Image credits: Markku Inkila, Antti Pietakainen
Too often overlooked
The poet John Keats described autumn as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” but, because he didn’t live in Northern Scandinavia he neglected to mention that it is also considered one of the best times of the year to see the Aurora Borealis. Whilst the Aurora occurs all year round, in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, it isn’t visible in high summer because there is too much daylight. Not surprisingly, Aurora addicts in these parts of the world spend the entire summer longing for the darker skies of autumn.
In the UK, the twelfth of August is the start of the new grouse shooting season and there is always a race to see which restaurant can be the first to serve the bird at its tables. A similar unofficial competition occurs in Scandinavia later in the month when the first Auroras of the new season become visible and suddenly, social media is awash with images of faint Northern Lights against a pale blue, not quite dark, Arctic sky.
The Aurora chasing season starts in earnest in September which can be an absolutely wonderful time to travel. The Finns call their short autumn “Ruska” a word which quite beautifully evokes imagery of the burnished reds, browns, yellows and golds. It is said that “Ruska” starts at 9 am on the 9th of September every year and lasts just a few short weeks but during this time, the Finnish forests and fells, the Swedish mountains and the steep sided Norwegian fjords are all embellished by the colours of autumn.
By the time October arrives, most of the leaves have fallen and the landscape becomes rather dramatic, something which is often enhanced by a light covering of frost or even very early snow.
The best thing about autumn however, is that the lakes and rivers have not yet frozen and it is not uncommon for the Northern Lights to be reflected in their open waters. You could say that you get two displays for the price of one!About Autumn
If you don’t fancy the sub-zero temperatures associated with Northern Scandinavia in the middle of winter then September is the best time to go Aurora hunting. The temperatures will be starting to fall but remain comfortable especially at night when you will be out and about hunting Lady Aurora.
Additionally, if you time it right, September brings wonderful autumn colours, the weather is generally better than in winter and, a huge and often unexpected bonus, is that the Aurora is often reflected in the waters of lakes and rivers, something which doesn’t happen when winter’s big freeze comes along...
This usually means that there is less of the Aurora hunter’s worst enemy, cloud cover, and hence there is a greater chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
Many people associate the likes of Norway and Sweden with winter activities such as dog sledding or snowmobiling. These activities are not available in September because the winter snow is highly unlikely to have started falling so snow based activities are ruled out. However, plenty of options exist to fill the daylight hours including walking and trekking, reindeer encounters, hiking with huskies, cultural visits, boat trips, museums and more depending on your chosen location.
October shares many of the same advantages as September, warmer weather, clearer skies and fewer visitors are all attractive propositions.
The snow doesn’t usually start falling heavily until November so snow based activities are not available during October. However, if you travel to somewhere like Iceland then your days can be filled with any number of activities and excursions designed to show off what is an amazing island.