is never guaranteed, on a guided tour you increase your chances significantly.
5 steps to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland:
1. Professional guide - As we can not change the weather conditions, having a knowledgeable guide who is familiar with the phenomenon, knows all the great spots and how to adapt to the weather is a key element to your aurora hunt.
2. Mobility - One of the most important factors is the option to be mobile. Many times, the Northern Lights are within touching distance, but if you can’t get there by car chances are you’ll miss out on the show. Mobility allows for flexibility and displacement so if it’s not possible to see the lights in one spot, you can always move to another with better conditions.
3. Away from the light pollution - It is much harder to see the Northern Lights when there is light around. Once you get out of the city and away from the light pollution into darker areas, your chances increase drastically.
4. Patience - The Northern Lights tours usually start around 20:00 in the evening and sometimes continue even after midnight. The simple reason for this is that it takes a lot of patience to see the lights. Sometimes the evening begins with no trace of them whatsoever, but after an hour or even two hours, you’ll suddenly see the sky turn green. There’s no rule to how long it takes as it all depends on how nature takes its own course - patience is key. On a guided tour you will be entertained with myths, tales and great facts while you wait for the lights to illuminate the sky.
5. Glass Igloo - Accommodation in a glass igloo is an experience within itself but in addition to that they allow you to watch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your own bed. The igloos are usually located far from the city center and light pollution in ideal spots for Northern lights. As the igloo roofs are mainly built from glass, they allow you to watch the lights with a cup of hot chocolate or a sip of wine without having to step a foot outside. Some of the igloos are even equipped with an alarm system that alerts you when the lights move across the sky, so even if you fall asleep you will not miss out on the chance to see them dancing in the night sky.
Watching the Northern Lights is a rare once in a lifetime experience not many get to see. There are winters when solar activity is increased and the Northern Lights appear weekly and sometimes for several days in a row, and there are winters when they appear less. It is important to remember that as they are a natural phenomenon, there are no guarantees for them to always be seen. We do hope that in addition to all the gripping attractions you will experience on your trip to Lapland, you will also enjoy this amazing experience of seeing the Northern lights.