If you want to see the aurora, Ivalo in Finland might be the perfect place to visit. I flew from Heksinki to Ivalo and Finnair and the flight is a short 90 mins long. There are multiple flights to Ivalo and I came here mainly because I wanted to see the aurora.
My thinking was this. Although Rovaniemi is a more popular destination with more things to do, it’s right on the arctic circle. Obviously the further north you go, the better chance you have of seeing the aurora. For me, I didn’t want to miss seeing the aurora because I was too far south so an extra 30 mins in a plane to a more remote place seemed logical.
The airport in Ivalo is fun. It’s too small to have any jetways and you walk across the tarmac to get to your ride. When I arrived, it was snowing and bitterly cold which just added to the experience. I loved it.
I was staying at the Wilderness Hotel in Nellim and that is a good 45mins north of the airport. Don’t bother waiting around for a taxi, uber, or anything else. I honestly don’t know if they have uber service and there might be 2 taxis in the whole town. My advice is to either rent a car or make sure your accommodations will give you a lift.
Once you’re here, you’ll have tons of outdoor options. That said, it does come at a price so you may want to either throw the wallet out the window or find a way to keep yourselves entertained. Of course hiking is free but any other activity ie snowmobiling, dog sledding, etc. will cost money. Also, you may want to stock up on snacks and food before arriving since there isn’t anything in terms of a market you can walk to.
There isn’t much to say other than the area is beautiful in a John Muir way. But in terms of the aurora, here are a few basic things:
It is impossible to predict if/when the aurora is visible. There could be tons of activity but if it’s snowing or cloudy, you won’t see anything. You’ll need to pray for clear skies and just hope something is visible.
I used the free aurora app to try and figure out when the best time would be to go outside and see it and I thought it worked remarkably well. I believe there are aurora devices that some places rent out to notify you when the aurora is taking place so that could be an option as well. But if you keep an eye out for clear skies and just wait for it to get dark (and you’re incredibly lucky), you should be fine.
I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly but to me, the aurora looked more like wisps of moving clouds than anything. I actually didn’t realize I was seeing the aurora at first because I thought they were clouds. It wasn’t until I happened to take a photo that I noticed it. I also happened to be there when it was a full moon so maybe the color were a little muted vs. a moonless night. But my guess is you won’t see the amazing vivid colors with the naked eye.
I was here for 2 nights and on my 2nd night, I was able to see the aurora (yes I’m lucky and I’ve always admitted this). It really is something to see and should be on your bucket list. I’d like to think I increased by chances of seeing the aurora by going further north as well as being in a location with little to no light pollution. That said, I met a few people who were staying the whole week and saw the aurora for the first time like I did on the same night.
Even if you make it up here and you don’t see the aurora, I wouldn’t consider it a total bust. If I hadn’t seen it, I’d have been disappointed. But the area itself is really beautiful and there aren’t many people who can say they’ve been here. That has to count for something doesn’t it?