December 10, 2022

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are by far one of the most fascinating natural phenomena to occur on this planet. Contrary to popular belief, the aurora is not something that can be seen every day in northern countries. Every year, thousands of tourists go to see the northern lights, but many return empty-handed. As a result, all the expense, effort and time is wasted. We cannot guarantee that you will see it, but we have prepared a guide with information that will maximize your chances of seeing as those who have returned from the northern lights adventure.

Southern lights too! – These Auroras are also found in the South Pole, they are also called Aurora Australis . In other words, it can also be seen in countries such as Tasmania and New Zealand, but since it is much easier to reach the lights in the North and there are many places to catch the lights, countries within the Arctic Circle are often preferred. That’s why we’re going to talk about the Northern Lights in particular here.

Where to See the Northern Lights
The best places to see the Northern Lights are near the North Pole of the countries within the arc called the Aurora Oval:

Sweden Abisko , Björkliden, Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna, Luleå, Tornedalen
Finland Inari , Ivalo , Kakslauttanen, Luosto, Nellim , Nuorgam, Rovaniemi, Saariselkä , Utsjoki
Norway Alta, Andøya, Bødø, Finnmark, Hammerfest, Harstad, Karasjok, Kirkenes, Kjollefjord, Lakselv, Lofoten Islands, Narvik, Nordkapp, Skibotn, Svalbard, Tana Bru, Tromsø , Vardø
Iceland Akureyri, Grimsey, Hvalfjörður, Ísafjörður, Þingvellir National Park, Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes, Vatnajokull
Greenland Ammassalik, Isortoq, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk, Kuummiut, Sermiligaaq, Tasiilaq, Tiniteqilaaq
Russia Murmansk , Salekhard, Severodvinsk
Alaska Anchorage , Barrow, Bettles, Denali, Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Prudhoe Bay
Canada Calgary, Dawson City, Fort McMurray, Fort Nelson, Gillam, Lake Athapuskow Manitoba, Pangnirtung, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Yukon
Of course, each place has its own pros and cons. For example, Russia is the most economical option. But here, too, what you can do in terms of activity is limited. Finnish Lapland is both much more affordable and promising more side activities than other Scandinavian countries. For more information, see our article Where Are the Northern Lights: Country Advantages and Disadvantages .

Aurora Ring

Passing through the Arctic regions of the world, this thick green ring marks the region where the Northern Lights are common. All of Iceland and northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland remain in the aurora circle.

However, in rare times when aurora activity is very intense, the lights can go down to the area indicated by the thin green line. However, the probability of being seen this far south is very low. Well, we can say that it is possible in a day as much as a finger of a hand a year. So if you’re going to see the northern lights, don’t go further north.

On the other hand, when there is aurora activity of very unusual intensity, the Northern Lights can reach as far as the Mediterranean Sea. That’s what it says on NASA’s page. But this is something that only happens once in 10 years.

As you can see from the map, there is no Aurora activity just above the North Pole. So the legend the more North the better is not entirely true. But the further north you stay inside the Aurora Ring, the better. Meanwhile, the Aurora Oval has also been found to have shifted a little to the South over the years.

Unfortunately, going somewhere within the Aurora Oval does not guarantee seeing the Northern Lights. To understand where you are most likely to see the Lights, we must first understand the factors that determine the formation and visibility of the Northern Lights.

Factors That Determine Your Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights
1. Intensity of Activity Occurring in the Sun
If we try to explain briefly, what creates the Northern Lights is the reaction of the electrically charged particles emitted by the explosions in the Sun with the gases in our atmosphere. When the particles blown from the explosion in the sun enter the world, they are pulled towards the North and South Pole with the effect of magnetic fields. This is why we see the aurora in the northern and southern parts of the world.

In summary; The intensity of activity in the sun – that is, how intense and fast the solar wind is – determines how visible the Northern Lights are.

There are days when the activity in the sun is very intense, and there are days when it is not intense at all. There are applications that predict the state of the aurora by following what is happening in the sun. We’ll talk about all of them shortly.

Since the particles blown from the sun reach the earth in an average of 4 days, the intensity of the lights can only be given with 4-day forecasts, but the most accurate forecast is daily forecasts. So when you plan months in advance to see the Northern Lights, you’re flipping a coin.

2. The Sky Is Clear
The second important point in seeing the Northern Lights is whether the sky is clear or not. Since cloudy and snowy weather draws a curtain between us and Aurora, we cannot see the lights even if there is enough activity. This situation is common in Norway because the high Norwegian mountains catch the clouds coming from the ocean and trap them above the city. It’s a bit like the reason for our abundant rainfall in the Black Sea. This reduces your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

In summary; To see the Northern Lights, clear skies and intense activity from the Sun are needed.

The Best Places to See the Lights in Lapland
Statistics suggest that the combination of the outdoors and high activity is most common in Abisko, Sweden. Air currents coming from different directions were sweeping the clouds as they collided here. Abisko’s nickname is Blue Hole because of the clear sky.

This makes Abisko a more likely Aurora spot than many places, which is why we chose Abisko and had an extraordinary Northern Lights experience. It was really the most intense activity we saw here. However, this is largely a matter of luck. Probably the same night the north of Finland & Norway was also breaking.

The place we recommend for Finland is around the Inari lake. In summary, you will maximize your chances if you go north of Saariselka. We had a great night with the northern lights in this area, Nellim. Luckily, it was the night we rented the Aurora Cabin. While there was heavy snowfall in the evening, the rain stopped at 12 pm. The clouds parted and there was an incredible feast of light until morning.

In Norway, Tromso (you have to escape from the city lights) and its north are among the best places to watch. In other words, in these 3 countries, there is a situation like the more north the better.

Meanwhile, the weather in Lapland can change very quickly. Suddenly it becomes cloudy, suddenly the clouds disperse and the weather clears. It’s all luck.

Best Weather Forecast for Nordic Countries
You see, in order to see the northern lights, you need to follow the weather with one eye and the solar activity with the other. They usually follow this Norwegian website as it is doing well in all northern countries . It’s also a good idea to rent a car and chase the clear weather on days when high activity is expected. We did so.

Also, if your flight’s departure time is after dark and you are sitting by the window, keep your eyes open. When the plane reaches sufficient altitude, you are likely to see an Aurora because you are above the clouds.

3. Light Pollution
The darker your environment, the better you can see the lights. Therefore, try to isolate yourself from city lights as much as possible. This is the reason why most Aurora hotels are located far from the city, in the forest. Again, having a rental car under you will provide you with the mobility needed for this.

4. Avoid the Full Moon
Likewise, it’s important to choose dates when the sky is as dark as possible, just like your environment. At this link you can find a calendar showing the phases of the moon. It’s good to avoid the full moon.

5. Turn North & Clear Your Horizons
On days when solar activity is very high, the Northern Lights are ubiquitous in the sky. They even dance from place to place. But if activity is low, the Northern Lights are vaguely visible like distant city lights, do not move, and are only visible on the horizon in the northerly direction. Therefore, if there is a hilly or wooded area at your horizon line, it prevents you from seeing. You can widen your field of vision by going to a high place or going to the shore of a lake.

6. Take Enough Time to See the Lights
The more time you spend in the Aurora Ring, the more chances you give yourself to see the lights. So we planned a 10-day trip to Sweden and Finnish Lapland. It has been an unforgettable journey filled with many wonderful experiences. We were also lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on 4 out of 10 days. We highly recommend our route to you: You can check it out in our Northern Lights Route article.

7. Solar Cycle
It is known that their activity in the sun goes in a rhythm consisting of an 11-year cycle. There is activity at every stage of the 11-year cycle, but scientists say there are times during these 11 years when activity peaks and bottoms out. If you coincide your trip with one of the high activity years of the cycle, you can increase your chances of witnessing extraordinary sights.

But of course, you don’t have to wait for the peak period. We went at the end of the loop (March 2019) and yet our guide said we saw one of the most beautiful Northern Lights in years. We even saw a few crown-shaped coronas.

Best Time to See the Northern Lights
When to go
The Northern Lights are visible from September to March.

Ideal Time: It is generally believed that the best months to watch the Northern Lights are during the two equinoxes. That is September and March. We haven’t been able to find the scientific research on which this is based, but even articles on NASA’s website say so. It is written that the tilt of the axis during the equinox makes the earth more receptive to catching winds from the sun.

September-October : If you choose to go in September or October, temperatures will be more moderate. Since the bodies of water will not be frozen yet, you have the chance to capture wonderful shots of the Northern Lights reflecting on the water surface. The disadvantage of this season is that there is no snow level required for winter activities such as ice fishing, ice karting, etc.

November – January: Days get shorter in the Arctic during the winter months. The further north you go, the shorter the daylight hours. For example, Abisko gets 4-5 hours of light. This could create a pretty good opportunity to catch Auroras. After all, the more nights you experience, the better your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. But besides that, there is no room for activities you can do during the day, which are as special as the lights. In addition, the fact that the snowfall is more intense increases the possibility of the sky being closed.

February – March: We chose March because the weather is starting to soften now, the equinox is approaching, the sky is getting clearer and the days are getting longer. Therefore, it is a period that provides both sufficient time for winter activities that can be done during the day and the conditions for seeing the northern lights at the same time.

April – August: Solar activity continues in the summer months, but the lights are not seen because the sky is not dark enough. This brings us to the next point.

Length of Days in the Arctic
This is a table made for Iceland but more or less valid for all other Northern Lights viewing locations. You can examine how much daylight there is month by month. If you are north of the polar circle, note that, unlike the chart below, around December 21 is night 24 hours a day.

What Time of Day Are the Lights Seen?
In general, the lights are best seen between 08:00 and 01.00, but this can change according to the situation. Sometimes they become visible as soon as it gets dark, and sometimes they can keep you up and in the cold until the late hours of the night. During our trip, they left once at 00:00 and continued until 06:00 in the morning. So always keep your eye on the sky and be sure to check out the apps we’ll talk about a little bit at the same time.

How the Northern Lights Are Seen with the Naked Eye / How They Appear in Photos
In some cases, the human eye sees better, in other cases, cameras see better. It all depends on how strong aurora activity there is.

Aurora photos are taken with the long exposure method. In the following human eye x camera comparison, we are talking about photos taken in this way:

When You Have Very Low Levels of Aurora Activity

On the day we took this photo, there was no aurora activity visible to the naked eye, but when we took it with the camera, we actually saw a little bit of northern lights coming out. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to detect very low levels of light, but cameras can detect it thanks to long exposures.

So when you see an empty sky, don’t just assume that there is no light and try to take a photo. But of course you need to know the long exposure and you need a tripod. Also, editing photos taken in low light spoils the photo (you can see it from the last frame), so if you want a quality image, you should have a good camera.

Home page Europe Finland
WHERE, WHEN, HOW THE BEST NORTH LIGHTS ARE
we are not at home·FinlandSweden·4 Comments

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are by far one of the most fascinating natural phenomena to occur on this planet. Contrary to popular belief, the aurora is not something that can be seen every day in northern countries. Every year, thousands of tourists go to see the northern lights, but many return empty-handed. As a result, all the expense, effort and time is wasted. We cannot guarantee that you will see it, but we have prepared a guide with information that will maximize your chances of seeing as those who have returned from the northern lights adventure.

Southern lights too! – These Auroras are also found in the South Pole, they are also called Aurora Australis . In other words, it can also be seen in countries such as Tasmania and New Zealand, but since it is much easier to reach the lights in the North and there are many places to catch the lights, countries within the Arctic Circle are often preferred. That’s why we’re going to talk about the Northern Lights in particular here.

Where to See the Northern Lights
The best places to see the Northern Lights are near the North Pole of the countries within the arc called the Aurora Oval:

Sweden Abisko , Björkliden, Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna, Luleå, Tornedalen
Finland Inari , Ivalo , Kakslauttanen, Luosto, Nellim , Nuorgam, Rovaniemi, Saariselkä , Utsjoki
Norway Alta, Andøya, Bødø, Finnmark, Hammerfest, Harstad, Karasjok, Kirkenes, Kjollefjord, Lakselv, Lofoten Islands, Narvik, Nordkapp, Skibotn, Svalbard, Tana Bru, Tromsø , Vardø
Iceland Akureyri, Grimsey, Hvalfjörður, Ísafjörður, Þingvellir National Park, Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes, Vatnajokull
Greenland Ammassalik, Isortoq, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk, Kuummiut, Sermiligaaq, Tasiilaq, Tiniteqilaaq
Russia Murmansk , Salekhard, Severodvinsk
Alaska Anchorage , Barrow, Bettles, Denali, Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Prudhoe Bay
Canada Calgary, Dawson City, Fort McMurray, Fort Nelson, Gillam, Lake Athapuskow Manitoba, Pangnirtung, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Yukon
Of course, each place has its own pros and cons. For example, Russia is the most economical option. But here, too, what you can do in terms of activity is limited. Finnish Lapland is both much more affordable and promising more side activities than other Scandinavian countries. For more information, see our article Where Are the Northern Lights: Country Advantages and Disadvantages .

Aurora Ring

Passing through the Arctic regions of the world, this thick green ring marks the region where the Northern Lights are common. All of Iceland and northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland remain in the aurora circle.

However, in rare times when aurora activity is very intense, the lights can go down to the area indicated by the thin green line. However, the probability of being seen this far south is very low. Well, we can say that it is possible in a day as much as a finger of a hand a year. So if you’re going to see the northern lights, don’t go further north.

On the other hand, when there is aurora activity of very unusual intensity, the Northern Lights can reach as far as the Mediterranean Sea. That’s what it says on NASA’s page. But this is something that only happens once in 10 years.

As you can see from the map, there is no Aurora activity just above the North Pole. So the legend the more North the better is not entirely true. But the further north you stay inside the Aurora Ring, the better. Meanwhile, the Aurora Oval has also been found to have shifted a little to the South over the years.

Unfortunately, going somewhere within the Aurora Oval does not guarantee seeing the Northern Lights. To understand where you are most likely to see the Lights, we must first understand the factors that determine the formation and visibility of the Northern Lights.

Factors That Determine Your Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights
1. Intensity of Activity Occurring in the Sun
If we try to explain briefly, what creates the Northern Lights is the reaction of the electrically charged particles emitted by the explosions in the Sun with the gases in our atmosphere. When the particles blown from the explosion in the sun enter the world, they are pulled towards the North and South Pole with the effect of magnetic fields. This is why we see the aurora in the northern and southern parts of the world.

In summary; The intensity of activity in the sun – that is, how intense and fast the solar wind is – determines how visible the Northern Lights are.

There are days when the activity in the sun is very intense, and there are days when it is not intense at all. There are applications that predict the state of the aurora by following what is happening in the sun. We’ll talk about all of them shortly.

Since the particles blown from the sun reach the earth in an average of 4 days, the intensity of the lights can only be given with 4-day forecasts, but the most accurate forecast is daily forecasts. So when you plan months in advance to see the Northern Lights, you’re flipping a coin.

2. The Sky Is Clear
The second important point in seeing the Northern Lights is whether the sky is clear or not. Since cloudy and snowy weather draws a curtain between us and Aurora, we cannot see the lights even if there is enough activity. This situation is common in Norway because the high Norwegian mountains catch the clouds coming from the ocean and trap them above the city. It’s a bit like the reason for our abundant rainfall in the Black Sea. This reduces your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

In summary; To see the Northern Lights, clear skies and intense activity from the Sun are needed.

The Best Places to See the Lights in Lapland
Statistics suggest that the combination of the outdoors and high activity is most common in Abisko, Sweden. Air currents coming from different directions were sweeping the clouds as they collided here. Abisko’s nickname is Blue Hole because of the clear sky.

This makes Abisko a more likely Aurora spot than many places, which is why we chose Abisko and had an extraordinary Northern Lights experience. It was really the most intense activity we saw here. However, this is largely a matter of luck. Probably the same night the north of Finland & Norway was also breaking.

The place we recommend for Finland is around the Inari lake. In summary, you will maximize your chances if you go north of Saariselka. We had a great night with the northern lights in this area, Nellim. Luckily, it was the night we rented the Aurora Cabin. While there was heavy snowfall in the evening, the rain stopped at 12 pm. The clouds parted and there was an incredible feast of light until morning.

In Norway, Tromso (you have to escape from the city lights) and its north are among the best places to watch. In other words, in these 3 countries, there is a situation like the more north the better.

Meanwhile, the weather in Lapland can change very quickly. Suddenly it becomes cloudy, suddenly the clouds disperse and the weather clears. It’s all luck.

Best Weather Forecast for Nordic Countries
You see, in order to see the northern lights, you need to follow the weather with one eye and the solar activity with the other. They usually follow this Norwegian website as it is doing well in all northern countries . It’s also a good idea to rent a car and chase the clear weather on days when high activity is expected. We did so.

Also, if your flight’s departure time is after dark and you are sitting by the window, keep your eyes open. When the plane reaches sufficient altitude, you are likely to see an Aurora because you are above the clouds.

3. Light Pollution
The darker your environment, the better you can see the lights. Therefore, try to isolate yourself from city lights as much as possible. This is the reason why most Aurora hotels are located far from the city, in the forest. Again, having a rental car under you will provide you with the mobility needed for this.

4. Avoid the Full Moon
Likewise, it’s important to choose dates when the sky is as dark as possible, just like your environment. At this link you can find a calendar showing the phases of the moon. It’s good to avoid the full moon.

5. Turn North & Clear Your Horizons
On days when solar activity is very high, the Northern Lights are ubiquitous in the sky. They even dance from place to place. But if activity is low, the Northern Lights are vaguely visible like distant city lights, do not move, and are only visible on the horizon in the northerly direction. Therefore, if there is a hilly or wooded area at your horizon line, it prevents you from seeing. You can widen your field of vision by going to a high place or going to the shore of a lake.

6. Take Enough Time to See the Lights
The more time you spend in the Aurora Ring, the more chances you give yourself to see the lights. So we planned a 10-day trip to Sweden and Finnish Lapland. It has been an unforgettable journey filled with many wonderful experiences. We were also lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on 4 out of 10 days. We highly recommend our route to you: You can check it out in our Northern Lights Route article.

7. Solar Cycle
It is known that their activity in the sun goes in a rhythm consisting of an 11-year cycle. There is activity at every stage of the 11-year cycle, but scientists say there are times during these 11 years when activity peaks and bottoms out. If you coincide your trip with one of the high activity years of the cycle, you can increase your chances of witnessing extraordinary sights.

But of course, you don’t have to wait for the peak period. We went at the end of the loop (March 2019) and yet our guide said we saw one of the most beautiful Northern Lights in years. We even saw a few crown-shaped coronas.

Each cycle is completed in 11 years, which can sometimes be shorter or longer. It can also be said from this table that the activity on the Sun is decreasing from year to year.
Best Time to See the Northern Lights
When to go
The Northern Lights are visible from September to March.

Ideal Time: It is generally believed that the best months to watch the Northern Lights are during the two equinoxes. That is September and March. We haven’t been able to find the scientific research on which this is based, but even articles on NASA’s website say so. It is written that the tilt of the axis during the equinox makes the earth more receptive to catching winds from the sun.

September-October : If you choose to go in September or October, temperatures will be more moderate. Since the bodies of water will not be frozen yet, you have the chance to capture wonderful shots of the Northern Lights reflecting on the water surface. The disadvantage of this season is that there is no snow level required for winter activities such as ice fishing, ice karting, etc.

November – January: Days get shorter in the Arctic during the winter months. The further north you go, the shorter the daylight hours. For example, Abisko gets 4-5 hours of light. This could create a pretty good opportunity to catch Auroras. After all, the more nights you experience, the better your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. But besides that, there is no room for activities you can do during the day, which are as special as the lights. In addition, the fact that the snowfall is more intense increases the possibility of the sky being closed.

February – March: We chose March because the weather is starting to soften now, the equinox is approaching, the sky is getting clearer and the days are getting longer. Therefore, it is a period that provides both sufficient time for winter activities that can be done during the day and the conditions for seeing the northern lights at the same time.

April – August: Solar activity continues in the summer months, but the lights are not seen because the sky is not dark enough. This brings us to the next point.

Length of Days in the Arctic
This is a table made for Iceland but more or less valid for all other Northern Lights viewing locations. You can examine how much daylight there is month by month. If you are north of the polar circle, note that, unlike the chart below, around December 21 is night 24 hours a day.

Source: Cool Science Dad
What Time of Day Are the Lights Seen?
In general, the lights are best seen between 08:00 and 01.00, but this can change according to the situation. Sometimes they become visible as soon as it gets dark, and sometimes they can keep you up and in the cold until the late hours of the night. During our trip, they left once at 00:00 and continued until 06:00 in the morning. So always keep your eye on the sky and be sure to check out the apps we’ll talk about a little bit at the same time.

How the Northern Lights Are Seen with the Naked Eye / How They Appear in Photos
In some cases, the human eye sees better, in other cases, cameras see better. It all depends on how strong aurora activity there is.

Aurora photos are taken with the long exposure method. In the following human eye x camera comparison, we are talking about photos taken in this way:

When You Have Very Low Levels of Aurora Activity

On the day we took this photo, there was no aurora activity visible to the naked eye, but when we took it with the camera, we actually saw a little bit of northern lights coming out. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to detect very low levels of light, but cameras can detect it thanks to long exposures.

So when you see an empty sky, don’t just assume that there is no light and try to take a photo. But of course you need to know the long exposure and you need a tripod. Also, editing photos taken in low light spoils the photo (you can see it from the last frame), so if you want a quality image, you should have a good camera.

When You Have Low Levels of Aurora Activity
We can now see with our own eyes when the aurora activity rises just one click from very low to low. Low-level activity looks as if there is a green haze or a green cloud on the horizon. Returning to the example above, our eye sees similar (and better) images to the last photo. Of course, cameras still perform much better than the human eye.

Moderate Aurora Activity

Home page Europe Finland
WHERE, WHEN, HOW THE BEST NORTH LIGHTS ARE
we are not at home·FinlandSweden·4 Comments

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are by far one of the most fascinating natural phenomena to occur on this planet. Contrary to popular belief, the aurora is not something that can be seen every day in northern countries. Every year, thousands of tourists go to see the northern lights, but many return empty-handed. As a result, all the expense, effort and time is wasted. We cannot guarantee that you will see it, but we have prepared a guide with information that will maximize your chances of seeing as those who have returned from the northern lights adventure.

Southern lights too! – These Auroras are also found in the South Pole, they are also called Aurora Australis . In other words, it can also be seen in countries such as Tasmania and New Zealand, but since it is much easier to reach the lights in the North and there are many places to catch the lights, countries within the Arctic Circle are often preferred. That’s why we’re going to talk about the Northern Lights in particular here.

Where to See the Northern Lights
The best places to see the Northern Lights are near the North Pole of the countries within the arc called the Aurora Oval:

Sweden Abisko , Björkliden, Jukkasjärvi, Kiruna, Luleå, Tornedalen
Finland Inari , Ivalo , Kakslauttanen, Luosto, Nellim , Nuorgam, Rovaniemi, Saariselkä , Utsjoki
Norway Alta, Andøya, Bødø, Finnmark, Hammerfest, Harstad, Karasjok, Kirkenes, Kjollefjord, Lakselv, Lofoten Islands, Narvik, Nordkapp, Skibotn, Svalbard, Tana Bru, Tromsø , Vardø
Iceland Akureyri, Grimsey, Hvalfjörður, Ísafjörður, Þingvellir National Park, Reykjavik, Snæfellsnes, Vatnajokull
Greenland Ammassalik, Isortoq, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk, Kuummiut, Sermiligaaq, Tasiilaq, Tiniteqilaaq
Russia Murmansk , Salekhard, Severodvinsk
Alaska Anchorage , Barrow, Bettles, Denali, Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Prudhoe Bay
Canada Calgary, Dawson City, Fort McMurray, Fort Nelson, Gillam, Lake Athapuskow Manitoba, Pangnirtung, Whitehorse, Yellowknife, Yukon
Of course, each place has its own pros and cons. For example, Russia is the most economical option. But here, too, what you can do in terms of activity is limited. Finnish Lapland is both much more affordable and promising more side activities than other Scandinavian countries. For more information, see our article Where Are the Northern Lights: Country Advantages and Disadvantages .

 

Aurora Ring

Passing through the Arctic regions of the world, this thick green ring marks the region where the Northern Lights are common. All of Iceland and northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland remain in the aurora circle.

However, in rare times when aurora activity is very intense, the lights can go down to the area indicated by the thin green line. However, the probability of being seen this far south is very low. Well, we can say that it is possible in a day as much as a finger of a hand a year. So if you’re going to see the northern lights, don’t go further north.

On the other hand, when there is aurora activity of very unusual intensity, the Northern Lights can reach as far as the Mediterranean Sea. That’s what it says on NASA’s page. But this is something that only happens once in 10 years.

As you can see from the map, there is no Aurora activity just above the North Pole. So the legend the more North the better is not entirely true. But the further north you stay inside the Aurora Ring, the better. Meanwhile, the Aurora Oval has also been found to have shifted a little to the South over the years.

Unfortunately, going somewhere within the Aurora Oval does not guarantee seeing the Northern Lights. To understand where you are most likely to see the Lights, we must first understand the factors that determine the formation and visibility of the Northern Lights.

Factors That Determine Your Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights
1. Intensity of Activity Occurring in the Sun
If we try to explain briefly, what creates the Northern Lights is the reaction of the electrically charged particles emitted by the explosions in the Sun with the gases in our atmosphere. When the particles blown from the explosion in the sun enter the world, they are pulled towards the North and South Pole with the effect of magnetic fields. This is why we see the aurora in the northern and southern parts of the world.

In summary; The intensity of activity in the sun – that is, how intense and fast the solar wind is – determines how visible the Northern Lights are.

There are days when the activity in the sun is very intense, and there are days when it is not intense at all. There are applications that predict the state of the aurora by following what is happening in the sun. We’ll talk about all of them shortly.

Since the particles blown from the sun reach the earth in an average of 4 days, the intensity of the lights can only be given with 4-day forecasts, but the most accurate forecast is daily forecasts. So when you plan months in advance to see the Northern Lights, you’re flipping a coin.

2. The Sky Is Clear
The second important point in seeing the Northern Lights is whether the sky is clear or not. Since cloudy and snowy weather draws a curtain between us and Aurora, we cannot see the lights even if there is enough activity. This situation is common in Norway because the high Norwegian mountains catch the clouds coming from the ocean and trap them above the city. It’s a bit like the reason for our abundant rainfall in the Black Sea. This reduces your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

In summary; To see the Northern Lights, clear skies and intense activity from the Sun are needed.

The Best Places to See the Lights in Lapland
Statistics suggest that the combination of the outdoors and high activity is most common in Abisko, Sweden. Air currents coming from different directions were sweeping the clouds as they collided here. Abisko’s nickname is Blue Hole because of the clear sky.

This makes Abisko a more likely Aurora spot than many places, which is why we chose Abisko and had an extraordinary Northern Lights experience. It was really the most intense activity we saw here. However, this is largely a matter of luck. Probably the same night the north of Finland & Norway was also breaking.

The place we recommend for Finland is around the Inari lake. In summary, you will maximize your chances if you go north of Saariselka. We had a great night with the northern lights in this area, Nellim. Luckily, it was the night we rented the Aurora Cabin. While there was heavy snowfall in the evening, the rain stopped at 12 pm. The clouds parted and there was an incredible feast of light until morning.

In Norway, Tromso (you have to escape from the city lights) and its north are among the best places to watch. In other words, in these 3 countries, there is a situation like the more north the better.

Meanwhile, the weather in Lapland can change very quickly. Suddenly it becomes cloudy, suddenly the clouds disperse and the weather clears. It’s all luck.

Best Weather Forecast for Nordic Countries
You see, in order to see the northern lights, you need to follow the weather with one eye and the solar activity with the other. They usually follow this Norwegian website as it is doing well in all northern countries . It’s also a good idea to rent a car and chase the clear weather on days when high activity is expected. We did so.

Also, if your flight’s departure time is after dark and you are sitting by the window, keep your eyes open. When the plane reaches sufficient altitude, you are likely to see an Aurora because you are above the clouds.

3. Light Pollution
The darker your environment, the better you can see the lights. Therefore, try to isolate yourself from city lights as much as possible. This is the reason why most Aurora hotels are located far from the city, in the forest. Again, having a rental car under you will provide you with the mobility needed for this.

4. Avoid the Full Moon
Likewise, it’s important to choose dates when the sky is as dark as possible, just like your environment. At this link you can find a calendar showing the phases of the moon. It’s good to avoid the full moon.

5. Turn North & Clear Your Horizons
On days when solar activity is very high, the Northern Lights are ubiquitous in the sky. They even dance from place to place. But if activity is low, the Northern Lights are vaguely visible like distant city lights, do not move, and are only visible on the horizon in the northerly direction. Therefore, if there is a hilly or wooded area at your horizon line, it prevents you from seeing. You can widen your field of vision by going to a high place or going to the shore of a lake.

6. Take Enough Time to See the Lights
The more time you spend in the Aurora Ring, the more chances you give yourself to see the lights. So we planned a 10-day trip to Sweden and Finnish Lapland. It has been an unforgettable journey filled with many wonderful experiences. We were also lucky enough to see the Northern Lights on 4 out of 10 days. We highly recommend our route to you: You can check it out in our Northern Lights Route article.

7. Solar Cycle
It is known that their activity in the sun goes in a rhythm consisting of an 11-year cycle. There is activity at every stage of the 11-year cycle, but scientists say there are times during these 11 years when activity peaks and bottoms out. If you coincide your trip with one of the high activity years of the cycle, you can increase your chances of witnessing extraordinary sights.

But of course, you don’t have to wait for the peak period. We went at the end of the loop (March 2019) and yet our guide said we saw one of the most beautiful Northern Lights in years. We even saw a few crown-shaped coronas.

Each cycle is completed in 11 years, which can sometimes be shorter or longer. It can also be said from this table that the activity on the Sun is decreasing from year to year.
Best Time to See the Northern Lights
When to go
The Northern Lights are visible from September to March.

Ideal Time: It is generally believed that the best months to watch the Northern Lights are during the two equinoxes. That is September and March. We haven’t been able to find the scientific research on which this is based, but even articles on NASA’s website say so. It is written that the tilt of the axis during the equinox makes the earth more receptive to catching winds from the sun.

September-October : If you choose to go in September or October, temperatures will be more moderate. Since the bodies of water will not be frozen yet, you have the chance to capture wonderful shots of the Northern Lights reflecting on the water surface. The disadvantage of this season is that there is no snow level required for winter activities such as ice fishing, ice karting, etc.

November – January: Days get shorter in the Arctic during the winter months. The further north you go, the shorter the daylight hours. For example, Abisko gets 4-5 hours of light. This could create a pretty good opportunity to catch Auroras. After all, the more nights you experience, the better your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. But besides that, there is no room for activities you can do during the day, which are as special as the lights. In addition, the fact that the snowfall is more intense increases the possibility of the sky being closed.

February – March: We chose March because the weather is starting to soften now, the equinox is approaching, the sky is getting clearer and the days are getting longer. Therefore, it is a period that provides both sufficient time for winter activities that can be done during the day and the conditions for seeing the northern lights at the same time.

April – August: Solar activity continues in the summer months, but the lights are not seen because the sky is not dark enough. This brings us to the next point.

Length of Days in the Arctic
This is a table made for Iceland but more or less valid for all other Northern Lights viewing locations. You can examine how much daylight there is month by month. If you are north of the polar circle, note that, unlike the chart below, around December 21 is night 24 hours a day.

Source: Cool Science Dad
What Time of Day Are the Lights Seen?
In general, the lights are best seen between 08:00 and 01.00, but this can change according to the situation. Sometimes they become visible as soon as it gets dark, and sometimes they can keep you up and in the cold until the late hours of the night. During our trip, they left once at 00:00 and continued until 06:00 in the morning. So always keep your eye on the sky and be sure to check out the apps we’ll talk about a little bit at the same time.

How the Northern Lights Are Seen with the Naked Eye / How They Appear in Photos
In some cases, the human eye sees better, in other cases, cameras see better. It all depends on how strong aurora activity there is.

Aurora photos are taken with the long exposure method. In the following human eye x camera comparison, we are talking about photos taken in this way:

When You Have Very Low Levels of Aurora Activity

On the day we took this photo, there was no aurora activity visible to the naked eye, but when we took it with the camera, we actually saw a little bit of northern lights coming out. Our eyes are not sensitive enough to detect very low levels of light, but cameras can detect it thanks to long exposures.

So when you see an empty sky, don’t just assume that there is no light and try to take a photo. But of course you need to know the long exposure and you need a tripod. Also, editing photos taken in low light spoils the photo (you can see it from the last frame), so if you want a quality image, you should have a good camera.

When You Have Low Levels of Aurora Activity
We can now see with our own eyes when the aurora activity rises just one click from very low to low. Low-level activity looks as if there is a green haze or a green cloud on the horizon. Returning to the example above, our eye sees similar (and better) images to the last photo. Of course, cameras still perform much better than the human eye.

Moderate Aurora Activity

There is moderate auroral activity. (There is no edit on the photo)

There are no edits here either. There is moderate activity.
When there is moderate aurora activity, you start to see beautiful and clear lines in the sky, not green fog. You might even catch them dancing occasionally. Lights are clearly visible to the naked eye, but cameras still produce better results than the human eye. Moderate activity, very convenient for taking pictures, especially if you’ll be in the frame. Mostly the lights are green and white.

High Activity

If there is high aurora activity, be ready for a visual feast. The sky suddenly turns into those moving visuals of Winamp. The stronger lights now rise above the horizon, rise above your head and dance wildly. You can expect to see multiple colors at once (predominantly green, white, and pink), but if you do get a corona, you’re ultra lucky.

Oliver Wright, a photographer we met there, shot this video one day before we came to Sweden. We also saw activity at the 1st and 2nd corona level in the video in Abisko. But after the third corona in the video, it was a situation that we did not witness. We hope you come across a night like this. By the way, here’s a rule like Murphy’s rule. You will surely have missed a great night one or a few days before you arrive 🙂 We hope you come across a better one.

corona (corona)
You will see coronas in the video above. Corona is formed when there is an unusually large oscillation from the sun. The sky is split in two as if by a tunnel of light, and that’s when things get wild. Colorful bright lights begin to scatter on the eye like ink dropped into water.

Great for enjoying high activity lights but more difficult to photograph. If you take a long exposure, because there is a lot of light and movement, those clear lines of light disappear, instead the sky becomes green as if it was plastered with Pril. You need to reduce the duration of your long exposure. But those moments are so fascinating that it doesn’t even occur to you to take pictures.

Shooting video requires a camera that can handle high ISO levels and a lens with an aperture below 2.

Northern Lights Colors
The most common aurora color is green, but sometimes colors such as red, pink, blue, and purple appear.

The color of an Aurora depends on which gas interacts with electrons from the Sun and how much energy is exchanged between them. For example, Oxygen emits a greenish-yellow light (which is the most common Aurora color); nitrogen usually gives a blue color. When oxygen and nitrogen molecules come together, they emit ultraviolet light. But this color can only be seen through special cameras or satellites. If you’re interested , you can read it from NASA .

How to Photograph the Northern Lights
You cannot capture the northern lights in your camera’s auto mode. You need to mount your camera on a tripod and adjust the long exposure settings best suited to the current light. It’s not a very difficult thing, but it requires basic photography knowledge. You can learn the A and B of this job from our article on How to Take a Photograph of the Northern Lights .

There are several apps for tracking the northern lights. Thanks to these applications that you can download to your phone, you can see when and where there will be activity. It’s like looking at the weather. The predictions are pretty accurate, but don’t just rely on it, keep your eyes on the sky at all times. There are several applications, we were most satisfied with Aurora and now we will tell you how to use it.

How to Use Aurora App?
The leftmost image is a picture of the expected activity that night. The intensity of the aurora gradually increases from green to orange, from orange to red. If it appears above your current location (it also shows your app location) you’re in luck. Especially if it is orange or red, there is no honey from you. During the night the colored zone moves.

Our recommendation is to know the factors that determine the intensity of the activity and analyze the data yourself. The application gives you information such as the intensity and speed of the solar wind. As a general rule;
– A density above 3 ie Solar Wind Density (nT),
– A speed over 300 km/h ie Solar Wind Speed ​​(p/cc)
– When you see a Bz value below 0, you can expect activity within 1.5 – 2 hours after seeing this value. But our suggestion is if the green area on the map is on you, don’t be lazy, chase the lights. Don’t leave your luck to guesses. While we had not learned to read the graphics on our first night, we went out of the city with our car and chased the lights for hours just because the green area came over us, and on our first night we saw the lights even though they were not very intense. Like Lulea, at the bottom of the ring. Even if the application does not show activity from time to time, raise your head and look.

I also wrote the values ​​above the graphs for convenience.

We’ve also used paid apps that send you push notifications when there’s activity, but we’re not very happy with it. We do not need

Let me emphasize once again. Weather reports are also important for visibility. Our recommendation for Scandinavia and Lapland: Norwegian forecast . They kept the forecasts by the hour.

The Best Glass Igloos Where You’re Likely to See the Northern Lights

Aurora bubbles and glass igloos are the best accommodation options to watch the lights. Each one is warm, cozy, romantic and unique. However, we cannot say that they are cheap accommodation options at all. Therefore, if you plan to stay in such places, we suggest that you try to choose places in the north as much as possible, where you are more likely to see the northern lights. Here are all the places we can recommend in this regard, in our article on The Best Glass Igloos and Aurora Cabins for Watching the Northern Lights .

What to Wear
The northern lights are already visible in the coldest parts of the world. On top of that, going out at night and waiting outside for a long time to watch adds salt and pepper. You find yourself going back and forth between watching the lights and not freezing from the cold. You have to spend 4-5 hours at -20°, the lights get better as time goes on and you cannot go. Some aurora tours can also take longer. No kidding, you have to go out into the cold with good equipment. Our recommendations:

– Standard ski / snowboard suits: Thermal underwear, leggings and top (wool or synthetic), fleece, snow pants and jacket, ski socks.

– Heated Insoles: These are electric heaters that keep you warm for several hours. You can also use them throughout the day. You can use them over and over again as they are rechargeable. We didn’t have it. We wished we had.

– Touch Gloves: Your hands, face and feet are the most affected by the cold. You will undoubtedly want to take a lot of photos. But every time you take out your camera or take off your gloves to use your phone, you lose a lot of heat. Touching metal objects like the camera body or tripod is also the worst. At this point, touchscreen gloves come in very handy. Some gloves lose their tactile properties after a few washes. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy a quality pair.

– Single Finger Gloves: Touch gloves provide you convenience, but they are not enough to fight the cold by themselves. Therefore, we recommend that you wear a snow glove with 4 fingers on top of the touch gloves. Your hands are much warmer when you have 4 fingers together.

– Neoprene Face Mask: Most people can get by without a face mask, but sometimes you wish you had. It is not worth regretting, we say to be with you. It is already an affordable product.

– Snow Suit: You can think of it as a one-piece jumpsuit that you will wear over your ski clothes. If you participate in a photography/snowmobile tour, activity companies will give you these overalls. They are both practical and protect from the cold very well.

– Sorel Boots or Moon Boots: Not all winter boots are equally protective. Rubber-toed Sorel boots are the best in this regard. While not as good as them, Moon Bots also perform well. Fixed by experience. 🙂

– Other:
Extra batteries and power banks
A flashlight to see ahead if you’re going to a dark place to see the Northern Lights.