Most people in the world have never seen the Northern Lights with their own eyes. Only 2% of the world’s population lives in areas where they can witness the Northern Lights, and Lapland, Finland’s Aurora, is one of those regions. The Northern Lights in Finland can be a beautiful and unique dream that you can experience by traveling to Finland, as the spectacle of the Northern Lights in the polar sky is truly exceptional. Whether they appear in red, blue, green, or purple, the Northern Lights’ colors don’t matter; they will always captivate you. Every year, the Northern Lights attract thousands of enthusiasts to Finland, and tourists, in particular, travel to Finland with the aim of witnessing this extraordinary phenomenon.
What is the origin of the name “Northern Lights” in Finland?
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, have various names in Finland, but the most well-known is the “Revontulet,” which roughly translates to “Fox Fires.” This term is rooted in a myth that Finnish ancestors used to explain the glow in the sky.
According to the legends, these lights are created by special foxes. People in Finland believed that if these foxes ran fast enough over the hills, their tails would spark against the snow, leaving behind a glow that would later appear as the Northern Lights. Finnish folklore also included more myths about why the sky takes on different colors. Many of them involve gods dancing in some stories and battling in others.
Why do the Northern Lights occur in Finland?
Contrary to myths, today, science has found a different explanation for the occurrence of the Northern Lights. Electrically charged particles are continually produced in the sun, tiny particles that eventually leave the star. Some of these charged particles, with very high speeds, collide with the Earth’s atmosphere and are drawn toward the magnetic poles. In the upper atmosphere, these charged particles collide with atoms and molecules, creating what is known as the auroral oval. When the particles discharge again, they release energy that we can see as light in the sky.
When is the best time to see Finland’s Aurora?
While it is a common belief that the best time to see the Northern Lights in Finland is during the late winter months of November, December, and January, this is not entirely accurate. The Northern Lights are clearly visible during these months, but the most spectacular displays usually happen in September, October, February, and March. In other words, autumn and spring are the best times to witness the Northern Lights.
To see the Northern Lights, you need a sky as clear as possible. Generally, spring is the best time for this because the night skies are usually very clear. This means that if you want to see the Northern Lights in the open space of Finland, you should dress warmly and have a lot of patience. Patience is crucial when it comes to witnessing the Northern Lights in Finland, as predicting the timing of the phenomenon is challenging. While websites and apps attempt to do this, nature ultimately does as it pleases. Generally, between 6:00 PM and 5:00 AM is the most favorable time for seeing the Northern Lights. Northern Lights are often at their strongest between 9:00 PM and 10:30 PM.
Consider Solar Activity
As mentioned earlier, solar storms create the Northern Lights. Therefore, it’s essential to have several solar storms during your visit to Finland. While you have no control over solar activity, it’s assumed that solar activity is higher at the beginning and end of winter. This means that late September and March are the times when you have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Even if you have no influence over solar activity, you can at least keep an eye on it, as short-term and mid-term predictions are entirely possible.
Finland’s Aurora : Cloud Coverage
In addition to solar activity, cloud coverage in the region plays a crucial role in the Northern Lights’ visibility. If clouds obstruct your view, the Northern Lights won’t be of much use. For this purpose, various software is designed, with one of them being the Rain Radar app. In addition to rain forecasts, it also includes cloud coverage predictions for the next one to two days.
The Best Place to See the Northern Lights
You can witness the Northern Lights within the so-called auroral oval, an area around the North Magnetic Pole (and also the South Pole) where the Northern Lights are observable. Typically, in northern Canada, Alaska, northern Russia, Greenland, and sometimes Scotland and Scandinavia, including Sweden, Norway, and Finland, you can observe these lights.
For choosing the most suitable location in Finland to see the Northern Lights, consider three points:
The darker the sky, the better. The closer you get to northern Finland, the better the view will be. Artificial light sources worsen the view of the Northern Lights; hence, in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, chances of seeing the Northern Lights are low.
Northern Finland, particularly the Lapland region, is ideal for watching the Northern Lights for two reasons. Firstly, the population density decreases as you head north, which reduces light pollution. Secondly, you get closer to the North Pole and, therefore, to the auroral ovals where the lights are created. In Lapland, Finland, the Northern Lights are visible on average for about 200 days a year. Two cities in Finland, in particular, are beloved among Northern Lights enthusiasts. In Kilpisjärvi and Utsjoki, this natural phenomenon is usually visible five days a week.
Kilpisjärvi is a small area in northwestern Finland. Being close to three countries, it offers many opportunities for exploration. This area belongs to the municipality of Enontekiö, which hosts approximately 1,900 local residents. In this area, nature is still relatively untouched and pristine, making it almost free from light pollution.
Utsjoki is the northernmost municipality in Europe, home to around 1,200 people, and a significant number of northern deer live in the area. The best way to reach Utsjoki is through the Ivalo Airport, which is serviced by Frankfurt. Most of the human inhabitants of Utsjoki belong to the Sámi tribe, who are indigenous people that have lived in Northern Finland and are known for their hospitality. These people often allow visitors to enjoy various recreational activities in their area and get acquainted with their ancient traditions. Experienced Sámi guides are ideal for teaching you the most important aspects of the Northern Lights and taking you to the best viewing spots at night. Traditional log cabins, known as “kotas,” are popular means of accommodation that create a magical and cozy atmosphere.
The Arctic TreeHouse Hotel in Rovaniemi
The Arctic TreeHouse Hotel is located in Rovaniemi, in the Arctic Circle. Its rooms are specially designed for viewing the Northern Lights. The northern walls of the rooms are entirely glass, and the rooms are designed in a way that all hotel guests can see Lapland’s landscapes from their rooms. The hotel monitors the Northern Lights forecast from the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory and also uses the regional Aurora Alert program to send alerts to guests when the Northern Lights are visible. According to travelers’ experiences, if you stay in the hotel for three nights, you have a 90% chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Finland. On a clear night, the average chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland, Finland, at 9:00 PM is over 50%. The highest probability is about an hour before midnight because the Earth’s magnetic field disturbances are more prominent at that time. The further north you go, the greater your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Northern Lights are most often seen in northern Lapland, around the geographic latitude of Kilpisjärvi. If the sky is clear, they will be visible on average on three out of four nights.
Northern Lights Alert in Finland
Aurora Alert is a regional Northern Lights prediction system that operates in Rovaniemi. This system predicts and observes the phenomenon and informs customers of the location of Northern Lights in the sky. The prediction system of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory shows the probability of Northern Lights occurring in the north. This system also takes clouds into account, providing information about visible Northern Lights with the naked eye.
Aurora Alert sends a prediction percentage and an alert to your phone after making the prediction. This program is based on signal processing and color analysis. Aurora Alert uses regional stations in Rovaniemi and combines data from multiple sources. A “one” sent by this system means that the Northern Lights are clearly visible with the naked eye, and a “five” means they light up the entire sky. However, the intensity of the Northern Lights in Finland can vary throughout the night. Perhaps at 11:00 PM, the intensity is at level 1, and at 2:00 AM, it might be at level 5.
Driving in Finland – Renting a Car in Lapland
We recommend renting a car from the airport or train station to avoid any travel difficulties within the city and have the flexibility to move at any time. Driving in northern Finland is generally enjoyable because the roads are not crowded. What may be somewhat unusual for tourists is driving on icy or snow-covered roads. Finns do not spread salt on the roads to protect the environment. Instead, they use winter tires. Many locals also carry small metal spikes on their tires to withstand icy road conditions.
All vehicles in Finland, including rental cars, are equipped with charging cables. In cold nights, cars are plugged in to prevent the battery from draining. You can find outlets in many public parking lots as well as in hotels and supermarkets.
Photographing the Finland’s Aurora
Photographing the Finland’s Aurora is not difficult, and it does not require very expensive equipment. You just need to have a camera with manual settings and manual focus. You can also capture the Northern Lights with a smartphone in night mode, but the quality will be good enough only for a small phone screen.
In this article from FinlandQ, we aimed to introduce you to the Northern Lights in Finland. The Northern Lights will undoubtedly make a trip to Finland worthwhile, as they create unforgettable moments. These colorful and seemingly floating lights in the sky will surely give you an unforgettable experience.