As they are called in the northern hemisphere, Northern lights are one of the natural wonders of the world. Lapland is one of the best destinations in Europe for observing the northern lights and spending a special winter vacation. If your time is limited and your number one priority is hunting for aurora borealis, you can head, for example, to Rovaniemi, Levi, or Inari. These are the most popular destinations in Lapland for northern lights with plenty of other winter activities such as ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, husky, and reindeer farms.
If you want to know more about where and when to see the northern lights in Lapland, what is the best way to hunt for aurora in Rovaniemi or choose a northern lights tour in Lapland? Here are the answers to your questions. Don’t forget to read our Finland Travel Guide as well.
Aurora Borealis Meaning
Northern lights (i.e., aurora borealis) is a polar light in the northern hemisphere, while southern light (Aurora Australis) is a light phenomenon in the southern hemisphere.
How Does It Work?
At the poles of the Earth, numerous proton and electron particles that penetrate the atmosphere by the solar wind cause this light phenomenon. These particles ‘stir’ the upper atmosphere and are accompanied by spectacular color effects.
The most common color is green, but you can also see shades of red and violet with a bit of luck. It may appear less frequently in reddish, yellow, or blue colors.
When you take photos, they often show more colors than you can see with the naked eye.
Where to See Northern Lights?
It is primarily observed north of the Arctic Circle in the northern hemisphere. In northern Europe, take a look at the northern sky. The closer you are to the poles, the more activity you can see. Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are the best options in Europe. In America, you can go to Northern Canada or Alaska.
When to See Northern Lights in Lapland?
Important to mention, the solar cycle length is 11 years. In these years the activity varies a lot. The best years will be at the next solar maximum predicted to occur between 2023–2026, with a sunspot range of 95–130. This doesn’t mean that you can’t see northern lights in other years (we saw some from our garden yesterday!), only that those years will be even better.
But let’s get back to the criteria you need for a successful northern lights hunt. 3 important conditions must be met for the polar lights to be visible.
- The northern lights can be observed from autumn to spring, especially in the evening and night hours. The longer the nights are, the more time we have to observe the phenomenon. In summer, Lapland has midnight sun and no darkness at all – which means no visible northern lights.
- Unfortunately, during the daytime (and summer), the brightness prevents the lights from being visible, even though they are still there.
- It is worth going further from settlements and civilization to increase your chances.
- When clouds cover the sky, there is no chance of seeing northern lights, so you need a clear sky.
Strong Northern Lights Activity
- Various metrics can measure the activity. KP is a measure of how far south you can see it from poles.
- The density of the solar wind shows how strong the light phenomenon is. It is actually a much more important factor than the KP.
- In Finland and Sweden, KP 4 means that auroras can be observed, while in the north in Lapland, often KP 2 or 3 is enough.
+1 face north
Find a spot with a clear view of the northern sky. It’s even better if you see the horizon, but that usually requires climbing somewhere high. It’s not that easy in the deep snow, and you will need snowshoes as well. We recommend going with a guide who knows the area and has experience in winter hiking.
Which Is the Best Month for Northern Lights in Rovaniemi and Lapland?
The best months for northern lights are September, February, and March. October and January are good, depending on the frequency of snow and rain clouds covering the sky.
Stay in a Glass Igloo to Watch the Northern Lights
For an unforgettable experience, sleep under the stars (and auroras) in one of the luxurious glass igloos in Lapland.
Northern Lights Forecast Lapland
For example, NASA and the European Space Agency have scientific yet easily understandable northern lights forecast pages. Personally, I like this website for general prediction and aurora borealis forecast.
You can easily see on a map where the northern lights are visible. The green line indicates where it can be detected, while the solid green area indicates the region in which the northern light is present in the sky above you.
On the right side of the screenshot, you can see the aurora intensity. The activity is divided into 3 categories; the lower ones are green, the higher ones are red. Using this map and KP index, you can determine the upcoming 3-7 days if there are any good nights to see the northern lights in Lapland. In southern Lapland, KP 3 is a satisfactory number to watch out for, while in the north, KP 2 is enough if the particles’ density is higher.
The best spots for Aurora Borealis in Lapland
Northern Lights Lapland
Lapland is the best place for northern lights in Finland. Make sure you go at least as north as Rovaniemi, but Levi, Saariselkä, or Ivalo are fantastic options too.
Northern Lights Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is one of the best places to see northern lights in Lapland. It is easy to reach the city by air, train, or bus, and you will have decent chances to observe these light phenomena.
Arktikum or Ounasvaara
Suppose you want to hunt for them on your own, head to the riverside next to the Arktikum museum. If you are more adventurous, climb up to the top of Ounasvaara (you can take a taxi as well and walk 15-20 minutes only). The view can be like this, but the light pollution ruins a bit of the experience.
There is nothing better than a relaxed holiday. To ensure your rest, make sure you reserve and book your accommodation and transportation in advance of your trip.
- Don’t forget to insure yourself during your travels: SafetyWing. Check out their policies HERE. It also covers several virus-related expenses.
- Look for the best prices flight tickets, hotels, and car rentals: Expedia
- Car rental: SIXt
- Accommodation: Booking.com or Agoda. Don’t forget that you can search for Apartments also on Booking.
- Activities: GetYourGuide
- Opinions on hotels and restaurants: TripAdvisor
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About the Author
Katalin is a Lapland-based outdoor enthusiast who loves hiking, road-tripping and traveling with her family. She spends her free time far away from civilization in one of the national parks around the world, explores off the beaten path places, or hops on a road trip with her kids in an RV.
Read more about her adventures and the blog.