An equinox allows a higher chance to see the Northern Lights due to the periods of high geomagnetic electrical disturbance. With the Autumn Equinox occurring on 23 September, we began our 4-day adventure to chase the Northern Lights in Lapland.
To maximise our travel time as well as save money on accommodation, we booked an overnight bus from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. We left at midnight and arrived just before 11am, giving us enough time to get some lunch before checking in.
Day 1 – relaxing walks, pizza, and unexpected happenings
After being greeted by the fantastic pink sky, we were hopeful that the weather will be clear enough to see the northern lights. Upon arrival, we made use of our student benefits and had lunch at the University of Lapland, the most northern university in the European Union. After which we checked in, had a nice walk touring the city area, and decided on pizza for dinner yay! Then, we began our hunt. We headed towards a spot known for catching the lights but were down with luck as there was too much cloud cover. After waiting for 2 hours, we decided to head back to our accommodation and continue our search the next day. However, on our way back we saw a faint glowing light in the sky that looked like a long stream of clouds. Capturing the mysterious white cloud using our phones, we all got excited as the green lights burst into the sky behind the beautiful autumn trees.
Day 2 – santa’s village, santa’s reindeer, and santa’s forest
We finally set foot in the arctic circle, the imaginary border of 66°33′ north! We spent all day in Santa Claus Village (do visit when night falls as the lighting is absolutely stunning!), exploring the cottages, visiting Santa (no pictures allowed), and most importantly feeding and enjoying the company of the cute reindeer. Did you know that female reindeer are the only female deer in the world that grow antlers?
Venturing into Santa’s Forest, we found our next spot to camp at for the northern lights. Trees after trees, the vast area had a mini sheltered bench which was perfect for us to wait for the lights. We headed to the village for a warm dinner and some rest before making our way back to the forest. We sat in the cold for 3 hours and many times we contemplated heading back. Needless to say, patience is the key to success. It was an eye-opening experience seeing the lights moving in the sky as if they were dancing!
Day 3 – nature trail, golden hour, and barbeque
As everyone was tired from yesterday’s adventure, we slept in and woke up slightly after 2pm. We grabbed some food for lunch and got some necessities for a campfire from the nearby supermarket. After a tedious walk (the path was at least 45 degrees steep!), we finally reach the peak of the hill. Just as we arrived, it was almost time for the golden hour. We found a nice viewing platform and admired the sunset from afar.
After the sunset, we headed towards the nearby campfire site. Luckily there were some other hikers that had already started a fire so we did not need to start one ourselves. Hungry from the hike, we immediately heated some burritos and sausages and gobbled them down. We also gathered some twigs around us, shaved them and toasted some lovely marshmallows as we enjoyed the warmth of the fire.
Day 4 – macs, playground, and ride back to helsinki
‘Twas the last day of our trip. We checked out of our cosy accommodation and stored our baggage at the train station as we explored the city area once again while doing some souvenir shopping. Lunchtime came and we decided on McDonald’s for lunch. While eating, we discovered that it actually was the northernmost McDonald’s in the world! Continuing our walk, we spotted a playground nearby and we all knew that we needed to conquer it. After spending a good hour having fun, we settled down at a nearby cafe before heading to another restaurant for dinner and finally boarded our 12-hour bus back to Helsinki.
Although we managed to catch the beautiful autumn colours of Lapland, I hope to visit again in winter to experience the Christmas vibes in the official hometown of Santa Claus.