There’s something about the cold and snow that just makes everything more magical. Case in point: Finnish Lapland in winter! If you’re looking for a winter wonderland destination full of whimsical things to do, look no further.
This Arctic region is home to some truly magical winter activities that will leave you feeling like a kid again. From husky sledding through the snow-capped forests, to spotting the elusive Northern Lights overhead, these are some of the most enchanting things to do in Lapland during the colder months.
I travelled to Finnish Lapland in March of 2020 and it was one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken. I’m going to share all my tips on what to do in Finnish Lapland in winter, as well as how to get there, where to stay and what you’ll need to pack.
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- Where is Finnish Lapland?
- How to get to Finnish Lapland?
- What is the weather in Lapland?
- Best time to visit Finnish Lapland?
- What to pack for Lapland in winter
- Where to stay in Finnish Lapland
- Important info about visiting Finnish Lapland in winter
- Things to do in Finnish Lapland in winter
- Get out in the snow with cross country skiing
- Visit Santa Claus Village
- Get adventurous with a snowmobiling safari
- Cosy up on a reindeer sleigh ride and visit a reindeer farm
- Sip hot chocolate in a teepee
- Search for the Northern Lights
- Have fun dog sledding
- Try your hand at ice fishing
- Drink in an ice-bar
- Relax a sauna
- Take a dip in a frozen lake
- Learn about the Sami culture
- Ice floating
Where is Finnish Lapland?
When we speak of Lapland, it’s usually Finland we’re talking about. However, Lapland spans into neighbouring countries Norway, Sweden and Russia also.
Finnish Lapland is the northernmost region of Finland and makes up around one third of the country. It’s located above the Arctic Circle and is known for its pristine landscapes, snowy winters and reindeer population.
The main city in Finnish Lapland is Rovaniemi, which is also the capital of Lapland province. Rovaniemi is about a ten-hour drive from Helsinki, Finland’s capital city, and is the official home of Santa Clause.
How to get to Finnish Lapland?
The easiest way to get to Finnish Lapland is to fly into Helsinki and then fly into one of the five main Lapland airports:
I flew from Dubai to Helsinki with FlyDubai (ah the flight where they offered me a vegetarian sandwich as they didn’t have gluten free…). From Helsinki I flew to Kittila with Finnair.
In winter, some European destinations have direct flights into Rovaniemi.
I highly recommend staying in Helsinki for a day or two on your way to Lapland or on your way back. I stopped there on my way back and if you don’t have much time, it’s the perfect city to explore.
There is a good network of railway lines linking the areas of Lapland with major cities in Finland. If you’re looking for an adventurous way to travel by train, take the night train from Helsinki.
While you can rent a car in Helsinki and drive to Lapland, the trip will take you between 10 and 15 hours. If you have a few days to spare to do this, it’s an excellent way to see the country. Otherwise, take the train or fly to Lapland and rent a car there instead. Unless you plan to stay in the one small area, renting a car is the best way to get around the different areas in Lapland.
What is the weather in Lapland?
The weather in Lapland vary depending on the time of year. The winter months from December to March are the coldest, with average temperatures ranging from -10°C to -15°C. January and February are the darkest months, with only about three hours of daylight each day in January and around six hours in February.
While Lapland has the usual seasons we all know: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, the locals of Lapland use eight different seasons to differentiate between the weather. Here they are, with their Finnish translations
- Dálvve: True Winter (December – March)
- Gidádálvve: Spring-Winter (March – April)
- Gidá: True Spring (April – May)
- Gidágiesse: Spring-Summer (May – June)
- Giesse: True-Summer (June – July)
- Tjaktjagiesse: Summer – Autumn (August – September)
- Tjaktja: True Autumn (September – October)
- Tjaktjadálvve: Autumn-Winter (November – December)
Best time to visit Finnish Lapland?
The best time to visit Finnish Lapland is during the winter months from December to March. However, be prepared for colder temperatures and a higher chance of snow. But that’s all part of the fun!
You’ll have more chance of seeing the Northern Lights if you’re visiting Lapland during this time. Of course, it’s never guaranteed. I visited in early March and unfortunately didn’t get to see them. Which is why I need to go back again!
What to pack for Lapland in winter
When packing for a Lapland winter, you’ll want to make sure to bring your warmest clothes. Layers are key when going from the freezing outside to the heat of the indoors.
Lapland in winter will be freezing so please opt for warmth and comfort over fashion!
Socks: Bring plenty of socks! You’ll need to have woolen socks for when you’re outside and some thinner cotton socks for when you’re inside. Again, Merino Wool is best for your outdoor socks as the last thing you want is to get cold feet.
Hat: A good quality hat that covers your ears is essential to keep your head and ears warm. I actually wore two hats the majority of my time in Lapland.
Shoes: Make sure you have a good pair of waterproof shoes or boots as you will be walking in the snow a lot. I brought a pair of hiking boots and snow boots with me and they were perfect for my stop in Helsinki afterwards too.
If you’re like me and suffer from the cold a lot, I highly recommend getting some hand warmers, and even some foot warmers to bring with you. I also brought my hot water bottle for the night, but we had wood burners in our lodges so it was actually quite toasty at night.
Don’t worry if you forget something or don’t have the appropriate clothing for the cold weather, as you can usually rent these at your location.
Where to stay in Finnish Lapland
Rovaniemi is home to one of the largest ice hotels in the region. This hotel is made entirely of snow and ice and is a unique experience that you’ll never forget. You’ll be sleeping on a bed of ice but there’s no need to worry about being cold with the extreme weather sleeping bags and reindeer furs they provide.
For something a little more traditional, a lodge is a great place to stay? There are lodges throughout various villages in Finnish Lapland but I stayed in the lodges at Torassieppi and they came equipped with a wood burner to give that cosy, homely feeling.
If you really want to go all out and experience the best of Finnish Lapland, then I suggest booking a night in an Aurora Dome. These are glass igloos that sit on top of a hill, giving you the most amazing view of the Northern Lights
My recommendation would be to base yourself to stay in a lodge and spend one night each in an Aurora Dome and an Ice Hotel.
Important info about visiting Finnish Lapland in winter
Language: Finnish is the official language, but English is also widely spoken.
Travel insurance: Some of these activities are quite dangerous and, while I would always recommend travel insurance for any trip, you should most certainly have it for an adventure like this. You can get a free quote from World Nomads to get you started.
Is Lapland expensive: Unfortunately, yes. It won’t be the cheapest of destinations. It’s one of those once in a lifetime trips you take so if you can save up for it, I highly recommend.
Things to do in Finnish Lapland in winter
Get out in the snow with cross country skiing
Cross-country skiing is a hugely popular activity in Finnish Lapland during the winter months. There are kilometres and kilometres of trails to explore, so you’re guaranteed to find a route that suits you.
There are plenty of places to rent cross-country skis and poles, as well as boots and other equipment. So, if you’re new to the sport, don’t worry – there’s no need to buy all of the gear beforehand. Just head to one of the many rental shops and get kitted out for a day (or more) on the trails.
If you’re an experienced cross-country skier, there are plenty of challenging routes to test yourself on. Be prepared for some tough climbs and long descents.
As a newbie who had never even put skis on before, it took me some time to get used to not falling over, but once I got into the swing of things, it was so much fun! Others in our group gave up and went back to our lodge but the rest of us continued on and stopped in a makeshift shelter for hot chocolate around a campfire.
Visit Santa Claus Village
Santa Clause Village in Rovaniemi is a must-visit destination for anyone spending time in Finnish Lapland during the winter months. Located in the town of Rovaniemi, it’s home to Father Christmas himself and is the perfect place to pick up some Christmas souvenirs.
The village has all sorts of festive activities on offer, from meeting the man himself to visiting his elves’ workshop and of course the all important post office where all his mail gets sorted. There’s also a reindeer park, husky sledding and a snow hotel. You can go on a dogsled ride through the forest or relax in the ice spa.
For a Christmas-themed adventure that the entire family will love (not just the little kids!), Santa Clause Village is definitely the place to go. It truly is a winter wonderland.
Get adventurous with a snowmobiling safari
If you’re looking for an adventure during your time in Finnish Lapland, then a snowmobiling safari is definitely the way to go. These tours are offered all through Lapland and can be tailored to suit your needs.
You’ll get to explore the forests, hills and valleys of Lapland on a powerful snowmobile. This is a great way to see some of the most remote and beautiful areas.
Be prepared for a thrilling ride as you zip through the snow at high speeds. Make sure to keep an eye out for wildlife, as you might get lucky and spot some reindeer or elk.
The guides who accompany you on these safaris are experienced riders and will make sure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience.
I won’t lie, I was a bit hesitant at first as I didn’t trust myself to drive one of these things. I opted to share a snowmobile with another member of our group and he took the first shot at driving. Once I got comfortable on it, I was raring to drive myself and I didn’t crash!
Cosy up on a reindeer sleigh ride and visit a reindeer farm
Reindeer are a big part of Finnish culture and history. There are around 200,000 reindeer in Finnish Lapland, which is more than actual people!
Reindeer are an essential part of the Sami culture, who have used them for centuries to travel and hunt in the Arctic region.
When you’re in Finnish Lapland, a visit to a reindeer farm is a must. These farms are scattered all throughout the country and are a great place to learn about these animals. You can even take a ride on a sleigh pulled by reindeers for an extra special experience.
The guides who take you on these sleigh rides will teach you all about the reindeers. They’ll also tell you all about the Sami people, who have been living in Lapland for centuries and rely on the reindeer for their livelihood.
Did you know that Santa’s reindeer are all female? The male reindeer lose their antlers in early December, while the female still has hers for Christmas.
Sip hot chocolate in a teepee
If you’re looking for a unique and cosy experience while in Finnish Lapland, then why not enjoy a hot chocolate in a teepee? These traditional tents are made from animal skins and are a popular way to spend an evening in Lapland.
It’s the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring, most of them come with a firepit, so you can warm yourself up while you sip on your hot chocolate. For an extra little buzz, try some Minttu Peppermint – it’s a local liqueur and goes perfectly with hot chocolate.
We did this one night with our guide and learnt so much about Finnish culture and the Sami people. It was a really cosy and fun experience.
Search for the Northern Lights
Let’s be honest, this is the main event. This is why most of us want to travel to Lapland (not downplaying meeting Santa of course).
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world. These incredible lights can be seen in the Arctic sky and Lapland is one of the best places to view them.
If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, you’ll never forget the experience. The colours are stunning and change all the time, making every display unique.
Finnish Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, with its dark skies and remote location. The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the winter months. Make sure to check the weather forecast before you go, as you need clear skies to see them.
Unfortunately, it’s never a guarantee and I didn’t get to see them while I was there. I thought it would have an effect on the rest of my time there, but it really didn’t as there are no many other magical things to do in Lapland in Winter.
Have fun dog sledding
Dog sledding is another exciting activity in Finnish Lapland. No matter where you choose to stay, there will likely be a husky sled tour taking you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the area.
You’ll be able to meet the dogs who will be pulling your sled and learn all about them. You’ll also get a chance to drive the sled yourself, which is a lot of fun. It started out a little difficult though.
Basically, you’re stood on either side of the brake and to slow down you need to almost jump on the brake (especially if you don’t have much strength), which I found really hard. But after a few minutes I got the hang of it and it was so much fun.
If you’re looking for an adventure while in Finnish Lapland, dog sledding is definitely an activity you won’t want to miss. This is a great way to explore the Arctic landscape and get up close to the animals. Afterwards, we were able to play with the huskies, which was my favourite part.
Try your hand at ice fishing
Fishing is a popular pastime in Finnish Lapland and ice fishing is one of the most challenging ways to do it. This is where you fish through a hole in the ice, so you need to be brave (or crazy) if you want to try it.
But, if you’re successful, you’ll be able to catch some super tasty fish. The locals know all the best spots to go fishing and they’re more than happy to show you how it’s done.
There are many ice fishing tours available in Lapland, so you can try your hand at this challenging sport. It’s a great way to get out into nature and experience the local culture.
Drink in an ice-bar
If you’re looking for a unique place to have a drink in Lapland, then head to one of the many ice-bars. These bars are made entirely from ice and are a really cool (excuse the pun) way to experience Finnish culture.
Most of the bars have an igloo-like structure, with ice walls and furniture. They also have ice sculptures and drinks served in ice cold glasses. It’s a really fun experience and a great way to spend the evening.
Relax a sauna
Get this…this are over 3 million saunas in Finland! That’s an average of 1 sauna for every two people who live there.
Saunas are a big part of Finnish culture. I had the opportunity to visit a traditional smoke sauna, which was an interesting experience. The sauna is heated with wood and the smoke from the wood gives the sauna its name. I wasn’t as hard core as the locals and had to leave this one to breathe in the cold air.
We were able to rent our own private sauna also and it was nice to relax in there with our small group. We learnt that it’s a ‘rule’ in Finland that the last person to throw water on the sauna should be the last to leave. Each time you throw water on it, the temperature gets hotter so whoever does it last has to be brave!
Take a dip in a frozen lake
After you’ve had time to relax in a sauna, it’s traditional to pop outside and take a dip in a frozen lake. It’s meant to be quite good for you, but it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. The water is usually freezing, but it’s a really fun experience.
I surprised myself by doing it twice, but then I love a challenge. And even posed in my bikini for a snow shot!
Learn about the Sami culture
The Sami people are an indigenous group who have been living in the Arctic region for centuries and have developed a unique culture that is based on their environment and way of life. Their culture is rich in folklore and traditional arts, which they have passed down through the generations.
The Sami are also known for their skills in hunting and fishing, which they use to provide food for their families. They live in close harmony with nature and the land is an important part of their culture.
There are many activities you can join to learn more about the Sami people and be sure to ask you guide about the culture too.
One of the most unique and surreal experiences you can have in Finnish Lapland is ice floating. This is where you float in a hole carved out in the ice on a river or lake.
You’ll be wearing an insulated wetsuit with no chance of water getting through to your skin so don’t worry about getting hypothermia.
You can even opt to do ice floating at night with a chance of seeing the Northern Lights as you float in the water, purely relaxed and calm.
So there you have it, 13 things to do in Finnish Lapland in winter. There really is something for everyone and it’s a great opportunity to experience some of the unique aspects of Finnish culture.
I absolutely fell in love with Finnish Lapland and I’m sure you will too.
With its snow-capped peaks and frozen lakes, this picturesque corner of the world is home to some of the most magical landscapes on earth. Whether you’re skiing through the countryside or watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky, there’s something special waiting for you in Finnish Lapland.
Have you visited Lapland in winter? What was your favourite activity?
Vourneen is a travel junkie and chronic illness warrior. Although she was late to game in terms of travelling, she has picked up numerous tips and tricks from the almost 30 countries she has visited in the past 5 years.