In this week’s Travel SOS, Kay O’Sullivan has some ideas for Beth, who is wondering what to do to thaw out after viewing the Northern Lights in Finland.
My husband is keen to see the Northern Lights from Finland and while I agree they would be spectacular, the thought of being somewhere so cold doesn’t fill me with joy. Can you suggest a few things we should consider while in the Northern Hemisphere that would give us a chance to thaw out?
A. The good news is that Finland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis, to give the Northern Lights their scientific name, puts on a heavenly show across the Finnish skies from August to April, with the most frequent sightings occurring from September to March.
Now for the bad news: The best chance of seeing one of nature’s great phenomena is in Finnish Lapland, the most northern (i.e. coldest) region of a very cold country, where they appear every other clear night or around 200 times. You could opt to remain further south, which would be a couple of degrees warmer, but the further south you go, the less likelihood you will see the Lights. In Helsinki and its environs, sightings happen around 20 times a year. And, really, it’s such a long way to the top of the Northern Hemisphere from Down Under to be disappointed, so there’s no option other than to head to Lapland.
To solve your dilemma of how to keep warm, I sought the advice of Escape Travel consultant Natalie Ruus who lived in Finland for more two years and knows the country, the people and the language well.
Natalie’s first word on the subject was “sauna”. “Saunas are a Finish institution and the best way to warm up,” she says. “Every home, hotel and even some businesses have saunas and you’d be hard pressed to find a building without one, so you will be able to locate a great one wherever you are in Finland,” she continues. “It can be a bit confronting at first, as most saunas have a no-clothes policy, although they will allow you to keep your towel on. A tip I picked up while living there was to have a shower first and head to the sauna before towelling off so you aren’t going in dry and dehydrating your body too much – it’s what all the locals do.”
Another warming Finnish tradition, says Natalie, is Glögi, a mulled wine that is widely available at all the outdoor winter markets. Instant warmth and delicious, she says.
She also recommends that you stay in an igloo. Don’t laugh. Not the ice kind. The type of igloo Natalie is suggesting has central heating and a glass roof, and provides the most romantic way to watch the lights from the warmth of your bed. Natalie is a fan of the Kakslauttanen resort inside the Arctic Circle, which is opening 17 new glass igloos in time for the Northern Lights season.
“Another great option is the Harriniva Hotel and Safari that is also well equipped for the appearance of the unpredictable Northern Lights with an Aurora alarm that alerts guests when the lights are in the sky, after which all lights in the hotel are switched off for optimal viewing.
Natalie suggests factoring in a stopover in a warm location. Finnair, Finland’s national carrier, operates in partnership with Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Qantas so you can go to Helsinki via Hong Kong and Singapore. It’s not only a great way to break up that long-haul flight, but you also get to warm up your bones, she says.
For travel this November, Natalie says you will be looking at airfares of around $1500 return in economy, plus a few hundred dollars extra for a couple of nights’ accommodation enroute.
Do you have a travel question for Kay? Then send an email to Newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au
Kay O’Sullivan is no accidental tourist. More than a decade ago, she decided to combine two of her favourite things – journalism and travel – and become a travel writer. Since then, she has worked for numerous papers, magazines and on the internet, both here and internationally.