5 must-have experiences in Finnish Lapland

creek in snowscape

There is something rather magical about winter in Finnish Lapland. From dreamy pastel tones that fill the sky, the romantic whiteout landscapes to watching the Northern Lights dance above you, there is something the seems otherworldly inside Finland’s pocket of the Arctic Circle.

While the pristine wilderness of Finnish Lapland is beautiful in summer and autumn, it is winter that truly takes pride of place for this unspoiled corner of Scandinavia. With a truly remarkable offering from festive getaways and ski breaks to uncovering Sami culture and catching a glimpse of the best light show on earth, there’s no shortage of things to do in Lapland. 

We love all things winter wonderland related, so we’ve gathered the things you cannot miss doing on an adventure in Finnish Lapland.

Dog sledding in arctic

1. Go dog sledding

A huge part of the culture here in Finnish Lapland, dog sledding is one of the most popular and iconic activities on offer. An integral part of the Sami culture for centuries, dog sledding was a primary means of transport in the Arctic. There are a number of tours that allow you to experience your own dog sledding moment, many of which give you the opportunity to try your hand at mushing (driving the sled). 

From gentle, relaxing trails that weave through snow dusted pine forests and across frozen lakes to more demanding paths with trails that give you a hours of beautiful landscapes zipping by, there’s no shortage of excursions to choose from. 

Many husky safaris also include a snack or meal and a hot drink to warm you after a few hours in the frigid temps. Cosy up by an open fire in a traditional wooden hut, and warm your toes as you sip hot juice and enjoy homemade soup.

It’s important to remember to research your tour operator and select an ethical practice when considering your options for any animal tourism.

Northern Lights over pine forest

2. See the northern lights

There’s no doubt that magic is real once you’ve watched the spectacular light show that is the Aurora Borealis. Ribbons of green and purple blaze through the inky night sky in a dance that is truly beyond this world in a brilliant display of nature’s finest work. 

Hunting the northern lights is as much about luck as it is about preparation. There’s a few key considerations before you head out looking for them. The time of year (October-March is best, but they can sometimes be seen in September and April), no light pollution and clear skies. The rest really comes down to mother nature. 

For the best chances to see the brilliance of the Aurora for yourself, joining a northern lights tour in Lapland will pair you with a team of expert guides who know the best locations and exactly what to look out for. 

If you plan to give it a go alone, remember to avoid light pollution and be patient. The lights can be fleeting or last for hours, coming in ebbs and flows as the particles in the atmosphere react. There are also a few Aurora apps that can help you with notifications of where the best opportunities are based on your location and geomagnetic activity. 

Just remember, this one is about luck. Give yourself a few nights in case of bad weather or the lights simply not showing up sometimes. We recommend 3-5 nights for the best chances.

3. Wake up in a glass igloo

You’ll truly feel like you’ve woken up on the set of Frozen after spending a night in a glass igloo. Giving you uninterrupted access to the night’s sky, this can be one of the best locations to spot the northern lights if you’re lucky. Cosy up with a hot chocolate and watch one of the best shows on earth unfold, without having to leave the warmth of your igloo.

Of course, a stay in a glass igloo is idyllic in any situation. The views from these unique accommodations are incredible, with the short days in winter casting sorbet tones across the skies for hours at a time – an endless golden hour. 

There are several options for a glass igloo stay, from the gateway to the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi to the remote northern settlement of Saariselkä. But they book out early, so get in quick if you’re planning your Lapland escape.

cottage in the snow

4. Enjoy a Finnish sauna experience

In a country where there are over 3 million saunas, it should be a must-do on everyone’s list while in Finland. A traditional pastime much-loved by the Finns, there is something deeply therapeutic about a session in a Finnish sauna.

Coming in from the crisp winter air of the outdoors, your body will love warming up in one of these steamy wooden rooms. Of course if you’d like to really challenge your body, why not try a dip in the freezing water of a nearby lake before thawing in the comfort of the Finns favourite social space?

Santa Claus Village at sunset

5. Visit Santa

No trip to Lapland would be complete without a visit to the jolly fellow we all know and love. Considered the home of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi is the ideal place to enjoy a festive break any time of year. 

There’s plenty to see and do at Santa Claus Village, with reindeer sleigh rides and Santa’s workshop. The Arctic Circle actually cuts right through Santa Claus Village meaning you can be both inside and outside the circle at the same time! 

You can spend the night in one of the cabins on site, with the option to keep an eye on the skies to spot the northern lights dancing their way overhead. Just to add to the fun of it all, any mail you post from here will be postmarked from Santa’s post office.

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Bronwyn Townsend

Bronwyn Townsend is an Australian travel photographer and writer usually found researching her next trip, ticking off bucket list moments and looking for a new challenging hike somewhere in the alps. Follow along with her travels on instagram: @bonnejournal

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