#CocoTravel : Top hints and tips when seeing the Northern Lights

Here at House of Coco we are hell bent on ticking everything off of our travel bucket list and one thing that’s right near the top is seeing the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, in all their magical glory.

Night skies blaze with swirls of light and colour and those that have been lucky enough to have seen them cannot help but be awed by the experience.

The UK’s only Northern Lights’-dedicated holiday company, The Aurora Zone, give their hints and tips on seeing the Auroras:

Kilpisjärvi, Finnish Lapland – Photography by Gareth Hutton (above)
Kilpisjärvi, situated in the remote northerly reaches of North West Finland, by the borders of Norway and Sweden, is an absolute dream for photography lovers. This wilderness region offers a huge variety of landscapes, Arctic wildlife, and chances to witness the Aurora Borealis and capture their astounding beauty on film.

Three photography tips from Gareth Hutton, The Aurora Zone guide at Kilpisjärvi, to take the perfect shot:

  • Use the sun white balance to get accurate polar light colours. The camera’s automatic white balance has a tough time getting the pastel blue and purple colours correct during the polar night. Change it to sunlight to help keep it more natural.
  • Overexpose your shot to get the correct exposure of the snow. Your camera’s light meter reads the snow as quite bright and drops the exposure reading down to compensate. Overexpose in manual mode or use the Exposure Valuation (EV) button when shooting in Aperture priority or one of the automatic modes, to get white snow.
  • Practice with your camera in manual mode and become comfortable with using it in the dark. When you are out shooting the Aurora, you don’t want to have your torch on trying to find the right button. If you do need to use a torch, it’s good if it has a red-light mode to preserve your night vision.


Torassieppi, Finnish Lapland – Photography by Antti Pietikainen (image 2)

Nothing dilutes an Aurora display like artificial light pollution and a top tip to seeing the Northern Lights is to avoid it by heading to quiet location. Try Torassieppi in Finnish Lapland. Essentially, this destination is set on the banks of Lake Torasjärvi and the edge of the Pallas Ylläs National Park, making it a quiet, tranquil retreat away from light pollution, and the perfect place for keen Northern Lights hunters.


Senja, Northern Norway – Photography by Gaute Bruvik

Known locally as ‘Norway in Miniature’, Senja is an island that is not only known for its spectacular Northern Lights potential but for also being one of the region’s most idyllic spots. The island is characterised by white sandy beaches, towering fjords, vast open seas and rugged mountains.


Harriniva, Finnish Lapland – Photography by Antti Pietikainen

The Northern Lights appear most frequently at a latitude of approximately 66°N and 69°N, but it’s worth remembering that there is no best place to see the Northern Lights. You are just as likely to see them from Arctic Finland as you are Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Canada or Iceland. Consider your destination carefully because you will also need to fill your daytime hours whilst waiting for darkness to fall. In Harriniva in Finnish Lapland, the opportunities are endless. Try husky sledding, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides, saunas, cross-country skiing and more!


Jeris – Photography by Antti Pietikäinen

Local knowledge is vital in the Arctic and for seeing the Northern Lights. A whole industry has arisen around hunting for the Aurora and there is a network of professional guides and photographers who are out there nightly searching for the lights. They know all the best vantage points so if those lights are forecast to dance, then these are the people with access to the front row seats.


Luleå – Photography by Graeme Richardson

The Luleå Archipelago is a simply breathtaking region of Swedish Lapland, situated just 100 km south of the Arctic Circle. The archipelago consists of over 3000 islands and islets and, in winter, the sea freezes making it the perfect frozen playground for unique experiences such as ice breaker tours, hovercraft adventures and ‘dinner on ice’.


Muotka – Photography by Markku Inkila

The full moon has often been regarded as the worst enemy for the Northern Lights. In reality, the moon fills a miniscule proportion of our night sky and all that hype about not being able to see the Aurora when there is a full moon has been largely debunked. Talk to any aurora photographer and they will tell you that they prefer a full moon when plying their trade!


Saariselkä  – Photography by Markku Inkila

Without a doubt, seeing the Northern Lights is the number one bucket list experience, but where you stay can seriously impact on your Aurora adventure. Nestled quietly amongst the fells and forests of Northern Finland, Saariselkä offers an unforgettable combination of Northern Lights and great accommodation, with their glass-roofed Aurora Cabins. Spend your nights in Saariselkä staring up at the dark arctic sky from the comfort of your cosy bed – bliss!


Menesjarvi, Finnish Lapland – Photography by Timo Halonen

Contrary to some beliefs, the Northern Lights season doesn’t just happen in winter. In fact, they happen throughout the year, but can only be seen by the naked eye through the months of September to early April.


Inari, Finnish Lapland – Credit Inari Saariselkä Tourism

Heading to a Northern Lights destination is half the battle, but seeing the Aurora is another matter. The Northern Lights are as unpredictable as the weather, so it is advisable to try a Northern Lights experience that includes mobility. Try Northern Lights snowmobiling for an unforgettable evening of ticking two bucket list experiences off in one night!

For more information on the Aurora Borealis and to discover a wide range of Northern Lights holidays and short breaks, contact The Aurora Zone on 01670 785012 or visit www.theaurorazone.com.

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