Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis, the rainbow bridge to Asgard, call it what you will, this natural phenomenon is fascinating. And with the help of social media, has made its way onto the bucket lists of many, including ours. But where are the Northern Lights? And where is the best place to see the Northern Lights? This travel guide will take you to Finland, way, way north to Lapland. A place where the creative faculties of the mind are inspired, where fantasy worlds are born and where one of the greatest legends we recall today lives on.
Finland – Where is Lapland and How do I Get There?
Where is Lapland? That’s a funny question. There are Swedish Lapland and the “Lappish region” in Norway which is called Finnmark. Then there’s Lapland Finland which is often called Finnish Lapland and borders Norway, Sweden and Russia. Confused yet?
To make it easier we’ll just say it’s a cultural region which spans northern Fennoscandia, including parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia.
Our journey started from the sunny shores of Florida’s Gulf Coast and took us all the way to Lapland Finland, more specifically, its capital city, Rovaniemi — home to a piece of the Arctic Circle, reindeer, Santa Claus and more snow than Narnia (and that’s just the half of it).
For trip planning to Finland try their visitor’s site.
Here are the deets on getting there and where to stay:
- You will want to take any major transatlantic flight to get you “over the pond” so to speak. If you’re in the U.K. flights are easy right into Helsinki.
- Travel Hack – look for the sale flight to any northern European destination than fly into Helsinki followed by a final flight to Rovaniemi.
- Get a transfer from the airport to your hotel 24 EU.
- Be sure to look at flight times and layovers as this journey can be a lengthy one.
We stayed at Lapland Hotel Sky Ounasvaara. Tucked away on a hillside overlooking the city, Hotel Sky was the perfect retreat after spending our days in the snow. We had our very own en suite Finnish Sauna and a portrait window overlooking a winter wonderland. They also have a rooftop where some of the best Auroras can be viewed. They will set an alarm to tell you when they are active.
So Where are the Northern Lights Anyway?
Glad you asked. If you’re just looking for wilderness and Northern Lights you can find that in a few places — Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and sometimes even in the UK. Many ask “where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?”. According to this website it’s Svalbard, maybe.
The best place to view the Northern Lights depends on what your vision of ‘best’ is. Do you want to journey to Middle Earth and pitch a tent in sub-zero climates? Maybe you are more of a ride out on a snowmobile into the wilderness type (then enjoy your sauna and warm hotel room later)?
“Best” is relative.
All these places get activity, but in Rovaniemi, you get the best of both worlds. And when you’re traveling with a kid in tow trust me, you want the warm cozy bed.
Our Northern Lights Experience with Lapland Safaris
This was our third attempt to see the famed Northern Lights, and this time we meant business. The kind of business which gets you mounting a snowmobile for an evening safari into the wilderness of the Arctic Circle.
When you’re a single mom who gets to ride into the night with your only seven-year-old boy to an area of wilderness, where you roast hot dogs and drink hot berry juice to the Northern Lights (let’s be real, the rainbow bridge to Asgard), you are winning. Winning big time.
Now before you say it, yes, they let me drive the snowmobile. I know, I know, after twenty years in Florida it’s almost criminal to say it. I’ve officially trekked a frozen river on a snowmobile in the Arctic, yet I’ve never ridden (much less driven) a jet ski. I even have the official diploma to prove it.
And laughter ensues…
Let’s circle back. I got to drive my very own snow mobile! On a frozen river! Into the wilderness! Beneath the magic of the Northern Lights! The roasted wieners were a bonus in my opinion!
Meanwhile, the Little got the “Prince Little” treatment as he was chauffeured in his very own special sleigh (which our incredible tour Guide led). And that’s exactly what every guest with Lapland Safaris gets to do.
But I’ll freeze!
I know! That’s why Lapland Safaris has an entire location dedicated to your warm and fuzziness! You get suited up, head to toe, with the best thermal gear money, can buy. Kids too! Everyone is snug as a bug riding into the night. Just watch this video and you’ll see what I’m talking about!
The Safari Trek
- Everyone received training on how to operate their snow mobile
- Couples rode in two’s
- rode alone while my son was carted in his own sled with wool blankets
I wasn’t the least bit nervous about riding onto a frozen river. I was far too amazed by the quietness which seemed louder than the engine of my mobile.
After about twenty minutes of therapeutic riding, we came to the forest trailhead. Birch and pine trees towered over us, completely covered in snow, as if they were dipped into a bucket of powder and every flake just stuck.
Photo Paul Williams Creative Commons License
The snow-covered trail wound its way over little hills and finally to open space. From here we hiked a short distance to a Kota (a teepee for the Native Laplanders called Sami) where we roasted hot dogs and drank warm berry juice. Our guides told us all about the Northern Lights and how they are formed.
If I said this was magical I would be discounting it terribly. It was extraordinary. How’s that for a home school science lesson.
Things You Should Know About Seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland Finland
- Think about your chances of seeing rain in the rainy season. You know it’s a good chance but there are no guarantees. If you really want to catch the Northern lights you need to plan. This is a great prediction tool.
- Catching the magical phenomenon requires clear and dark skies and a viewing spot not affected by light pollution, like street lights and neon signs.
- In Rovaniemi, you don’t have to walk far from the city center to find a good spot, and really strong Auroras can be seen even with interference from artificial light.
Tips for Doing this Trip with Your Kid(s)
I’m going to pull a Captain Obvious here, It’s cold in the Arctic Circle. To make sure this trip is a happy place for everyone, proper planning is required. This is also an incredible educational experience for children of all ages and a perfect opportunity to educate them on the world around us!
- Warmth lives in the base layer. So does the cold. Choose the right fabric to wick away moisture and lock in heat so you don’t cold.
- You don’t need bulky ski gear. Lapland Safaris offers all of the necessary equipment for your excursions. If you want to play outside however, be mindful of the temperatures and dress according to the guide above.
- Children can get cold faster than adults, and they might not even tell you. Ask them!
- Use waterproof gloves. Kids love playing with snow. Snow turns to water when it melts again teh warmth of the body.
- Don’t forget chap stick. There’s nothing worse than a cranky kid with chapped lips.
- Educate before you go and during your trip. Here is a great video for kids on how the Northern Lights are made.
Just for Fun
Many legends come from the existence of Northern Lights. Here are some you may want to look up and tell your children.
Whether you’re flying overseas, from the U.K. or other European cities, A Northern Lights safari needs to be on your magical winter wonderland bucket list for 2016. You have this year to catch the end of the solar cycle flares and then it’s another ten years in waiting. So take off work and take in the sweet magic of Mother Nature in Finland.
What’s your idea of a magical winter wonderland? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post!