Autumn in Lapland is a new favourite

This year, for the very first time I travelled to Inari, Lapland in September. The northernmost region of Finland is famous for its colourful foliage during this time of the year, but I could never make it in the fall before. So, let me tell you why autumn in Lapland is now a new favourite of mine.

Lapland in autumn

After being bathed 24 hours per day in daylight during the summer months, the nature in Lapland experiences a quick transition towards winter. Leaves on the trees turn orange and yellow, the tundra turns to the most beautiful hues of red, and the entire landscape explodes into incredible colours. The Finns call this “ruska”, which I’m afraid does not have a literal translation. But with the following photos, I think that you will get the point.

calm lake in lapland in autumn light
Sunset light on a perfectly calm lake near Inari and surrounded by golden autumn leaves

The days are still quite long and the golden hour lasts a lot more than just one hour. This gives ample photo opportunities, while still having time to take it all in and enjoy just being there.

autumn colours in lapland
The ground vegetation turns red while the trees turn yellow and orange. That’s “ruska” in Lapland

And of course the northern lights

After the summer break of the midnight sun, September is the first month when the northern lights are visible again in Inari, so far in the north. And because the cold has not settled yet on the lakes of Lapland, the water remains open. On a windless night, you can expect some extraordinary reflections of the mighty aurora borealis on the surface of the many lakes that can be found throughout the region.

self portrait autumn northern lights Lapland
Self portrait under the autumn northern lights

Also, the sun does not travel very far under the horizon at the beginning of September. As a result, the northern horizon keeps glowing with red and orange tints throughout the night, creating a beautiful atmosphere that we don’t get in winter. Another reason to fall in love with the autumn season in Inari!

aurora borealis above the road in Inari, Lapland
The orange glow of the sun never really disappears at the beginning of September.

Beware the humidity when taking northern lights photos. In winter, I don’t experience much condensation on my lens, providing that I don’t breathe too close from my equipment. However, in autumn, the nights tend to get very humid, especially when the temperature drops quickly after a warm day. This will inevitably produce fog on your camera lens. I avoid this by using heat strips (dew heaters) that are powered by an external 12V battery.

northern lights and fog in Lapland
Foggy night under the northern lights in Lapland

Raining? Not a problem

Unfortunately, it may rain during your trip to Lapland in the autumn. But fear not! I actually took some of my favourite photos under the rain. The darker clouded days allowed for the brighter yellow trees to contrast a lot more against the rest of the landscape than if everything was bathed in sun.

birch tree in autumn foliage in Lapland
A lone birch tree on a rainy day

Don’t forget the wildlife

In the summer months, the herders let their reindeer roam quite freely in the wilderness without collecting them in a particular area. This makes them a lot harder to find than in winter. During my entire week there, I saw only a handful of them at only two occasions!

lapland on the road in lapland in autumn
Reindeer on the road – a common sight in Lapland throughout the year

I did not spot many other animals during that trip, except a family of Western capercaillie while walking in the forest. Needless to say that I loved this encounter! It was the first time I ever saw this beautiful bird.

western capercaillie in Lapland
A Western capercaillie in autumn vegetation

When to travel to Lapland in autumn

The foliage in their autumn colours are usually visible throughout September, with the peak some time between the second and third week of the month. It is however quite hard to pinpoint, because of how sensitive the nature is over there in the north to different weather conditions.

I wouldn’t be doing my job right if I didn’t warn you that the period with full colours is extremely short. It can end almost from one day to the next. When I arrived on 8 September, the vegetation was not yet in full swing autumn mode. And when I left on 16 September, most trees had already lost their orange leaves! Mind that these dates are valid for the latitude of Inari and Kaamanen where I was staying. Move further north to Utsjoki, or towards the south and the Arctic circle in Rovaniemi, and you will get different dates.

red tree near river in autumn in Finnish Lapland
Just outside the cabin of Kaamanen where I stay. In winter, the river freezes and that’s where I go take photos of the northern lights.

As always, travelling to the north requires patience and a real understanding for mother nature. No matter how the trees and vegetation really look like, I can guarantee that you will have an extraordinary time if you travel to Lapland in September!

Have you already been in Lapland in autumn? Share your experience and tips in the comments!

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