As the chill of the season tightens its grip on a good portion of North America, the snow-blanketed Finnish wilderness may not be quite top of mind. But there’s an excellent new reason to reconsider it.
Soft-adventure tour operator Off the Map Travel has worked with the Visit Arctic Europe project and the Scandinavian cross-border cooperative Interreg Nord to offer a unique opportunity to get a front-row view of the aurora borealis. The impromptu Aurora Wilderness Camp features a pair of spartan sleeping huts located somewhere the snowy tundra outside the village of Kilpisjärvi, about 630 miles north of Helsinki (and about 20°F south of it).
“Statistically,” says Off the Map, “the Kilpisjärvi area has more clear night skies and records more Northern Lights activity than any other place in Finland.” On a clear night, there’s a solid 70-percent chance that you’ll see the celestial show.
Because aurora visibility can fluctuate from evening to evening, the huts of the Aurora Wilderness Camp are mounted on skis and optimally positioned ahead of your arrival according to current visibility predictions for the area. Each one sleeps two close friends and features a gas stove, a heater, and a small table. There’s a chilly outhouse nearby (also on skis), and snowshoes and kick sleds for less urgent excursions into the icy unknown.
Off the Map’s four-day, three-night program includes first and third nights in a private log chalet, with plenty of time for arctic strolls and fireside contemplation. The real action starts around suppertime on Day 2, with a four-mile snowmobile ride to the mobile campsite. Your guide will teach you to make a campfire and grill a sausage or three before leaving you—stocked up with Finnish snacks and hot beverages—to your companion and the night sky.
In the morning, there's a hutside breakfast and a snowmobile ride back to the log cabin (and its alfresco hot tub) for another cozy evening.
“The area and now this glass-roofed experience gives you one of the best possible experiences to see the Northern Lights,” says Jonny Cooper, Off the Map Travel founder and Northern Lights expert. “Plus you’ll stay cozy inside.”
The Aurora Wilderness Camp experience (one of three dozen Off the Map Travel Northern Lights packages) is priced from £1,599 per person (about US$1,900 at this writing), based on double occupancy. The package includes meals and private transfers between camp and the Tromsø Airport, just over the border in Norway.