GREEN LIGHT DISTRICT
Nature gives no guarantees but at least you can book a front-row seat for its most spectacular show
The Northern Lights are one of nature’s most spectacular shows. Their fantastical dance of green, blue, pink and violet light – as seen in the night sky of the Arctic regions – have become the main reason for heading so far into Northern Europe in winter.
Lapland is an area of Scandinavia that spreads across the far north of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and its indigenous Sami people believe that the Northern Lights are sparks from the tail of a mythical Firefox as it glances the snow.
It’s a lovely image, but the phenomenon also known as the aurora borealis, is actually caused by solar wind particles hitting the Earth’s upper atmosphere. It is as fickle as a Firefox though, but worry not – if you head far enough north on a clear winter’s night then you’ve around an 80 per cent chance of a sighting. But going to see them is an effort and an expense, so here are a few steps to stack the odds further in your favour.
There’s a lively trade in Northern Lights spotting from Thurso in the far north of Scotland would you believe, but it’s better to head further north and see the lights under what’s called the Aurora Zone. This broad band of Arctic air haloes the planet and in Europe covers the far north of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, and all of Iceland. And be sure to give cities a wide berth too as the lights are a lot more likely to appear in areas with little light pollution.
The Northern Lights appear from late September to late March, generally from about 6pm to 1am, but the peak time to see them is mid winter, when nights are longest. Yes there are cheaper deals at the start and end of the season, but your chance of seeing the lights diminishes. The otherworldly display actually takes place nearly 100km above the Earth’s surface, so one thing for certain is that you’ll be needing clear skies.
Seeing the lights requires warm clothes, patience and a good bit of luck. But as the lights aren’t visible under cloud cover, stretching your stay in the far north by an extra night could well make the difference, by giving any poor weather time to pass by. You won’t regret it as I’ve yet to meet anyone who, having seen the lights, didn’t want to see them again.
It’s tremendous fun to try your hand at snowmobiling or husky mushing, and it can improve your chances of seeing the lights. Book a Northern Lights excursion from your hotel and you’ll be mobile and guided by an expert, which means greater flexibility to move to where the display is taking place.
WHERE TO SLEEP?
Choosing the right type of accommodation is crucial, and there are plenty of options including a log cabin, ship’s cabin, ice hotel, or even a glass-domed igloo.
A traditional log cabin is the cosiest and most family friendly way to go. The cabins are fairly spacious and usually have a wood fire in the lounge and electric
THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE ... WALKING INTO YOUR ROOM AND SEEING A RAISED BED STACKED HIGH IN FURS