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.
Figure 1. Credit: NASA/SDO
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).
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.
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!
Choosing an unusual honeymoon destination to celebrate your nuptials has never been more popular. With many couples going against the expectation of three weeks by the beach, there are plenty of exciting – and romantic – experiences in other destinations that make for great offbeat honeymoon ideas.
When you move away from a ‘typical honeymoon’ a whole plethora of unforgettable experiences await and here at The Aurora Zone, we’ve carefully crafted our Northern Lights holidays for a honeymoon that’s both special and a little different. Take a look at some of our top trips!
With so many trips in colder climates, we get lots of questions about what clothing is provided in our winter destinations. During a recent trip to Inari, Finland our Product Manager Amy decided to take some pictures of the clothing we provide to help explain. As the clothing is often not what many people will have worn before, we explain why each item is an important piece of kit for heading out into winter weather.
Our client feedback is exceptionally important to us and nothing makes us happier than hearing about our guest's bucket list moments on their Northern Lights holiday. That's why we were thrilled to hear from Mark and Jacquetta who recently returned from Wilderness Hotel Inari on our Aurora Hunting Adventure trip and by the sounds of it, experienced a holiday of a lifetime...
Although December didn’t provide the white Christmas that many of us in the UK were perhaps hoping for, we are pleased to say that Lapland didn’t not disappoint on that front. In fact, the snow-covered landscapes of Finnish and Swedish Lapland helped make December another brilliant month for our #AuroraZoneMoments competition!
Here at The Aurora Zone we think a new decade deserves to be welcomed in with style. That’s why throughout 2019 we worked hard to carefully craft brand new Northern Lights holidays and add new elements to some of our favourite trips. These exciting additions are here to help you tick not just the Aurora from your bucket list, but also some unbelievable Arctic experiences.
So, here are 20 new Northern Lights trips for you to choose from in 2020:
Sweden’s reputation for innovative design just keeps growing, and the newest addition to its list of spectacular accommodation doesn’t disappoint.
Arctic Bath is a wellness hotel with an innovative touch. Built to float on the stunning Lule River during the summer and freeze in place throughout the winter, the hotel offers the ultimate peaceful retreat year-round.
Connected by floating walkways, the circular Arctic Bath features three saunas, a spa treatment room, a hot bath, outdoor and indoor showers and two dressing rooms.
As per Nordic tradition, there is also a cold-water bath for guests to take an icy plunge and add to their wellbeing experience.
Guests can choose to stay in one of the six floating cabins or land-based cabins.
On land, you can make use of the huge glass windows to search the skies for the Auroras and in the floating cabins, you can enjoy a brilliant view from your wooden deck outside.
Learn more on our accommodation page here or scroll to find out more about this innovative design.
If you have kept track of any of our previous blogs, you will probably be aware that here at The Aurora Zone we love autumn! Despite your reservations, there is a very good reason for the fact we regularly try to convince anyone that will listen that autumn is an excellent time to visit the Arctic Circle – namely the Northern Lights viewing potential!
Here at The Aurora Zone it is fair to say that we love Christmas! In fact, as the snow has started to fall in Finnish Lapland over the past few days, many of us in the office have begun our countdowns in preparation of the big day.
However, despite being a great time to celebrate with friends and family, it always seems to be over far too quickly, leaving many of us trying to fight off the dreaded post-Christmas blues as we amble back into work after enjoying food, drink and plenty of festivities!
Here at The Aurora Zone, we absolutely love seeing our clients’ images from their Northern Lights adventures with us. Whether they are searching for the Aurora on the back of a snowmobile, trying their hand at mushing on a dog sledding safari or simply taking in the stunning Arctic scenery, we couldn’t be happier than when we see our clients ticking off some incredible experiences from their bucket lists!
Witness the Northern Lights with our handy guide
The Aurora Borealis is arguably Mother Nature’s greatest spectacle. Nothing can describe standing in a remote pristine wilderness, far from light pollution and looking up at the starry sky as the spellbinding colours start to take shape. It really is no wonder this remarkable sight features so highly on many people’s bucket lists.
As the only holiday company solely dedicated to helping you witness the Northern Lights, we have plenty of experience in all things Aurora. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you choose the perfect Northern Lights holiday and tick this phenomenal experience off your bucket list.
If you have never been out into the dark night searching for the Aurora, there can be a lot of mystery surrounding this natural occurrence. Our Aurora Travel Experts have tried and tested almost all of the variables - from when and where to visit, to how you might travel into the Arctic night.
Scroll to see our top tips!
During my first trip to Finland, I was thrilled to find out that my itinerary included snowmobiling in Harriniva. Now, I’m an experienced, confident driver but when I found out my first time on a snowmobile was going to be at night, I have to admit I was a little apprehensive. After watching the introduction video, which was very informative and had a touch a humour to help settle the nerves, we headed out to be shown the controls and get ready to set off.
Recently, NASA made their entire media library accessible to the public and since then, we’ve been excitedly scrolling through some spectacular images from space. Now, the Northern Lights are mesmerising to see from land but there’s something about a space station’s unique vantage point that really shows off just how magical this display is.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite extensively over the last three years working with the Aurora Zone and have enjoyed some truly memorable experiences. What I have had less luck with, however, is the Northern Lights. Whilst my colleagues kept coming back from trips with tales of majestic Auroras, I seem to have hit periods of cloud and stories of ‘you should have been here last night it was incredible’.
As we have mentioned in many a previous blog, March is a brilliant time to go in search of the Northern Lights. This is not just our personal opinion either! Studies by NASA solar physicist David Hathaway show that March is one of the most geomagnetically active months of the year (see graph below), and the reason for this is springtime. Or to be more accurate the spring equinox.
From the innovative creators of the Northern Lights Village in Saariselkä, comes the fantastic Levi Resort.
Located 16km from Levi centre and featuring 40 Aurora Cabins, the village has been designed to give you a truly memorable stay during your winter holiday to Finnish Lapland and the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
These glass-roofed cabins will give you clear views of the night sky right from the comfort of your bed. What better way to search for the Northern Lights than while you’re wrapped up warm in your duvet looking up at the sky in an Aurora Cabin?
Levi sits in the far north of Finland, high above the Arctic Circle putting it well within the Aurora Zone. This means that it has great Northern Lights viewing potential and with their glass roofs, these Aurora Cabins certainly make the most of it.
Learn more about the resort below or click here to view our holidays to Levi.
Dedicated Aurora accommodation
We’re thrilled to introduce the innovative design in Aurora accommodation from the Apukka Resort in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland; the Aurora 360 Cabin.
You’ll be nice and cosy inside the wonderful two-tiered cabin. It comes equipped with electric fireplace and a panoramic glass roof right above your bed for 360o views of the Arctic sky.
Sleeping under a starry sky is enticing enough but with the prospect of seeing the Northern Lights dance above you as you lay in bed, this experience becomes unmissable.
This exclusive accommodation is only available at the Apukka Resort and is a wonderful addition to your Northern Lights holiday. Whether you are looking for a relaxing retreat in the wilderness or you want to take on some adventurous Arctic activities, we offer many different trips to Apukka.
Click here to view all Apukka Resort holidays or scroll down to learn more about the fantastic Aurora 360 Cabin.
Many people associate the Northern Lights with the cold depths of winter, and though we have seen some excellent displays come out of our Aurora Zone destinations this season, we’re also extremely excited to see what March will bring.
A question we are asked almost every day here at The Aurora Zone is “when is the best time to see the Northern Lights?”. Now, when dealing with a natural phenomenon such as the Aurora Borealis, it is pretty hard to answer this question with any degree of certainty as its appearance can rarely be predicted accurately much more than a few hours in advance.
This is the 29th annual rendition of the hotel which saw 34 artists from 13 countries help to create the structure made completely of snow and ice. Nature is the inspiration behind many of the suites this year and we’re excited to show you the photos from the grand reveal.
The key thing to note about Coronal Holes is that they are one of the causes of solar winds which, in turn, cause the Northern Lights to appear in our skies. Although less violent than Coronal Mass Ejections (the other source of solar wind), they are more stable. So much so, that they often reappear 27 days after their first appearance on the surface of the sun.
If you read our blogs regularly then you will remember that we recently discussed why we really love Coronal Holes (if not you can catch up here). Not only do Coronal Holes produce high-speed streams of Solar Wind which often manifest themselves as the Northern Lights but they also help in predicting Auroral activity too.
If you are like us, then you will probably know the feeling of watching as the excitement builds and builds towards the 25th December before it crashes down again on the 26th- that is of course until the 31st December!
Now, we love a New Year’s party as much as the next person and some of the fireworks displays on offer can be wonderful. However, if you really want to celebrate in style and enjoy a light show like no other then there really is only one thing to do – book yourself a New Year Northern Lights escape!
Quite some time ago, we wrote an article debunking fears that the Northern Lights are set to disappear as the Sun approaches a period of reduced activity known as Solar Minimum. The article highlighted that yes, solar activity is likely to reduce but, happily, the incidences of Coronal Holes is expected to increase.
It may still only be October but the first snow has already started to fall in Lapland and winter is well on its way! Here at The Aurora Zone, this news fills us with excitement as in our opinion there is something quite special about chasing after the Northern Lights in spectacular snow-covered landscapes.
However, something that has to be even more special than hunting the Aurora in the snowy Arctic wilderness is the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in your very own winter wonderland on your very own festive Northern Lights adventure!
We are blue in the face from telling anybody who will listen that autumn is an excellent time to search for the Aurora Borealis. Scientific research and findings from various esteemed Solar Physicists repeatedly point to increased geomagnetic activity (and hence, Auroral displays) in the weeks around the autumn and spring equinoxes.
The big question therefore, is; has this new aurora hunting season started well?
Here at The Aurora Zone, there is nothing we want more than for our clients to have the best possible chance of witnessing the Northern Lights. One of the ways we try to optimise your chances is by learning all we can about the underlying science which causes Auroral displays (you can find out more about this on our website under ‘The Science of the Northern Lights’).
Timo Halonen and his wife Anne run Hotel Korpikartano an idyllic hotel in the breath-taking location of Menesjärvi in Finnish Lapland. Timo has a passion for photography and loves being out with his camera. We caught up with him after another fantastic Northern Lights season to talk about his love for photography and the magical Northern Lights.
For those of you that don’t know, the Sámi are the indigenous people of the Lapland region. They were semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers who made their home in this unique part of northern Scandinavia approximately 4000 years ago, making them one of the oldest cultures in Europe.
The Northern Lights season may be at a close as summer draws nearer, but fear not the Auroras will not be gone forever. In fact, here at The Aurora Zone, we think that the beginning of the Northern Lights season in autumn is a pretty special time of year and arguably one of the best times to go on an Aurora hunting adventure.
Another Aurora hunting season is drawing to a close in Northern Scandinavia. The Northern Lights will still be visible well into April but, during the 24-hour daylight of summer’s Midnight Sun, all an Aurora hunter can do is catch up on lost sleep and long for the darker nights of autumn.
March 2018 has been one of the best months for Auroral activity in many a long year, so we did some digging. The upshot of our research is that if you want to see the Northern Lights then some of your best chances are almost certainly around the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.
The search for the Northern Lights is quite often described as a ‘hunt’, suggesting the magical lights are akin an elusive, endangered wild animal you’re hoping to catch a quick glimpse off in its natural habitat before it spots you and runs for safety. In my opinion, this isn’t far from the truth.
Tranquil Torassieppi in spring was everything it promised to be; a picturesque smattering of colourfully painted cabins scattered amongst a delightful woodland setting at the edge of a wide, deep-frozen lake. Here perched my "glamping" accommodation; an Aurora Dome, a kind of luxury man-made snow globe where I would be cocooned for the night.
Have you noticed that there has been far less mentioned in the media recently about Auroral displays over the UK and yet pictures of the Northern Lights taken further north continue to flood onto social media sites?
This is exactly what we said would happen in our blog back in November and given that we are dealing with something as unpredictable as Mother Nature, we are prepared to give ourselves a hearty pat on the back.
If you were lucky enough to enjoy one of our Northern Lights holidays to Muotka or Nellim this winter you will be familiar with our representative Ben. We caught up with Ben and here’s what he had to say.
How many times did you see the Northern Lights this winter?
Too many times to count. Every show is different which is what makes it so unique and special. For me, the times when I enjoy them the most is when I can see the different colours and the incredible movement. When it's like that it can't fail to send shivers down your spine.
Credit: Marrku Inkila
The essence of the article was as follows:
“One strange side effect of the equinox is a dramatically increased likelihood of auroras………….
NASA data shows that geomagnetic disturbances are twice as likely to occur around the equinoxes (March-April), (September-October) than around the solstices. Why? The answer is likely the same reason for the season: axial tilt."
(Image taken 17/03/16 by Antti Pietikainen)
This winter Katrina Seator has been working as our representative in Finland, looking after our Aurora Zone clients who were staying in Harriniva and Torassieppi. As this season draws to a close we asked Katrina to tell us about some of her favourite experiences of the season and for any top tips for our future travellers.
Dog Sledding and the Northern Lights in Greenland
As Product and Operations Manager here at the Aurora Zone, I have been a regular visitor to the more northerly and remote corners of Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway for many years. At first, the thought of travelling to places that lie north of the Arctic Circle was somewhat daunting but with growing experience it is something with which I have grown very comfortable and I occasionally found myself digging around for evermore remote places to visit.
Our forefathers believed that the Northern Lights were anything from spirits of the departed to vanquished warriors to the gods themselves.
Some saw the lights as a portent of good, guests travelling to a celestial wedding for example but, in the main, the lights were generally associated with something more malevolent.
We’ve been looking through our vast library of images to illustrate just why our ancestors held the Aurora in such reverence. Here are a few examples.
A Very Angry God?
That is one very, very frightening face reflected in the mirror-like waters of the Paatsjoki River in Northern Finland.
I love my job because it takes me to my favourite part of the world, Northern Scandinavia on a regular basis.
I’ve been to Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland on numerous occasions and at many different times of year.
I love the autumn colours and the mind-fuddling 24 hour daylight midnight sun of the summer months. I love the heart of winter when the days are short and the grey/blue light of the Polar nights predominates. I love early January when the sun reappears above the horizon and bathes the snowy white landscapes in a pink glow.
Most of all however, I love early spring and whilst I travel to Scandinavia on business at any time of year, I always holiday there in middle to late March.
Cloud cover is the Aurora chaser’s worst enemy.
If the sky is cloudy you won’t see the Northern Lights, simple as that. However, this is also one of the reasons that Abisko in Swedish Lapland is one of the very best places in the world to see the Aurora Borealis.
In terms of topography and meteorology, Abisko is blessed by a happy combination of favourable winds and cloud-dispersing mountains which work in tandem to create some of Northern Scandinavia’s most cloud-free skies.
I work for a Tour Operator called The Aurora Zone and one of the best aspects of my job is searching for the Northern Lights.
Katrina- Aurora Zone rep
Here at The Aurora Zone, we know how important it is to have someone on hand to answer any questions or queries you may have during your holiday. For this Northern Lights season, the lovely Katrina has been our rep in the resorts of Harriniva and Jeris in Finnish Lapland. So we thought we’d catch up with her to find out how her first winter in the Arctic went.
Late last summer we speculated as to whether the 2014/15 Northern Lights season could match those of the previous two years which had delivered some unforgettable displays.
In June 2014, NASA confirmed that the Sun had reached the peak of its current solar cycle and, rather excitingly, geophysical research suggested that the declining period of a solar cycle often coincides with significant solar events. There's nothing that gets an Aurora hunter more excited than increased solar activity so we thought we would ask a couple of the best in the business to review the season so far. It seems that it has more than lived up to expectations.
Markku Inkila lives near Ivalo in North East Finland and is, without any doubt, one of Scandinavia's most knowledgeable and enthusiastic Northern Lights guides. We asked him to sum up the season using his own words and a couple of images:
This autumn was crazy, 12 nights straight and we saw the Northern Lights every night. During the winter we have seen lights every clear night and that is awesome! There has been lots of talk about solar maximum that was supposed to be last year and the year before, but the thing is that we are in the middle of the "aurora zone" so it doesn't matter what year it is, we see them nearly every day when it's clear sky.
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