Hey guys! It’s the Aurora Hunter again!
I’m often asked about the best places to see Northern Lights in Rovaniemi. I have taken Aurora pictures in all parts of town including the city centre and remote areas.
Did you know that Rovaniemi is Europe’s largest city? In terms of surface area, not the population, of course! It means that there is lots of space to see those wonderful Auroras.
The main idea is to get far away from the city lights. You can do it on our own, with a rented car, for example, or you can go on Aurora excursion with a local tour operator and experience also something more, like drink some coffee, made on the open fire, or go on a night reindeer, husky or snowmobile ride. These are usually a good consolation if the Auroras don’t show up to the party.
There are also times when going out of the city is not possible for some reason and you are “stuck” in the city centre. You might be staying in one of the hotels in the city and still want to try your luck at seeing Auroras. Well, here’s where you could go.
Here is map that I made with all my favourite places. If you click on the map pins, you’ll get more info about that spot. Below comes the explanation of these places in detail. Let’s start!
The Arktikum shore
This is one of the easiest places to reach from city centre. There’s a relatively low amount of light for such location. The shore opens up towards the North (where Auroras can be seen most of the times), however, you can also look South if you need.
Arktikum is the local Museum and Science Centre, which tells stories about the livelihood of local people, the history of Lapland, as well about the indigenous people of the Arctic region, the animals, and the effects of climate change. Definitely a place worth visiting if you are in town. Daytime, of course!
You can access this place by foot, as it is only 5 minute walk from centre. From the parking place of Arktikum head to an underpass that will lead you to the other side of the highway. You will find yourself in a small park on the side of the museum. Head straight until you see the shore of the river. There are several paths here to walk around and find your perfect spot.
In the middle of the winter, when the river freezes, you can also walk a little bit further away on the ice and thus escape the lights of the city (if you see snowmobile tracks, than it usually means it’s frozen and safe).
Arktikum shore is one of my favourite places to take photos in any season. In summer, when we have Midnight Sun, you can experience how the sun gently passes gust below the fells (our little “mountains”) and then starts rising again.
Ounasvaara Fell is the crown of Rovaniemi. It is a picturesque hilltop just 20 min walk (or 5 min taxi drive) away from city centre. If you prefer to walk, it could be a little challenging, because the path goes up a long way, but if you are well dressed and in a good physical shape, it should not be a problem
There are several options how to explore the area, but let me tell you mine. First you need to get to Sky Hotel, which is situated just on top of the hill. You might opt to go to the observation tower of the hotel (by submitting a 2€ fee to the reception), but this is not the option that I necessarily recommend, because for me there is still too much light around, coming from the hotel. However, if you need some company, here you will find one, because the hotel’s residents go here to see the Lights.
Usually I head to the forest around the hotel. It can be any place, really, as long as you walk further away from the lights of the hotel. In winter there is also a ski centre here, so you might go down the ski pistes, because they offer an open view around the sky. However, I often go towards Toto ski slopes, which are 10 min walk from Sky Hotel. They are easy to identify, because there is a triangle-shaped structure on top. The path will take you through a beautiful forest.
Make sure you have a lamp of some sort and preferably some warm clothes, cause it can be chilly. The path to the Toto slopes is usually clear enough even in winter, because this is a favourite place to walk for many Rovaniemi dwellers.
Why do I like this place? Because of the incredible view that opens here! You can see half of Rovaniemi city and if the Auroras are out, you will definitely see them!
Let’s go on.
This place is incredible! An (almost) untouched piece of land only 15 min walk from the city! There is a nature trail that goes around the island and thus, it is also a great place to visit daytime. The island basically gives you a 360 degree viewing point to be able to spot Auroras in any direction.
Koivusaaari island is my favourite place in the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn, when the Aurora season starts. Only at this time you take some beautiful pictures with Auroras reflecting in the water! However, I do not recommend this place in the deepest winter time (starting from January). Why? I will tell a bit later.
The island is a little bit tricky to get to, but let me explain. First you need to walk out of the city centre and head North by the pedestrian lane of the E75 highway, which cuts the island in two pieces. You have to get to the second bridge, turn right, find the stairs (they are actually in bad condition, so be careful), go down and cross the highway below, under the bridge. Crossing the highway on top is an option, but I will leave it to your own risk. Well, after you have (safely) surfaced under the bridge, you are still at the wrong side of it. You have to come up the stairs, cross the bridge again (heading towards the city this time) and then you will find the third stairs down to the island and to the wooden path, which circles around the city. It’s all worth it!
So why don’t I like it in the middle of the winter? Well, there’s usually too much snow and getting around the island becomes difficult. The other reason is that in winter the ice freezes and there is no reason to stay on the shore any more
This is the second of the vantage points that offer a view over the city. This place is 5 km away from city centre. It is better known as “Santa Park”, the Christmas-themed amusement park for kids, as it is situated deep below the surface of the fell. However, on top of the fell it is mainly forest. And what a view over the city opens up here, especially in winter! There is an observation tower on top which is free to attend. It will not necessarily make you see the Auroras better, but surely it offers a great view over Rovaniemi.
To get here you need to come to the parking place of Santa Park first. On the left side of it there is a small path which will lead you to the top. It is actually easy to find and you won’t get lost. It is a bit steep climb at first, but well worth it!
River shore at the centre
If you don’t have much time (or you are a little less adventurous? :), you can simply head to the city embankment, which is situated around the two bridges. One of the bridges is the famous Lumberjack bridge, see on the pictures. There’s still a lot of light here, but surely less than in the heart of the city. The opposite shore to the center, or “the beach”, is less illuminated and might suit better to see Auroras.
Despite of the city lights, the shore is still also my favourite place to see Auroras, because I can also capture a great view of the city, together with Northern Lights. I might visit this place on my way to one of the mentioned locations.
Well, that’s it for this time. We might bump into each other at one of those spots!
Best of luck seeing Auroras!