How to see the northern lights – best tips for catching auroras

2 minute read
Person watching the northern lights in Lapland.

Credits: Antti Pietikäinen

The thrill of witnessing the Aurora Borealis is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

Many get hooked and can’t get enough of these blazing colours in the night sky. For those people and newbies alike, Finnish Lapland is the place to be.

While the northern lights appear close to Earth, they actually form at altitudes of over 100 kilometres, when solar winds made of particles from the sun agitate atmospheric gases.

Here are a few tips for spotting auroras in Finland.

Tip 1: Time your holiday right

The best time to visit the northern parts of Finland to catch a glimpse of the auroras is between August and April. While winter might be the most popular time for visits, autumn and spring are actually the most active northern lights seasons. 

Read our article on Best times to see the Northern Lights to get more tips on when exactly to see this incredible phenomenon in Finland.

Credits: Hannes Becker

Tip 2: Go north and look for the stars

In Northern Lapland, the auroras shine just about every other clear night between September and March, while in southern Finland, they’re only visible about 10-20 nights a year. Head north anywhere near and above the Arctic Circle, and if the night sky looks clear and starry, you have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Remember to get far away from bright lights and buildings. Hilltops and lakeshores make good vantage points.

Credits: Visit Levi

Tip 3: Monitor the local weather forecast

The skies must be dark and cloudless for northern lights sightings. The likelihood of seeing the auroras is close to zero when it rains or snows, because clouds are covering the skies. We advise you to follow the weather where you are currently (or heading to), since auroras can be very local. Hence, you might not see them in your location, whereas they could be visible only a couple of kilometres away.

Good news for all you night owls; the best time to see the Northern Lights is typically between 21pm and 2am at night.

Tip 4: Check the space weather

The northern lights – the most visible form of space weather – are a result of solar wind and solar flares in the Earth’s atmosphere. Geomagnetic disturbances happen year-round but the nights need to be dark enough for the northern lights to be visible. This is why we cannot see them in the middle of the summer when the nights are light. 

On the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s site, you can check the space weather and see an up-to-date map with the probabilities of seeing the lights in different parts of Finland. The bigger the dot, the better the chance!

Credits: Asko Kuittinen

Tip 5: Sign up for aurora alerts

Luckily, there are many websites, even apps, available that alert users when the auroras are visible in your area when visiting Finland.

We have listed some of them for you:

Credits : Thomas Kast
Credits: Pertti Turunen

Bonus tip: Dress warm and go on a guided tour

It tends to be very chilly especially on clear winter nights when the northern lights can be spotted, so wear appropriate clothing. A great alternative to witnessing them outdoors, of course, is to stay in a purpose-built hut or cottage, where you can watch them from a warm bed instead!

We strongly recommend to go on a guided tour to see the auroras. These tours are guided by experienced northern lights hunters who know the best times and places to see this phenomenon.

Below, we've listed some aurora tour providers from different locations in northern Finland. Snowshoeing, snowmobiling, reindeer and husky safaris, and even sauna experiences are available!

Aurora tours – snowshoeing

Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky

Night Snowshoeing Adventure under the Northern Lights

3 hours

Aurora tours – snowmobiling

Aurora tours – huskies and reindeer

Other unique aurora experiences

See also

Best times to see the Northern Lights in Finland

Get ready for a once-in-a-lifetime show and find o...