Northern Lights Tourism in Iceland, Norway and Finland

Bente Heimtun, Gunnar Þór Jóhannesson, Seija Tuulentie

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This report is the result of fieldwork in Iceland, Northern Norway and Finnish Lapland, undertaken by tourism researchers from the three countries in 2014. One aim of the study was to establish comparative knowledge on Northern Lights tours. The research is part of the ‘Winter tourism’[1] project at UiT The Arctic University of Norway.


During the last decade Northern Lights tourism has boomed in the case study areas. Important destinations for Aurora tourism are: Reykjavik and Akureyri in Iceland, Tromsø and Alta in Norway, and Rovaniemi and the region around Muonio in Finland. A common feature of this type of tourism is the increased interest from international tourists, mainly from Europe, Northern America and Asia. Moreover, these tourists travel to both large scale and small scale destinations. In common are also the development of mass tourism in the bigger cities, in regards of the number of tour providers and number of tourists, and a more moderate development in the smaller cities. In spite of commonalities several factors also separate the tours and destinations. The Norwegian Northern Lights tours, for instance, tend to be more expensive and they often last longer. In Finland most of the tours are in combination with other outdoor activities and mass tourism is the most noticeable in Reykjavik. Thus, there the tours are the cheapest. Furthermore, in Iceland and Alta mostly local guides are employed, whereas in Finnish Lapland and Tromsø many workers are from other Europeans countries.


The researchers participated in 17 tours in total. Consequently this report gives only a glimpse of various ways of guiding and how skills, knowledge, equipment, weather and so on affect Aurora Borealis performances in a toured setting. This report continues with a presentation of the Northern Lights tourism development and offers in each country. In the description of each country we also point to guiding practices that enhance and diminish the experiences with the tours. In the last section we discuss the Northern Lights tourism in the three countries, and reflect upon the importance of the guide, safety and infrastructure and some other aspects of the tours. 


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