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Maximise the maximum with The Aurora Zone

3rd October 2012 Print

2013 is supposedly going to bring the peak of the current Solar Maximum, the part of the sun’s cycle when its energy is at its highest. ‘Supposedly’ because solar physicists are getting their telescopes in a right twist on this subject, and not everyone agrees. But most of the leading lights (sorry) – including NASA – do concur that next year is the likeliest time.

The Solar Maximum brings an increase of sunspots, and that in turn causes coronal mass ejections (CMEs). When a CME hits Earth, it travels down magnetic field lines and collides with atoms. It’s these collisions which cause the displays we know as the Northern Lights; so the more intense the solar activity, the more vivid and regularly the Lights will appear. And so at the peak of a Solar Maximum… well, you get the idea.

All of which explains why the classic question – “When’s the very best time to see the Northern Lights?” – is being asked with greater frequency by travellers heading north in 2013. These opportunists want to maximise the Maximum; to see the best Lights in the year of the best Lights.

The Aurora Zone is a Northern Lights specialist. You’d therefore expect its Managing Director, Alistair McLean, to know his Auroras from his oranges – and you’d be right. Here’s his advice on the subject of when to go and look for the Northern Lights:

“There’s so much written about when is the best time to see the Northern Lights – and much of it is inaccurate travel lore!

“Personally, I always travel to Lapland in search of the Northern Lights from the middle to the end of March. At this time, the Arctic is at its absolute best weather-wise, with longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures, excellent snow and, usually, much less of the Aurora-seeker’s arch enemy, cloud cover. The longer daylight hours create a wonderful light and yet it’s dark by 9.30 or 10pm – perfect timing, as the Aurora is usually at its best from about 10pm until 2am.

“However, that being said, there’s precious little science behind my March choice, and the truth is that I’ve seen brilliant Auroras in each month of the Northern Lights season (September-March). In the end, the single biggest factor is that great unknown: luck.”

The Aurora Zone’s pioneering trips try, however, to reduce Lady Luck’s role in the equation as much as possible. Concentrating on areas of very low light pollution, the company offers trips which proactively hunt the Northern Lights – using dogsleds, skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles to race to locations where the Borealis has been spotted, or is predicted by advanced geophysical forecasting.

Sample trips:

Polar Nights & the Northern Lights (4 nights in Kangos, Sweden, graded ‘Active’)
In remote Kangos, friendly guesthouse hosts Nigel and Lena can arrange off-road excursions using their unique Land Rover fleet, which allows the avid Aurora-hunter to literally go off the beaten track, and chase down the Borealis in a very unusual, exciting fashion. This can be combined with snowmobiling, dog sledding and, almost as memorable, Lena’s home cooking.

Prices from £1,575 pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow), transfers, four nights’ full board, activities and wilderness guides.

Aurora & Snow Village Adventure (4 nights in Kittila, Finland, graded ‘Very Active’)

Here’s a super-active trip on which to (hopefully) witness the Northern Lights. Go Aurora-hunting during the evenings using huskies, snowmobiles and terrain equipped mini-buses, and spend daytimes visiting Lainio Snow Village – home to elaborate snow structures – and taking reindeer safaris through the quiet Lappish forest.

Prices from £1,575 pp (two sharing) including flights (Heathrow), transfers, four nights’ full board, activities and wilderness guides.

Trips are graded from “leisurely” to “very active” to suit a range of Aurora seekers. The gentler trips, although situated in one place, are located in some of the best places to see the Lights.

A full list of Aurora-hunting itineraries is available at