Welcome to part III of my life in Finland series:
In Finnish, March is Maaliskuu which comes from ‘maallinen kuu‘ – earthly month. It refers to the end of winter when the snow starts to melt and slowly the ground becomes visible again.
However, for us, the earthly month still contained a lot of snow since we headed towards Lapland to take part in the Northern-most obstacle race in the world – the Arctic Tough Viking.
The world’s Northern-most obstacle race
The race took place in Levi, Finland’s biggest ski resort. From Helsinki, we flew to Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. The flights were surprisingly cheap! Even though we just booked it 4 weeks in advance we only paid 84e per person for a round trip. At Rovaniemi airport we rent a car to drive the 200km further North to Levi. We arrived there on Friday afternoon, giving us some time to see the place before resting in the hotel and preparing for the run the next morning.
Luckily, the weather was on our side. It was sunny and relatively warm (around zero degrees). Considering that we were about 200km North of the Arctic Circle it was quite a surprise. The race was a lot of fun! We managed the 5km with 15 obstacles in between up and down the ski slopes and through knee-deep snow in less than 2 hours. After recovering a little in the hotel we even felt good enough to join the after-party in the famous Hullu Poro Arena. Hullu poro means crazy reindeer and after a long day of skiing this is the place to go for a good apres-ski party. It’s the best-known bar of Lapland!
The endless vastness of Lapland
However, we should not go to Lapland in winter without getting a glance at the famous Northern lights. So we decided to rent a snow mobile (the vehicle number one in Lapland) and chase them in the dark. The rent was easy since there are many rental places in and around Levi. Only one place, however, agreed to rent it over night. We paid 170e for this adventure including thermo clothes, boots, gloves, helmets, and a detailed map with all the snow mobile tracks marked around Levi. There are about 900km official routes in the whole Kittilä area.
After running up the mountain the day before we went there a second time by snow mobile to enjoy the view over the winterly Levi area. It was such a great experience to ride on a snow mobile through the dark night of Lapland, an indescribable feeling of peace and freedom!
Unfortunately, we were not very lucky with the Northern lights. After racing for many hours along the tracks around Levi we had to give up after midnight. Although it was nice and sunny during the day at night the temperatures dropped far below zero. Even the thermo clothes couldn’t keep us warm any more.
Aurora borealis – the Northern lights
However, my disappointment about not seeing the Northern lights did not last very long! For a while already I had been following the Aurora Notification for Tampere page on Facebook and a few days after we returned from Levi an Aurora alert was posted. We immediately packed our cameras and headed into the night to find a dark spot near Näsijärvi, one of the two lakes surrounding Tampere, hoping to be luckier that night. It seemed that we had found a pretty good place since soon more and more people gathered there, some of them looking quite professional with their camera equipment.
After waiting for what felt like hours in the cold (some less professional observers had already left again) finally, finally a very dim green stripe appeared above us, moving slowly before it disappeared again. After another while the aforementioned repeated itself a couple of times, lasting only a few seconds each time. My excitement slowly changed to disappointment again. Was that it? Where these the famous Northern Lights everybody seems to be curious about seeing? Was that all?
No, it wasn’t. And I’m very happy that we could resist the cold and the disappointment a few more minutes because what happened next was just an unbelievable spectacle of nature! It’s hard to put it in words and it was even harder to capture it with my unprofessional photographer skills but the famous lights did come back and this time brighter and more intense than ever before in that night. This time-lapse video nicely summarizes what we saw:
This video was taken by Ville Nikula. Thanks for sharing it with us!
The next day we read that it had been the first time in many years that the Northern lights were so clearly visible in Tampere and Southern Finland. Due to a geomagnetic storm the Auroras were especially colorful and reached far more South than usual. In Tampere they were even visible over head as coronas which is very rare. On the blog Salamapaja you can find some more pictures of that spectacular night.
So my month of the earth was very successful in watching one of the most spectacular natural phenomenons on this planet. One more point to cross of my bucket list!
Have you ever seen the Northern lights or is it on your bucket list as well? Let us know in the comments below!