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Best places to shoot Northern Lights in Western Lapland

February 18, 2017

I've spent quite many nights traveling around Western Lapland and surrounds in past few years hunting for perfect Northern Lights photo. Very often I've been asked what is the best place or where to go for auroras. I can't name the best place, but I try to give you some hints. One place is good on autumn and other in winter. Hope this helps you to select where to go and when.

 

 

KUERTUNTURI

Fell Kuertunturi is wonderful place. It's located at Äkäslompolo. Kuertunturi is famous of it's snow covered trees. Season of snow covered trees is from end of December to beginning of March. Middle of February is the best catch. Easiest route up to the top starts from end of road Kievarintie. Marked but a bit longer route also from Äkäslompolo chapel. It's about hour walk up there, but for photography best locations are not on the top but below the tree line. Anyway it's sport to go up there with all your camera gear. 

Positive:
- Wonderful trees 

- Wilderness feeling 
- Near Äkäslompolo Village.

 

Cons:
- Best trees on south side. If there is just lame auroras on north, you have to walk up and other side of fell, where snow covering on trees is not so good.
- Easy to get lost if it's getting misty. Don't go up there on misty weather. 

- It's sport to get up there. Remember clothes for change and warmer coat for photographing than hiking. 

- Very cold if it's windy

- No fireplace



LAKE ÄKÄSLOMPOLO

Lake Äkäslompolo is small lake just on Village Äkäslompolo. My favourite place to photograph is at behind of Jounin Kauppa Supermarket near Ylläksen Yöpuu sauna. Best season is from end of August to end of October ie. as long as there is no snow covered ice on lake.  On night time water is normally still and you will get wonderful reflections. Good thing is also that you will have good visibility to most common aurora directions. I there is very strong auroras at south, you should go other side of the lake to Riemuliiteri and walk from there about 400 m to bird watch tower. If there is people at sauna, be polite and don't go too near. There is plenty of space a bit further away for shooting. If sauna lights disturb you, it can't help, because you are anyway then standing on private land of sauna owner who is happily letting you photograph auroras on his land, but not disturb sauna clients. 

On winter when ice is solid, lake is very popular place to watch auroras and there is often hundreds of people on the ice. 

 

Positive:

- You don't need to walk at all. 

- Easy to find

- Wonderful reflections
- Beautiful fells. 

 

Cons: 

- Sometimes too bright lights in cottages on the other side of the lake

- Ice makes foreground boring

- Lot of other people looking for auroras. 

- Fireplace is private, but you can rent it from www.yllaksenyopuu.com

 

 

 

 

KELLOSTAPULI

Kellostapuli is one of seven fells surrounding Village Äkäslompolo. Actually I should put Fell Kellostapuli and Fell Ylläs together, because on this photo on left side starts Fell Ylläs and on right Fell Kellostapuli. Kellostapuli is nice place anytime, but for auroras I think winter is the time. Route to Kellostapuli stars from down corner of Y1 parking place near Ihmisenrinki. It's about 2 km hike form there. I use either snowshoes or skies with skins. Again, remember extra clothes, there is normally windy. If you feel wind already in Village, don't go there. 
On the way there is Varkaankurun kota. Place where you can make a fire in block wood tiipii. 

 

AVALANCHE WARNING!! Just on the place this photo is taken, is one of the most common place for avalanches in Ylläs area. Ask from info if it's safe to go there or hire a guide.   

 

Positive:

- Real fell views and feelings. 

- Quiet place. Normally you are only person there on night time
- Nice land shapes for moonlight photography if there is no auroras. 

Cons:

- Avalanche area. 

- Often very windy and cold. 

- Routes are not well marked whole season. 
- Snow-making machines at Ylläs makes often very moisture mist on area.

- Red lights of windmills at Sodankylä about 100 km away disturb the view. 



ÄKÄSMYLLY

Äkäsmylly is a old mill located about 20 km north from Äkäslompolo. It's wonderful place for reflections photos on middle of winter, because river Äkäsjoki is there open all the time.  There is a lot of different locations and views to shoot and it's also beautiful without the auroras. There is fire place with woods provided for free. I've never been there shooting auroras on autumn, because there is plenty of other places with open water then, but I see no reason why it would not be good on autumn too.  For me it's winter season place. On beginning of winter you need to leave your car to Äkäslompolontie (name of the road changes when you drive to Muonio. At Äkäslompolo it's name is Tiurajärventie.) because parking place is not open before skiing season. There is a bit over 1 km hike thru beautiful forest. 

Positive: 

- Very beautiful place

- Free fireplace

- End of winter parking place 500m 

- Reflection 

 

Cons:

- A bit hard to find on early winter if there have not been other visitors
- Lot of trees. Sometimes too many sticks in your photo.


 

 

SÄRKITUNTURI

Fell Särkitunturi is a lonely fell between big fell groups Ylläs and Pallas. It's located about 15 km from Muonio to Kittilä. There is parking places both side of the road Rovaniementie on autumn and on lake Särkijärvi side on winter. From parking place there is 3km route up to fell. In half way there is a hut and toilets for a brake if needed. 

I recommend Särkitunturi for autumn auroras, because of the small ponds on top of it. If you are lucky, and there is no wind,  you'll get beautiful reflections from ponds and scenic view to fells Pallas. I have not been so lucky. It have been either windy or no auroras. 

As all fells, it's windy and cold, but on still weather it's wonderful place. Really a lot to photograph. I recommend to go there way before sunset, because nature is really beautiful and you will get awesome sunset photos. Good place visit on summer too. 

On top of Särkitunturi is open fireplace with wood provided for free. There is also toilet. (Bring your own paper)

 

Positive:

- Beautiful Ponds

- Hardly any people on night time

- Fireplace

- Reflections

 

Cons: 

- A bit of walking to there with gear

- Often windy and cold. 

- No place to cover from wind. 


 

 

KUTUNIVA

Kutuniva is a place where lake Jerisjärvi connects to pond Törmäslommollampi. It means that there is quite often open water. It's very good place on end of season on March and April. Then there is more open water and view with wide reflections is more interesting. 

There is parking place on road Pallaksentie just on the spot. It's very easy to find, but car lights sometimes disturbs shooting. Here you normally meet other aurora hunters too. 

Positive:

- Beautiful reflections

- Parking very near

 

Cons:

- Not many directions to shoot with a view. 

- No fireplace

- Car lights disturbs sometimes
 

 

 

 

PALLASJÄRVI

At Lake Pallasjärvi is many places to shoot auroras, but I think that Punainen hiekka is the best one. There is a wilderness hut open for everyone for free and open fireplace. It's very popular place on autumn, but nice indeed on winter too.

It's a bit hard to find, because you need to drive unnamed road where is a sign "Driving your own risk" and there is no parking place or signs. You can find info from www.luontoon.fi web page.


Positive: 

- Very beautiful

- Free hut

- Free fireplace

- Wilderness feeling

- If lake is still, you get awesome reflections with fells on back

 

Cons:

- A bit hard to find

- Often lot of other people

- Lake is rarely still and you miss the reflections




PÖYRISJÄRVI

Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness area is a place for you if you really want to get away from light pollution. It's located on Norway and Finland border north from Hetta. To get there you need to hire a guide with snowmobile or ski 18 km, because it's illegal to drive there with motorized vehicle if you are not a local. The best and only place to hire a guide is Näkkälä Eräpalvelut.   

 

At Pöyrisjärvi you find old cottage village, lot of fells on distance and almost no trees. It's real arctic area. You need really warm clothes. 

 

Positive:

- No light pollution at all

- Real arctic feeling

- You can shoot every direction with nothing to come a cross. 

- Guides are really good and helpful

 

Cons:

- You need to travel quite a distance
- Can't go by your own

- Often much colder than you think it would be. 

 

 

 

 

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