Northern Lights Scandinavia
By Mark Stratton
Seeing the Northern Lights is on most client’s bucket list. But how do you go about selling something that can’t be guaranteed?
Time to shine
To see aurora borealis, head to the high latitudes within the Arctic Circle, where solar activity is at its highest close to the North Pole and made visible by winter’s lack of daylight. The most popular region to witness the aurora is the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway and Finland, plus Iceland, as they share long dark winters.
Aurora is an experience of a lifetime but it’s worth advising the weather gods need to be on your side because cloud cover will obscure them. Hence a stay of three or four nights gives visitors higher odds of seeing them. Now is a good time to attract families for the February half-term and there are many funky ways to experience the lights: from a dogsled driven by huskies to overnighting in a glass igloo.
“After almost two years with no opportunity to travel, people seem to want to push the boat out, especially on bucket list trips like the Northern Lights,” says Andrea Godfrey, Product-Manager of Regent Holidays.
“We’re seeing a surge in bookings for Northern Lights trips, to Iceland predominately, followed by Finland and Norway. Now that fully-vaccinated Brits can enter Sweden, we are receiving requests for 2022,” says Godfrey. “We’re seeing a demand too for upmarket hotels, like The Retreat in Iceland, and private excursions, such as super-jeep trips into the wild”.
“Finland is undeservedly overlooked as a Northern Lights destination, but you are as likely to see the aurora from here as you are from its near neighbours,” says Alistair McLean, MD of The Aurora Zone. “The Finns are at the forefront of aurora hunting, guiding, and accommodation. There are more glass igloos and cabins with huge north-facing windows in Finland than all the other destinations combined”.
The Aurora Zone offers its own three-night ‘glass igloo escape’ in Finnish Lapland at Saariselkä, from £1,545pp. Visit Finland, meanwhile, is hosting a B2B ‘Five Countries’ workshop on February 8, 2022 in the UK that also includes Iceland. Agencies can schedule meetings with local service providers at fivecountriesworkshop.com.
top tip: A helpful tool to decipher when aurora borealis will appear and the intensity of the display is a downloadable Finnish app, Aurora Alert. Auroras are typically seen in 15-60 minute bursts, and this product is fun and enables visitors to be in the right place at the right time. See auroraalert.fi
Besides outstanding sightings in its Lapland wilderness, Sweden offers exceptional accommodation with the likes of its renowned Ice Hotel at Jukkasjärvi and is a very family-friendly destination to see the aurora. North of the Gulf of Bothnia visitors can watch the Northern Lights at the Treehotel – an extraordinary collection of treehouse accommodation, including one shaped like a UFO. Meanwhile Brändön Lodge has many child-friendly activities ranging from forest forays learning about the Sámi people to rides on sleds pulled by huskies. The fabulous Arctic Bath, a collection of floating lodges on the Lule River, is Sweden’s latest luxury offering to tempt wintertime’s aurora watchers.
Regent Holidays sell a four-night break called Abisko, with Abisko National Park rated as one of the best places to see the Northern Lights due to its exceptionally dry climate. The £1,480pp cost includes flights, B&B accommodation in Abisko, and a magical Arctic train journey from Kiruna.
Norway offers the most dramatic backdrop of all the Northern Lights destinations, not least its majestic fjords and remote island chains like Lofoten, where minimal light pollution ensures the aurora is pristine when cloudless against a dark canvas.
Dogsledding, snowshoe hikes, and whale safaris provide day-time distractions while Norway offers five-star aurora-breaks with style at the likes of the luxurious Wolf Lodge in the far north, where guests can encounter wolves. And good news for those selling Northern Lights cruises this winter along the fjords: Hurtigruten is upping its fleet’s capacity as the Norwegian government eases Covid-19 restrictions.
With seven departures between October 2022 and February 2023, Hurtigruten will sail direct from Dover to the Norwegian coast above and below the Arctic Circle. The cruise line’s Northern Lights Promise assures that if the aurora doesn’t occur passengers are entitled to a free voyage. The 15-day cruise onboard MS Maud is priced from £3,059pp.
Although it is geographically the most remote, Iceland offers the most accessible Northern Lights experience. For example, clients can fly into Keflavik Airport on the geothermally spectacular Reykjanes Peninsular and within 20 minutes be ensconced at Northern Lights Inn, a high-quality lodge popular with the UK market. A real treat for guests is the nearby proximity for the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal pool and wellness centre.
The lights can be seen pretty much across the island. If natural wonders are your client’s thing, then recommend the erupting Fagraldsfjall Volcano: it’s a convenient 30 minutes from Keflavik Airport.
Adding astronomical expertise to two of its Iceland and the Northern Lights tours for 2022, Omega Breaks has enlisted Pete Lawrence from BBC’s The Sky at Night. The five-day tours start from £799pp and include flights and hotel. Omegabreaks.com