In summer, absolute heaven! Wild flowers make the most of their short season, all trying to out-compete each other. Sitting by the sea at midnight, watching white tailed sea eagles and reading your book by the light of the sun you may even experience an algal bloom turning the warm sea to an unbelievably brilliant turquoise.
In winter, a wonderful place to see the Northern Lights with (relatively!) mild temperatures due to the Gulf Stream. From February to May you may find the smell of drying cod, ‘Stockfish’ somewhat overpowering.
The down side: you’ll always suffer from the urge to go back there!
The bright blue skies and startling snow and icy landscape during the day and a night sky lit by the incredible dancing Northern Lights takes your breath away. Four days of coming 'home' to the Retreat after a days husky driving, snowmobiling, cross country skiing or sledging was perfect - warm, cosy and intimate; lovely home cooked (mainly vegetarian) food; plenty of hot water and roaring log fires. Welcoming hosts, Mikael and Maya will arrange all the above and for those wanting something less adventurous there is, among other things, yoga, massage, cooking and felt making; and around Christmas time trips to visit Santa! With temperatures averaging -30 it is a real bonus that all the necessary Outerwear and boots are provided. We watched the Northern Lights 100yds from the guesthouse standing on the frozen Torne River with the snow laden forest stretching from the far bank towards Finland in the distance. A gem of a guesthouse in a remarkable setting.
All I can say is just go there. You may be cold but will not be disappointed. Yllas, in Finnish Lapland, far into the Arctic Circle, is the place I love.
Temperatures plummet to minus 25 degrees C – and that’s in the day, but don’t be put off by this. Dress for the weather and you will fall in love with the place. The lack of daylight hours in winter, with daytime sunrise and sunset, just adds to the beauty.
If its fun you are after, you have a choice. Downhill ski, cross country ski, husky dog sledding, ice fishing, reindeer sleighs, snowmobiles – you need a week here to do it all. Meet the local Sami people, who will invite you into their huts and make tea over an open fire in a blackened kettle.You cannot possibly get bored.
The choice of pristine snow and the silence that comes with it is another option, with miles of walking trails that cannot be beaten for peace and solitude.
There is of course the option to be a big kid and travel to Santa’s post office in Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home, where you can meet him any day of the year. Here you can arrange for the ‘real’ Santa’s letters to be delivered to the kids!
Add to this the wide range of first class hotels, romantic log cabins, blazing log fires and you have it all – well nearly. I stayed at the Hotel Akas, a very friendly and atmospheric hotel in the traditional unspoilt Lappish community of Akaslompolo, near Yllas.
The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) are a spectacle not to be missed. Normally appearing in the night, my hotel agreed to give me a wakeup call when they appeared. Believe me; it’s worth missing some sleep for.
To me Lapland conjures up many memories – the beauty of the sky, the sparkle of the snow, and the magic of the silence. I will return.
My favourite winter wonderland in the Arctic Circle is a stay at Kakslauttanen Holiday Village deep in the Finnish countryside. Staying in a traditional log cabin it has a romantic open fire place, private sauna room and outside hot tub. You can also chose to spend a night or two in a heated glass igloo where you can see the Northern Lights from the bed when looking up through the glass on a clear night.
It's a perfect winter location for a Siberian husky sledding experience, snow mobile excursion close to see views across to the forests of the Russian border where you stop for soup around a camp fire, ice fishing with the local Sami people in their traditional costumes or a Reindeer safari in a snow-cloaked forest, all efficiently arranged through Discover the World.
The snow laden pine trees is a perfect location for Christmas, a great romantic break or adventure with your family.
I first visited Arvidsjaur when I was a young teen. My auntie and I went just after Christmas for our annual holiday together. On our first night we witness the Aurora Borealis from just outside our spa hotel - Laponia. Over the course of three days, we went husky sledging, travelled across frozen lakes on skidoos and ate fantastic local food. For those of you not interested in the Christmas side of things and just want a snowy holiday away somewhere peaceful and beautiful, Arvidsjaur is the perfect destination.
This is an amazing trip - and unlike some of the others I've done - you actually get an astronomer to guide you, so you know what to look for and when! I did it last year and was so impressed I've already booked for this year too.
So many visitors to northern Sweden go straight to the Ice Hotel in Kiruna - point proved by the fact that Abisko is not even in this websites drop down menu!! [Noone has tipped about it yet - ed] I recommend keep going north on the train to Abisko, about an hour further into the Arctic Circle. There is a fantastic, huge, youth hostel in the middle of the Abisko National Park, more like a hotel. If you are visiting between October and May you can sign up to spend a night in the cafe on top of the Kungsleden mountain. It sounds bonkers (its not posh, you literally sleep on the floor of a cafe in sleeping bags) but you get to spend the whole night watching for the Northern Lights followed by the sun rising over the Lapporten, the famous Lapp Gateway. This mountain view is seeped in Sami traditions, legends and stories. I also recommend following your evening on the mountain up with a trip on a skidoo across the bright blue frozen lake with a local guide. NB: make sure you book the Abisko Mountain STATION (the youth hostel) not the Abikso Mountain Lodge (the posh hotel)
We did this for our honeymoon and even though we spent the whole trip in separate beds (or sleeping bags!) it was truly amazing. The closest thing to magic I have witnessed.
Between mid-May and the end of July, you can take the cable car to the top of the mountain for stunning views all over Tromso and the midnight sun. There is even a cafe up there!
I still remember the first time I saw snow – I was 29 years-old and I’d been living in the UK for just over half a year. I’d met some people through the kids’ school and I was having a coffee at someone’s house one Saturday when the big, wet flakes came fluttering out of the sky like some old-fashioned washing powder. I ran outside, embarrassed by my own colonial excitement. Of course, I’ve seen plenty of snow in the 11 or so years since then – I’m a little snow-jaded.
Swedish Lapland. The Arctic Circle. I’m ridiculously pleased to be here. The air is dry as it's -35 deg outside. The snow sparkles like a million diamonds strewn beneath my big warm snowboots. I look at a flake on my arm, except it’s not a flake, it’s a proper crystal, like in the fairy stories, like something covered with silver paint you’d buy to scatter on your Christmas table or tuck into envelopes to fall all over someone’s floor as they take out their Christmas cards. Seriously, my heart squeezes at the perfectness of it.
We’re on snowmobiles, there are only three of us and it’s night time. It’s a little scary driving over these frozen lakes and rivers – Bjorn warns us not to stray from his path as there are places where the ice is thinner. He tells us to go quickly over one section and not stop as there is water on the track – water that’s so cold you’d die if you fell into it. The wind chill has got to be taking this down to way under -40deg. Thank goodness for all the snow gear I’m wearing. The snowmobile has heated hand grips, so my hands are ok in the mittens, but my feet are very uncomfortably numb. I’m starting to not enjoy the ride when we arrive at a tipi. We go in and Bjorn makes a fire which warms the place up a lot. I’m jumping about to make my feet warm, but its not working. He gives me a headtorch and tells me to go outside and run up and down the track.
This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’m claustrophobically puffing through a balaclava as I run three meters one way and three meters the other – always with one eye on the tipi in case it suddenly disappears into the trees. I go in when I’m sweating, rip off the balaclava and the jacket and breathe deeply. He makes us reindeer in a creamy sauce and boils a copper kettle on the fire for tea. The milk is frozen in its container so we have to warm it by the fire. He tells me there are brown bears in the woods, but they’re hibernating right now. We talk politics and economics and books. He’s so tall, must be nearly seven foot, I find out later he’s 65.
We move on, through a few more trees and then onto a plain which is actually a huge frozen lake. It’s snowing lightly, the snow flicking, sparkling in the snowmobile headlights. Then the sky begins to glow white in the north, and then the white becomes green and the green grows and undulates in the sky. The aurora borealis. The cameras are all frozen, so we can’t take a picture, but it’s ok. Apparently, the aurora have only been seen four times this winter, so we were so lucky.
A short-break to Tromso in Northern Norway to see the northern lights is just the most romantic thing I have ever done.
Never mind you are wrapped up in layers of thermal wear, the light show in the skies are just a thousand times more romantic than a sunset will ever be.
On the Hurtigruten cruise you also get to go to the North Cape, which is really cool to say that you have been. There is amazing food onboard, a really relaxed and non-cruise like feeling, and the hot tub on the top deck is an absolute winner - even in minus five degrees!
All in all it's just a really cool and romantic getaway.
A conversation held late one night as a first year student in St Andrews demonstrates the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights in the UK:
Jenny: Look, the aurora borealis!
Me: No Jenny, you're drunk!
Jenny: I'm not drunk I'm an astrononomoner... an astronomy student!
Me: You're drunk. You'd have to have awfully good eyesight to see the aurora from here... oh wait... the sky is unusually green...
I recommend the Botanical Gardens or the beaches and coastal walks as good viewing places, because of the lack of light pollution and the general good atmosphere.
The Polar Light Center is situated inside the Arctic Circle, in the fishing village of Laukvik on Austvagoya, one of Norway's beautiful Lofoten Islands. It's run by Rob and Therese who are both passionate about the Northern Lights - that's why they moved here! It's not that easy to get here but it's well worth the effort - the scenery is fantastic and the people are truly friendly. Rob is able to make Polar Light forecasts and can send a text to your mobile to warn you when the Northern Lights are visible.
We stayed at Viva Lofoten where owner Vibeke gave us a warm welcome.
Having lived in Sweden in the early 1980's seeing the northern lights was a regular event. I didn't expect to see a stunning display on Iona, wild camping on a cycling trip around the west coast of Scotland on a September night in the mid 1980's. The stunning display of ribbon lights around the horizon was so fantastic that I dragged my sleeping bag out under the stars and was awestuck for hours. I've had two trips to Finnish Lapland the past two februaries and seen nothing so don't ignore the far north of this land!
The best way to avoid disappointment is to combine hunting for the Northern Lights with something else that's fun and different. Tromsø, Norway, is a great place to do just that. I went dog sledding which was so much fun I nearly forgot why I was there in the first place. With seven Huskies dragging you into the quiet wilderness on a sledge, the Northern Lights is an added bonus if it shows up, but even without it you would not go home feeling left out. My best night however was the cheaper option of renting cross country skis from the Intersport shop in town and heading for the free, open 24hrs, floodlit slopes on the island, just a short walk from the town centre! The calming feeling of sliding along on the skis, taking in the fresh air, makes the northern lights even more spectacular. Best of all, you wont have to 'share the experience'with anyone else, which often is the case on organised tours. And the downhills provide an added thrill!
The city itself is known in Norway for being one of the most hospitable – with a buzzing nightlife.
Tromsø also benefits from twice weekly direct flights from Gatwick with budget, but decent, airline norwegian.no. If you book early enough you can get returns for under £100. Stay in the Clarion Hotel Bryggen to get access to their rooftop heated jacuzzi!
There are loads of good (and cheap) ideas on what to do in Tromso and other tips here: www.iglobetrotter.com/norway/northern-lights/northern-lights-activities.
Ski-rental: Intersport Sportshuset, Storgata 87, phone +47 77661100
Husky-rides: Tromsø Villmarkssenter, www.villmarkssenter.no
Google map: tinyurl.com/yl8w4vp
It is a hotel a two hour drive from Reykjavik. I went in 2007 with a school trip and stayed for a few nights to experience the Northern Lights. It is set within the amazing landscape of Iceland and offers a 360 degree view to capture the incredible displays. It is singly placed meaning there is not a disruption from other hotels or settlements.
The best place to see the Northern Lights is Chena Hot Springs, in the middle of an Alaskan winter. During the day you can explore the Alaskan wilderness by cross country skis, snowmobile or dog sled (why not learn to mush your own dog team?). To appreciate the scale of the vast empty space you can even take to the air in the ski plane. Nearby is the city of Fairbanks and the downhill ski-resort at Moose Mountain.
Night time, however, is set aside for one thing only – the Northern lights. The purpose built viewing room is ideal to enjoy the light show in comfort, but to get the best views you can take a snow-cat tour which provides ideal opportunities for taking some stunning photographs.
Finally, the ultimate experience, absolutely the best way to experience the surreal phenomena that is the Northern Lights, is to run through the snow at -40oC, plunge into the warm outdoor spring pool and admire their ethereal beauty while floating in the healing waters – Incredible!
Where's the best place to see the the aurora borealis? During your next camping holiday in the UK. Never mind a trip to Scandinavia, Canada or Alaska, there are rare occasions when the Northern Lights can be seen in the night sky here. No need to look out of the tent every night though, just subscribe to the free Aurora Alert email service run by researchers at Lancaster University. They will automatically send you an email when geomagnetic activity indicates that there may be chance of seeing the lights in the UK. If it's dark enough, with clear skies and you are far enough away from street lighting look for red and green lights in the northern skies.
Basic cheap log cabins with bunkbeds in a very remote and strange flat place without any light or noise pollution - a perfect spot to enjoy the Northern Lights where you can, in the horizon of the ocean, still see the reflection of the midnight sun (and where the next land you would meet would be the North Pole). We saw the Northen Lights already in late August, which is very unusual. The three of us, just sitting in our sleeping bags in chairs enjoying a cold beer and the Northen Lights - isn't life beautiful?
Drive East from Husavik along the beatiful coast of Northen Iceland - on the No. 85 road. After 50km you drive through a rather strange and landscape. Along the road you'll find a few farm house of which some of them rent out - look for signs.
Google map: tinyurl.com/ydlbrls
Yukon territory is a spectacular place to view the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Located on the border of Alaska and British Columbia in the Canadian Northwest Territories, its population of 31,000 has remained constant since 1900. The capital, Whitehorse, is a welcoming yet remote destination that is the best place to view the lights. Warm your cockles by a log fire with a steaming cup of tea in preparation for sunset. Once the sun goes down, the bright stars come out, and during August and September, so do the ripples of green sulfurous gases and oxygen emissions that form the Northern Lights. The impressive sight illuminates the sky in dancing patterns on certain nights of the year. So wrap up warm and head to Yukon to catch a sight you will never forget.
Way up in the far reaches of northern Finland, amid the snow cloaked forests of lapland, there lies an igloo village. I had travelled with my girlfriend to the home of Father Christmas for a winter break at the Kakslauttanen holiday village; a cluster of cosy log cabins and ice and glass igloos deep within the arctic circle.
We never did see Santa, though lying in bed beneath the glass roof of our igloo we were treated to a phantasmagoric light show like we’d never seen. Shimmering between stars that I never even knew existed was the spectacular aurora borealis, a sight more magical than seeing the old man himself!
Sightings of the Northern Lights can never be guaranteed, though in one week in winter we were treated to six nights of this spectacle.
Hotel and igloo village Kakslauttanen, 30 minute transfer from lvalo airport.
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