Friday, 15 December, 2017

Spotting Aurora Borealis: as unpredictable as nature

02 Dec 2017, 23:14 ( 12 days ago)

DF Report
Photo Lapland Material Bank by Simo Vilhunen.

Tour operators in Rovaniemi make a wide range of arrangements to fulfil the hope of the thousands of tourists drawn by Aurora Borealis aka the northern lights, although there is no guarantee that this most spectacular phenomenon of nature would coincide with the steps.

Hence, the tour operators always design such programmes incorporating other activities so that the experience never relies solely on the northern lights, said Lapland Safaris Director (Operations) Rami Korhonen.

“For example,” he said, “our newest and best-selling programme Aurora Borealis Camp includes many different elements, in addition to the auroras. There are snow igloos; there is the Aurora Borealis theatre presenting films on the northern lights; the chef prepares reindeer burgers in kota; there is a snowmobile sleigh ride; guidance on photographing the night sky and the auroras should they appear; and the opportunity to sit by the fire and just enjoy the peace of nature.”

On an average, Aurora Borealis appear in the sky of Lapland more than 200 times a year. “The best time to witness the northern lights is from September to March, always when it is dark and the sky is clear,” said Korhonen. “September to November is actually the best time to enjoy the auroras, as the ground remains dark in this period due to lack of snow, which makes the night sky even more spectacular. In April, days start to get longer and nights shorter, but it is possible to see the auroras even in the beginning of April – you just have to stay awake a bit longer.”

Kati Nivala, front office manager at another tourist operator, Arctic Lifestyle, said the timing of the auroras to appear in the Lappish sky varies depending on the weather conditions. As an example, she said, “This year the northern lights appeared in Lapland’s sky first in mid-August, but last year it was October. The most probable time for Aurora Borealis to appear is between 8.00 pm and 2.00 am.”

“The tourists should understand that we have no control on the issue, but what we can do is making them happy with various programmes in the dark nature,” said Nivala, adding that at the end of August they usually take off into the darkening night and cruise along the river by Jet Skis, away from the city, passing by beautiful islands and river landscapes. “We make a break on a small sandy beach and enjoy a light picnic, keeping an eye on the northern sky. The auroras require a dark sky, which we have in Lapland again after the midnight sun season, from mid-August.”

She said driving through the dark landscapes both in the fall as well as in winter time is an excellent experience itself, but if the sky is clear and you are lucky, you can experience the beautiful show of northern lights, a star-studded sky or a mystical full moon.

According to the tour operators, there are a number of ways to reach an optimal place to watch out for the Aurora Borealis, e.g., by snowmobile or reindeer or on snowshoes. The tour operator Villi Pohjola oy (Wild Nordic Finland) even arranges a special flight styled the Northern Light Flight for tourists to climb above the clouds and fly closer to admire this natural wonder. Villi Pohjola uses a Piper PA31 private jet to chase the lights.

Despite all the arrangements and high possibilities, all the tour operators reiterated that the northern lights being a natural phenomenon, the aspiring spectators should ultimately depend on their luck to experience it.

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