The thrill of the chase
Torassieppi, Finland


Over breakfast, there is much talk about the lack of aurora during the night. Despite the beautiful scenery and wonderful activities, we are all here to see the same thing and it is disappointing to have a night with nothing. This, I am told, is not uncommon. The lights dance to their own tune and many people go home without experiencing their rhythm. I nod, as if agreeing that I was lucky on my first night, but inside I’m tingling with adrenalin. I have to see them in full force while I’m here. I look down at my phone as if to send an email and check my aurora app. There’s a measly 15-per-cent chance of action later. Fifteen. My heart sinks.

After a morning ice-fishing and an afternoon whizzing around on a snowmobile, it’s finally dusk. I’m going husky-sledding, riding off into the woods where there is no light pollution and, hopefully, fingers crossed, seeing the lights. I arrive at the husky farm where the beautiful animals are howling with excitement at the thought of being able to run off into the night. My sled is a simple wooden vehicle with six dogs attached at the front and me anchored to the back. My guide gives me some basic instructions and we tear off into the night. These animals are bred to run and they know the forest inside out. We ride across the lake and into the forest. The night closes in around me. I lean in and out of every turn as the dogs charge around a narrow track. The trees part and we race out into a clearing. They are running at full pelt and, there, up above us is a faint glow in the sky; like an eerie mirage, but it’s there. The aurora is out. I have never experienced anything like this anywhere in the world before. I don’t care that it’s not green. It’s utterly overwhelming.

It’s my last day in this winter wonderland and, despite the euphoria of last night, I am desperate to see the full Northern Lights show. I decide to go for a long walk around the lake to work off some energy. With snowshoes attached, I trudge off along the shoreline. I can see snow-covered cabins waiting for the summer to come and their families to breathe life back into them. It’s so quiet; just the gentle crunch of my boots sinking into the fresh snow. The sky is clear today and the air cold. I stop for an app check. All signs are pointing in the right direction: there’s a 60-per-cent chance of seeing the lights.

“It spills over the silhouetted trees and charges off through the sky.”

As promised, it’s a picture-perfect night. Above the forest, the first aurora of the night is gathering pace. Like mist, it spills over the silhouetted trees and charges off through the sky, casting a green light over everything. I’m gobsmacked. This is it. Suddenly, there are three separate auroras streaming playfully across the sky. They twist and turn, melting into each other, and then pull apart, going their separate ways over the horizon. I cast my mind back to the white light of a few days ago. This is completely different. It’s spellbinding and more than I could ever have imagined. Finally, I understand the allure of this natural wonder. A picture simply doesn’t do it any justice. The lights dance for you and seeing them is the only way to believe how utterly incredible they are. This is the trip I’ve always been waiting for. I lie back and lose myself, completely enchanted by nature’s magic.  

John travelled to Finland with independent inspiring holiday specialist Artisan Travel on its ‘Torassieppi – Tailor Made’ holiday, with departures from January to April. The package includes transfers, three nights’ half-board hotel accommodation and cold-weather clothing for the duration. All guided activities are optional and priced as extra.

Photography by Roman Babakin, Antti Pietikäinen, bluejayphoto, Kati Finell, Sara Winter and FREESPAN/Adam Lyczakowski

Get out there


… download My Aurora Forecast, an app that gives you the best indication of what you can expect to see, so you can plan your evenings accordingly. 

… book a reindeer ride to take you through the wilderness. These extraordinary animals are fascinating and it’s a great way to see more of the countryside. 

… take a tripod for your camera. The slow exposure needed to capture the lights means that your equipment has to be completely still.


… forget to take masses of warm winter gear with you. It’s freezing and clothes can take a while to dry if they get wet. Back-up thermals are essential.

… be afraid to try eating reindeer. This rich gamey meat tastes divine and will be farm fresh from a local supplier.

… forget to set your alarm in the middle of the night to see the aurora. They come out in 2–3-hour cycles and it’s magical to witness them in the dead of night.