Monday, July 17, 2017

Chasing the Northern Lights in Finland

In January of 2016, Kyle and I ventured north to the Arctic Circle in Inari, Finland with our friends, Nate and Linda.  We were in search of the Northern Lights, but we did a lot of other fun stuff while we were there!  

Inari, Finland is in an area of Finland called Lapland.  We stayed in a hotel at the edge of the huge (and very frozen) Lake Inari.  I wouldn't really go so far as calling Inari a town.  It consisted of a hotel, a winter sports shop, a grocery store and a handful of other buildings.  Luckily, we weren't there to see a town.  We had a lot on our itinerary!  We got to our hotel very late, after a flight with two layovers.  As you can imagine, it was extremely cold; the kind of cold that takes your breath away.  They were even having a "warm spell" when we first arrived, and each day got a bit colder. The sun never rose above the horizon, but it was actually brighter than I thought it would be. Between about 10:30 am and 3:00 pm, it was bright enough to look like a very gloomy, overcast day.

On our first day in the Arctic circle, we went dog sledding, which was a blast!  The dogs were all husky mixes, but much smaller than you would imagine...probably because they actually get the amount of exercise that they're supposed to.  It was easy to tell that they love running!  The dogs were all hooked up to the sleds when we arrived, and they were ready to go!  After a brief demonstration we were off!  Kyle and I took turns driving the sled.  It was so much fun! 

Linda's photo

When we returned, we helped to unhitch and feed the dogs.  They were fed a big bowl of hot broth.  We had hot punch and a fire waiting for us in a teepee.

Later that night we had a sleigh ride, complete with reindeer and all!  There are a ton of reindeer in Finland.  We each had our own two-seater sleigh that was piled up with fur blankets and pulled by one reindeer.  We didn't catch any northern lights, but it was very peaceful and relaxing.

When we got back to the hotel, we went for a stroll out on the lake.  We thought we saw northern lights, but it turns out they were just light columns; a phenomenon that happens under certain conditions.

Light columns

The next day was pretty laid back.  We went to the Sami museum to learn about the culture of the people native to Finland.  It was a very nice museum considering it's location!  We did a bit of shopping at the one shop in town after the museum.  We bought some very cool knives that all of the Finnish men carried around with them.

That afternoon, we had a little cross country skiing lesson.  Linda and Nate have done some skiing, but it was the first time Kyle and I have ever been on skis.  It was a lot of fun, and a really good work out!!  Kyle didn't lug around his camera with us, so here are just a few cell phone pics:

That night we went snow shoeing in search of the Northern lights.  They escaped us again, but it was still really nice.  It's so calm and quiet trekking through the knee deep snow in the middle of an evergreen forest in the Arctic circle.  We stopped to make a fire and have some hot punch in the forest before heading back to the hotel.  We had our fingers crossed for Northern lights the next night since it would be our last night there!

The next day was our snow mobiling day.  We followed our guide onto the frozen Lake Inari to first visit an island that had been traditionally used as a graveyard by the ancient Sami people.  We spent a few more hours visiting different spots around the area that had cultural significance.

We stopped for lunch over a fire a little over halfway through.  My feet were nothing but big blocks of ice!!  I think I could have stepped on those hot coals without feeling a thing!!

That evening we headed out again on the snow mobiles to search for Northern lights, and we thankfully got to see them!!  We stopped first at a location in the middle of the lake before moving on to a darker spot.  Luckily, we timed our trip to be there during a new moon so that we could see the lights even better.

We went back to a spot where we had been earlier that day to see if we could get some more good views of the sky.  We were not disappointed!  It was so amazing to the green lights shimmer and move across the sky.  For the best viewing, you have to avoid looking at any light for a as long as possible to get your eyes used to the dark.  Even looking at the lights on your camera makes a difference in how well you can see the lights.

The pretty wooden church we saw that afternoon looks very sinister in this shot...

By the time we got to the hotel, I thought that my feet were going to fall off from being so cold (I even had foot warmers in my boots!), but we were absolutely thrilled that we were finally able to see the Northern lights.  It was definitely an item crossed off of the bucket list!

We had such a fun trip to the Arctic circle, and it was made even better by travelling with great friends!  I highly recommend going to Finland for winter adventures that are exciting, and a cheaper option than Norway.  If you ever get the chance to go chase the Aurora Borealis, take it!  It will become a life long memory!


  1. Absolutely incredible! That is going to have to go on our bucket list for sure! I imagine it is hard to pack all of that winter gear into a suitcase though!

    1. Luckily we were able to use the heavy duty gear from the winter sports shop!