8 of the best northern lights tours from Rovaniemi

Seeing the colourful northern lights playing in the skies above you is one of the most spectacular sights of winter in the Nordic nations.

Rovaniemi is one of the best places in Finland to see the norhern lights

And Rovaniemi, high up in Finnish Lapland, is a great place to look out for the lights for so many reasons.

On the edge of the Arctic Circle with little light pollution, and close to miles of wilderness, Rovaniemi is – in our opinion – Finland’s top northern lights destination.

Why choose Rovaniemi?
When is the best time to visit?
Where to see the lights
Will you definitely see the lights? 
Can you see the lights without joining a tour? 
How much do tours cost?
The best tours to join 
Alternatives to northern lights tours
Cool places to stay in Rovaniemi

Quick take: our 3 favourite tours 

1. Go northern lights hunting by reindeer

This is our favourite way to go searching for the northern lights – gliding over the snow on a traditional Sami sleigh pulled by reindeer.

2. See the northern lights from a sauna boat

In a land where there are more saunas than people, what better way to see the lights than from a sauna boat in the middle of a lake?

This fun tour takes you out into the lake where there’s no light pollution to view the lights from the warmth of the sauna – and you can even take a dip in the lake too, if you dare!

3. Try ice floating in Lapland with the northern lights above

We love this exciting adventure trip, where you’ll get kitted out in a super-insulated survival suit and float around in an icy lake watching the aurora borealis in the sky above. 

Why is Rovaniemi so good for seeing the northern lights?

For starters, Rovaniemi is right on the edge of the Arctic Circle meaning that there are long dark nights in winter, so a better chance of seeing the lights.

Seeing the northern lights in Finland is a bucket-list trip.

It’s also home to the Santa Claus Village, where you can visit Father Christmas and do a whole host of other activities, plus an amazing ice hotel.

Rovaniemi is also a great spot for other winter activities, such as the snowmobile trips, ice-fishing, snow saunas, Sami culture trips and husky-sledding. 

For more ideas on things to do in Rovaniemi, see our guides to the best photography tours in Rovaniemi and snowmobile tours in Rovaniemi

When is the best time to see the northern lights in Rovaniemi?

If the sky is clear, the lights can be seen in Rovaniemi between September and March. However, December to February, with their long dark evenings, are peak viewing months. 

If you’re looking to combine a northern lights tour with some day-time activities, February and March are good months, when there’s more daylight and temperatures are getting milder.

Solar activity tend to be at its most active around the spring and autumn equinoxes so mid-March and mid-September can see some spectacular displays if the skies are clear.

How far do you need go from the city to see the lights?

The further away from any light pollution, the better your view of the aurora borealis. So if you can get away from the town into the wilderness, you’ll get the best views.

You don't have to walk far from Rovaniemi to see the nortthern lights

That said, Rovaniemi is not a huge place and you don’t have to walk far from the city centre to see the lights, especially if it’s a strong aurora.

Will you definitely see the lights? 

There’s no guarantee of seeing the northern lights, at all. This is because it’s a natural phenomenon dependent on solar activity and clear skies. And no matter how active the lights are, if it’s cloudy you won’t see a thing! 

So, whichever month you decide to visit Rovaniemi during, it’s definitely worth staying a few days, so that you increase your chances of getting at least one clear night.

You can also download the Aurora Alert app to your mobile phone, which sends you an alert whenever the solar activity increases. 

Can you see the lights without joining a tour? 

Yes, you can and there are a few places that you can walk to from the centre of Rovaniemi to get good views. Head to the Arctic Garden by the river, for example, or hike up to the top of Ounasvaara hill.

You get better views of the aurora borealis far away from any light pollution.

That said, the lights will almost certainly be more spectacular away from habitation and having a good guide who can explain all about the phenomenon and take you the best viewing places will only enhance the experience.

This tour, for example, takes you the middle of a frozen lake (no light pollution there!) with an expert guide and includes professional photos of the lights.

How much do northern lights tours typically cost?

Prices vary depending on the length of the tour and what else is included. A basic two-hour northern lights tour in a minivan with an expert guide starts at around $70 (£55) per person. 

But, you can pay up to $350 (£280) for an eight-hour private tour with a professional photographer that guarantees views of the lights. If they think conditions aren’t right to see the lights, they’ll reschedule or you get a refund.

The best tours 

So, here are some of the best tours from Rovaniemi that combine seeing the northern lights with a whole bunch of other fun activities.

See the northern lights by dog sled from Rovaniemi in Finland

See the northern lights by dog sled

What could be more fun than heading out in search of the northern lights on a sled pulled by huskies? This tour takes you out to the Finnish forest on a dog sled and includes Lappish snacks cooked on a campfire.

Watch the northern lights from a forest sauna

Head out into the forest for a sauna and the chance to view the northern lights. You can even take a dip in an icy lake and warm up in the sauna afterward, with the lights playing in the skies above.

Taste a Lappish barbecue beneath the northern lights

On this tour, you’ll set up camp by a lake, far from any light pollution. Then your guide will cook a tasty Lappish barbecue to eat round the campfire, while looking out for the lights in the dark skies.

Stay overnight in a glass-walled cabin

For the ultimate in comfort you can’t beat this glass-walled north-facing cabin on the banks of a river.

You can watch out for the lights from the warmth of your cosy bed – and there’s even a private sauna in the cabin, plus a fire pit outside.

Take a snowmobile safari to see the northern lights

Whizz across the snow on this exhilarating snowmobile trip out to the Lappish wilderness to view the northern lights.

Your guide will lead you past snowy forests and ice lakes, far from any light pollution, where you’ll enjoy a hot drink and snack round a campfire.

Alternatives to northern lights tours 

And once you’ve seen the northern lights, there are plenty of other activities in Rovaniemi to keep you amused.

Visiting the Santa Claus Village, just north of Rovaniemi, is a must-do if you’ve got kids or are here over the festive season. 

Here, you can have your photo taken on the Arctic Circle, visit Father Christmas, send the kids to the Elf Academy, or go on a reindeer ride and snowmobile trip.

See the northern lights at the Arctic Snow Hotel

Or, for a more adult treat, why not visit the Arctic Snow Hotel, built from snow and ice? You’ll get to explore the hotel, admire the amazing ice sculptures, relax in a Finnish snow sauna and outdoor jacuzzi before dining on a traditional Lappish meal followed by a drink in the ice bar. 

For something more sporty, this full-day trip to the frozen waterfalls of 130-metre-deep Korouoma Canyon involves a hike in the nature reserve past snowy cliffs and spectacular waterfalls. Snowshoes are provided in winter!

What about cool places to stay? 

To maximise your chances of getting a clear night, it’s a good idea to stay a few days in Rovaniemi.

And for the ultimate experience, we recommend staying somewhere where you can see the aurora from your own room.

The Arctic TreeHouse hotel
The Arctic TreeHouse hotel

So here are some of our favourite cool places to stay in and around Rovaniemi, where you can view the northern lights from the comfort of your own bed.

We love the Arctic Treehouse, with its stylish cabins that have huge glass walls overlooking the forest. With fabulous Finnish furniture, it’s probably the most comfortable and chic place to look out for the northern lights.

And for the full-on northern lights experience, you can’t get better than spending the night in one of Santa’s Igloos at the Arctic Circle.

The beds are positioned directly beneath a domed glass roof and the igloos all come with a northern lights alarm, which will alert you if the lights appear while you’re snoozing. 

Or for complete peace and quiet, the Aurora hut igloo sits right on the edge of a lake, away from any light pollution. With transparent walls and ceiling, it’s the ultimate away-from-it-all aurora gazing spot.

See also:
Seeing the northern lights in Finland
Seeing the northern lights in Sweden
Seeing the northen lights in Scandinavia

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