Chasing Northern Lights – it’s in almost everyone’s itinerary when they visit the extreme Northern Hemisphere where they might be in a position to see the northern lights (aka aurora borealis). When we were in Lapland (northern region of Finland), it was all we could think of on how to best see this astral beauty before we had to return home.
Before getting started, I want to offer a few *PRO-TIPS* on how we were able to chase, hunt, and revel in finding the northern lights:
- Join a solid tour. Full disclosure – we had our own car, but ended up joining a tour. This northern lights hunting business is not for amateurs it seems, and after a couple failed nights of spotting the lights, we opted to work with a tour (worth every penny in my opinion). We found a local operator (Aurora Finder – Esko) who took us around on a journey from Finland to NORWAY to find the lights (only guy to offer a “guarantee” of seeing the lights, or partial refund). Trust me, you do not want to be doing this drive on your own at 1-2am.
- Pick the right night. The best aurora hunter in the world cannot find the lights if the weather is not agreeable. We used two resources to pick the night to take our tour. Aurora Service will give you the Kp indication (planetary K index used to characterize the magnitude of geomagnetic activity in the atmosphere over a 3-hour interval), which basically means higher Kp = higher chance of seeing norther lights. MeteoEarth provides cloud cover movements in live time, which will help you / or the tour guide figure out what route to take for the hunt.
- Taper your expectations. You may not see the northern lights on your trip, and when you Google others’ experiences, it’s not uncommon and it’s totally okay. But you can try to maximize your chances by using the tools I referenced, and by visiting the right countries at certain times of the year.
Our journey with Esko began at 8pm in Ivalo. We met in a parking lot, where there were 3 other northern light hunters, and the 5 of us got into Esko’s van (I know, sounds sketchy, but it was totally fine). The first stop was 1.5 hours away, based on Esko’s intel. We got out of the van, shivering in the cold, and saw nothing. After ~10 minutes, he ushered us back in the van and spoke to his contact for a while. He then turned to us and asked whether we were okay with a “slightly longer” drive to see the lights. The entire crew was unanimously in support, and we pressed on.
We dozed off… and woke up to realize we had CROSSED THE BORDER INTO NORWAY. The chase was real.
We finally arrived at the coast of the Arctic Ocean (#newexperiences), and took out our cameras and began snapping away. There are no words, so let me just share with you what we saw.