One of the most popular places in Scandinavia for an off-the-beaten-track Northern Lights experience is Finland.
But only the far north of the country — an area of snow-clad forest known as Finnish Lapland — is within the prime Northern Lights viewing ring of the Arctic Circle. In Finnish Lapland, you can sample traditional Sámi culture (dog-sledding and reindeer-herding) go fellwalking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.
If you get into the wilderness to hunt for the aurora borealis, which you should, you can take advantage of Finland's network of kotas, or traditional Lappish log huts that always have firewood. They're the perfect place to warm-up before continuing your hunt for a glimpse of the Northern Lights against the dramatic backdrop of Lapland's frozen wilderness.
When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights?
Historically when’s the best time to go?
Although the absolute best time to look for the Northern lights is during solar maximum, when the sun is at its most active, you don't need to wait until 2024 to see auroras in Finland. If you get to the country's far north between September and April, it's likely that you will see the Northern Lights if you can find clear skies. The key with Northern Lights hunting is to take advantage of the long nights of the Arctic winter. Put yourself in the right place at the right time — and stay there for as long as possible — and you might get lucky.
For 2018, what’s the forecasted best time to go?
Forecasting the Northern Lights means predicting solar activity, which is basically impossible with our current technology. We do know, however, that the Northern Lights are best seen between 65° north and 75° north latitude; Finnish Lapland's latitude of 68° north puts it in the ideal position to experience the Northern Lights.
The months of the equinoxes (September and March) are known to be particularly good for viewings of the Northern Lights because of Earth’s tilt in relation to the sun.
Northern Lights Season in Finland
In which months will you have the best chance of seeing the northern lights?
Although anywhere between September and April will give you a good chance of seeing the northern lights in Finnish Lapland, the nights are especially long between December and February. It's important to get as far away from artificial light as possible, but it's also wise to avoid the full moon, when the sky will be naturally much lighter, and the auroras will be harder to see and to photograph. Travelers should plan to arrive about five days before the new moon for maximum darkness.
Just bear in mind that Northern Lights viewing means being outside from about 9 p.m. until 1 a.m., and in Finland the temperatures regularly sink to -22° Fahrenheit. Sometimes, even lower. Dress appropriately for the conditions and be sure to take frequent hot chocolate breaks.
Best Places to See the Northern Lights
Northern Lights Near Kittilä
Close to Levi, one of Finland’s largest ski resorts, Kittilä has some intriguing options nearby, such as the Harriniva Holiday Centre and Hotel Jarvis, both on the edge of the beautiful Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. The presence of Levi makes flights to Kittilä frequent.
Northern Lights Near Saariselkä
Saariselkä is a great Arctic resort town for winter activities. Finland's northernmost ski resort is a short walk out of town, and the perfect place to wait for the Northern Lights away from the town's light pollution. A short drive south is Kakslauttanen, home to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort's famous glass 'igloo' hotel rooms. They're specifically for guests who want to keep an eye on the sky at all times.
Northern Lights Ivalo
Ivalo is where to fly to visit the vast Lake Inari: the center of local Sámi culture. Here, in the far northeast corner of Finland, close to the Russian border, the Nellim Wilderness Hotel is an ideal base for nightly snowshoeing and husky and snowmobile safaris (while watching out for the Northern Lights, of course). A favorite photograph spot is Paatsjoki Bridge, in Nellim.
Resources for Northern Lights Forecast
SolarHam is a favorite with aurora hunters, as it gives a reliable three-day geomagnetic forecast. Meanwhile, the Aurora Forecast app shows the position of the auroral oval around the Arctic Circle, and also indicates the probability of seeing them where you are.
Another great resource unique to this part of Scandinavia is Yr from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, which will help greatly with finding a cloud-free corridor in Norwegian and Finnish Lapland.
Finland Northern Lights Tours
While it's possible to take a Northern Lights excursion from cities like Tromsø in Norway and Reykjavík in Iceland, in Finnish Lapland that's not really an option (largely because you will already be in the wilderness). Instead, think about planning your entire trip with a tour operator dedicated to finding you the Northern Lights.
The Aurora Zone will put you in a tourist hotel and provide freeze-proof over-clothes, snow boots, thick mittens, and a hat, and will conduct various kinds of Northern Lights viewing trips. Harriniva Holiday Centre, near Kittilä, conducts nightly snow shoe tours in search for the Northern Lights, and can also organize nights in a snow igloo or a wilderness cabin. If you want to master Northern Lights photography, Adventure By Design runs excellent photography tours in Northern Finland and Norway.