It has been awhile but if you have been following my other social media channels, you would know that I was in Arctic Europe/Lapland for a week. You can check out my video here in case you have not seen it yet:
I understand that there is a huge fascination and interest to visit the Lapland region particularly for the Northern Lights and so I thought it might be useful to write a mini guide about the region. Partly also because I feel like most people only know about ONE resort in the area when there are so many other options to choose from.
Also if anyone tells you that the Northern lights are “disappearing”, I hope you know that the Northern lights is a natural phenomenon that no one can control although the locals did mention that they have seen some of the best Northern lights in their life this 2016/17 season.
When to visit:
This is possibly the most commonly asked question and because no one really knows when the Northern lights will go on display, you can only try to increase your chances by 1) Going as far north as possible, 2) Staying out in a dark dark place and 3) Pray for a cloudless night.
If you are afraid of the cold and hate snow, the local recommend the autumn season between Aug to Oct where the Northern lights would start to appear as the days get darker and you might have a chance of viewing a “Double Aurora” where the aurora reflects off a lake/river. You would not be able to do winter activities then but if you want to enjoy cheaper prices + fewer tourists and only want to chase the Northern lights then it is a good option.
However the most popular period of travel is between Nov/Dec/Jan where it is the darkest and coldest period. You would have to be okay with paying premium prices, squeezing with other tourists and dealing with the frigid cold (-20 to 30 degrees type of cold).
So personally if you were to ask me, I would recommend March as a good month to go because 1) There is still snow to do winter activities 2) There is more sun and daylight 3) It is not so cold 4) There are less tourists around and 5) You still have a good opportunity to see the Northern lights.
Where to stay
I think that we need to take price out of the consideration here because you have to be prepared to spend should you wish to visit Scandinavia. Instead we should consider what type of experience you would like to go for, other than viewing the Northern lights.
The most popular destination is Rovaniemi because it is marketed as the “Home of Santa Claus”. You can get there by plane or an overnight VR train from Helsinki.
There are many hotels to choose from including:
It is a good place to go for an all rounded trip where you can visit Santa Claus, visit the Snowhotel, do winter activities and also pop over to Kemi to do the Ice Breaker that I did in this video:
However it is also the most commercial place to visit and you have to expect a lot of tourists.
If you would like to be near Rovaneimi but slightly further away from the crowd, you can consider Luosto which has these igloos at Santa Aurora Hotel and nearby there are log cabins as well at Lapland Hotel Luostotunturi.
In this area they have an Amethyst mine which I have not personally visited but know that it is quite a popular attraction there.
For a more homey, cosy experience, I would recommend visiting Nellim or Muotka. It is accessible via flight from Helsinki to Ivalo. These two places are run by a couple and they offer unique accommodation like…
This Aurora Cabin in Muotka:
These log cabins in Nellim:
And these Aurora Bubbles in Nellim:
Somehow when I was there, I felt very connected with nature and it felt like a very peaceful escapade. I believe that there are also good cross country skiing spots there too.
It is also possible to combine a visit to Inari (near Muotka/Nellim) with a visit to Kirkenes as well. In Kirkenes they have a Snowhotel which is worth a visit, these cosy Gamme cabins as pictured above and King Crabs!
A fun fact is that you are actually helping the environment eating the King Crabs there because there are so many of them there that they are destroying the seabed and when they run out of food they actually…eat each other.
It was also in Kirkenes that I got to go on a local home visit which made the experience that much more special. It was so cute that the locals were so enthusiastic and excited to have us visit their homes. I believe that this activity can soon be booked through the Snowhotel in Kirkenes.
There are many other options of course but these are a few that I am familiar with and also enjoy working with. Hope this will be useful to anyone planning your next Northern Lights holiday!