In Finland, best place for Northern Lights options come thick and fast. Seriously, this land of steaming saunas and jingling Santa bells is one of the best spots to witness the phenomenon on the whole of planet Earth. Don’t just take our word for it, though. Let the stats do the talking…
The Aurora Borealis dance on the skies here an estimated 200-300 nights of the year. That’s more than every other day! Plus, you get to score hotels that sit well above the Arctic Circle, in regions that are known to have clear conditions for viewing the natural wonder.
This guide to Finland best place for Northern Lights options sticks solely to the region of Lapland. That’s the holy grail of Aurora destinations in Europe and hosts some of the most legendary options of all, from festive Rovaniemi to the border town of Utsjoki. Let’s begin…
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When to visit Finland to see the Northern Lights?
Not all seasons are made equal when it comes to seeking the Aurora in Finland. Best place for Northern Lights options tend to be quite far north. That means long, dark winters and summers when the sun hardly sets at all. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the former are better for seeing the night sky and, by extension, the lights.
Truth be told, though, it’s actually either end of the winter, during the fall and spring, that come up as the top times to visit. They tend to be clearer overall, and the equinoxes bring more activity to the Aurora Oval, meaning the lights are more active during these transition seasons.
In Finland, best places for Northern Lights are almost always topped by Rovaniemi. Welcome to charming, festive Rovaniemi, the veritable home of Santa Claus and unquestionably the most iconic resort in the whole of ice-caked Lapland.
Visit here for the dying light of winter and you can catch plenty of shows. The Aurora usually pops up on about 150 nights of the year, most of which fall between September and March. The good news there is that you also get to visit when the Christmas vibes are in full flow, which is Rovaniemi’s peak time – think some of the best markets you’ve ever seen and a chance to see the big bearded man himself!
As one of the few proper towns in Lapland, Rovaniemi also boasts some top hotel options. They include Nova Skyland Hotel ($$$), a boutique lodging with ski-chalet vibes, and the acclaimed Arctic TreeHouse Hotel ($$$), one of the best choices for honeymooners heading this far north.
Cold, distant Utsjoki is the last village you’ll meet along the main Lapland highway before you cross the border into Norway and hit the last stretch of Europe before the Arctic Sea. It’s encompassed by some of the most wonderful tundra and forestry in the country, including big swathes of permanently frozen bog known as palsas.
There are hundreds of nights of the year when the Aurora make an appearance in Utsjoki. However, if you’re not lucky and they are playing hardball, it’s always possible to venture even further north using the cross-border road.
The top hotels to consider on your Northern Lights tour to Utsjoki would be the Seitatie 6 North ($-$$) – a self-contained cabin that really lets you get away from it all – and Osman Kelohovi ($$) – a cabin resort with fire-warmed units.
Kilpisjärvi is the main settlement of the Enontekiö area, often called the long arm of Lapland. It’s the sole option on this list of Finland best places for Northern Lights that takes you up into the northwesternmost corner of the country.
One of the bonuses there is that you can really escape the hubbub of modern civilization. Put it this way: Kilpisjärvi is the biggest town in the region and that’s only home to 2,000 people! Helsinki, meanwhile, is a whopping 990km to the south as the crow flies.
The main draws of Kilpisjärvi when you’re not watching the lights do their thing include snowmobile safaris along the Norwegian and Swedish borders, and ice fishing in the nearby lakes. Be sure to check out Tundrea Holiday Resort ($$), a top spot with al fresco hot tubs, and Saivaara Cottages ($$), cozy pads with fireplaces inside.
Kemi is a top choice for seeing the lights if you’re not keen to venture too deep into the recesses of Lapland. This bijou port town sits on the edge of the Gulf of Bothnia, a stone’s throw from the border of Sweden and Finland – best places for Northern Lights hardly come more accessible.
The proximity of the sea is actually key here. During the winter months, large tracts of this corner of the Baltic can totally freeze over and only hardy ice-breaking ships can make their way through. That means there’s hardly any maritime traffic, which, in turn, means there’s hardly any light pollution to be had.
Cue the uber-famous Seaside Glass Villas ($$$). These are the place to stay for seeing the Aurora in Kemi. Perched on the edge of a salty sound surrounded by fir trees, they offer open frontages that turn into TV screens for Nordic night shows when the sun goes down.
Another of the many so-called Arctic Resorts that clutch the sides of the E75 highway that runs right through the heart of Finnish Lapland, Kakslauttanen is probably the choice for those after a touch of luxury as they watch the Northern Lights.
Yep, this clutch of hotels and restaurants boasts some of the classiest stays north of the circle. They come in the form of the Aurora Queen Resort Igloos ($$$) – which offer the chance to sleep under clear glass roofs amid the woods – or the cozy Polar Aurora Cabins ($$$) – all timber-built and armed with private saunas on the side.
Generally speaking, the consistency of light showings is very good in Kakslauttanen. You’re looking at regular displays on something close to 200 nights of the year, very similar to nearby Saariselkä (more on that below).
The pint-sized village of Muonio benefits from sitting right under what’s known as the Aurora Oval. That’s basically the radius of the world where the Northern Lights tend to be at their brightest and most visible. Hence why it’s usually possible to see the phenomenon lighting up the cosmos virtually every other day in these parts.
Oh, and you don’t just come here to see the Aurora. Muonio also boasts the longest snow season in the whole country. It’s risen to become one of the best-known ski destinations in Finland, so expect to see countless downhill slopes and marked Nordic ski runs webbing the center.
Generally speaking, the hotels in this border town on the edge of the Norwegian state line are a bit more down to earth than the out-and-out tourist hubs of more central Lapland. Check out Hotel Jeris ($$) for lakeside panoramas, or Särkijärven Majat ($-$$), where you’ll settle in cabins and get access to an on-site sauna.
The popular Arctic Circle resort of Saariselkä sees the Northern Lights something like 200 nights of the year. That’s a whole load of chances to check this line off the bucket list. One of the main reasons that the viewing is so darn fantastic is the proximity of the Urho Kekkonen National Park, which has basically zero light pollution thanks to its 2,550 square kilometers of totally undeveloped land – the brightest thing you’re likely to find there is a flickering lantern in some long-lost reindeer herder’s hut.
There are also some cracking Northern Lights hotels to check out in Saariselkä. The town was specifically developed for the purpose of Arctic safaris, skiing, and seeing the polar wonders, after all. We think the Star Arctic Hotel ($$) is a cracker, mainly because it sits plum on top of Kaunispää Mountain to offer fantastic panoramas of the region. Family guests might prefer the Northern Lights Village ($$-$$$), where you’ll find a reindeer paddock right there on site.
Aurora in Finland, best place for Northern Lights – our conclusion
There are plenty of pretty fantastic places to see the Aurora Borealis in Finland, best place for Northern Lights in Europe among them. We think the resort town of Rovaniemi should suit most travelers, but there are other options. For example, honeymooners on the hunt for some luxury together might prefer the chic hotels of Kakslauttanen. Meanwhile, families after something more accessible could hit Kemi on the south side of Lapland.