What is the best place to see Northern Lights? People frequently ask me this question. At the time of updating this blog post, I have already spent 8 winters hunting the Northern Lights in Inari, in the very north of Finnish Lapland.
Why do I always go back to Inari? Why don’t I try somewhere else? After all, people usually like to discover new places, and so do I! However, I did not choose lightly Inari as my Aurora destination when I was dreaming to see the Northern Lights for the first time. And all subsequent trips have confirmed that I was right. Here are my 5 reasons to choose Inari as your best Aurora destination.
1. Inari is right under the Aurora oval
The Aurora Borealis appears under a huge doughnut shaped ring that is centred around earth’s magnetic north pole. Without entering too much into the science here, this means that if you travel to a location right under the “doughnut”, or Aurora oval (the green band on the image below), then you maximise your chances to see the Northern Lights, even when the activity is very low.
Inari in Finnish Lapland is located at 68°50′ of latitude north, which lies about 265 km (165 mi) north of the Arctic Circle. This positions Inari right under the Aurora oval. Therefore, this almost guarantees some Aurora display when the sky is clear, and making it the best place to see Northern Lights in my opinion.
2. Inari is at the centre of an excellent road network
You want to see the northern lights, so you are going “Aurora chasing” with a guide or your own car. It is more accurate though to say that we are chasing the good weather: you cannot see the Aurora if you are under clouds. In Inari, you are in luck for this: there are several roads radiating from Inari to all directions. This makes it very easy to chase the good weather. All these roads are asphalted roads that are well maintained throughout the winter. Ice does accumulate on them, so you will need studded snow and ice tires on your car.
Do follow the weather warnings and all instructions by the authorities as large quantities of snow can accumulate very quickly before the road services come to plough it away. Also, be careful of reindeer and elk that are very frequently standing right on the road.
However, if you don’t have experience with winter driving, and you are just there for a few days, hiring a professional guide is a better and safer idea. Check out for example my Inari Aurora Tour.
3. Inari is less than 1.5 hour flight from Helsinki
When you are travelling to Inari, you have to book your flights to Ivalo Airport. Ivalo is a small town within the Inari Municipality. It is located some 40 minutes drive from the Inari village. Taxis are available upon arrival. Most hotels also offer a shuttle service. Just contact them before you travel to ask for a pickup.
When I was first planning a trip to Inari, I almost could not believe how easy it was to fly there. Finland’s national carrier Finnair operates up to 5 daily flights to Ivalo airport in winter. Direct service from some European cities also started in the winter 2017-2018 season. Low-cost carrier Norwegian also operates a couple of weekly flights from Helsinki to Ivalo, and Lufthansa has a direct flight from Frankfurt every week.
Compared to travelling to the Canadian or American Arctic in the same northern latitudes, flying to Ivalo/Inari is so easy, just less than one and a half hour away from the capital city Helsinki. So if you dream of the north, this is one of your best and most affordable chances to experience it.
Many travellers also make a jump to Inari from a visit of Rovaniemi where Santa Claus lives. There are excellent and reliable bus connections to cover this distance, and Rovaniemi is accessible by plane and train from Helsinki as well.
4. Inari offers state-of-the-art tourism facilities
Despite being located so far north of the Arctic Circle, Inari offers a full range of state-of-the-art tourism facilities: comfortable hotels, excellent restaurants, safaris and a very informative museum about local nature and culture. I promise, you will not miss anything when you find yourself in Inari.
5. And simply because Inari is much more than just Aurora
Inari is not just about Aurora chasing. It is also the best and most comfortable way to experience the Arctic and depending on the season a true winter wonderland. You can go dog-sledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking, ice-fishing, skiing, or almost any other winter activity that you can think of.
The entire area is also culturally very rich, as the home of the Sami people. To learn more about the Sami culture, I highly recommend visiting the Siida museum. And for a total immersion, an excursion with a reindeer herder will teach you more than any museum, besides, you can even pet the reindeer!
Are you ready to choose Inari as your Aurora destination?
You have read my 5 reasons why I think that Inari is the best place to see Northern Lights. If you’re not convinced that Inari is the best place to see the northern lights, just check out my gallery of my favourite aurora photos! Most of these have been taken in the Inari region, including many during the so called “solar minimum”.
You know now how to travel there, where to stay and what to do. If you go there with an open mind, I can guarantee that you will have an amazing time and many great Arctic experiences.