The Northern Lights in Finland – A Fascinating Sight
Whether they’re red, blue, green, or purple, the Northern Lights are always breathtaking. Every year, they draw thousands of tourists to witness this natural spectacle in person. For good reason, the Northern Lights in Finland are some of the best displays of their kind in the world.
But when and where exactly do you have the greatest chance of seeing the lights in the sky? And why do they only show up in the winter? We will dive into this and more tips to get the perfect view. In the meantime, we’d like to share some Finnish myths and stories surrounding this natural phenomenon.
Finnish Myths and Scientific Discovery
The colorful lights in the sky have many names – Northern Lights, Polar Lights, Aurora Borealis, etc. The Finns, for example, call them Revontulet, which roughly translates to “fire of the fox.” This term dates back to a myth that their ancestors used to explain the glow in the sky.
According to legend, the lights are created by special foxes. In the past, the inhabitants of Finland believed that if these foxes ran fast enough over the mountains, their fox tails would leave sparkling trails in the snow, creating what is then seen as the Northern Lights. The lights play an important role in even more legends in Finnish mythology. Most stories involve gods dancing or even fighting.
Nowadays, science has discovered an explanation: electrically charged particles are created on the surface of the sun and then leave the surface. The magnetic poles attract a few of them, which then hit the earth’s atmosphere at an incredibly high speed. The charged particles collide with atoms and molecules, creating what we call auroral ovals. When the particles discharge, energy is released and presents as a glow in the sky.
Even though the scientific explanation is interesting and helpful to know, the myths fit much better with the romantic flair of the Northern Lights in Finland.
Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Finland
It is a common belief that the best times to see the Northern Lights in Finland are in November, December, and January, but this isn’t the case. You can, of course, see the Northern Lights during these months, but the most spectacular northern light storms tend to occur in September, October, February, and March. In other words: autumn and spring. Solar activity is not only at its peak during these months, but also at its most consistent.
Moreover, you need clear skies to get an especially impressive photo, and in spring, you’ll have the best chance for cloudless nights. The sky is also the clearest on cold nights! So, if you want to see the Northern Lights in Finland’s wild, make sure you bring warm clothes and be prepared to wait.
Patience is particularly important since it’s hard to predict when the lights will appear. There are websites and apps to track this, but at the end of the day, nature is unpredictable. In general, your best chance of seeing the lights is between 6:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., and the strongest lights usually appear between 9:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Do Northern Lights Only Happen in Winter?The spectacle usually lasts between 15 and 30 minutes before disappearing again, but it sometimes reappears later at night. That being said, you’ll have to pay attention – some lights only last for a couple of seconds.
Do Northern Lights Only Happen in Winter?
Simply said, they don’t only exist in winter. They’re present all year round, but only visible during the colder months. The main reason for this is brightness – or in this case, darkness. It’s simply too bright to see them during the summer.
Because they’re fundamentally just energy in the form of light, the Northern Lights are best observed when the sky is as dark as possible. So then, where should you go to see them?
Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Finland
There are two rules of thumb for finding the best view:
- The darker, the better.
- The further north, the better.
Artificial lights make it difficult to see the Northern Lights, so a city like Helsinki isn’t the most suitable place. It’s better to visit secluded areas in nature without light pollution.
Northern Finland, the region of Finnish-Lapland, is particularly attractive because it is not very populated and thus, there’s less light pollution. Additionally, you’ll be closer to the North Pole and the aurora ovals. The further north you travel, the better your chances of having a spectacular view. In Finnish-Lapland, on average, you can see the lights on 200 days a year.
Two Finnish towns are particularly popular with aurora enthusiasts. In Kilpisjärvi and Utsjoki, this natural phenomenon can be seen five days a week here!
Kilpisjärvi is a small town on the outskirts of north-western Finland. Due to its location near the Three-Country Cairn, it offers many excursion possibilities. The town is also accessible via a number of ports, including the airport in Tromsø, Norway.
Kilpisjärvi is part of the community of Enontekiö, which has a population of 1,900. Nature is almost untouched and deserted, so there is hardly any light pollution here. With the town surrounded by the largest mountain area in Finland, take the opportunity to go on day trips to places like the nearby Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park while you wait for nightfall.
The lake Kilpisjrävi next to the village provides a striking backdrop if you want to take a photo of the colourful lights at night. Of course, you can look at the lights on your own, but if you would like to see them from several angles, hire a tour guide. They’ll take you on a romantic trip where you can choose to sit in a heated glass igloo pulled by a snowmobile, for example.
Utsjoki is Europe’s northernmost community, with a population of about 1,200 and many more reindeer. The most convenient way to reach Utsjoki is to fly into the airport in Ivalo, but even that is still a two-hour drive from the city centre.
The majority of Utsjoki’s population is part of the Sámi tribe, an indigenous people of northern Finland. They are very welcoming and frequently invite visitors into their world and traditions. The Sámi people are excellent guides who can teach you everything you need to know about the Northern Lights in Finland and the best viewing spots. Reindeer sleighs are the most popular means of transportation, which makes for a magical and cosy atmosphere.
A trip to see the Northern Lights in Finland is definitely worth it! These colourful, seemingly floating lights in the sky will undoubtedly be a memorable experience.
Finland offers the perfect mix for a polar light tour. Lapland is sparsely populated, without much light pollution. Nevertheless, the Finns are well-prepared to accommodate you in various hotels, holiday homes, or igloos. You’ll be in good hands in Finland and all set to enjoy an incredible sight.
A ride on a reindeer sleigh, accompanied by indigenous people, and the Northern Lights shining in all the colours of the sky – what could be more magical?