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NASA specifies Autumn 2013 as peak time for Northern Lights

5th March 2013 Print

It’s been well-documented that the ‘Solar Maximum’ – the summit of the sun’s 11-year cycle of activity, which translates into the best and most frequent Northern Lights – is about to occur. And now the absolute peak of this cycle has been identified: NASA says it will be autumn 2013. This is a revised prediction: the US government agency had previously forecast May 2013, but the optimum date is now expected to fall around six months later.

Although this won’t be the strongest Solar Maximum in 50 years – as was initially speculated – the Maximum will still easily equate to the best Northern Lights displays for a decade. And autumn 2013 will be its pinnacle.

The Aurora Zone, a Northern Lights specialist, pioneered a programme of Autumn Lights tours last year. For those eager to see the Aurora Borealis, but less keen on knee-deep snow and sub-zero conditions, travelling to Scandinavia in autumn is the perfect compromise. Ruska (Finnish for ‘time of autumn colours’) lends a totally different perspective to the Lights: travellers are treated to golden forests and flowing streams, with the incandescent auroras reflected in tranquil and unfrozen lakes.

This year’s autumnal tours have only been on sale a few weeks, and yet already are selling fast. Comments Stephanie Eddy, Marketing Manager of The Aurora Zone: “We have experienced huge demand for our Autumn Lights holidays – so much so that we are already looking to introduce extra departure dates and some new trips.”

The Aurora Zone’s Autumn Lights tours include:

Nellim: Autumn Lights over Lake Inari – four nights from £1,345 pp | FINLAND
Simply breathtaking – while the Northern Lights dance in the skies above they are simultaneously reflected in the still waters of Finland’s third largest lake. Situated on the Russian border, the remote village of Nellim has close to zero light pollution, providing the perfect conditions for seeing the Borealis. Aurora-hunt in the evenings, spend the days hiking through the Finnish wilderness with a picnic of local produce, and visit the Tankavaara Gold Museum and learn how to pan for gold. Stay at the family-run Nellim Wilderness Hotel, boasting a cosy and relaxed atmosphere and an excellent track record for Aurora-spotting. Departs September-November 2013.

Jeris: autumn Aurora photography – four nights from £1,395 pp | FINLAND
This trip is about more than just capturing the Autumn Lights on film – it’s about experiencing every element of Lappish culture and cherishing the beauty of the Finnish autumn. Under the expert tutelage of native Lappish photographer, Antti Pietikäinen, hike to the summit of Pallas Fell and hold a vigil for the Lights, roasting sausages on a camp fire while you wait. Pay a visit to a husky kennel and reindeer farm, and snap these iconic Scandinavian animals while they’re off duty. There’s also time to put down the camera and take advantage of the unfrozen lakes and rivers for a spot of canoeing and optional white-water rafting. Departs 19 September 2013.

Luosto: Searching for the Autumn Lights – four nights from £1,245 pp | FINLAND
Situated in prime Aurora-viewing territory, not far from the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory, this trip takes in the majesty of the Finnish countryside in the autumn, whilst providing plenty of opportunity to see the Lights. The trip includes Aurora-hunting on foot and by minibus, a visit to a reindeer farm, a tour of Europe’s last-working amethyst mine and the chance to go hiking with off-duty huskies and play with their mischievous cubs. Stay at the Aurora Chalet, where guests are provided with an ‘Aurora Alert’ to inform them when the Lights are in the vicinity. Departs September-November 2013.

*All Autumn Lights packages include flights (London), transfers, B&B, other specified meals, activities and cold-weather clothing. Group size varies between four and 20 members; over-18s only. Tailor-made Autumn Lights itineraries are also available for groups of four or more, including family groups of all ages.

Unlike other ‘stand and stare’ Northern Lights holiday companies, The Aurora Zone uses a mixture of local knowledge and geophysical forecasts to locate the best places to see the Lights on a night-by-night basis – it hunts the Lights proactively. Whereas in winter, Aurora-hunters experience the beautiful Scandinavian countryside using snowshoes, snowmobiles and husky sleds, in autumn, travellers hike through forests accompanied by huskies. To add to the adventure mix, in autumn there’s also the option of panning for gold and digging for precious gems at Europe's only working amethyst mine.

A full list of Autumn Lights itineraries is available at