For around 200 nights per year, some regions of Finland witness the stunning natural phenomenon known as aurora borealis. Even though hunting the aurora is a matter of luck, in Finland's Lapland, it's actually quite easy to catch a glimpse of the amazing colorful lights that show up on every other clear night.
When is the best time to see northern lights
The season for northern lights in Finland is quite long and stretches from September through March. As a matter of fact, autumn and early spring are the best time for catching the northern lights, as solar activity is quite intense and reliable. March is also considered to be the month with the clearest skies. You can observe the brightest aurora at around midnight or until 2 am. The mystical shimmering in the sky can last for just a few minutes at a time so be patient not to miss it. Your main obstacle can be cloudiness, so don't forget to check the aurora forecast or sign up for alerts from the Finnish Meteorological Institute to be ready to run outside at the right moment.
The northernmost part of the country—Lapland—is the best destination for aurora borealis chasers. It can be reached by train or plane from the capital of Helsinki. You can go on a northern lights snowmobile adventure, try dog-sledding, snowshoeing, or just watch the northern lights with comfort at a glass igloo. The warm and cozy glass rooms even have an aurora alarm so you won't miss it. To increase you chances of seeing aurora Borealis, you need to travel to Finnish "northern arm" region. The village of Kilpisjärvi in the municipality of Enontekiö boasts 75% chances to catch the northern lights. The neighboring Utsjoki municipality which borders Norway, provides the same high likelihood to see the phenomenon. Sodankylä and nearby Inari, Kittilä, Rovaniemi, and Savukoski municipalities also sport a good chance to witness the phenomenon. Ivalo in Inari municipality has an Aurora Village with snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, ice karting, and horse sled riding. Rovaniemi witnesses northern lights for about 150 times a year. However, you'll have to get out of the city for the best view because of light pollution. Keep in mind that in the winter, the temperature in Lapland can drop to -30°C (-22°F) so pack lots of warm layers and insulated boots.
Your chances to see northern lights will be a bit lower in Kemi. located near the city of Tornio, on the Swedish border. Aurora shows up in local skies for about 100 nights per year. However, the town, situated on the Bothnian Bay, boasts a Snow Castle which looks stunning with northern lights in the background. There are also many hotels and lodging options.
Your chances of seeing the phenomenon of northern lights in Helsinki (located in Uusimaa of southern Finland), are much lower than in Lapland. However, with a bit of luck, you can still catch a glimpse of dancing lights here on a clear dark night in the fall or early spring. The popular spots for local aurora chasers include the 98-ft (30-m) Observatory Hill (Tähtitorninmäki) which is located in the park near the South harbor in Ullanlinna district. You can also try other parks in Helsinki or get out of the city to avoid light pollution.