“We don’t always see the auroras,” my guide, Annie, said with a smile as she showed me the chalet in the middle of Ukonjärven holiday village known for its zero-light pollution. She added, “Let’s hope they put up a show for you tonight.”

In January 2015, I decided to explore the vast expanses of the breath-taking Sámi homeland, and the awe-inspiring phenomenon of Aurora Borealis, commonly known as the Northern Lights. From the moment I landed at Ivalo Airport, the country’s most northern airport, I was overwhelmed by the fresh air and natural beauty. Lapland is magnificent if you like to make a winter trip over icy roads in an arctic environment and get to witness the Northern Lights as a bonus.


I wanted to visit the Finnish Lapland in freezing January right after ‘Kamoos’ (the polar night in Finland that refers to 24 hours of darkness) and see the Northern Lights. ‘Kaamos’ can last long in the North of Finland, lasting up to two months. It doesn’t mean that the sky is always black. Around noon there is a twilight – there is a clarity in the sky before the sun rises – with the peculiarity that the sun never actually risAt. In this moment, a magical shade of blue takes over, and – especially if everything is covered in snow – everything seems to glow blue. A brief, true blue world. But by the end of January when I visited, the period had ended, and we had up to 4 hours of daylight. The climate up there can be described as painfully frigid. It’s cold enough to throw water up into the air and watch it instantly freeze and fall as snow.

I made the most of the 4 hours of sunlight. Expeditions by snowmobiles, dog-sledging and ice karting added to the thrill of Lapland Frozen lakes. I decided on the snowmobile and a reindeer safari– the means of transport for the Sámi in Lapland.

Reindeer in Lapland

You can roam the wilderness of northern Lapland for days without running into other travellers and take time to enjoy the quiet and nature of the wilderness. There are 12 wilderness areas in Finland, which together cover 15,000 sq. km of land area. I visited the Saariselkä Wilderness Area on the snowmobile (Wilderness Areas are known to be the most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet).

Wearing layers of specially designed Finnish romper suits, or moonsuits as they call them, I glided into a fell by the Urho Kekkonen National Park in the heart of Lapland. As I climbed up the fells of the area, the big forest opened into dwarf trees and bushes and somethe of treeless summits offering incredible views the of infinite landscape. In less than 2 hours, it was time for sunset and the lovely changing colours of the sky made the scenery even more spectacular.

Northern Lights in Lapland

At the end of the safari, I visited a Sámi village to get a feel of the Lapland natives. Food in Lapland is expensive and unimaginative, so if you haven’t tried reindeer meat yet, this is your chance. The reindeer sleigh ride at sunset through the snow-covered forests into the Sami village was one of the most magical experiences I have experienced in my life. I now knew the inspiration behind my childhood books with stories of wonderland with reindeer sleighs and Santa Claus. Reindeer and people have a connection that is thousands of years old in what is today called Finland. One of the moments that stayed with me from the trip is the man dressed in traditional costume full of colour against the snow-white background lighting the fireplace near his ‘Kota’ – a temporary dwelling and shelter used by the Sámi.

In the evening, I dressed in my moonsuit again to chase the Northern Lights with Annie. Twinkling in the sky were some faint wisps of whitish-green, just beyond the Inari lake. Were these the northern lights? Although I could barely see them, my camera, and Annie did give me confirmation that these were the northern lights. All of my blurry, grainy long-exposure shots turned out some shade of green. That was it for the day. Comforting me, Annie said, “Oh you will forget this cold weather the moment they start dancing in the sky.”

Wildlife in Lapland

It was time to visit to Wildspirit Park known for its husky dogs among other Arctic animals. Annie helped me overcome my fear of dogs and take beautiful pictures of the huskies at the park. A husky tour is an exquisite way to see the Arctic wilderness. There is something primeval in making your way through snowy landscapes with a pack of dogs. Needless to say, it is also as environmentally friendly as it gets. Most husky tour providers operate in the north of Finland, primarily in Lapland.

On my last day, I got lucky with the aurora sighting. Like a laser beam shooting through the sky, a bright green strand of light flowed through the sky. All of a sudden, there she was: a dancing, swirling laser beam in the dark night sky. When it dived down from the sky, it shot down to the ground as though it was about to touch me.

Northern Lights in Lapland

And then, the auroras shimmered with rays of pink, purple, green, and white, moving through the sky with incredible speed and grace. And I instantly knew that this wasn’t a moment that could be captured in a photograph. I’ll never forget the feeling of being paralyzed by my own awe and wonder, the mix of colour and light painting a stunning abstraction in the night sky. After a moment or two, I put down the camera and decided to just bask in the moment, admiring the beauty of these lights. I breathed in the cold, Arctic night air and smiled, eyes wide open and heart grateful to have experienced, if just for few fleeting moments – the beauty and mystery of the world. (Note: the Northern Lights can be sighted on clear nights between September and March each year)

About the author

Deepti PahwaDeepti left her hometown in India in 2009 for an amazing journey between cities and countries in Europe as a designer, creative buyer, storyteller, photographer & traveller. Having grown up on the quote, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”, she has read many interesting stories of the world, & travelled to about 50 countries across 4 continents. She dreams to finish the book one day! 

Follow her on https://www.linkedin.com/in/deeptigpahwa and on http://www.deeptipahwa.com for her travel stories & pictures.  


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed belong solely to the writer. Rules, regulations and offerings are subject to change with time. Namaste Switzerland does not undertake any financial/reputational/legal/misrepresentational or other obligation or liability. Please note: systems and laws change.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed belong solely to the writer. Rules, regulations and offerings are subject to change with time. Namaste Switzerland does not undertake any financial/reputational/legal/misrepresentational or other obligation or liability. Please note: systems and laws change.