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!
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.
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.
Next autumn, you have to go north
In many destinations, autumn can often pass by in a blur, somewhere between a desperate cling to summer and dreading the incoming dark and cold nights of winter. In the Arctic, however, it is a season worth celebrating. Autumn here is a landscape bathed in colour, the natural world transforming before your eyes and quite frankly, one of the best places in the world to really experience the spectacular season of change.
Autumn in the Arctic is nature like you’ve never seen it before. It is more than the trees shaking off their summer coats - it is a landscape full of life, gracefully preparing for the oncoming winter. The summer bloom turns into deep and vibrant autumnal shades and just above the breathtaking landscape, you’ll find the Auroras making their sensational return to the skies.
So, take a deep breath of some of the cleanest air in the world, listen to only the sounds of nature and come with us to explore the colourful ground of Arctic Europe in autumn...
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.
The Aurora Borealis - or Northern Lights as they are more commonly known - regularly tops wish lists and much has been written on the topic of Mother Nature’s greatest spectacle. As the UK’s only dedicated Northern Lights hunting holiday company, we spend a lot of time fully researching all things Auroral and not everything we read is always completely accurate. On that basis, here are a few things that we have learned in over a decade of Aurora hunting:
With the darker nights and crisper temperatures rolling in, we can feel that Christmas is on its way. You may have begun present shopping already or even started hanging the decorations up, but here at The Aurora Zone, we think the best way to get in the festive mood is to travel to a snowy wonderland where Arctic activities and Northern Lights experiences await.
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!
What is Betwixmas?
When the excitement of Christmas has come to an end and you are waiting for the buzz of New Year’s Eve, there is often little to do during those strange in-between days.
Rather than pick on leftover food or rush around the busy shops, make the most of your time between Christmas and New Year (or ‘Betwixmas’ as we like to call it) and travel to the Aurora Zone for an unforgettable Northern Lights holiday.
All of our holidays take place within the Aurora Zone, to give you the best chance of ticking the Northern Lights off your bucket list. However, through our extensive travels to these fantastic locations, we know that they offer so much more. That's why we craft itineraries that feature a range of unforgettable Arctic activities to ensure your Betwixmas holiday is unforgettable.
What's more, we offer different paces to suit all tastes. From a relaxing winter wilderness retreat to a tailor-made approach where you're completely in charge of creating your dream holiday!
Scroll to learn more about our Betwixmas breaks.
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!
Lapland’s winter wonderland reputation is so ingrained in our minds that it can be easy to forget that this location goes through all four wonderful seasons!
One in particular that excites us here at the Aurora Zone is autumn. That’s because this time of year marks the spectacular return of the Northern Lights – but that’s not all this season has to offer.
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.
We’ve had another brilliant month of entries for our #AuroraZoneMoments competition and we want to share some of the fabulous photographs with you.
Remember, if you’re travelling with us between now and 30th March 2019, share your photos using the hashtag #AuroraZoneMoments and you could be in with a chance of winning a case of wine.
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.
Whether you are running low on annual leave or you’re simply just pushed for time, we know that not everyone can take a week-long break during the winter. However, trips to see the Northern Lights don’t have to be an extended holiday. In fact, Northern Lights weekend breaks are some of our most-loved trips.
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!
Aurora hunting has become a fine art and there are now many, many different ways of chasing down Mother Nature’s mesmerising light show. From snowmobile safaris to dog sledding and snowshoeing, the secret is to find a vantage point as far removed from any light pollution as possible.
All of these activities are fabulously fun and entertaining but, in the heart of an Arctic winter, they can get pretty chilly even when you are wearing the thermal clothing we provide on our trips.
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.
Here at The Aurora Zone, we’re extremely fond of the Finnish people and especially the Sámi community, who are the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia. So, imagine our excitement when we heard that BBC Two are doing a one-off boxing day show all about the lifestyle of the Sámi people and their reindeer herding heritage.
Blue Planet II has been an amazing show, and if you're anything like us you’ll have sat in your favourite chair and watched it in wonder.
Here are three holidays to get you in the mood for some Blue Planet-style discovering, and of course, if you don’t spot some incredible marine life, you might just be in luck and see the Northern Lights instead!
Let’s face it, everyone wants a beautiful image of the Northern Lights. This post will detail everything you need to know to capture yours.
Our expert Aurora guide and CEO of the new Northern Lights Village in Saariselkä, Markku Inkilä is a self-proclaimed Aurora nut. He lives and breathes the Northern Lights and is rarely happier than when he is capturing them on camera. His photos have been published in the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, and on hundreds of websites around the world.
I caught up with our Marketing Assistant Laura who had the most amazing first Northern Lights experience in Iceland. Here is what she had to say:
'"After suffering serious wanderlust from seeing so many breathtaking photos of Iceland I knew I had to head out there and explore it for myself. So, in December 2016 I flew over for a week of Arctic adventure. I experienced waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, boiling mud pools, stunning scenery - you name it - but one night stands out for me - the night I ticked two experiences off my travel bucket list.
We have big news here at The Aurora Zone and we couldn’t wait a moment longer to share it with you. Our good friends Mari and Jouko, two of our longest-standing suppliers, have announced the launch of their brand new wilderness boutique Hotel Nangu, located on the tranquil shores of Lake Inari.
We love it when our suppliers come to visit us regardless of the occasion. So when, while we were dining and enjoying an evening with Mari and Sinnika from Nellim and they described in detail this stunning new hotel in one of our favourite destinations, I am sure you can imagine our elation. Not only this, but it will be opening its doors ready for the coming season!
Ah, how we love travel on Instagram! We look, get wanderlust and then next thing you know it’s added to your travel bucket list. With the Northern Lights and Arctic landscapes, however, it’s another ball game completely.
Here's my five most Instagram-able Arctic destinations:
After arriving in the beautiful city of Honningsvåg, the northernmost city of Norway, I was in my element. Although chances of seeing the Aurora were slim, I was happy enough to admire the stunning view from my window of the harbour scattered with lights reflecting from the water and lined with fishing boats and nets ready for tomorrow’s work.
The drive to this enchanting (extremely small) city, along the Norwegian coastline, made for some spectacular views, with the sunset creating a pink tinge in the sky above the mountains, causing me to come to the conclusion that my trip wasn’t going to get much better than this.
If I had a pound for every time I have been asked this question I would be rich beyond the dreams of avarice. If I had an exact answer, I would be rich beyond the dreams of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet combined.
The problem with the Aurora is that it is a natural phenomenon and regardless of whether it is September, December or March, its appearance can rarely be predicted much more than a few hours in advance.
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.
Our representative Dan has been busy looking after our Aurora Zone guests staying in Nellim this winter. We caught up with him to find out a little bit more about his time there:
'My role at Nellim is to ensure our guests have the best experiences possible! From organising the pre-arrival details, the day-to-day chatting with guests, to waving goodbye at the end of the holiday, it's my job to help things run smoothly.
The Treehotel has expanded their unique portfolio of impressive contemporary accommodation to bring you the brand new, magical ‘7th Room’, created with Northern Lights lovers in mind!
If you haven’t heard of the Treehotel, where have you been!? Located in pine forests by the Lule River in Swedish Lapland it is one of the most architecturally impressive collection of rooms. Set up by Kent Lindvall and his wife Britta in 2010, the portfolio of rooms consists of The Cabin, The UFO, The Mirrorcube, The Blue Cone, The Bird’s Nest and The Dragonfly, each with their own unique character.
The Sun is currently in the declining stage of Solar Cycle 24 and this has prompted some speculation that Auroral displays will become less commonplace. Fortunately, this is not the case because the Aurora stems from two sources: Coronal Mass Ejections and Coronal Holes.
During the declining stage of the Solar Cycle it is the less violent but more stable Coronal Holes that are the more likely to cause the Northern Lights to dance in our night skies and the beauty of these holes on the SUN’s surface is that they can come round time and again.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s contest is to decide the celestial heavyweight championship of the year.
In the blue corner; The Northern Lights!!
In the red corner; The biggest moon for 70 years!!!!
Warning! Contains scenes of nudity
Temperatures in March tend to be milder than in the very heart of winter. Okay, it’s still not exactly tropical and only the hardiest of souls would brave the elements like our hero below. However, Aurora hunting requires patience and the chances are that you will be warmer waiting in March than in say December or January.
There are various theories flying around online suggesting that the Aurora Borealis is going to disappear as the current cycle (Solar Cycle 24) enters its declining stage to 'Solar Minimum'.
Such theories are frustrating because, as our Managing Director Ali McLean will tell you, the inspiration for The Aurora Zone was born on two consecutive nights in 2008 when we were at the lowest point of Solar Cycle 23.
It has been said that as we reach the 'Solar Minimum' stage of Solar Cycle 24, the Northern Lights will disappear from view.
For us to reassure you as to why this won’t happen we have to take a look at the science behind the magnificent Aurora Borealis.
Have you been watching Professor Brian Cox’s brilliant ‘Forces of Nature’ series featured on BBC One? This week’s stunning final episode focused on the science behind the colours of our planet.
Brian travelled around the globe experiencing phenomena such as the gentle beauty of a moon bow in Iceland, to the transformation of the sun-drenched Serengeti.
Finally, he landed in Northern Norway to uncover our favourite of all nature’s marvels – the spectacular Northern Lights.
Travelling to the Arctic not only takes you into Aurora territory, but it takes you into vast tracts of pristine wilderness where stunning views become almost commonplace.
In the Arctic there is nothing bleak about the winter environment. Wildlife abounds, and you will certainly develop respect for your surroundings and individuals who have made it their home over the centuries and even in modern times have an admirable relationship with the nature around them.
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
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.
Three Alternatives to the IceHotel
“a heady mix of sublime beauty and exquisite disappointment.”
If you watched Alexander Armstrong’s Land of the Midnight Sun on ITV this week you’ll have doubtless been awestruck by the sheer beauty of the IceHotel in Sweden’s Jukkasjärvi. Armstrong was rightly smitten with the IceHotel’s breathtaking interior areas and marvelled at the skilled craftsmanship of the ice and snow artisans who gather every October to create this annual monument to ice and snow architecture.
What the program didn’t reveal was that the affable presenter expresses far more mixed sentiments in the book “Land of the Midnight Sun” which accompanies the series. Yes he agrees, the IceHotel is astonishing but, he wasn’t as enthusiastic about what he perceived as an over-commercialisation of the project. Having expected “the pinnacle of refined luxury” he instead encounters “a huge complex that feels like something between a shopping centre and one of those “Christmas Wonderlands” that pop up in the Home Counties in the run up to Christmas each year”
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.
Given the nature of my work I regularly travel to the destinations featured here at The Aurora Zone and, as a result, I get to know the countries very well and also its inhabitants. I most frequently visit Northern Scandinavia and whenever I meet a Finn, a Swede or a Norwegian for the first time I always ask the same question:
“Where is your cabin?”
Almost without exception, Scandinavians own a cabin, a cabin with no running water, no electricity but a cabin which almost invariably enjoys an enviable lakeside position. These cabins are where the good people of Finland, Sweden and Norway escape to immerse themselves in nature, to relax and to just generally have a pretty laid back time.
A few years ago, one of our Finnish suppliers invited me to come over and spend a few days at his remote lakeside cabin. He could get some time away from work in late-October and simply wanted to enjoy some downtime before the busy winter months.
As with most of our guests, my first impression of Lapland in the winter is one of awe that so much snow can possibly exist in one place.
I was never fortunate to go skiing or anything like that when I was younger, so for me this was the first time I had seen what real winter can look like.
It is obvious when you travel to somewhere like Nellim in Finnish Lapland that the snow in the UK is really rather pitiful and quite literally pales into comparison to the thick deep white snow of Lapland. It covers everything – roads, paths, rooftops, trees, frozen lakes, giving the whole place a magical, pristine and beautiful feel.
The Northern Lights – An otherworldly experience
Way back in 1958, an absolutely massive solar flare resulted in the Northern Lights being visible as far south as Mexico City. By all accounts, the emergency services were inundated with panicky calls from residents who thought the dancing lights in the sky heralded an extraterrestrial invasion!!
You have to see the Northern Lights up close and personal to understand why the good people of Mexico City reacted in the way they did.
Stand on a frozen Arctic lake and watch curtains of ethereal light shimmering and billowing overhead. It soon becomes apparent why Stone Age or Iron Age man might have believed Mother Nature's hypnotic light show to be the spirits of the departed or celestial warriors engaged in combat of the immortals.
Be one of the first to stay in an AURORA BUBBLE!
Nestled in a quiet corner of Finnish Lapland under an endless northern sky the Aurora Bubbles are set to become THE place to watch the Northern Lights shimmering dance.
Ideally located by Lake Inari- you will find yourself in perfect Northern Lights hunting territory.
How appropriate that on St Patrick's Day, a huge geomagnetic storm should set the Aurora Borealis dancing across the skies from North America to Northern Scandinavia.
Due to the altitude with which solar particles collide with our atmosphere, the Aurora is usually predominantly green which seems to hit exactly the right St Patrick's Day notes. However, because of the sheer ferocity of the geomagnetic storm raging above our head, today's Auroras are likely to be multi-coloured with yellows, reds, pinks and blues as much to the fore as the more "traditional" green.
In the Arctic temperatures can drop down to -35 and because of polar night it's mostly dark. Handling the camera with thick gloves in the dark can be challenging.
You should do some training with gloves on and get the feeling for the buttons.
One important thing is not to breathe too much into the camera. The vapour freezes in the camera and can be very nasty especially in the lens. So keep a good distance to the camera and if you use the viewfinder, try not to breathe while looking through it.
We are very excited to announce our newest northern light adventure: Abisko Autumn Aurora Adventure photography trip.
For the first time ever, you will have the chance to join us in Abisko National Park during the warmest time of the aurora season.
This once in a lifetime trip will allow you to experience the northern lights in the relative warmth of Autumn and will provide you with an opportunity to photograph the auroras reflecting in the beautiful rivers, lakes and streams of the Arctic.
How many times have we heard this said about Northern Scandinavia?
There is a perception that 24 hours of darkness falls north of the Arctic Circle for the entire winter. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Even in deepest December, when the sun doesn’t appear above the horizon for several weeks, there is what the locals call “blue time” or “kaamos”, an eerie yet magical grey/blue light that is neither night nor day.
Take somewhere like Muonio in Finnish Lapland. Muonio is a small village situated in North East Finnish Lapland and, according to people who know far more about these things than we do, the sun will disappear below the horizon on 10 December 2013 and reappear on 02 January 2014 (for 32 minutes).
It’s that time of year again, when the Northern Lights have begun to make an appearance across the Arctic sky. If these spectacular displays are anything to go by it looks like we are in for a real treat this Aurora season.
These images were taken only two nights ago (21st August) in Harriniva by Northern Lights guide and photographer Antti Pietikäinen. This certainly makes us very excited as our first autumn Northern Lights holiday departures are only weeks away!
Go in search of the Aurora Borealis! To see our selection of autumn Northern Lights holidays click here - but be quick as we have limited spaces left!
Our guide Trygvor picked us up at the hotel and before leaving we poured over the latest meteorological charts downloaded from the local Weather Centre’s website just 30 minutes earlier.
“It’s not a great night for the Aurora” was our guide’s very frank and somewhat disappointing summation “but, if we head south away from the clouds then we will find the Northern Lights”.
With renewed vigour, we jumped into the warmth of Trygvor’s car and headed out of town. As we drove south away from the Arctic Ocean we were told to keep our eyes peeled, not on the Arctic firmament but the roadside.
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