The Northern Lights
Aurora Borealis – a.k.a. “Northern Lights” -is one that is in many people’s bucket list these days, and one can understand why. It is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring light displays, caused by the collision of the sun’s solar flare particles and the earth’s magnetic field that produces these beautiful light displays around the polar regions. In the northern hemisphere, it is called “Aurora Borealis”, and it is called “Aurora Australis” in the southern hemisphere.
Due to the latitude and availability of accessible land mass in the region where this phenomenon occurs, the Aurora Borealis is much easier to see than its southern counterpart, the Aurora Australis. Countries like Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Canada and the US state of Alaska are the best places to spot the Northern Lights.
To see these light displays, there must be a fair amount of solar activity happening in the atmosphere, coupled with almost complete darkness (for better visibility) and a clear sky (no clouds and full of stars). To get all of these in alignment requires some time and patience, as not everyday will you get a clear night, and solar activity varies on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, staying in a region for a day or a week will not guarantee you seeing the lights, even if it is during the season when it is more likely to happen.
In February this year, I was fortunate enough to have witnessed the Northern Lights in the Lapland region of Finland. I stayed a total of 6 nights there, and it wasn’t until the third night that I managed to see the northern lights. The first 2 nights was spent sitting in the middle of a frozen lake, waiting patiently for the light display. I was quite disappointed when I was not able to see it on the second night, and was already resigned to the fact that I might not see it at all..
Since I was not able to see the Northern Lights in the first couple of nights due to the cloudy conditions, I found out that there has been better weather and conditions in Norway (around 150kms away from where I was staying) and there was a van taking tourists to the border of Finland and Norway to see it, so I immediately grabbed the opportunity to go even just for a few hours to witness the amazing light displays, and it surely did not disappoint.
The following day, I again saw the Northern Lights, this time just outside the hotel that I stayed at in Lake Inari. It was again another stunningly beautiful display, though the display was not as strong as the night before.
On the 5th night of my stay in Lapland, I stayed at the glass igloo hotel in Kakslauttanen (Hotel Kakslauttanen/Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort) where they also have a Santa’s village. I was again very fortunate to witness the Northern Lights, this time from the comforts of the glass igloo. The lights danced all night just above my head, and it was just like sleeping right under these magical light displays!
I absolutely recommend trying to see the amazing Aurora, either in the Arctic or Antarctic region. Don’t expect to see it in one day, but if you have the time, do make the effort to see them.
Fly to Helsinki, and then take a domestic flight to Ivalo, the northernmost airport in Finland. Kakslauttanen Glass Igloo Hotel is 35 minutes away from Ivalo airport, and Lake Inari is 30 minutes away from the airport on the other direction.