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Wonders in the sky and on the ground await visitors

By Xu Lin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-05 07:14

Wonders in the sky and on the ground await visitors

Chinese travelers take a reindeer sleigh in a tourist resort in Lapland, Finland.Zhao Changchun / Xinhua News Agency

Standing in a crowd that watched in amazement as bursts of green light danced across the sky, Zhang Yu, 31, was delighted to witness the northern lights, or aurora borealis, during a visit to Ivalo, a village in Finland's Lapland region.

As other tourists with Zhang took photos, one exclaimed, "It's so gorgeous!"

The group was witnessing collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun as they entered Earth's atmosphere near the North Pole.

The display is widely considered to be the most spectacular natural light show in the world, though the phenomenon is difficult to predict.

"We're so lucky to see this amazing natural phenomenon," said Zhang, 31, of Beijing, who traveled to Finland with her husband for a seven-day holiday.

"Finland boasts great travel experiences in the Arctic, such as reindeer sleigh rides, and the Finnish people are so hospitable and friendly," she said.

The couple specifically hoped to see the northern lights. They spent about 30,000 yuan ($4,355) on the holiday.

Zhang said her tour guides told her they might not see the lights because of the snowy weather, but they ended up enjoying a display that lasted about 20 minutes.

Earlier, while they were enjoying a bonfire party, a local tour guide had demonstrated how to "swim" in thick snow as they waited in vain that night for the northern lights to appear.

"It was an unforgettable night," said Zhang. "Although there were no northern lights, we talked with families from all over the world and enjoyed the performance."

Like Zhang, more Chinese visitors are traveling to Finland to see the northern lights and enjoy other Finnish experiences.

In 2015, about 326,000 Chinese traveled to Finland, an increase of 35 percent from 2014.

"The best time to see the northern lights is between August and October, or during February and March, rather than during the coldest of the winter months," said Sari Hey, public relations coordinator with Visit Finland.

"There are more nights with clear skies then. ... Part of seeing the lights is an element of luck, so we do recommend that travelers don't plan their vacation only around seeing the lights. They can explore many other amazing activities to get the full Finnish experience."

Hey said it is possible to see a double aurora - a reflection of the northern lights from the water - in the fall. Tourists can also join in other autumn activities, such as berry and mushroom picking and hiking in national parks.

In addition to seeing the northern lights, many tourists to Finland seek to visit Santa Claus Village in Lapland, where they can meet a jolly old man dressed in red and white and pose with him for photos.

The Santa Claus Main Post Office receives mail sent to Santa - about 700,000 letters each year. It also is a must-visit for travelers who want to send postcards with a special Arctic Circle stamp.

According to Zhang, Chinese tourists particularly enjoy a picture of Xi Jinping and Santa Claus taken during a visit in 2010, when Xi was vice-president.

According to Chinese online travel agency Tuniu Corp, many Chinese tourists are interested in package tours to Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In Finland, they often visit Helsinki, the capital, and enjoy winter activities such as snow biking and skiing.

Hey, the Visit Finland coordinator, said: "Travelers coming to Finland will appreciate the multitude of options available and especially the natural elements.

"We recommend that travelers venture further outside of Helsinki to other regions, such as Lakeland in the summer and Lapland in the winter. Many are surprised to find how quick and easy it is to see a lot, even with only a few days in Finland," Hey added.

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