Dawn Kitson

Iceland Pro Travel 3 re sized

If I could be anywhere right now it would be Iceland. It has become a bit of a running joke in our office how much I love Iceland – I regularly give presentations on it. I encourage anyone that merely mentions the place that they must visit. Even the wall next to my desk is adorned with maps and posters of the island. I am unashamedly head-over-heels in love with the place and have been ever since my first work trip, back in 2013.

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Joanna Robertson

Torassieppi aerial 8 credit Antti re sized

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.

Ali Mclean

In the current situation, while our bucket lists are on hold, we find ourselves with more time than ever to dream about our future travel destinations.

Here at The Aurora Zone, our team has been incredibly lucky over the years to spend a large portion of their time travelling North, researching locations and making friends with the locals, to find the very best places for our Northern Lights Holidays. We have had some amazing adventures along the way, and our memory buckets are overflowing with stories that bring us a sense of joy at these difficult times.

So, while we have plenty of time to reflect,  we thought we would bring you some of our favourite memories, and 'where we would be if we could be anywhere in the world right now'.

First up…

Founder and Managing Director  - Ali McLean

Credit Antti Pietikainen  (10) resized

Nicola Hall

Though locations north of the Arctic Circle offer an array of incredible experiences, chances are one of your main reasons for visiting is to try and see the Northern Lights. Here at The Aurora Zone, it is our number one priority to share this exceptional bucket list moment with our clients which is why we offer many different ways to try and experience this phenomenal display. One of our favourite ways has to be by spending a night in an innovative Aurora accommodation.

Our local suppliers know exactly what it takes to help you achieve your dream of seeing the Northern Lights, which is why they offer an exceptional standard of dedicated places to stay, giving you the chance to keep your eyes on the sky throughout the night. This not only means that you can continue your search for the Aurora long after that evening’s Northern Lights activity, but it is also one of the cosiest ways to try and spot the skies light up.

So, that’s why we’ve taken a look at some of the most memorable, creative and luxurious places to spend a night (or more!) looking up at the dark Arctic night in hope of an unforgettable display. Here (in no particular order) are our favourite places to spot the Northern Lights without leaving your bed...

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    Levi and Saariselkä Northern Lights Villages

    For those who want the chance to keep watch for the Northern Lights on not just one night but all nights of their stay, the northern lights villages are an ideal option.

    Located in the north east of Finnish Lapland, Saariselkä Northern Lights Village was custom built to offer every one of their welcome guests the opportunity to see the Northern lights from the comfort of their bed. Here there are 80 Aurora Cabins, each of which has a north facing, tepee shaped glass roof, underneath which you can lie back in bed and gaze directly into the sky. The hotel lies close the ski resort of Saariselkä yet the dense forest which separates the two ensures the remote location and minimal light pollution that every Aurora hunter needs.

    Similarly, Levi Northern Lights Village enjoys its own piece of wilderness around 6km from the centre of Levi. Here there are 40 Aurora Cabins which each have electric fireplaces for that added cosy factor.

    The Aurora Cabins at both are all equipped with heated windows (ensuring that snowfall won’t obstruct your all-important view), ensuite toilet and shower room, free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee facilities.

    Both destinations have a warm and comfortable restaurant in their main building where you can enjoy delicious local dishes showcasing seasonal ingredients. Each also offers their guests an exciting array of winter activities to really make the most of the snow topped surroundings, with everything from husky sledding to snowmobiling to cross country skiing and more.

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    Wilderness Hotels Aurora Cabins

    The wilderness hotels of Nellim, Muotka and Inari are all an Aurora hunter’s dream. Alongside their remote setting and variety of Aurora hunting activities, each also offers Aurora Cabins as an accommodation upgrade for a night of your stay. For those who are considering booking for a special occasion, or if you perhaps just want a treat for the last night of your trip, these are the ideal option.

    At Inari their glass roofed cabins sit on the banks of lake Inari exhibiting beautiful views across the ice by day and a perfect vantage point in which to gaze directly in to the northern sky at night. With the same basic design as those at Levi and Saariselkä, these Aurora Cabins have ensuite toilet and shower room, double or twin beds and a sofa bed with space for an extra guest. Idyllically finished with Finnish-designed soft furnishings they offer a touch of rustic luxury.

    Muotka go one step further with their Aurora Cabins which also have a private sauna inside, ideal for warming up after your evening activity or simply relaxing before a night of sky watching for dancing lights. Muotka has a beautiful setting in the tree covered fells of north east Finland and has long been one of our most sought-after Northern Lights destinations.

    Nellim was the original wilderness hotel and here guests can upgrade to Aurora Cabins which are similar in design to those they have at Inari. At Nellim they also have Aurora Bubbles, the predecessors to the Aurora Cabins, with a bubble shaped Perspex roof in place of a tepee one, underneath which a double bed looks up directly into the sky. These have an eco-toilet but no shower, so it is usually recommended for guests to keep their hotel room alongside this.

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    Aurora Dome at Torassieppi

    The Aurora domes at Torassieppi are a truly remarkable purpose-built design and are offered as a one-night upgrade to our trips at Torassieppi as well as the nearby destinations of Harriniva and Jeris. They are deal for couples and, whilst they can be booked of any night of your stay, they are a lovely upgrade for the last night of your trip to really finish it off in style!

    In contrast to the wood base and glass roofs of the Aurora Cabins, they are effectively large yurt-like structures which have been adapted to their arctic surroundings and to provide guests with an ideal view of nature’s greatest light show.

    Echoing a traditional igloo design with their circular shape, each has a double bed and small seating area overlooking a transparent wall through which the night sky can be seen. Each has a wood burning stove which is further complimented by soft lighting, reindeer skins and blankets ensuring a beautifully cosy retreat.

    Guests have access to the sauna and bathroom facilities which are situated around 50 metres away from the lakeside camp.

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    360 Cabin at Apukka

    The Aurora 360 Cabin at Apukka is at the forefront of innovative design when it comes to Northern Lights accommodation, showcasing a completely different construction than other destinations.

    The beautiful design is based on a Komsio (a traditional Sámi cradle) and also nods to it natural surroundings with its traditional Sámi furnishings.

    Featuring two tiers, the boutique cabin gives you both privacy and a high vantage point for seeking Aurora-filled skies. The second floor has 360°-degree views via its glass ceiling and windows, under which the bed is conveniently situated. At night you will enjoy ideal view of the sky to look out for potential Northern Lights displays.

    Downstairs the view is also taken into consideration. Here you will find a lounge area and a convertible sofa which are overlooked by large windows (you have the option to leave these covered or uncovered).

    The cabin can be added as a one night or more upgrade to any of our brilliant Apukka trips. Situated just a short distance from Rovaniemi but set in wilderness surroundings away from light pollution, the Apukka Resort is an ideal location for both Arctic and Aurora adventures

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    Wilderness Camp North Tour

    Our Norway option is essentially an amazing glamping experience alongside an excellent opportunity to see the Aurora!

    Located forty minutes from Tromsø on the island of Kvaløya, the Wilderness Camp consists of spacious heated tents inside which is double or twin beds, a seating area, and an all-important window through which you can see the sky from the comfort of your bed.

    Prefect for adventurous travellers who also like a bit of comfort, they are set in a captivating wilderness location with dramatic mountain peaks surrounding a snow-covered valley.

    It is ideal Aurora viewing territory and spending the night here will give you an excellent chance of seeing the northern lights from the comfort of your cosy tent. With transparent panels above and around you get the perfect view of this beautiful setting and can watch the sky with ease come nightfall in the hopes of a light-filled display.

    Nearby a central wooden cabin offers a fireplace and a place to relax in a cosy atmosphere and there are toilets in a separate building along with a water pump which gives access to fresh water whenever you need it.

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    Arctic Fox Igloo

    Going one step further than just a glass roof, the stunningly designed Arctic Fox igloos in Ranua offer panoramic glass walls, giving you an incredible view of the both the surrounding wilderness and the arctic sky. At night with any luck the sky will be filled with dancing green lights which you can enjoy without having to leave your bed.

    Situated close to Holiday Village Gulo Gulo which we offer as our standard Ranua accommodation, there are 20 igloos in total which can be offered as an upgrade for one night or more and guests will often add them as a final night treat to add an extra treat to a brilliant trip.

    The igloos are set on the shores of the lake Ranuanjärvi with unobstructed views across the lake and into the northern sky so you can easily keep a close watch on the horizon for any Auroras.

    As well as heated panels to stop the windows from frosting over or being covered with snow, each has a double/twin beds, ensuite toilet and shower room (in a wood-walled area), and kitchenette. To add a touch of luxury, each also has a private sauna for some relaxing escapism form the arctic cold. You breakfast and dinner will be served at the main hotel.


    Image credits: Northern Lights Village Levi, Matt Robinson, Antti Pietikainen, Apukka Resort,  Tromso Adventure, Jari Romppainen

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Joanna Robertson

Finnish Easter Treats and Traditions

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Thursday, 09 April 2020

We know Easter weekend will be a little different for us all this year and although our original plans will have changed, there’s no reason why we can’t indulge in learning about Easter traditions from across the world. In this blog, we look at how Finland celebrates the occasion with its own unique culture and traditions.

You may even find a new tradition to try in your own home this Easter!

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Allan Cooper


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. 

Kirsty Wood

The Science Of The Solar Cycle

Written by
Tuesday, 31 March 2020

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

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    Do The Northern Lights Disappear During A Solar Minimum?

    In a word, no. We must stress that the lights do not simply disappear when activity on the surface of the sun is low - a period known as the Solar Minimum. The suggestion that the Aurora is not visible during Solar Minimum is untrue, despite what some misleading articles may say.

    Instead, what is happening during a Solar Minimum is that the particles emitted by the Sun become less violent. Consequently, we rarely see explosive solar events that result in the lights appearing outside of the ‘Aurora Zone’; the narrow geographical area between 66°N and 69°N where the lights appear frequently. While the lights will not disappear, your chances of seeing them will be more limited to this zone during the Solar Minimum. The message is plain and simple; If you want to maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights then the ‘Aurora Zone’ is where you should travel.

    Goodbye Solar Cycle 24, Hello Solar Cycle 25 

    From 14 November 2019 to 23 December 2019, we witnessed 40 consecutive sunspot-less days. This has led scientific commentators to suggest that we have reached our most recent Solar Minimum period and are passing out of the 24th Solar Cycle’s declining stage and are moving towards the upwards stage of Solar Cycle 25.  

    It is impossible to pin down the exact time at which the Sun passes from one Solar Cycle to another. However, on 24 December 2019, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observed two new and highly significant Sunspots which were designated as NOAA2753 and NOAA2754 (see Fig. 2) which suggests that the cycle is in the process of starting anew. 

    Figure 2. Credit: NASA/SDO

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    Why are the new Sunspots significant in identifying the stage of the Solar Cycle?

    The reasons that these Sunspots are significant are twofold. 

    1. The Sunspots appeared at high latitudes in the Sun’s northern and southern hemispheres as opposed to those from Solar Cycle 24 which emerge closer to the equator. 

    The difference is evident in the illustration below (Fig. 3). Sunspots from Solar Cycle 24 appear much closer to the Sun’s equator than those from Solar Cycle 25 which are at much higher latitudes in both hemispheres.

    2. The magnetic polarity of these two Sunspots was the reverse of those from the fading Solar Cycle 24. 

    This is a remarkable feature of the Sun’s activity cycle in that every 11 years or so, it’s polarity flips from north to south or vice versa.  

    This combination of factors strongly suggests that we are entering or have entered Solar Cycle 25.  

    The most recent forecast from a joint panel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA is that Solar Cycle 25 will peak in July 2025, give or take 8 months either side. From now until then, we can expect to see an increase in the number of Sunspots appearing on the surface of the Sun, which in turn should cause an increase in Auroral activity on Earth. 

    Figure 3. Source: Jan Jannsens, Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence

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    Why Do Solar Cycles Matter to Aurora Hunters? 

    In our opinion, the answer very much depends on where you are in the world. During a Solar Maximum, there are increased chances that you may see the Aurora from a wider range of Northern locations around the world, whereas a Solar Minimum is more likely to see the lights restricted to the Aurora Zone.

    Perhaps the most important aspect from an Aurora Hunting point of view is that the NOAA/NASA panel agreed that Cycle 25 will be average in intensity (see Fig.4). In other words, it will be very similar to Cycle 24 and this gives us a few clues as to where and when the Aurora Borealis might appear. 

    Figure 4. Source: NOAA - Space Weather Prediction Center

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    Coronal Mass Ejection

    What we saw during Solar Cycle 24 were some major solar events which led to the Northern Lights being visible over a wide geographic area. However, these events were sporadic, few and far between and nowhere near as numerous as the previous cycle. 

    This is because the more geographically widespread Auroral displays are almost exclusively the result of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) which are associated with Sunspots. CMEs are massive clouds of magnetically charged particles which are flung into space and take between one and four days to reach Earth (see Fig. 5). If there are fewer Sunspots then, by definition, there are fewer CMEs and less extensively visible Northern Lights. 

    Figure 5. Source: NASA. An artist’s graphic of a Coronal Mass Ejection

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    Don’t forget Coronal Holes!

    The main source of Auroral displays during Solar Cycle 24 was Coronal Holes (CH).

    Like Coronal Mass Ejections, Coronal Holes emit Solar Winds but, generally speaking, these winds are not as fast or explosive. However, they still result in the geomagnetic activity in our atmosphere that causes the Aurora to appear in the night sky albeit in a narrower geographic band. 

    The great thing about Coronal Holes from an Aurora Hunting perspective is that unlike one-off Coronal Mass Ejections, they are far more stable. Indeed, the more persistent can endure through several Solar rotations. The wonderful thing about this is that the same Earth-facing Coronal Hole can send high-speed Solar Winds our way on a regular 27-day (one solar rotation) basis. This happened in 2018/19 with one particularly memorable Coronal Hole reappearing seven or eight times. It was so reliable that we were using it as a very useful forecasting tool!

    Figure 6. Source: NASA. Coronal Hole (the large trans-equatorial darker area)  

    Science aside, where can I see the Northern Lights during the Solar Minimum? 

    The most important thing to remember is that the Northern Lights appear at every stage throughout the Solar Cycle but are most frequently the result of Coronal Holes rather than Coronal Mass Ejections. As mentioned, this limits the geographical area in which the Aurora is regularly visible to an area approximately 66°N and 69°N, often referred to as the Aurora Zone. 

    Yes, you can see the Northern Lights from vantage points much further south but only sporadically and only as a result of a significant solar event. If you were to stand outside every night for a year on say, England’s Northumberland Coast there is a very good chance that your patience will be rewarded. However, you have the same chance of success (or better) if you travel to The Auroral Zone for just a few nights. 

    In our opinion, the essential thing during any phases of the Solar Cycle is to be in the places where the lights occur most frequently i.e. The Auroral Zone. That’s where you have the best chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis regardless of whether we are at the peak of the current cycle or not.

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    What Do The Experts Say? 

    Markku Inkila is a Northern Lights Photographer and Guide who has grown up in North East Finland with the Aurora Borealis as a constant companion. We asked him for his opinion regarding the best time in the Solar Cycle to see the Northern Lights:

    “There has been lots of talk about the Solar Minimum 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". It doesn't matter what year it is; we see them nearly every day when it's a clear sky.” 

    Plan your trip to the Aurora Zone for the best chance to hunt the Aurora Borealis. Call us today to find out more about ticking the Northern Lights off your bucket list.

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Kirsty Wood

Glass Igloos in Finland

Written by
Monday, 23 March 2020

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.

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    The Design

    As experts in the Northern Lights, the Finnish certainly know how to make the most of Mother Nature’s greatest wonder. This specially designed accommodation offers an innovative way to continue your search long into the night, and really maximise your chances of seeing a display.

    Though the Glass Igloos in Finland may differ slightly from location to location, their overall structure remains largely the same. The main attraction across all designs is, of course, the half-glass roof situated right above the bed where you can spend your nights gazing up at the Arctic sky and if conditions are favourable, at the Northern Lights.

    Most Glass Igloos come with a private bathroom and tea and coffee making facilities. You will also only be a short walk from the main hotel building to enjoy your meals. 

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    Our Locations

    There are many different locations in Finnish Lapland offering a stay in a Glass Igloo. We work with some fantastic local suppliers who are passionate about showing off the best of the country, the Northern Lights included and so you can expect an extremely warm welcome upon your arrival in Finland.

    In Apukka, you will be just 15 minutes from the capital of Lapland but far enough from the city lights to put you in wonderful wilderness surroundings. Here, you can stay in either an Aurora Cabin or the Aurora 360 Cabins, which have a special feature of being spread over two floors - the top floor offering 360 views of the stunning outdoors.

    Travel to Nellim to stay in the much-loved Aurora Bubbles, complete with a domed perspex roof and eco-toilet or for a traditional touch, spend a night in an Aurora Kota. Shaped like the tent of the Sámi people - Lapland’s indigenous community and with your own private sauna, this is a guaranteed cosy night.

    In Muotka and Inari, you can choose to start or end your holiday in style in one of the Aurora Cabins. Whereas if you choose to stay at Jeris, Harriniva or Torassieppi, you could spend an unforgettable night of glamping in the remarkable Aurora Domes.

    For a sustainable approach to this innovative accommodation, head to Pyhä where ground heat is the core source of energy, supported by solar panels on the roof. The walls are also built using thick certified local timber logs for an extremely cosy interior and low carbon footprint.

    At the Vasara Reindeer Ranch, in the heart of Sámiland, your Glass Igloo accommodation not only gives you the chance of seeing the Northern Lights but you may also see some of the local reindeer wandering around outside your cabin.

    If one night is not enough, choose to travel to a Northern Lights Village either in Levi or Saariselkä where your Glass Igloo comes as standard for the duration of your stay!

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Allan Cooper


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.

Joanna Robertson

Kenny Gray Nellim AuroraZoneMoments 5

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!

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The Aurora Zone was born from a desire to share Mother Nature’s greatest wonder with our clients. We’ve explored the destinations, researched the science, and fallen in love with the Scandinavian way of life. It’s our mission to pass this knowledge on to you, providing you with the very best chance of experiencing the magic for yourself on your Northern Lights holiday.

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