Finland’s northernmost region, Lapland, sits nestled against its borders with Sweden, Norway and Russia. With much of the region lying within the Arctic Circle, it is a winter wonderland for a large part of the year and offers some of Scandinavia’s most unique attractions and experiences. These are ten must-do adventures to tick off if you’re planning to visit Lapland:
Lapland’s first snow can fall as early as August, and from November the region is blanketed in snow that lasts until at least April. As a result, it’s a winter snow sports paradise, with snowshoe hiking as one of the most popular local outdoor activities. This a fantastic way to explore areas that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible during Lapland’s long winter months, and you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy the experience. You can join a guided snowshoe hiking tour or simply rent your equipment and seek out one of the many signposted hiking routes.
For generations, huskies have been an invaluable part of life in the Arctic Circle, transporting people and goods across vast distances in the most difficult, wintry conditions. These days, dog sledding is sport and recreation in equal parts, and a truly unforgettable way to experience the wilderness areas of Lapland – whether it’s for just a few hours or on a multi-day expedition. Choose your own adventure: You could be nestled in a sled under layers of cosy blankets, learning the art of ‘mushing’ with your very own team of dogs, or meeting the next generation of sled puppies at a husky farm.
These fascinating, semi-domesticated creatures are closely connected with the indigenous Sami people’s traditional, migratory way of life, and given that the region’s reindeer population is estimated to be about the same as its human population, it would be unusual to visit Lapland without seeing them in the wild. A visit to one of Lapland’s many reindeer farms is a great idea if you want to meet Santa’s most important helpers close-up – we can’t think of a more magical way to experience Lapland’s snowy wonderland than taking a reindeer-drawn sleigh ride through a winter forest landscape.
Of course, you may prefer to add a little extra horsepower (or should that be reindeer power?) to your holiday, trading four-legged propulsion for the exhilaration of a snowmobile adventure. Snowmobiles are an important aspect to everyday life in a Lapland winter, and guided excursions offer a fun way to reach more out-of-the-way destinations. You’ll be provided with all the necessary instructions, safety equipment and polar clothing, and can choose from a simple but thrilling introductory ride or an epic, multi-day expedition to the very shores of the Arctic Ocean.
All that adventurous fun is sure to have you working up an appetite – we recommend an ice-fishing expedition as a memorable way to catch yourself a hearty meal. Expert guides will escort you to the ideal spot on a frozen lake, then teach you how to break through the ice and try your luck. Whether or not you catch anything, it’s a breath-taking, peaceful setting where you can enjoy a hot drink and swap fishy stories, surrounded by the splendour of the Arctic landscape.
If all those snowy landscapes have you itching to strap on a set of skis and hit the slopes, you’ll be happy to know that there are three main ski resorts in Lapland, all of which offer a variety of runs to suit every level of expertise, as well as a selection of terrain parks to suit snowboarders of every ability. The season usually stretches from late October until early May, with the mid-winter period of Polar Night providing idyllic night skiing conditions that are frequently made even more memorable when the Northern Lights turn up to provide additional lighting.
Every visitor to Lapland hopes to see the Aurora Borealis during their stay, and there are plenty of fun activities to choose from that offer the opportunity to watch for this elusive phenomenon as part of your experience. Possibly the cosiest way to await their appearance is to stay at one of Lapland’s amazing glass igloos, where you can watch the display from the front-row comfort of your own cosy bed. The igloos are fully insulated, well heated and some even come with their own hot tubs!
The tradition of the sauna and ice bath is so important to Finnish culture that in 2020 it was added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The classic Finnish approach is to strip off, shower, and then sit in the heated space until you feel ready to either jump into an icy lake or roll around in the fresh, powdery snow. Although traditional saunas are built from timber, in Lapland you’ll also find spectacular saunas that are made entirely from ice and snow, but if you’re not bold enough to try the chillier aspect of the experience, you can always opt for an outdoor hot tub under the stars.
Lapland’s most famous inhabitant is Santa Claus, whose official home is the magical Santa Claus Village near the town of Rovaniemi. This festive wonderland, where Christmas is celebrated every day of the year, is sure to have even the most jaded of visitors lining up to find out whether they’ve made it onto this year’s nice list. During your visit you’ll have the opportunity to meet Santa and his elves, send a letter to friends anywhere in the world from Santa’s post office, and even meet his favourite reindeer.
For many people, one of the best ways to experience a region’s culture is by sampling its cuisine, and Lapland offers plenty of tasty dishes that are closely connected to the local way of life. Braised reindeer stew served with mashed potatoes and wild, foraged lingonberries, grilled leipäjuusto cheese paired with delicate cloud berries, steamed cod straight from the Kemijoki River or elk meatballs in a creamy sauce: the flavours of Lapland are distinctive, hearty and utterly memorable.
To start planning your own unforgettable Lapland adventure, talk to your personal travel manager.