Searching for the northern lights in the Arctic Circle can be one of the very best things to do in Lapland in the winter. Here’s my experience of the Aurora Domes in Finland and the quest to see the northern lights.
The very words the Arctic Circle and the promise of the Northern Lights are enough to send shivers down the spine. The reality of trying to find them can morph shivers into frostbite with a frozen camera to boot.
When I touched down in frozen Lapland earlier this year, the residents told me it was a balmy 21 degrees.
That’s minus 21 degrees, of course. The Finns have long since stopped bothering to use the word minus: a futile gesture in a frozen world.
To be fair, though, this time I (partly) understood. My venture into the Ice Hotel in Sweden took place at an eye-icing (minus) 45. At that temperature, eyelids matted together in a moment and I could feel the blue tinge of frost spread deep into the hotbed of my lungs.
But it had all been worth it. The huskies. The reindeer. The slow, steady and slightly surreal emergence of those clouds of emerald green. Reluctant, mystic paintbrushes across a dark canvas cloud of sky.
But it had, of course, been cold. I mean, really, really cold. When the northern lights did shimmer into sight, we could only watch them for seconds at a time.
We took refuge in a twig stick-warmed mountain hut, taking turns to take the snow plunge: striding thigh deep through drifts to the edge of the lake, breathing hard onto the camera, willing it to stay alive.
Cold kills camera batteries faster than heat melts chocolate.
So when I heard about the Aurora Domes in Finland, I was more than a little intrigued.
The Harriniva complex in the Arctic Circle has several different components spread over five sites.
I spent most of my time in Torassieppi, where sweet-timbered chalets with heart-shaped cutouts and private saunas live between snow-covered pine tree pathways and one Santa Claus’ grotto come December.
And just between the chalets and the thick and frozen lake live the captivating Aurora Domes.
The Aurora Domes, these majestic glamping igloos, promise to show the splendours of the night sky from the warmth and wisdom of a cosy, comfy bed.
Hot from my reindeer safari (who am I kidding? It was, of course, cold) I crunched my way through the snow toward my bed for the night: the firelit Aurora Dome.
Inside lay all the romance and snuggliness a girl could want.
A roaring fire. A sinkily comfortable bed. Even chilled bubbly, which felt welcome once the warmth had returned to my bones.
And best of all, a clear canvas opened out to the Arctic sky.
I tucked myself beneath the antlers, all woollen socks and childlike wonder, and waited for colour to blaze across the lake of ice.
I stoked the fire.
I thrilled in the textured fabric beneath my feet. After days in thermal socks and thick boots, scrunching toes between wool and wood and brushed white fur seemed like a sensuous treat.
And I stared at the starlit sky.
The anticipated blaze of colour never appeared: but I suppose the possibility of that happening is part of the allure. Where is the space for the mystery if the gods please you every single time?
Tucked snug, amid white winter fur, it hardly seemed to matter. Watching a monochrome landscape etch delicate shadows into twisted beauty, with starlight falling like glitter from the sky and flickers of fire-bright orange at the edge of my sight, my little heart could rest content.
All the beauty of the frozen landscape. Absolutely none of the pain.
It’s fair to say that I slept well that night.
In the words of the quote in my dome:
Feel the heartbeat of our wilderness and learn the secret of patience
What I loved
The concept. Cosy and snug yet within an icy wilderness.
The open fire.
The soft furnishings – many shades of white and gorgeous textures beneath toes.
What to know
You need to head back into the snow to reach the toilet. But don’t be daunted. Finns plunge naked into snow and water at this temperature as part of the established sauna ritual. And there is a sauna nearby if you do get too cold.
Unfortunately, my transfer to the airport was moved earlier so I had to leave before sunrise so couldn’t review the dome in daylight.
Only one night is advised within the Aurora Dome – spend other nights in the timber Torassiepi cabins nearby.
In all likelihood, you’ll need to fly in to Helsinki and then on to Lapland from there. Make time to spend a few days in Helsinki – it’s a fascinating place.
Disclosure – I travelled to Finland as a keynote speaker for the MATKA Nordic Bloggers Experience. I travelled on to Lapland as a guest of Visit Finland and Harriniva. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like: reindeer, frozen noses, firelight, the lot. Otherwise, what’s the point?!
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