How to Experience the Northern Lights in Finland Lapland
So you want to see the Northern Lights, huh? Finland is an incredible place to glimpse the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis! In this Finland guide, I am covering some of the most important things you need to know on how to see the Northern Lights in Finland, Lapland, including common questions, where to stay, the best times to see the aurora, and more!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How to Experience the Northern Lights in Finland Lapland
- What Exactly are the Northern Lights
- Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Finland
- The Best Place to See the Northern Lights in Finland
- What Do the Northern Lights Look Like to the Human Eye
- Tracking the Northern Lights in Finland
- Lapland Finland Northern Lights Tours
- Photographing the Northern Lights in Finland Tips
- Northern Lights Experiences in Finland
- How to Dress for the Northern Lights in Lapland Finland
- Additional Tips For Seeing the Northern Lights in Finland
- How to Get to Finnish Lapland to See the Northern Lights
- Where to Stay in Lapland to See the Northern Lights
- Northern Lights in Finland Q&A
- Northern Lights in Finland Wrap-up
What Exactly are the Northern Lights
Without getting too scientific, the Northern Lights are caused by the sun. Just as the sun gives us light, it also emits particles through solar wind that travels to Earth at high speeds.
These solar particles mix with the gases in Earth’s atmosphere that show us the Northern Lights! Oxygen mixing with these particles gives off green-colored lights, which are the most common colors to see.
The solar winds affect the poles due to their strong magnetic field, so there are Southern Lights as well, which can be seen in Tasmania. The closer you are to the poles, the more likely you are to see the Aurora, which is why Finland is a great place to try and see them.
Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Finland
Now that you have an idea of what the Northern Lights are, let’s discuss when you should plan to see them!
The aurora season is during the Fall, Winter, and Spring. You can see the Northern Lights from September through April with good weather.
However, the best times to see the Northern Lights in Finland are September, October, February, and the very beginning of April. During these months, Finland generally has the most optimal weather and longer nights.
The Best Place to See the Northern Lights in Finland
The best place to see the Northern Lights in Finland is in Lapland, which is located in Northern Finland. Most of this region is above the Arctic Circle. Not only will you be very close to the North Pole, but the light pollution (think city lights) is also much lower, giving you a better opportunity to see the aurora.
Fun Fact: You can see the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland on average 200 days a year.
Additionally, the human eye has more difficulty seeing the lights, so total darkness is an important factor, which Lappish Finland has.
When looking for a place to base yourself in Finland to see the Northern Lights, Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, is one of the best places to do it. So, if you’re heading this way during the winter months, here is my Ultimate Rovaniemi Winter Itinerary!
This is because you are more centralized in Lapland. Southern Finland rarely sees the Aurora unless there is a strong solar storm. So if you only visit Helsinki, your chances will be very rare.
What Do the Northern Lights Look Like to the Human Eye
You might not know that the photos and videos you generally see of the Northern Lights do not appear that way to the human eye. To the human eye, the Northern Lights often look more like a faint green, and with weak solar activity, you might not be able to see the aurora with the human eye at all!
Professional cameras can capture things the human eye can not see, which is why you are used to seeing deep, saturated colors.
You can see the lights dancing over your head in optimal conditions, but it is impossible to guarantee this. This is because it is solely weather-dependent, and this kind of solar activity is extremely hard to predict.
While chasing the Northern Lights in Finland, we saw a faint green aurora. It was still an incredible experience, even though the lights did not appear as bright as you see them in my photos.
With a weak aurora, cellphone videos and pictures usually won’t work. A professional camera is needed.
Two days after getting home, there was a huge solar storm that was so strong, people were able to see the lights in the United States. You would have certainly been able to capture this aurora night on a cellphone video. Reading the headline “Strongest Solar Storm in the past 6 Years” hurt my ego just a little!
Again, what you see with the human eye is up to luck; typically, that will be faint greens. With stronger solar activity, you may see slight pink, and very, very rarely, you will see some red.
A professional camera will easily be able to capture these colors, however.
Tracking the Northern Lights in Finland
They call it Aurora Hunting and Aurora Chasing for a reason. While you may get lucky walking outside and seeing the dancing lights, it generally takes a little more work than that. This is because in order to see the Northern Lights, the weather conditions have to be optimal.
First and foremost, you need clear skies. So, if there is heavy cloud coverage, it will be hard to see the lights.
Next, you need geomagnetic activity, which is measured on the KP index. The stronger the KP, usually means the solar activity is higher, and the more south you might see the lights.
In Lapland, you’re already at one of the most Northern points on Earth, so the KP index doesn’t matter as much. What does matter to you is the solar winds on the Bz (nT) chart. These numbers need to go into the negative to see the colors.
If all of these line up, when you look to the North in a dark area, you should hopefully see the lights. The stronger the solar flares and space storms, the better the aurora will be.
The best way to find this information is to download the Aurora App. It is free to use and was my best friend during our time in Finland.
You can view live cameras, the KP index, predictions, and solar winds. The app will also show you an aurora map and where it believes the best locations are. You can also check the Finnish Meteorological Institute website, which includes Finland auroras and space weather forecasts.
Now, if all this sounded like a foreign language, don’t worry because there are expert Northern Lights chasers that know these details (likely) better than I’ve just explained it.
Lapland Finland Northern Lights Tours
If you’re still wondering about “how to see the Northern Lights in Finland Lapland,” this is the section you want to pay attention to. Typically, group tours are not my thing, but when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights in Finland, going with a professional is your best bet!
They know the land and the best places to see them; it is as simple as that.
I learned this the hard way in Iceland when I drove around aimlessly, trying to find them myself. This time around, I did extensive research on Northern Lights tours in Lapland, and I can tell you they are not all created equally.
I landed on Arctic Road Trips (not sponsored). Lorenzo, Luisa, and their team have a main goal to find the lights. As avid photographers, they want to see the aurora as badly as you do.
What makes them different from typical Northern Lights tours in Finland is that they will drive wherever they need to. This means you may end up in Norway or Sweden if the lights are not showing in Finland.
We stayed cozy and warm inside the van until the lights started to appear. Once the colors began, he called us out and set up the professional cameras, offering photos for anyone who wanted them. We were picked up at 7 PM and got back to our hotel at 4 AM!
They really go above and beyond and will let you know if the night is no good. If you don’t see them, they only charge for gas. Want to be amazed? Just have a look at Lorenzo’s Instagram!
Other Northern Light Tours
Because Lorenzo’s tours don’t really have driving limits or stop limits, his tours come at more of a premium price ($160 USD).
But, if that is not in your budget, you can always find tours here. I would just make sure to read the reviews!
Photographing the Northern Lights in Finland Tips
Now that you figured out how to see the Northern Lights in Finland, you might want to try photographing the aurora yourself. This will require a professional camera and a tripod.
You will want a wide lens with a low aperture. The lower the aperture, the better! This means you will not need to raise your ISO as high. A high ISO creates noise in the photo (grain).
Each camera and lens is different, so it might take a little guesswork to learn your camera’s capabilities for photography in low light. I used my Canon R6 with a 16mm lens at 2.8f.
My settings were generally a shutter speed between 6-8 seconds, 2.8F, and an ISO of 3200 on manual with the focus at infinity. You can find all my camera gear here, including my compact travel tripod!
Lorenzo, our aurora guide, was so kind to make sure I had the most optimal settings on my camera for the aurora!
If you don’t have a professional camera, but you go with Lorenzo from Arctic Road Trips, they will provide all the photos they took from their cameras that night – so you won’t end up pictureless! Some of the newer smartphones can capture the lights in night mode or long exposure mode.
The idea is to hold the phone as still as possible while allowing the camera to capture as much light as possible. The more you move, the blurrier the photo will be. Below, I am putting an unedited image from our cell phone.
Northern Lights Experiences in Finland
Aside from going out and chasing the Northern Lights, you can also find other experiences in Finland that may include a glimpse of the aurora.
One of the most popular experiences is actually staying at an Aurora Glass Igloo. While you are not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights over your glass igloo, it is definitely still worth it, in my opinion. The night sky and stars hit differently in Lapland, Finland!
If you want to stay in an igloo, I recommend booking as soon as possible since these specialty rooms go quickly.
Other popular Northern Lights activities in Finland include night Snowmobile and Husky Safaris. Usually, you will not be hunting the Northern lights, but you may get to see them if conditions are ideal.
We did the wood-burning sauna and jacuzzi at Apukka, and although we didn’t see the aurora, it was still an incredible experience.
Read More: The Ultimate Finland Travel Guide
How to Dress for the Northern Lights in Lapland Finland
Whether you are visiting Finland during the Fall, Winter, or Spring to see the Northern Lights, layers will be your best friend! You can always take layers off! Some essentials I would recommend packing no matter the time include:
- Hot Hands & Feet
- Merino Wool Base Layer Top & Pants Women & Base Layer Top & Pants Men
- Warm Leggings
- Fleece Jacket Women | Men Fleece Jacket
- Wool Socks
- Warm Hat
If you’re visiting during the winter months in Finland – you can see my full winter packing list, including all the warm layers we brought. I was toasty warm at -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
For reference, it can start snowing in Finnish Lapland starting from mid-October through mid-May.
Additional Tips For Seeing the Northern Lights in Finland
We covered a lot about how to see the Northern Lights in Finland – but let’s reiterate some basic tips on seeing the dancing Aurora Borealis in Finland!
- Plan to spend at least 3-5 days in Lapland, Finland, to give yourself the best opportunity to see the Northern Lights.
- Make sure to dress in layers to stay warm. Nothing ruins an experience by having cold toes and fingers.
- Visit with the expectation of knowing the lights are not as bright or saturated to the human eye.
- If you’re looking for the aurora yourself, ask your hotel if they have any recommended spots. Choose a place with low light pollution and little to no clouds. Face towards the North, and be patient.
- Hiring a guide will give you the most optimal opportunity to see the Northern Lights in Finland.
- Download the Aurora app to follow the Aurora forecast.
How to Get to Finnish Lapland to See the Northern Lights
I know you’re beyond excited to start planning your venture to see the Northern Lights, so here is what you need to know about getting to Lapland in Finland.
Start by checking Skyscanner (my favorite free flight tool) and type your city to Helsinki (HEL). Also, check your city to Rovaniemi (ROV). Sometimes, getting two separate tickets can be a better deal.
You can also take the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, called the Santa Claus Express, for a different experience. The train is around an 8-12 hour train ride, but a 1ish hour flight.
Where to Stay in Lapland to See the Northern Lights
As mentioned above, I believe staying in Rovaniemi is one of the best places to base yourself in Lapland to see the Northern Lights. Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland and the official home of Santa Claus.
Therefore, there are a ton of other winter activities in Rovaniemi when you’re not chasing the Northern Lights. Rovaniemi is situated near other towns and attractions you may want to visit.
See the best things to do in Rovaniemi here!
Northern Lights in Finland Q&A
Yes, you can see the Northern Lights in Finland!
You can see the Northern Lights in Northern Finland, known as the Lapland Region. Rovaniemi Finland is a good place to base yourself.
No, seeing the Northern Lights in Helsinki is very rare. Helsinki is too south and has a lot of light pollution.
The best months to see the Northern Lights in Finland are September, October, February, and March. The very beginning of April is promising too.
Northern Lights in Finland Wrap-up
This concludes how to see the Northern Lights in Finland Lapland! I hope you have the best time chasing the Aurora Borealis and that this Finland guide has helped you plan an epic Aurora Hunting trip!
If you have any questions about how to see the Finland Northern Lights, let me know in the comments below, send me an email, or a DM!