Europe

Experiencing Northern Lights

We seem to be seeing a lot of beautiful footage up gorgeous skies in northern Europe these days so let’s talk about experiencing the Northern Lights.

The Inuit believed that the Northern Lights represented a soul’s pathway to the afterlife. Vikings took the view that they were the effects of a vast cosmic battle. Today, to see them for the first time is still an eerie, otherworldly experience, a silent lightshow with green, purple and white flashes in the skies. Observing them is an exercise in patience and waiting for the right climatic conditions; clear skies are essential. Your reward, if you see them, is to experience nature’s most benign and beguiling weather condition.

The lights are most visible around the poles, as this is where the Earth’s magnetic forces are the strongest. September marks the start of the season,  around the time of the autumn equinox (which falls this year on September 22). 2017 is likely to show strong showings, in part to a recent solar flare; a sudden flash of brightness observed near the sun’s surface which leads to Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).

According to Alistair McLean, MD of The Aurora Zone, one of the largest tour operators dedicated to Northern Light watching: “Following the magnitude of the recent solar flare – arguably the strongest for a decade – we are anticipating widespread Aurora storms.”

There also seems to be an increasing number of luxury hotels, close to or inside the Arctic Circle that will maximize your chances. In North Sweden, a six room hotel, known as Arctic Bath is due to open this winter, floating (in summer) and sitting on ice (in winter) on the Lule river.

In the meantime – in the months before snow and ice arrives, based, a typical Aurora Zone trip involves a stay in a glass-roofed cabin set amongst forests and lakes on the outskirts of Saariselkä in Finland.  Activities include National Park hiking, gold panning, husky sledding and a cruise on Lake Inari.

Meanwhile, Off the Map  is pioneering a new Aurora Camp near the village of Kilpisjärvi; two mobile sleeping huts that will be located in the tundra, both with clear roofs to sky watch and properly remote, it can only be reached by snowmobile.

Also in Finland, Nangu Boutique Hotel opens in December. On the southern shore of Lake Inari, 20 minutes from the village of Ivalo, Nangu has just 24 rooms and is both adults-only and all-inclusive, covering all meals and activities, that including ice fishing, snowmobile rides, cross- country skiing and a husky and reindeer day at nearby Nellim lodge. It’s featured by Discover The World.

Just 60km from Rovaniemi just north of the Arctic Circle, Beana Laponia, featured by Best Served Scandinavia has just 11 rooms but has its own team of huskies. Adults only and in an area of extremely low light pollution, close to the hotel there’s an outdoor hot tub and sauna, some rooms also have their own private sauna. Evenings can be spent in a traditional woodland lavvu tent and campfire.

Author: Carrie Mitchell

Carrie A. Mitchell is the founder of L’Aventure Travel, the host of the Suitcase Sojourn Podcast, and author of the children’s travel book “To Be We”. Carrie is a global travel and hospitality expert who works with publications, brands and entertainment outlets on a number of travel related projects, from marketing consulting to editorial coverage to hosting & producing content for the web, TV and podcasts. She is always seeking to learn from people and places around the world, and share through her cultural exploration (40+ countries and counting)