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One of the main points in Finland that attract visitors from all over the world is a unique and spectacular solar phenomenon – Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. It is definitely a must-see thing in Finland. The northern lights can also easily be seen from Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Northern Russia. Specifically, in Finland the Northern Lights can best be seen in Lapland, the northernmost part of the country.
Briefly, you need two things for the observation of Northern Lights or Aurora: darkness and clear sky.
Once you are in Finland, you can sing up for free Aurora alerts from Finnish Meteorological Institute to get alerts when the level of magnetic disturbances are high enough and weather conditions are right to clearly see the Northern Lights. It would really help to decide when is the best time to visit Lapland, Finland. You can subscribe for Aurora alerts here: http://aurorasnow.fmi.fi/public_service/
Aurora can be visible evenly all around the year, but the best time of the year to visit Finland to see Northern Lights is spring and autumn because the occurrence rate is higher during these seasons. But basically, all months from late August to the end of April is a good time to visit. Summer is not the best time of the year to visit Finland for Northern Lights, because the nights are too light to see them. Especially in Lapland, where the sun does not set at all during that period of the year. So, if you are visiting Finland for auroral observations, you should skip the period from early May to mid-August.
September, October, and November is a good time to visit Finland for Northern Lights but think twice if you are going to Finland for snow. Of course, every winter is different, but typically there is no snow between mid-April and mid-November.
Considering the weather conditions, locals claim that the best time to visit Lapland is March or early April because the days are already much longer, the weather is not that freezing cold, but there is still a lot of snow to enjoy and you can still see the Northern Lights very well. But this time is also a peak season, so if you are looking for more peaceful holidays, you should choose the colder months of the winter. Peak season is also usually equal to the most expensive season. If you want to save some money and wondering what is the cheapest time to visit Finland, the answer would probably be August and September. Since the tourist season is over all the places is going to be less crowded and cheaper. At the end of September the Northern Lights begin to occur again in Lapland, but be aware that the increased cloud cover makes them difficult to spot.
Auroras can occur at any time during the night or, in a more simple way, when the sky is dark enough. Although, the ideal time to see it is at midnight and a couple of hours before and after midnight.
Again, take into account that during summer months even the midnight is not a good time to see Aurora, because of the natural phenomenon – Midnight Sun, when the sun is visible for full 24 hours.
As mentioned, Aurora usually appears from 8 pm till 2 am and could last from a couple of minutes to several hours. Waiting for the Aurora might be a little challenging and cold. To skip this waiting outside, you could spend that time inside the glass buildings. For example, cozy glass Igloo hotels, which would make the whole experience unforgettable. The roofs of the Igloos are made of thermal glass to allow the room to remain warm without disrupting the view. The right time to visit Finland and stay in Igloo hotels is from late August till the end of April – that is the time when they are available for reservations.
The north of Finland is famous not only for observations of Northern Lights but also for being the true residency of Christmas. Town Rovaniemi in Lapland is an official hometown of Santa Claus. Best time to visit Santa Claus village in Finland is from the end of November to mid-January when they are organizing Christmas season festivities. But it doesn’t mean that it is not worth it to visit Santa Claus village at any other time, especially because Santa Claus office is open every day all year around!
After all, if you are looking for more activities during your holidays and want to kill two birds with one stone – visit Santa Claus village and see Northern Lights – December is definitely among the best times to visit Finland.
Unfortunately, there are some things you really need to think about before deciding to go to Finland in December. We already talked about Midnight Sun, when the sun does not set during all day and all night, but there is exactly the opposite phenomenon in winter when the sun does not rise above the horizon. It is called Polar Night. Polar Night starts in November and usually lasts for two months. If you are planning active holidays and do as much as you can, this time is probably not the best. On the other hand, this time gives good conditions for seeing the Northern Lights: it needs darkness and during this period the darkness is in control without any rest.
Even though that the best place to see the Northern Lights in Finland is Lapland (according to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, four nights out of five are illuminated by Northern lights in Northern Lapland), you can spot them in the capital of the country as well. The best time remains the same as in the north of Finland: October, November, March, and April during the darkest parts of the day. The main difference from the Lapland is that the Helsinki is a huge city with big light pollution and, once again, observation of Northern Lights requires as much darkness as you can get. If your goal in Finland is to see Aurora, you should really book a trip to the north of the country as well. But if you are only staying in Helsinki, there is still a chance to see it: just try to look for higher points in the city or more remote locations around the city and keep looking in the Northern sky at midnight on the night when the sky is clear.
To sum everything up, the best time to visit Finland to see the Northern Lights is from October to April, but for the snow and little warmer weather the ideal time is probably March.