Our Northern Lights Blog
When fully qualified and dauntingly clever people such as Jyrki Manninen, Deputy Director of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory in Finnish Lapland comment on the prospects for the new Aurora season, our ears prick up and we listen.
An article in the Finnish press on 31 August 2021 asked Manninen for his expert opinion on one of, if not the most, asked questions regarding the Aurora Borealis.
When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
Autumnal Colour during Daylight Hours
It is jokingly said that autumn in Finnish Lapland starts at 9 am on the 9th day of the 9th month and lasts for exactly three weeks. Clearly, this isn’t an exact science and with the climate seemingly changing on an almost daily basis, those dates should not be taken as fact.
What is certain is that if you time your trip to Lapland well then you can expect all the wonderful colours we associate with autumn during the day and dancing celestial lights once darkness falls.
Much of Finnish Lapland is covered by forests and fells and in autumn the landscapes are bathed in burnished shades of orange, gold, brown, ochre and myriad others. Indeed, the colours closely match those of the traditional dress worn by the indigenous Sami people.
It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to in order to see the Aurora Borealis.
Every year, we set our partners up in the Aurora Zone the challenge of sending us images of the first Auroral displays of the new season. This year, our long-term partner Markku Inkila was well and truly up for the challenge, and he wasn’t going to allow anybody to steal his thunder.
Markku, took himself and his camera into the wilderness surrounding his home in northeast Finland and spent the next 6 (yes SIX!!) hours scouring the northern skies for signs of wraith-like green lights.
Initially, his dedication yielded no reward, and he was worried that the imminent arrival of morning’s daylight would obscure the lights if they did occur. However, as is often the case with the Northern Lights, patience was rewarded. Not long before dawn, he noticed wispy green lights appearing in the sky.
In just a few weeks, the 24 hours of daylight from the Midnight Sun will begin to dissipate and the northern skies will grow darker as autumn approaches.
The Midnight Sun is something to behold but it doesn’t half frustrate Aurora hunters in the Nordic countries because constant daylight renders the Northern Lights invisible. The lights are there, the displays are happening but unfortunately, they are invisible to the human eye.
All changes in mid to late-August as the days grow shorter and the nights become darker. There’s always excitement in Aurora hunting circles as to where the first displays of the new season will appear and, who will capture the phenomenon.
Whoever does see them first will have to be up pretty late at night because in late August there remains a large amount of residual light even after sunset. It is only in September when true darkness prevails and the Aurora presents itself in its full glory.
Here at The Aurora Zone, we send more people to Finland than any other destination. Unsurprisingly, we were absolutely delighted when the announcement came last week that the country is reopening its borders to fully vaccinated travellers.
We immediately booked five seats on Finnair flights to Ivalo and will be heading north in search of the Northern Lights in mid-September. We can’t wait. After so long without travelling abroad it will feel like freedom and, unlike many other destinations, we will head to Finland with absolutely no Covid worries.
Is it safe to travel to Finland?
Naturally, a lot of people are understandably reticent about travelling in the post-Covid era. However, with a bit of investigation, it transpires that you are far, far more likely to contract the dreaded lurgy at home than you are in the wilds of Northern Finland.
Even better, if you really do want to come home at the end of your holiday, there will be no need to quarantine when you do. Finland is on the UK’s Amber List and the chances of it moving to red are minuscule.
“Fires over which a tribe of dwarfs, half the length of a canoe paddle and so strong they caught whales with their hands, boiled blubber.”
“Rare, red Auroras”. It sounds like something Michael Palin’s Pontius Pilate might have struggled with in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. However, for our ancestors, red Auroras were nothing to laugh at, for they were almost universally perceived as portents of doom.
If you are seeking a peaceful holiday to unwind, don't just go off-the-beaten-track, travel out of season to uncover one of the best-kept secrets of Northern Lights hunting; autumn! Autumn is one of the best times of year to see the Northern Lights, however, it is often overlooked in favour of the snowy winter months.
If I could be anywhere right now, it would be Finland; over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle at the Holiday Village Valle Hotel, looking out over the frozen Teno River towards Norway on the opposite bank.
The people of Finland refer to the north of Finland as Finnish Lapland; in the north of Finnish Lapland lies Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality of Finland which borders Norway. Just outside the main village, this cosy base offers a wonderful escape, one which I was lucky enough to experience in December 2018.