Why you should book a holiday to see the Northern Lights now, with the Aurora Zone

Once seen, never forgotten, The Aurora Zone would like to share the fascinating Northern Lights with its guests, offering more than 60 activity holidays to Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway, providing travellers with the very best chance of experiencing the captivating Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights are beautiful ripples of bright greens, turquoise blues, with slight tinges of violet and even sometimes pink and red lights that have captivated people for centuries. They are one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and appear at the top of most people’s bucket lists, year after year.

They are a naturally occurring phenomenon that are very dependent on solar activity which makes the Northern Lights difficult to predict. Our sun goes through an activity cycle – Solar Maximum (highest solar activity) and Solar Minimum (lowest solar activity) – that lasts about 11 years. The Northern Lights are more prevalent during Solar Maximum, the last of which occurred in 2014. We are currently in solar cycle 25, which means the Northern Lights will peak from now for the next four years – so it’s the perfect time to book a trip to see the aurora borealis.

Indeed, on 2 October 2022, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured an image of a powerful solar flare emitted by the sun. The flare, which peaked at 4:25 pm EDT classified as an X1 flare, which means it’s at the strongest end of the scale. According to NASA, the sun has emitted three solar flares, 18 coronal mass ejections, and one geomagnetic storm in the past week showing it’s well on its way towards Solar Maximum.

Named after Aurora (Roman goddess of dawn) and Boreas (Greek god of the north wind), the Northern Lights occur when charged particles (electrons and protons) from the sun connect with the Earth’s magnetic field lines and filter down to where they emanate from, our northern and southern poles. The particles then collide with atoms and molecules (Oxygen and Nitrogen) in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and increase the energy they hold; the molecules then release this energy as a photon of light. This process fills the sky with colourful lights; and as billions of flashes occur in sequence, the auroras appear to move.

The reason we see different colours is due to the height that most collisions take place and the different gases that are more prominent there. For example, most solar particles collide with our atmosphere at an altitude of around 60-150 miles where there are high concentrations of oxygen; when the oxygen is agitated it causes the Northern Lights to appear in shades of green (the most common colour). If the solar particles collide with our atmosphere at 60 miles altitude or less, then they will react with nitrogen, which causes the Northern Lights to be tinged with purple or blue.

The Northern Lights are most likely to be seen closest to the Arctic Circle where the Kp number is at its lowest. Derived from the German ‘Planetarische Kennzilffer’, meaning ‘Planetary Index’, the Kp-Index (zero to nine) measures the likely average geomagnetic activity in the earth’s atmosphere, where nine represents a hugely significant geomagnetic storm. These storms are very rare; the most frequent Kp levels are between zero and three, which means the Northern Lights appears in those areas more often than anywhere else.

All The Aurora Zone’s holiday packages take place at 66°North and above, in Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden, where the Kp levels are three or less and it’s more likely to be visible regularly. The Aurora Zone also works with expert-local guides and scientists in each destination that know how to give guests the best possible chance of seeing a spectacular Northern Light display.

Tom Kerss, a seasoned aurora-chaser, author of Northern Lights (Collins, 2021), and former Royal Observatory astronomer says: “The Northern Lights season has already kicked off with some spectacular early displays, and it looks promising for both seasoned aurora-chasers and those looking for their first adventure. As we go into October and beyond, the arctic nights become long and wonderfully dark. We’re also approaching the solar maximum, so there’s an ever-greater likelihood of strong geomagnetic activity and the promise of geomagnetic storms. Witnessing a storm-force auroral display first-hand is a truly unforgettable and inimitable experience – you’ll find it difficult to even describe to your friends!”.

Please find more information about the science behind the Northern Lights here: www.theaurorazone.com/about-the-aurora/the-science-of-the-northern-lights

And please find three brand-new trips with The Aurora Zone below.

NEW: Arctic Fjords and Northern Lights small ship sailing expedition to Tromsø, Norway, with The Aurora Zone
Leave the light pollution behind and spend four nights on a small expedition ship to experience the Arctic wonders of Northern Norway. The beauty of this smaller ship (26 cabins in total) means it’s easier to navigate the dramatic coastline of the surrounding fjords, get much closer to the majestic whales that frequent the waters, and see the Northern Lights. Learn from the highly skilled expedition team, led by Roger Brendhagen (well-known Norwegian wildlife and aurora photographer), who will teach guests the science behind the aurora borealis, all about marine biology, and share tips to take the best photographs. Other highlights include visiting a local Sámi activity camp to find out about traditional Sámi culture, exploring the Aurora Spirits distillery (which at 69°North is the World’s most northernmost distillery) built within a disused NATO base, discovering the small-historical village of Hamnes, and joining a lively husky safari. Throughout the trip, the expert-local guides on board will make sure there are no missed opportunities to see whales or the Northern Lights. A five-night Arctic Fjords and Northern Lights small ship sailing expedition to Tromsø, departing between 31 October 2022 and 29 January 2023, costs from £2,795 pp (two sharing) and includes return flights (London to Tromsø), return transfers, four nights in a standard twin cabin on board the ship and one night at Clarion Hotel – The Edge, five breakfasts, three lunches, and four dinners, activities in the itinerary including whale watching excursions and guided tour of Aurora Spirit distillery, lectures and photography workshops with the highly skilled expedition team, coffee and tea onboard, cold weather outwear and boots onboard, aurora alert service, and 24/7 in-destination support.
The Aurora Zone (01670 785 012, www.theaurorazone.com)

NEW: Downhill Skiing and Aurora Après Ski to Saariselkä, Finland, with The Aurora Zone
Less than 30 km from Ivalo Airport, Saariselkä Ski & Sport Resort is the northernmost ski centre in Europe. Since opening in 1970, it now offers 15 runs (10 of which are floodlit) including a beginner’s area, freestyle park, and six intermediate / advanced pistes. Six ski lifts, most of which are draglifts (with hardly any queuing), link the resort, and there’s also the chance to try the longest toboggan run in Finland. Explore Saariselkä on skis or snowboards before joining knowledgeable guides on several Northern Lights hunts. Travel by minibus to the Aurora Camp by the vast frozen Lake Inari and wait for the Northern Lights to emerge. Stay by the crackling campfire or borrow a reindeer hide and lie on the frozen lake and marvel at one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. The following night, jump on a snowmobile and head into the forest, leaving all artificial light behind. Join your guide around the campfire and learn about the science, myths, and legends surrounding this incredible phenomenon – before, hopefully, enjoying the Northern Lights once more. During the holiday, stay in an Aurora Cabin: the ‘wow factor’ of this accommodation is a section of heated glass that extends over the sleeping area, allowing guests to watch the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of their own bed. A four-night Downhill Skiing and Aurora Après Ski trip to Saariselkä, departing between 5 December 2022 and 24 March 2023, costs from £2,045 pp (two sharing) and includes return flights (London to Ivalo), return transfers, staying in an Aurora Cabin, four breakfasts, two lunches, and four dinners, plus two-day lift passes to Saariselkä, two days of ski / snowboard hire, an evening at the Aurora Camp, an evening on a snowmobile, expert guide, aurora alert service, and 24/7 in-destination support. Other activities, such as a reindeer and/or husky safari, are an added extra.
The Aurora Zone (01670 785 012, www.theaurorazone.com)

NEW: Gastronomy and Northern Lights trip to Tromsø, Norway, with The Aurora Zone
The Aurora Zone has launched a brand-new sustainable food-focused trip to Tromsø, in Norway. Over the four days (three nights), enjoy fresh fish – caught minutes from the restaurant – delicately pan fried in butter with locally-picked chanterelles; try the award-winning famous Norwegian brown cheese expertly paired with smooth regional wine by the in-house sommelier; join the Sámi reindeer herders for a traditional feast served under the stars; and learn how to catch fish with the local fishermen on a fjord cruise, before preparing and cooking the catch with the onboard chef. Throughout this trip, hunt for the spectacular Northern Lights on two bespoke evening cruises (maximum 12 people) on the fjord and dine under the mesmerising night skies. A three-night Gastronomy and Northern Lights tour to Tromsø, departing between 1 December 2022 and 29 March 2023, costs from £1,245 pp (two sharing) and includes return airport transfers, accommodation at Clarion Hotel – The Edge, three breakfasts, two lunches, and three dinners (including dinner at Fiskekompaniet) plus a Polar Fjord Cruise, visit to the Reindeer Camp with dinner and Northern Lights Watch, Arctic Fishing Tour, and Northern Lights Dinner Cruise. Cold weather clothing will also be provided – except for on the dinner cruise – and guests will also benefit from fully-qualified guides and instructors during the activities.
The Aurora Zone (01670 785 012, www.theaurorazone.com)

For more information on The Aurora Zone, please call 01670 785 012 or visit www.theaurorazone.com