Where to see the Northern Lights may seem obvious: the far north! But putting on a fur coat and travelling to Lapland is not enough to ensure that you will see them. There are so many tricks you need to know to make this dream trip a success. As long as the success is based on your deepest desire to see the light of the north!
On our last trip to Lapland, we had to work hard to see the Northern Lights. Our trip to Finnish Lapland was limited to 7 days, and seeing a celestial dance can be more complicated than you think. Hope fed us, and the capricious weather at the beginning of the week finally offered us a sumptuous light show.
The price of seeing the Northern Lights
First of all, it is important to know that there is no price to pay for seeing the Northern Lights. You only need an iron will to make your dream come true.
To tell you the truth, our tour package to Lapland included an excursion to hunt for the Northern Lights. One would have thought that there was no need to worry about where to see the Northern Lights, knowing that an excursion was planned to take us there. A day is set upon arrival depending on the forecast (more on that later). This one was fixed at the end of the stay. But we did not want to be satisfied with this unique opportunity to see the northern light with our own eyes. We therefore planned one or another expedition in the days before. We had a great time on our own hunt (also with a fire), while the excursion did not give us anything… The first one was free, and the second one cost 60 euros per person. So that’s the price to pay to see the Northern Lights!
Where, when and how to see the Northern Lights ?
The best places
For our trip to Lapland, we had the choice of going to Rovaniemi or Akaslompolo. Apart from the charm and authenticity of the village of Akaslompolo, we thought we would maximise our chances by venturing further north. Looking back on this trip, we realise that it would certainly have been the same as opting for one or the other destination. Auroras form close to the magnetic poles, beyond the Arctic Circle, so it wasn’t a matter of 200 kilometres.
Apart from the destination, there is also the ideal place to see the Northern Lights! It is especially on the most appropriate places that we would like to focus on in order to identify them. Even if in principle the Northern Lights can be seen from anywhere, it is the clearings and the summits that are definitely the best places to see them. Trees and light pollution (from houses and street lights) can spoil the experience. Other travellers told us they expected to see the Northern Lights by staying on the terrace of their cottage. In the end they did not see any during their stay.
Our desire to see the Northern Lights got the better of us. We had identified a clearing in the days leading up to the celestial spectacle. It’s quite easy to find one if you hike or snowshoe in the area. We finally found a place to see the Northern Lights that night: an exceptional clearing barely 1 km from our chalet. As soon as the night fell, we went to this spot to hunt the Northern Lights a few days later, once the sky was clear!
We had to cross the forest at night. Don’t forget to take a headlamp with you!
When is the best moment ?
It is not enough to find out where to see the Northern Lights to discover a celestial dance… you have to be patient and define the most favourable moment. It is in the dark that the Northern Lights are visible. In other words, the chances of seeing them are at their highest during the months of the year when the days are shortest. If this is the ultimate goal of your trip, then you should aim to go in December or January. During these months of the year there are only 3 to 4 hours of sunshine per day. It is until the end of March that we can observe it. It is at this period that we preferred to leave. For two reasons: the first one is that the days are longer, so you can fully enjoy the daytime activities with beautiful colours too: yellow, orange, pink, etc… the second one is that this period is generally less popular and therefore less expensive.
The best tip: how to make sure you see the Northern Lights?
During our stay in Lapland with Travelbase, we were closely following the activity perceived by the “AURORA” application. It alerted us immediately that geomagnetic activity was at its maximum and cloud cover at its minimum. In addition to alerting us, by means of an alarm that you can set, the app also allows you to follow the forecast. You can easily identify the days of the week when it is likely to be cloudy. This avoids going out every night and coming back unhappy every other night. When it comes to forecasts, it’s like the weather. It’s a good idea to check again and again to see if they change as the deadlines approach. Forecasts change quickly until you see the Northern Lights appear unexpectedly for up to an hour and then fade away for the rest of the night.
Apart from this smartphone application, our number one tip for seeing the Northern Lights is simply to bring your camera! It is the ultimate weapon for hunting the aurora. Not only to immortalize the moment but also to capture the green light emitted by the northern light. This is why photos of the Northern Lights are often more beautiful than what you can actually see on the ground. In other words, looking at the sky with your smartphone in the air can be a good idea to identify the first green lines that may intensify for your viewing pleasure!
After identifying where to see the Northern Lights, when to see them, and how to maximize your chances of seeing them… maybe the best day of your life is just around the corner! Note that a light show is one thing, but knowing more about what makes this light show possible is even better! For that, we invite you to consult Wikipedia.:D