Best spots to see Auroras in Rovaniemi

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

Aurora Borealis over the Arktikum museum. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Aurora Borealis over the Arktikum museum. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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!

Arktikum shore has relatively low amount of light. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Arktikum shore has relatively low amount of light. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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).

Same place – Arktikum Shore in winter. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Same place – Arktikum Shore in winter. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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

Ounasvaara is a gemm of Rovaniemi! Great place at any season. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Ounasvaara is a gemm of Rovaniemi! Great place at any season. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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.

Aurora Borealis seen from Sky Hotel observation spot. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Aurora Borealis seen from Sky Hotel observation spot. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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.

Toto pistes is a great place to spot Auroras. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Toto pistes is a great place to spot Auroras.
Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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.

 

Koivusaari island

Arktikum shore has relatively low amount of light. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Koivusaari island is a great place to spot Auroras in Autumn / Early Winter. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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 :)

In winter you can walk over the freezing lakes and rivers. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

In winter you can walk over the freezing lakes and rivers. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Syväsenvaara Fell

Syväsenvaara fell is a great, open space with little artificial light. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Syväsenvaara fell is a great, open space with little artificial light.
Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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.

Same place – Arktikum Shore in winter. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Observation tower enables nice views over the city. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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

You can see some powerful Auroras in the city centre, by the shore of the river. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

You can see some powerful Auroras in the city centre, by the shore of the river. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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.

Aurora Borealis seen from Sky Hotel observation spot. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

Aurora Borealis seen from the Rovaniemi city beach. Photo by Alexander Kuznetsov / Hello Lapland.

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! :)

 

Author: Alexander Kuznetsov

I am an Editor-in-Chief of "All About Lapland" travel magazine, passionate Aurora Chaser, and an adventurous photographer. Based in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland but travel all around the region.

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32 Comments

  1. Nice :) now you have revealed the secrets of Aurora spots for Rovaniemi, could you help share some for Saariselka :) for coming Dec. Thanks

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Gary! The best place in Saariselkä, in my opinion, is on top of the Kaunispää mountain, as well as the road which leads to it. https://goo.gl/maps/Fwz5JXRpncs
      This is not far from the tourist centre of Saariselkä, it is possible to walk up there in 15–20 min.

      If you have a car in Saariselkä, you could also drive to Kiilopää fell, which is about 15 km from Saariselkä centre, and go up that little mountain. This is a really picturesque place where you can have a 360 degree view around the area. The start of the trail is situated around the parking place of Suomen Latu hotel. https://goo.gl/maps/8HpyyXJ6gYD2

      Post a Reply
      • Thank you Alexander.
        Last time I were in Saariselka I tried to climb up to Kunispaa from the slopes, startting from Riekonlinna Hotel. Do you know if there is a walking path map of that area?

        Post a Reply
      • Thank you so much, my question in same was on the way, – Tusen tack!
        eginnig of January , 5th- 7th, what does the weather experts sy about Aura ?:)
        Thanks
        Margit

        Post a Reply
        • Hello Margit! It is a bit early to say what will be the odds 5-7 January. Normally, the weather and aurora forecast are good enough 2-3 days in advance (and still can be inaccurate). But if the sky will be clear, you will have a chance :)

          Post a Reply
          • Lovely , can you recommend places for shoot in Saariselkä

        • The best place in Saariselkä, in my opinion, is on top of the Kaunispää mountain, as well as the road which leads to it. https://goo.gl/maps/Fwz5JXRpncs
          This is not far from the tourist centre of Saariselkä, it is possible to walk up there in 15–20 min.
          If you have a car in Saariselkä, you could also drive to Kiilopää fell, which is about 15 km from Saariselkä centre, and go up that little mountain. This is a really picturesque place where you can have a 360 degree view around the area. The start of the trail is situated around the parking place of Suomen Latu hotel. https://goo.gl/maps/8HpyyXJ6gYD2

          Post a Reply
          • So thankful! Krammar!

  2. Dear Alexander, do you take anyone to go see the Northern Light? If not can you recommend someone who likes to do that please? We are family of 5 adults arriving Rovaniemi on 3/21 and will stay at Santa Claus Village Hotel. Thank you so much. – Susan

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Susan! Usually I go taking pictures alone, or sometimes with my photography students. Santa Claus Village is a good place to see Auroras, because it is a little bit away from the center. If you go to the forest, which is right behind the cottages and find an relatively open space (less trees) you should see some Northern Lights, presuming the weather is clear. If you want someone to take you even further to the forest, I suggest you go out with a local tour operator, such as Lapland Safaris. They have been doing such trips for decades and surely know the best places out there to spot the lights.

      Post a Reply
  3. Dear Alexander! What a great website and what a fantastic service you offer! It’s not easy to get reliable insider information about where to spot the Aurora best if you’re not a local… Thanks to your detailed tips, we were able to spot Northern Lights on Koivusaari island yesterday – and what a lovely spot it is! And we didn’t just enjoy the surroundings (and the surreal appearance of sheep) but also your company, talks and further exchanges on photography after having bumped into you on the way… Thank you again and continue living your dream and sharing your passion with so many others! All the best, Barbara and David

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Barbara! That was my pleasure! Hope that you have fun taking photos of the wolves and bears in Kajaani! And who knows, maybe we’ll bump into each other once again! You certainly know where to find me from this article! 😉

      Post a Reply
  4. Hi Alexander,

    Great Article! Do you have any suggestions for Levi? Thanks. I’ll be visiting Rovaniemi, Levi around Christmas. Thank you. = )

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Joey!

      One good spot is exactly on top of Levi fell. Granted, it can be tricky to climb there in the darkness, but a good way is to catch a lift or take a taxi drive. The car can take you up to Tuikku restaurant, from there, you can walk the connecting route and go right towards the 6 slope (Golf) or go left and reach the 5th slope. One word of caution – it is very windy there! Otherwise, depending on where you live in Levi, you can take a walk into the nearby forest. You don’t have to go very far, just to escape the city lights / find an open spot. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! :)

      Post a Reply
      • Thanks Alexander. I havent’ got information about my hotel at Levi yet. I’ll sure do my mapping once I know the hotel. Is there a good app for Aurora Forecast that is easy to understand? Also, Do you often need to camp out for the lights or they normally last long enough for you to walk to a spot to setup and capture them?

        Post a Reply
  5. This is the most informative site I’ve come across. Thank you so much!!! I plan on being there in a few weeks and will try to visit as many of these spots as I can. Have you had any luck spotting them this season so far?

    Post a Reply
  6. Hi Alexander

    Nice pics u have got. Any advice for camera setting for Canon 7d for shooting the aurora? Thanks in advance. Failed to see it last night. Hopefully tonight will be better. Might take your advice and visit one of those local places around Rovaniemi tomorrow.

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Michael! The settings depend on the situation, light conditions, the speed and aperture settings of your lens. If I’d give you a set of settings, I would probably miss. Try start with ISO 1600-3200, aperture wide open and experiment with exposure. Somewhere between 5-20 seconds might be your sweet spot. You might find it interesting to read my article about taking the Northern Lights photos: http://www.laplandthemagazine.com/how-to-take-photos-of-northern-lights/

      BTW, the sky is going to be clear only on Friday, so there is little chance before that because of the clouds.

      Post a Reply
      • Hi Alexander,

        Thanks for the prompt reply. Unfortunately I’ll be flying off on Friday morning. Maybe another year when my luck is better. Thanks for the advice again.

        Cheers

        Post a Reply
  7. Hi Alex. Came across your site and would like express our gratitude on the amount of info you have shared.we are a film crew that will be in Rovaniemi for the next 2 nights. We would like to seek your assistance, if possible, to seek the Northern Lights? Looking forward to your reply.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi! Unfortunately the aurora forecast is very low for the next 2 nights. I am also a bit busy as well, so it is not a good time for aurora hunting. The weekend should be much better, but I understand that your time here is limited :)

      Post a Reply
  8. Hi! We are arriving in Rovaniemi tomorrow and staying in the glass igloos at the arctic snow hotel. I understand the forecast to be cloudy tomorrow but a possibility Tuesday night, kp index of 4! I haven’t looked up the hotel’s location in relation to the spots you mentioned but is it a good place for viewing? Thanks so much for the tips!

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Jessica! Arctic Snowhotel is a great place to see the Auroras, especially the lake they have nearby, so stay where you are :)

      Post a Reply
  9. Hello.
    I enjoyed your photos and info. But if you could choose a month that would be the best time of year to see the Aurora, when would that be? Also, do you know when skiing ends in Rovaniemi area or is there snow all year for skiing?

    Thank you for your time.
    Marilyn Canon

    Post a Reply
    • Hello Marylin! March and September are the best months to see Northern Lights. Skiing ending depends on the discipline and the place. Cross-country continues well into April in Lapland. Generally, the more North you go, the better are the tracks in mid-April. Currently it is end-March and skiing is its peak :) Alpine Skiing continues until the beginning of May, some places, like Ruka, even during the first weeks of May.

      Post a Reply
  10. Hello,
    First of all, I found your article very much helpful and interesting; since we’re 3 friends who will visit Rovaniemi around late November (22-24) this year. We’ll have car in Rovaniemi so we’ve possibility to drive around hunting the northern light. However, I just wondering how is the chance, in average, to see northern light in late November? And what time should we start our adventure? Is it worth driving further to Sodankylä by night?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi! It’s difficult to say what the chances will be. The aurora forecasts are only good for 2-3 days in advance. The start could be at around 21.00. Usually, it is worth going more North, for example to Sodankylä area. It all depends on the weather though. Check the forecasts for several locations upnorth and go to the best weather forecast place. If you plan to drive longer, you should also start earlier. Good luck!

      Post a Reply
  11. Hi Alexander, Thanks for all the information you provided on your portal. You mentioned that you do take students for NA trip. I am planning to visit Rova in Jan 2018, 14th thru 19th, are you planning any classes during that time? I know it is almost 4 months away but still would love to go out with a local.

    If you do have class planned during that period, let me know.

    Thanks
    Raj

    Post a Reply

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