Lapland is a remote region in Northern Finland that draws visitors from near and far with it’s stunning winter landscapes. It is truly the ultimate winter destination, and on our 1 week trip in Finland, it was a no-brainer that we would spend time exploring Lapland.
If you are not used to winter climates, you might be inclined to spend most of your time indoors during a visit to Lapland, but that would really be a shame. There are lots of unique and interesting activities to do outside, even in the winter, on a trip to Finnish Lapland.
Here are my six suggestions for awesome winter activities to try in Finland’s Lapland region.
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the Iditarod or dog sledding, taking a husky safari is the experience for you! It is surprisingly thrilling, especially if you get the chance to be the musher of your own sled team. There is nothing quite like the excitement the dogs speedily pulling you forward as you look out over the snow-covered wilderness listening to the sounds of soft snow falling and the rush of cold air on your face. It is invigorating!
Our husky safari experience was perhaps the most magical of all my experiences in Lapland and something that I would happily do again. There are lots of operators offering husky safaris, ranging anywhere from a few hours to a few days. We opted for a 2 hour tour through the wilderness with Husky & Co, and while it felt long enough, I could definitely have stayed out for a few more hours because of how much I loved the experience. They offer a 2 person sled, where one person mushes and the other sits in the sled, with opportunities to switch off during the trail ride. The sleds are comfortable, but they are entirely exposed to the winter climate, so make sure to pack appropriate clothes to stay warm during your trail ride.
Staying in a glass igloo hotel is a major bucket list item for a lot of people, myself included, and these accommodations are a uniquely Lapland experience. We opted to stay at Kakslauttanen Glass Igloo Hotel and Winter Resort during our trip to Finland, renting one of the Kelo cabins. I did a full write-up of my experience staying at Kakslauttanen, but regardless of where you stay, sleeping under the stars in a glass igloo is definitely a once in the lifetime experience in Lapland!
Downhill or Cross Country Skiing
It is hard to think of an outdoor winter activity more integral to life in Scandinavia than skiing. Skis were invented in Lapland over 4,000 years ago, and to this day, you will see locals using skis as a form of transportation to go about their errands. Cross-country and downhill skiing are both available in Lapland. Depending on snow conditions, you can ski all the way through May in this region! Which cross-country trails or downhill areas available will vary depending on where you are staying, but most hotels and accommodations offer skis for rental if you just want to go out in local areas.
The most traditional form of sauna in Finland is the smoke sauna, and there is no where better to experience it than Lapland! With smoke saunas, the sauna is filled for hours with wood-fired smoke and heat. Once it is to the proper temperature, the door is opened and the smoke is released. The space is then refilled with steam and heat, now safe to sit in.
Because the sauna was filled with smoke, there is typically going to be soot on the benches and walls, so I would recommend wearing a dark colored swimsuit. The best part of traditional saunas however is getting to jump in the cold water afterwards, and in Lapland, the cold water is usually a hole in the ice of a frozen body of water! Never been a sauna and not sure what to expect? Get all the insider tips for preparing for your first sauna experience.
Northern Lights Viewing
Another bucket list item people have in mind when visiting Finland is seeing the Northern Lights. Also known as aurora borealis, the northern lights are a natural electrical phenomenon where streaks of blue, red or greenish light appear in the sky. Aurora happen all year round, but can typically only been seen at night in the winter because of low light pollution levels. The northern lights are best viewed in the northern or southern areas of the world because of the magnetic poles.
I, unfortunately, did not see any Aurora during my visit to Finland because of snowy conditions, but it is still an experience that is special to this region of the world. If you stay in a glass igloo hotel such as Kakslauttanen, you can see the aurora right from your room, which is the ideal for comfort and enjoyment. Otherwise, you can simply walk outside on most clear nights in the winter to look up and see them with the naked eye. You could also hire a professional guide or photographer who can both teach you about the aurora and take you to particularly good photography and viewing locations. We opted for this option during our trip, but were unable to do it because the snow created too many clouds to view.
Reindeer Sleigh Ride
Always dreamed of feeling like Santa Claus on a sleigh? Well Lapland is your chance to take a reindeer safari! Reindeer sleigh rides are a popular way to get close to the fabled animal, and reindeer are an iconic part of the local culture in Finland. In fact, the indigenous Sami people traveled predominantly on a reindeer pulled sleigh and in Lapland, the reindeer population outnumbers the human population. Reindeer sleigh rides can last from half an hour to a few hours depending on the trail you choose. Speeds are moderate and safe for all ages, as you glide through a snowy forest in a wooden sleigh.