Best time to see the northern lights

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Quick Guide: Best Time to See the Northern Lights 

The Northern Lights are a spectacular sight and the uniqueness of it also stands in the rarity of them dancing in the northern skies. With a bit of homework and knowledge where and when the northern lights are visible, you’ll be prepared when the moment arrives. So, continue reading to find out the best time to see the Northern Lights in Finland!

Best time to see northern lights in Finland taken by Eeva Mäkinen

Northern Lights forecast

The main bases for predicting the Northern Lights are the cycles of solar activity. By knowing the frequency and intensity of the cycles, we can determine the best time to see aurora borealis and the typical Northern Lights seasons.

The predictions are either statistical or real-time. Statistical predictions are based on decades-long observations that show us certain patterns of aurora appearing at the same time from year to year. You can use this information to plan your travels, but we’d recommend conclusively relying on real-time predictions. 

For real-time predictions, you can sign up for free aurora alerts on the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s informative Auroras Now! website. When the activity is high, you will be alerted by an e-mail. On the website, there are also sky cams and other possibilities to track the aurora.

To make it even more convenient and helpful for the Northern Lights seekers, everyone can have their own small meteorological observation centre inside their pocket. There are different apps available for your device. For example, “My Aurora Forecast & Alerts” contains forecasts, push alerts and a list of Northern Lights tour operators in Finland.

The best time to see the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights season in Finland (Lapland) starts in mid-August and ends in early April. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the best time to see aurora borealis is around the autumn and spring equinoxes that are around 22nd of September and 20th of March. Therefore, although it’s commonly believed that the best time to spot the Northern Lights is in the middle of the season, the end and the beginning have their own, rather practical and simple advantages.

According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the best time to see the northern lights in Finland is around 22nd of September and 20th of March.

Northern Lights during autumn and spring

Firstly, skies tend to be clearer in autumn and spring than in winter, when the sky is often cloudy due to snowfall. Also, the nights are darker with no snow blanket covering the ground (and darkness indeed is your ally when it comes to aurora sighting). Some roads and spots are also more easily accessible without snow.

In autumn and spring, the weather usually isn’t crispy enough to freeze the lakes and other bodies of water, which can offer a marvellous reflection of the Northern Lights playing in the sky. Milder weather also favours camping and spending the night outdoors. However, during spring we’d keep in mind that the nights get brighter particularly quick.

Northern Lights during winter

Northern Lights in December are hard to catch because the last month of the year usually brings the most frequent snowfall. Despite that, Lapland and other places in Northern Finland offer a great variety of activities you can combine with your aurora-hunt. This way, even if luck won’t smile this time, you’ll still have plenty to do.

All the winter months are excellent for skiing or snowboarding, going for a sleigh ride with huskies, dashing through the snowy fields with a snowmobile or relaxing in the sauna.

If the solar activity is high and the snowfall moderate in January and February, the conditions can be as good as in the autumn and spring. Although both aforementioned are predictable to some extent, in the end it’s still just weather and weather conditions can never be fully foreseen.

Flights to Lapland

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Kittilä (KTT)
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The ABC of going after the Northern Lights:

1) The Northern Lights season starts in Finland in mid-August and ends in early April.
2) The best time for Aurora watching in Finland is around 22nd of September and 20th of March.
3) The northern lights can be visible in the winter months (November, December, January and February) if the sky is clear.
4) Sign up for the real-time alerts of Auroras Now! or get yourself an app, where you can check the forecast and have all the helpful information about the Northern Lights.
5) Get away from the bright artificial lights of cities and traffic. Go somewhere in natural open spaces where there is enough darkness and good sight for the sky.
6) Look for the starry sky. With a clear sky full of stars, the odds of seeing the aurora are in your favour! When possible, it would still be better to avoid planning your Lapland holiday during the new moon. Full moon might light up the sky to the extent where aurora starts looking dull.
7) It's also beneficial to watch the sky a prolonged amount of time as your eyes will continue adjust for about 30 minutes giving you a clearer and brighter experience. 
8) Your chances of spotting the Northern Lights are better if you know in which direction to watch. Experienced tour operators say that the aurora almost always starts from the north. So better adjust your compass!
9) Because the lights might appear as unexpectedly as they disappear, stay outside and be on guard. The colourful sight can last from few minutes to hours. We promise you don’t want to miss this!
10) Dress accordingly. Whether you’re seeking the Northern Lights during autumn, winter or spring – keep yourself warm, because the nights in Lapland are cold throughout the Northern Lights season. You can, of course, stay in a glass-ceiling cottage or igloo, built especially for those who prefer to gaze the polar lights from a comfy bed.