Dancing Skies: 6 Truths About Aurora Chasing in Lapland

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Aurora chasing in Lapland: Lights over cabins

© Juliette Sivertsen



It was hard to smile.

Not because I didn’t want to – but because I couldn’t. My jaw was gaping open like a giant fly trap and my eyes as wide as saucers.

I sort-of smiled and did that little chuckle people do when they’re both in awe and in disbelief. Then my jaw dropped to the floor again and my cheeks could no longer hold the smile.

I was over 16,000 kilometres away from my home in New Zealand.

Standing above the Arctic Circle.

Dressed in three thermal tops, a borrowed fluffy Nordic woollen knitted jersey and my ski jacket, feeling like an oversized marshmallow.

And I was underneath one of the world’s most spectacular light shows imaginable – the northern lights.

I was aurora chasing in Lapland.

Aurora chasing in Lapland: looking up to the sky

@ Juliette Sivertsen



For many people, chasing the aurora borealis (or the more elusive aurora australis), is a major bucket list item. Just like it was for me.

I can honestly say one of the best weeks of my life was a week spent in Utsjoki in Finnish Lapland with Aurora Holidays. 

“Is it really like that?” my workmates asked as they ooohhed and aaahhhed over my aurora photos on my return.

Can something this magical actually be real?

Here’s the truth about aurora chasing in Lapland.

Northern lights chasing in Finnish Lapland - Utsjoki cabins

© Juliette Sivertsen




I’ve seen a few blog posts from people who’ve gone aurora chasing, somewhat disappointed they weren’t as bright as the pictures they’d seen. In part, that is true, because the camera picks up more light than the naked eye.

But I was lucky.

During my week in Utsjoki, Lady Aurora put on one hell of a light show. Sometimes the lights would start very pale and faint in the sky, slowly getting brighter and more vibrant until it was lighting up the entire scene before my eyes.

Sometimes you have to squint, other times the lights simply dazzle in the sky.


Aurora chasing in Lapland: bright lights

© Juliette Sivertsen



Imagine a candle flame flickering in the wind.

That’s what the aurora does.

It flickers, it dances, it moves across the sky. Until I saw it for myself, I didn’t realise that when people spoke about the northern lights ‘dancing’, they actually meant it.

There are some incredible real-time videos out there which show the lights moving. This ain’t no time lapse:




Sometimes the swirls of gasses in the sky would form the most incredible shapes.

No two nights aurora chasing were the same; every pattern was unique and mystical.

I’m pretty this capture looks like an angel:

Aurora chasing in Finnish Lapland: shaped like an angel

© Juliette Sivertsen




When chasing the northern lights, there’s no time to muck about.

Your photography gear is on standby, your coat, jacket and gloves are ready at the door and you must be prepared to jump in a vehicle at a moment’s notice – and potentially not be back for hours.

Sometimes the aurora simply shimmer, other times they move from one direction in the sky to the total opposite, in a matter of minutes.

Sometimes cloud cover and poor weather conditions arrive in a flash.

And sometimes the lights simply peter out. Aurora chasing is a continual lesson in patience, moving quickly and always being prepared!


Aurora chasing in Finnish Lapland: fading lights

© Juliette Sivertsen




Because of the ever changing conditions above the Arctic Circle, there’s a good chance you’ll have to drive around to find the perfect sky for the northern lights.

One night, I crossed the Finnish-Norwegian border half a dozen times, peering out the car window at all times, in search of a green flash in the sky.

I finally understand why they call it ‘aurora chasing’.

For the truly committed aurora photographers, it’s not unusual to travel hundreds and hundreds of kilometres in one night in search of the lights.

You’ll learn to set up your camera and tripod very quickly.


Aurora chasing in Lapland: swirls

© Juliette Sivertsen



It’s hard to put the experience into words.

Aurora chasing in Lapland made me realise how completely insignificant I am in this universe.

But it taught me to appreciate the beauty of not only the world I live in, but the worlds out there that I know nothing about.

Some folklore suggests only those with a grateful heart can witness the northern lights in their true glory.

You can be the judge on that one, but one thing I know for certain is that I will never, EVER take my experience for granted. Not even for a second.

Aurora chasing in Finnish Lapland: a sky show

© Juliette Sivertsen


Is chasing the aurora on your bucket list too? Where do you plan to do it? 



Aurora Chasing in Lapland: 6 Truths You Need To Know



Huge thanks to Tiina at Aurora Holidays for making this trip happen.

I will always have a grateful heart. 


Oregon Girl Around the World


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  • Medha Verma Bector

    I love how you’ve described your experience of watching the dancing Aurora. I was actually picturing it while reading it, the awe, the feeling, the visuals. I have never seen the Northern Lights but thats exactly how I imagine I’ll also feel when I first get to see them. The magical feeling of seeing something so surreal that you begin to feel like you’re in a dream, not reality! I can’t wait to get to Iceland in October this year and have the same experience as you did.

    • Thank you so much – glad I was able to paint a picture for you! Very surreal indeed – good luck with your trip to Iceland! I saw them in Iceland in October.

  • Holy smokes your pics of the aurora not only stir my desire but also eat at my soul!! I have been chasing the Northern Lights 3x time now and each time I have been thwarted by overcast bad weather. Though I havent been to the Finland yet so an Aurora Tour in the Lapland might be my next attempt. Have you caught the aurora australis (southern lights) ever?

    • Oh thank you so much for your kind words! I am sorry to hear you have had bad weather get in the way. An Aurora tour is fabulous because you can just jump in the car each night and drive as long as you need to until you find them! I would love to see the aurora australis but I am too far away in Auckland – but when we move to Queenstown next year I hope we will get the chance if there’s a good solar storm!

  • Photos! Are those at different locations? I always struggle to incorporate something insetting into the photo, together with the northern lights. It can be quite challenging.

    • Yes they are different locations but all in Lapland. Ideally, you want to scout out a location during daylight hours. We found some incredible spots on my final night – except the weather turned bad so couldn’t get the ‘money shot’ as I had hoped!

  • It has been my dream to see the Northern Lights too. This is so fascinating and just gives you a whole new appreciation for truly how magical nature is! I have this on my bucket list items too. I am spell-bound by just looking at your photos, I can only imagine how magical it would be in real life.

    • Truly magical! It’s the only way to describe it. I hope you get the chance to tick this item off your bucket list soon!

  • Suma Shah

    Witnessing the Northern Lights is my long standing dream! You are lucky you got to watch this magical phenomenon in it’s full effect. And you have captured them beautifully!

    • It was a dream for me too and I am so thrilled to have finally done it! But now I’m addicted and want more 🙂

  • Lisa Rivera

    I’m completely envious of your experience, as I can’t only imagine how incredible it was! I’d never heard of Aurora chasing, but I understand why. I hope I get to see these dancing lights for myself one day, if even for a short time!

    • It was a beautiful trip! And yes, you really do end up chasing the aurora. Good luck in your quest to find them!

  • The Travel Sisters

    Sounds like an amazing experience! Seeing the Northern Lights is at the top of my wish list but I need to improve my photography skills first.

    • Truly incredible. Hard to really describe how breathtaking it was! I learnt as I went along with shooting the lights, the more you do it the better you get!

  • I can only imagine the awe and wonder one feels when witnessing these lights. I would like to visit someday. Aurora chasing sounds magical and fun although I would have to bundle up because I don’t like getting cold!

  • Adrianna Vogel

    wow I was reading many blog posts about northern lights and I have to say you got pretty lucky ! Your photos are just amazing, looks like you got all whats the best! I am dreaming to see this wonderful phenomenon one day, I might have to look into it next winter! I am just such a summer person Ill probably freeze there so much, but I am sure the views are worth it!

    • Yes I was very fortunate and I think spending a whole week searching for them meant I was spoilt for choice! It’s truly one of the greatest things I have ever done in my life – 100% recommend it, especially in Lapland.

  • Iulia Falcutescu

    I am so envious of this! I have been wanting to see the Aurora for so long now.. I hope I will get to see it later this year 😁love your photos😆 they are simply exquisite!!

    • Hope you can plan a trip soon! You do have to travel a bit but it is totally worth it! I can’t wait to return.

  • heidi medina

    Now that is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s awesome to hear it’s as magical as I imagine it to be and probably a whole lot more when you’re actually there doing it. Your photos are gorgeous. I love how you told the story, I could almost picture myself there.

    • Thank you kindly! I’m glad I could help paint a picture for you! A dream come true to finally see them in person and spend a week photographing them!

  • Karla Obispo

    It looks magical! I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about Aurora. I wish I could see it in person!

  • The northern lights are truly magical! I wish to see them properly one day, from Lapland or anywhere above the Arctic Circle. I have actually seen the Northern lights this year for the first time, from a plane, on my way from London to Mexico City. I woke up in the middle of the night and glanced on the window. I had the same feeling of you, I wanted to share this with someone but everyone was sleeping. I was smiling and couldn’t believe my eyes. And yes, they do dance. I watched from for at least half an hour before falling back asleep, with them still dancing at the window of the plane.

  • Kate Storm

    Wow!! You got super lucky–those photos are amazing! You always hear the sad stories about people who end up not seeing anything, so it’s great to read the opposite was true for you. A northern lights trip would be challenging for me–I’m not a big fan of cold or unpredictability (possibly not being back for hours?! omg)–but it’d be worth it to see something that incredible.

  • I can only imagine how amazing it was to see it in person!I’m a little surprised though that you drove all over the place to find good shots! But if that’s what it takes, I would too! #FarawayFiles

  • Samah

    Your photos are wonderful! As a photographer I’m still awaiting the day I get to photograph the northern lights. I’m going to Iceland this year – in the summer though so there’s a missed chance. I love when you say, “Aurora chasing in Lapland made me realise how completely insignificant I am in this universe” because it rings true for travellers, such as myself, who experience things I’ve never imagined I would. Thanks so for this great post.

  • Julie Beckers

    The Northern lights are one of natures wonders. I too will never forget when I saw them. Would love to go to Lapland and see them in their full beauty. Great photos.

  • So beautifully, poetically and philosophically put! A dream come true I can imagine, but not without its efforts. Thanks for these useful tips, and thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

  • You can’t even imagine how lucky you are to be able to see the Northern Lights. And not only to see them, but also be able to come up with such great photographs. It would be my dream come true. I went to great lengths to see Aurora Borealis, but wasn’t too lucky. Good for you!

  • Nicole

    You were very lucky, we spent 6 nights in Iceland and didn’t see the Northern lights. Your photos are fantastic!

  • Perri Johnson

    These photos are fantastic! The Northern Lights are something I would love to see in real life.

  • Lance Hale

    Thanks for the great advice. I have yet to see the Northern Lights, but like you, I thought you would just stay in one place, look up in the sky, and watch. I had no idea there was so much traveling and movement involved. So glad I read your post so I’m not disappointed when I do get to make that trip. Your photos are stunning, and I loved the video of the dancing lights.

  • Lena

    I am always amazed at how people even take pictures of Northern Lights. Is it hard to capture?

  • 3 thermal tops!! Oh that sounds like one more then I wore in the Himalayas. XD But I bet it must have been full worth it right? I mean just look at these gorgeous lights. So magical, they would enthrall me completely!

  • First, your photos are gorgeous. I have never taken pictures of them before but I’d love to learn how. I’ve only seen the northern lights once and it was at my house in southern Ontario, Canada. It was a freaky instance where you could see them very far south. I viewed them for hours and hours. It was such a magical show!

  • I’ve actually recently visited Iceland, and saw the Northern Lights there! It’s been on my bucket list since I was young, so it was a joy to finally see them and be able to tick it off the list x

  • I want to see Aurora lights too. nice post. 🙂

  • It’s definitely on my bucket list – one day, for sure! x #farawayfiles

  • Jennifer Dombrowski

    We’ve been Aurora hunting every season since 2011 in Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Svalbard. Next on our Northern Lights bucket list is to chase them in Canada.

  • Clare Thomson

    Oh my goodness, that does look like an angel! Sounds like you were incredibly lucky, Juliette. I hadn’t appreciated until recently that it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll get to see the Northern Lights even after you’ve paid all that money. It’s an incredible sight though. My goodness, of course you’ll remember it for ever! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  • Rahul Khurana

    That’s so spectacular. Would be a lifetime experience seeing those dancing lights in real. I am sure you didn’t feel like coming back from there. 🙂

  • Aurora is super amazing! It’s just really hard yea to put experience into words. Having to see Aurora is like a dream for most and this dream can also turn into reality just like yours. It’s cute tho that you were draw dropping while watching them. If I were in your situation, I’d definitely feel the same, also the fact that it was might freezing. Yes! Absolutely aurora is on my bucket list!

  • Jen Ryder

    These are the most incredible pictures of the northern lights I’ve ever seen!! Unbelievably beautiful captures! Seeing the northern lights is definitely on my bucket list. I didn’t realize how much work it takes to find them! Makes sense that going on a tour would be the best way, since I’m sure the guides know what they are doing. Thanks for sharing this!!

  • Raghav

    Thanks for such a descriptive post on Aurora chasing. These are brilliant photos and from what I know seeing this wonder is hard enough but to capture it on camera is even more difficult. I can’t even begin go to imagine how it feels when one finally sees it.

  • bye:myself

    Hm, very interesting since until now I always thought that i had to go to Iceland to see it – which I’m planning on doing for the fantastic landscape, anyway. But Finland is much closer and I guess also not thaaaat neckcutting, so it would be a great alternative destination to see it. The pictures look just surreal – it must be a sight of a lifetime.

  • Marissa Pedersen

    Ahh this is so high up on my list! I’ve always wanted to see them but haven’t been at the right place during the right time. I have heard it does take hours of patience/driving around at night to find wherever they decide to appear, but I think it’s worth it (no matter how cold i may be!). Lapland also looks like a beautiful place to visit.

  • Kimanis Ome

    Wow, absolutely stunning photography and amazing experience. Seeing the aurora borealis in Finland is right up there on my bucket list. I remember seeing the northern lights once and I was in awe. I can only imagine the experience in Lapland. Thanks for the descriptive post and what an incredible adventure.

  • Jenna

    The northern lights are so amazing, aren’t they?! You got some wonderful shots! I would love to chase the northern lights in Lapland sometime. Looks like you can get an amazing show there! We’ve seen the northern lights a few times in Alaska-once in Anchorage and twice in Fairbanks. We were just out on our own, but it would be fun to do a tour sometime. Seems like you would definitely have better luck that way!

  • Carol

    Congratulations on getting some of the best photos of a magical experience! We had just faint flickers from an Anchorage hill. We should really chase to get rewarded!

  • Catherine Swartz D’Cruz

    I would love to see the Northern Lights. Our trip to Iceland was during the summer when we had the midnight sun instead. Your pictures are spectacular and make me want to plan a trip during the darker months.

  • Rashmi & Chalukya

    You have some stunning captures of the Northern lights, we have seen hundreds of pictures but getting to read a first hand experience is completely different. Thanks for sharing these details. Yes the northern lights are on our bucket list and believe its on every other travelers too. We just hope we are as lucky as you were and get to witness some surreal light show 🙂

  • Omg I totally would be in the same position as you where I could not smile because my jaw would be locked into the ‘awww’ reaction. The aurora borealis is something so high on my bucket list and how lucky that you have been able to witness this bucket list experience. How cool to have traveled all the way from NZ up to the artic circle to watch this…. no matter how damn cold it i! I so wish I could experience this one day.

  • Fabulous pictures of the northern lights! The dancing auroras are always amazing!

  • Soul Drifters

    This is unbelievable! What an amazing experience this must have been. These are some of the best pictures I have seen, congrats on that. There is something so magical about it, It is definitely worth braving the cold!!

  • Pingback: Faraway Files #63 | HilaryStyle()

  • Rachel

    Stunning photos – I wanted to see the aurora on my trip to Norway a few years ago bu I didn’t get the chance! One day!

  • So true! It’s like a little bit of magic here on earth. I have never had an experience like the one you were lucky enough to enjoy, but I have seen the aurora here in Vermont. We are far south of the Arctic Circle, so we really only catch it once a year or so. Your photos are truly amazing, and it’s obvious from your writing that it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

  • Oh my! These photos are incredible. Thank you for your lovely comments about my own recent trip to Lapland. My photography skills are pretty limited so I decided to just watch the aurora and gave up on trying to capture them with my camera. Next time I need to get a decent camera, learn how to work in the darkness and see if I can replicate these!


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