1. Go North!
It is often thought that you have to be north of the Arctic Circle but this has nothing to do with the aurora borealis, it is merely a lattitude above which the sun does not set in the summer, nor rise in the winter for at least 1 day.
We sell holidays to view the aurora borealis in northern Finland and just over the border in Swedish Lapland, well away from the adverse effects of the Gulf Stream but up against the land mass of Eurasia where the weather is often more stable and clear skies are more likely. Having said that even out in the middle of the North Atlantic, Iceland also has some wonderful displays at times: Chasing the Northern Lights.
2. Go in Winter!
To fully enjoy the diverse winter activities on offer as well as seeing the aurora borealis go in February or March when the daylight is longer and temperatures generally not so cold. As a bonus you will also have more chance of clear skies at night. The Northern Lights are visible from September through until April each year in Northern Europe.
3. Go Somewhere Dark!
Get away from light pollution, get out of the accommodation and village. Most of our holidays are from small lodges and hotels out by themselves or in small villages making it easy to escape light pollution. For a perfect back to nature experience stay in a wilderness cabin to really maximise your chances of seeing the aurora: Into The Wilderness. Alternatively take a multi-day husky safari out to wilderness cabins: Lake Inari Husky Adventure.
4. Stay Up Late
Be prepared to stay up late, they often don’t occur until after 10pm but rarely go on all night. This is often easier said than done especially when you are usually combining with daytime outdoor activities in the fresh, clean air of the far north but some programmes do concentrate on the Northern Lights, for example: Lake Inari Aurora Short Break
Don’t forget to wrap up warm, standing still or lying on your back in the snow can get chilly. Fortunately most locations with winter activities allow you to borrow thermal oversuits for the duration of your stay.
5. Stay in a Hotel with an Aurora Alarm
6. Taking Photos
Take a tripod if you intend to photograph the aurora borealis. Photos should generally be taken with a wide angle lens for periods up to 30 seconds. In fact if you are not a keen photographer leave the camera indoors as there is nothing like viewing the magical display in the sky with your own eyes and the memories will last just as long as any photo. Another point of note is that video cannot capture the phenomenon. If you would like to learn from an expert in Northern Lights photography then our Abikso Exposed holiday is perfect.
7. Stay Longer!
Staying for longer will maximise your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Here are a couple of holidays that are each different in style that are both one week in length Torassieppi Winter Hideaway and Aurora Northern Adventure.
8. Take the Children
Travelling as a family? Book your own traditional log cabin or family style apartment for a true Nordic experience. When the kids are asleep you can keep watch for the aurora borealis from your verandah. So you only have to wake the children if the Northern Lights appear: Iso-Syöte Your Way.
9. Travel in the Autumn
Travel in September or October for great value breaks and the terrific colours of autumn, a very short season in the far north of Europe. Birches turn yellow and the forest floors turn bright red as bilberry, cloudberry and other ground covering plants ignite the pallet: Lake Inari Autumn Auroras - Bear watching is still possible at this time as well as walking, canoeing and other activities: Wild Encounters.
10. Use a Local Guide
Use a local guide. This may sound odd as the Northern Lights are either going to be showing or not, but a guide can really help you find them in their local patch as they will know how the weather patterns are and they will also help you understand the phenomenon: 5 Day Wilderness Adventure or our Abikso Exposed holiday if you are looking for a northern lights photographic safari as well.