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Ali McLean

Ali rarely forgets to remind us that he founded the UK's first ever Northern Lights holiday brand but behind his self-promoting braggadocio is a genuine pride that The Aurora Zone has been responsible for helping thousands of people tick the Northern Lights off their bucket list.

Ali has a problem. Ali is getting older and as his time grows shorter, the amount of places he wants to go and things he wants to do grow longer. Ali's solution to this problem is to create holidays on which he himself would like to travel because that way he can make the absolute maximum out of his travelling time.
Ali's love affair with Northern Scandinavia began many, many years ago on a trip to Finnish Lapland.

"The descending plane broke through the cloud and all I could see was snow-covered fells, forests and lakes, it was like arriving on a different planet and I loved it before I'd even got off the plane."

He soon learned that there was far more to the "Frozen North" than just stunning snow-covered landscapes.

"I was taken on an 80km snowmobile safari and it was the greatest thing I'd ever experienced. We saw reindeer; we visited a Sámi village and enjoyed salmon that had been slow cooked over an open fire as we sat in a traditional Sámi kota (teepee)."

On that occasion he didn't see the Northern Lights but a text from a colleague arriving at Kirkenes Airport in Norway a few weeks later alerted him to the wonder what was to become the basis of The Aurora Zone.

"Just walked out of Kirkenes Airport and the Northern Lights are absolutely covering the sky. Unbelievable!"

And so a seed was sewn and a few years later that seed became the UK's only dedicated Northern Lights holiday company. It's funny where life takes you and people often suggest that Ali is a lucky man to do everything he does. Maybe there is some luck involved but as he never tires of pointing out,

"It's not luck, I made this happen. I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down what I wanted to do with my life. Travel, activities and experiences were the top three items and so I created something that would allow me to do the three things I love most.

It's a great life but all too short and I believe we have to make the absolute most of our time here. I'm doing that and I hope that we are helping others do exactly the same."

When he's not at work (increasingly so these days) Ali has become one of the ranks of MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) who cycle along the UK's poorly surfaced roads in ever increasing numbers. He is so boring about cycling! Gear ratios, the weight of different sets of tyres, bottom brackets, iconic rides, he goes on and on and on. We just nod, smile and do our best to humour him.

Ali's greatest love however is his family and he will always ensure that neither work nor cycling will detract from the time he spends with wife Kate, kids Daisy and Archie and their ageing and increasingly ailing dog Misty.

Favourite Experiences

• Sitting in front of a blazing fire at the Hotel Nellim in Finnish Lapland and hearing the owner Jouko run through the front door shouting,
"Ali! If you've never seen the Northern Lights, you had better come outside NOW!!"
• Winning "Best Small Holiday Company (adult only) with The Aurora Zone at the British Travel Awards

• Running into a wilderness cabin and urging his children to come outside and see the Northern Lights dance over Lake Inari.

"Na!" replied his daughter who was eight years old at the time "we've already seen them."
At that moment, he thought to himself,
"I am such a fortunate human being but I do hope my kids appreciate this stuff when they are older"

• In many years of working in Northern Scandinavia Ali has met so many wonderful, warm and fascinating people and some of them have become great friends. Two of those friends are based in Luosto, Finland and on a recent trip there, Jukka and Juha-Pekka (J-P) took him on an overnight snowmobile safari.

They drove for much of the afternoon before arriving at their base for the night, Jukka's wilderness cabin. Once the fire was burning, Jukka prepared a delicious meal of pan-fried reindeer steaks while he and J-P went down to the stream, broke the ice and collected water to get the sauna up and running.

They ate, they shared an excellent bottle of red wine and then they hit the sauna. Ali occasionally popped his head outside to glance skywards to see if the Aurora was coming out to play but it really didn't matter because he was in a place he loved and was in the company of great friends and in Ali's opinion, you couldn't ask for more than that.

Get an expert opinion

The Aurora Zone was born out of our love of all things wintery. We were already regular visitors to the likes of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland thanks to a fascination with winter activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling and the Scandinavian way of life. Many of our visits coincided with sightings of the Northern Lights and The Aurora Zone was born from a desire to share Mother Nature’s greatest wonder with as many people as possible. We have all been held in the Aurora’s thrall and our mission is to do our very best to ensure that our clients can experience that magical moment on their Northern Lights holiday.

Learn more about our experience
  • Specialist

    Aurora knowledge and experience

    Unique holidays, in the very best destinations

    Expert guides – exceptional local knowledge

    Advice and guidance every step of the way

  • Comprehensive

    We include more in our holidays than any other Aurora operator

    Price Comparison guarantee

    No ‘from’ prices, everything you see is included in the price

    No hidden extras

  • Independent

    Proudly Independent

    The original and still the only dedicated UK Northern Lights tour operator

    Personal, hands-on service

    Fair and sustainable work ethos

  • Trusted

    100% ATOL and ABTA protection

    Peace of mind promise

    Award-winning

    Responsible relationships

    Over 15 years’ experience

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