We received lots of brilliant entries from our clients for our #AuroraZoneMoments competition this month. From snowmobiling adventures and dog sledding safaris through the Arctic wilderness, to watching the elusive Aurora Borealis dance in the sky above, March in the Aurora Zone has provided some very special bucket list moments for many of our clients.
To understand how the Solar Cycle works and to maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights during all parts of the Solar Cycle, our guide below explains everything you need to know to ensure you can make the most of your hunt for the Aurora.
What is The Solar Cycle?
The Solar Cycle is the 11-year cycle in which the solar activity of the Sun falls and rises in intensity. While the Sun appears from a distant 93,000,000 miles as a constant ball of fire, the variation in activity on its surface is measured by the number of Sunspots, or regions of reduced surface temperature.
Essentially, the number of Sunspots rises and falls naturally over the course of this 11-year period, with the length of the cycle varying from as little as 8 to as much as 14 years.
Although the length of the cycle can vary in length, since records began in 1755 the sunspot cycle has always followed the same pattern of increasing to “Solar Maximum” (the point at which the number of Sunspots peak) and decreasing to “Solar Minimum” (the point at which the number of Sunspots is at its lowest).
Figure 1. Credit: NASA/SDO
A view like no other
The remote Finnish landscape, one of the last remaining wilderness regions in Europe, is an enchanting sight to behold. Luckily with a stay in a Glass Igloo, you never have to take your eyes off this spectacular scenery as the half-glass roof provides a wonderful vantage point, right above your bed. What’s more, as Finland witnesses the Northern Lights on roughly 200 evenings of the year, what better way to search the skies long into the night than from your cosy Glass Igloo?
As one of the most sought-after accommodation options, many of our holidays offer a stay in a Glass Igloo in Finland. You could opt to start your Northern Lights holiday in style with your first night in these impressive structures or you could top off an end to a brilliant trip by spending your last night searching for the Aurora from the comfort of your cabin. We even have options should you wish to spend the duration of your trip in a Glass Igloo.
Though we highly recommend taking part in as many dedicated Northern Lights activities as you can, a Glass Igloo gives you the wonderful opportunity to continue your search for the magical display as late as you would like! Scroll to learn more about these memorable accommodation options.
The much-loved Northern Lights Village in Saariselkä, in the North East region of Finnish Lapland, opened a new resort for the first time for the winter 2019/2020 season. I was fortunate enough to be amongst the first ever guests to stay here. Located in Levi, a ski town south west of Saariselkä, the hotel is only a 25-minute transfer from Kittilä airport. Despite the short transfer time, Levi is a remote location far away from light pollution - perfect for Northern Lights viewing.
Coronavirus Travel Advice
As a small, family-run company we have faced numerous challenges since COVID-19 began to impact our lives back in early March.
Our primary concern throughout has been to ensure the safety of our guests and to act as quickly as possible to make new arrangements for those impacted, or to provide refunds where possible. Our team has worked exceptionally hard to ensure that this happens.
We have also been working with our local partners throughout to ensure that our mutual responsibilities are met and that we all come out of this very difficult situation fighting fit.
We have been exceptionally grateful and touched by the overwhelmingly positive response from our guests who had their holidays either cut short or unavoidably cancelled due to constantly developing government guidance and restrictions. Most of our guests who were not able to travel as planned in March and April of 2020 have now successfully rearranged to a new departure date in 2021 to enjoy the holidays they were originally looking forward to; we promise they will be worth the wait!
Our local partners, most of which we have worked with for many years, have been outstanding both in working with our operations team to accommodate and assist our guests as events unfolded during their holiday, but also when rearranging bookings to alternative dates. Together we have been able to secure some high-value benefits for those guests who could not travel and have since postponed.
Future bookings and holidays
We are constantly monitoring the advice provided by the UK Government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as well as the guidance provided by the governments in our destinations.
The situation across Scandinavia currently looks exceptionally positive. There has been a range of approaches from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland but domestic travel is now open in all four countries and no serious COVID-19 outbreaks have impacted our remote destinations.
All suppliers are of course reviewing their procedures in order to provide additional peace of mind to guests when they do travel, and if you have any questions regarding this then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
If your trip departs on or after 1st September 2020:
All holidays departing after 1st September are expected to run as originally planned.
We continue to monitor local conditions, the FCO and all relevant governmental advice and will review all trips. We will update guests a minimum of 30 days prior to departure and we expect the final decision regarding travel will be made at 21 days prior to departure which is in keeping with industry guidelines.
Further advice for UK travellers
Though we endeavour to inform our customers of any significant changes, this is a fast-moving situation and therefore we also ask for our travellers to keep up-to-date with the relevant travel advice.
UK health authorities www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public
FCO travel advice www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) TravelHealthPro website travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries
The NHS website www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Although many people consider February to be one of the worst months of the year, here at The Aurora Zone we tend to disagree! The UK might be cold, wet and a little bit miserable but February in the Arctic Circle is a different matter! Whether it's the chance to try your hand at mushing, explore stunning snow-covered wildernesses or go in search of the Northern Lights, there is plenty to keep you entertained!
SAS have announced new direct flights to Luleå, Sweden from the UK, which means that our winter trips to Luleå are now even easier to reach.
The Aurora Zone have been operating Northern Lights trips and winter holidays to Luleå for many years, but with new direct flights which will be available from December 2020, visitors can now fly directly to Luleå from London Stanstead. Working in conjunction with SAS and Visit Sweden, the new route makes this pristine corner of Swedish Lapland much more accessible, and is considered greener, too!
Swedish Lapland; directly this way
As the original Northern Lights Holiday specialists, we have been researching and visiting prime Aurora destinations for many, many years. Based on our experience, we know that in order to witness Mother Nature’s greatest display, it’s best to get off-the-beaten-track and into darker skies.
Travelling to these remote regions has not always been easy. However, alongside our local partners who are passionate about showing you their home, we are continuously working to offer better routes to these stunning wilderness areas. What’s more, with responsible travel at the forefront of our minds, it is our priority to find greener alternatives wherever possible.
That’s why we’re proud to have worked alongside both SAS and Visit Sweden to champion a new CO2-reducing direct flight from London Stansted to Luleå in Swedish Lapland - a renowned Northern Lights destination and a simply stunning corner of the world.
That means that this winter season, it will actually be possible to reduce your carbon footprint on your Northern Lights hunting holiday.
Scroll to learn more about this wonderful new route.
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