Close your eyes and dream of a winter wonderland. What do you picture? Perhaps you see pine trees covered in freshly fallen powdery snow. Or maybe you envision a quiet walk in the woods to a frozen lake with snowshoes on your feet. You might even visualize a ribbon of the Aurora Borealis sparkling across the sky of your winter wonderland.
This is the quintessential picture of Lapland.
Lapland is about as close as you can get to a winter wonderland. This remote region in Northern Europe spans the boundaries of Finland, Sweden and Norway. A good portion of Lapland lies north of the Arctic Circle, making it the land of midnight sun and polar night. Lapland is a sparsely populated area that draws visitors from near and far with its stunning winter landscapes.
There are an endless assortment of winter excursions you can do in Lapland to enjoy the snow-covered scenery. It is the ultimate winter destination. Despite the cold temperatures, your days in Lapland should be spent outdoors. The pristine white snow over rolling forested hills is exactly what you came here to enjoy.
11 Unique & Awesome Winter Activities to Try in Lapland
Outdoor Adventure Activities in Lapland
Husky Dog Sled
If you’ve ever been fascinated by the Iditarod or dog sledding, taking a dog sled ride is the experience for you! My husky dog sled experience was perhaps the most magical of all the things I did in Lapland. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone! Surprisingly thrilling, there is nothing quite like the excitement of the dogs speedily pulling you forward as you look out over the snow-covered wilderness.
There are lots of operators offering husky safaris, ranging anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It is important to do a little bit of research to ensure that you go with a reputable kennel that cares for the health of its dogs. As working dogs, they require thoughtful care, nutrition and veterinary services. I strongly recommend Bearhill Husky. This no-kill, no-abandon kennel has a number of animal welfare and sustainability accreditations. Their dogs are very well-cared for. You can sense how connected the guides are to the dog teams, and they are incredibly knowledgeable.
A standard dog sled package includes a 2 hour ride through the wilderness on a 2 person dog sled. One person mushes while the other sits in the sled, and there will be an opportunity to switch off during the trail ride. While 2 hours felt long enough, I could definitely have stayed out for a few more hours because of how much I loved the experience. The sleds are comfortable, but they are entirely exposed to the winter climate. Most operators offer guests the option to wear a thick snowsuit, but you’ll want to pack appropriate warm layers to wear underneath the suit.
For an exhilarating outdoor experience that allows you to explore the breathtaking winter landscapes, consider a snowmobile trip! With miles of snow-covered forests, frozen lakes, and snow-capped mountains, Lapland is the perfect destination to try snowmobiling. Riding a snowmobile allows you to access areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach, giving you unforgettable access to the Arctic wilderness. You can also typically pair snowmobiling with another activity, such as Northern Lights viewing or traversing the Arctic Circle.
I was admittedly a little nervous to try snowmobiling, but there are tons of licensed providers available and trained guides that make you feel safe. Most guided trips include warm and waterproof clothing, including snowsuits, gloves, and boots, to stay safe and comfortable in the extreme cold. Many tours include stops for hot drinks and snacks, allowing you to warm up and take in the stunning surroundings. On ours, we made grilled cheese sandwiches over an open fire while looking over a frozen lake vista.
Reindeer Sleigh Ride
Always dreamed of feeling like Santa Claus on a sleigh? Well Lapland is your chance to take a reindeer sleigh ride! Reindeer are an iconic part of the local culture in Lapland. The indigenous Sami people have traditionally worked as reindeer herders, and used the working animals for transportation. In fact, the reindeer population outnumbers the human population in Lapland. Reindeer sleigh rides are a popular way to get close to the fabled animal. The ride typically lasts from half an hour to a few hours depending on the trail you choose. Speeds are moderate and safe for all ages.
Perhaps the strangest activity on this list, ice floating is a unique activity in Lapland. I had never heard of it before traveling here, and I’ve got to say – it’s a little weird but kind of cool. You can get a peek behind on the experience on my Instagram Reels. Participants don thick insulated neoprene suits, which were originally intended to be used as rescue suits for Arctic passenger ships in the event of sinking. They’ll keep you warm for up to 36 hours. Nowadays, they’re dual purpose for tourists!
Once wearing the suit, travelers are guided to a small hole in the ice, where they descend into the icy lake water and float weightlessly on the surface. This is a surreal and peaceful experience, allowing participants to disconnect from the world above and connect with the serene surroundings below. If you choose to do ice floating at night, you might even get a glimpse of the Northern Lights as you float.
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 or enjoy leisure time on the slopes.
Cross-country and Nordic skiing are the most common. Access to the trails is typically free, but you’ll need to rent equipment. Downhill skiing is also available in some areas of Lapland, especially in Norway. Depending on snow conditions, you can ski all the way through May in this region! Most hotels and accommodations offer skis for rental if you just want to go out in local areas.
Unique Lapland Experiences
Stay in a Glass Igloo
Staying in a glass igloo hotel is a major bucket list item for a lot of people, myself included. Thanks to the magic of the Instagram algorithm, most of us have probably seen photos and videos of these unique accommodations. Glass igloos are available in several places, but nearly all of them come with a luxury price point. This is not a cheap form of accommodation, so you’ll probably only want to stay one or two nights.
On my first visit to Finland, I opted to stay at Kakslauttanen Glass Igloo Hotel and Winter Resort. I did a full write-up of my experience staying at Kakslauttanen in one of the Kelo igloo cabins. I have also stayed at the Arctic Snow Hotel and Glass Igloos outside of Rovaniemi. Slightly more affordable and accessible than Kakslauttanen, this is another good option. Regardless of where you stay, sleeping under the stars and Aurora in a glass igloo is definitely a once in a lifetime experience in Lapland!
Visit an Ice Restaurant or Bar
With warm clothing and a reservation in hand, try eating and drinking at an ice bar and restaurant in Lapland for a dining experience that you won’t forget. The restaurant is entirely made of ice and snow, including the chairs, tables, and even the glasses. With ice sculptures and art installations inside the restaurant, the atmosphere is unique and magical. The food is most commonly traditional Lappish cuisine, such as reindeer meat and fish.
In an ice bar, you will typically be served a drink in a glass cup or shot glass which you can throw against the wall to shatter when you’re done! They also offer a selection of drinks, including cocktails and warm beverages like mulled wine and hot chocolate. If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate a special occasion or simply want to try something different, then eating and drinking at an ice bar and restaurant in Lapland is an unforgettable experience.
Sleep in a Snow Hotel
One of the coolest experiences (see what I did there?) to do in Lapland is to sleep in a snow hotel. As the name implies, the hotel is entirely made of snow and ice, including the beds, tables, and chairs. The rooms usually have carvings in the snow as well as ice sculptures or chandeliers to enhance the magical atmosphere. Some of the wintery art carvings are really incredible!
I have stayed at the Arctic Snow Hotel and Glass Igloos outside of Rovaniemi. Although it may not be the most comfortable sleep you’ve ever had, it is certainly an experience like no other. The hotel is kept at a temperature of 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 to -8 Celsius), so you’ll need to be prepared for the cold. However, the hotel provides you with warm clothing, such as thermal sleeping bags, snowsuits, and boots to make sure you’re comfortable during your stay.
One of the most beloved traditions in Lapland is taking a sauna. Getting steamy in a sauna is a must-do activity on any trip to Lapland. Saunas are typically wooden rooms covered in wood slats and tiered seating with an electric stove in the center to heat the room. Never been a sauna and not sure what to expect? Get all the insider tips for preparing for your first sauna experience. The best part of traditional saunas however is getting to jump in the cold water afterwards, especially when it is a hole in the ice or into the sea!
Legend has it that Rovaniemi is the hometown of the legendary Santa Claus. Located on the Arctic Circle, visitors can experience the Christmas spirit all year round at Santa’s Village. Since moving to Germany, I have absolutely fallen in love with Christmas and Christmas Markets, so I was really excited to meet Santa in person during my trip to Lapland. He can be found in his office at Santa’s Village, and as you can imagine, Santa is friendly and jolly. Visitors can have their photo taken with Santa and tell him their Christmas wishes. It was a lot more charming than I expected!
In addition to meeting Santa, there are a number of other activities to try at Santa’s Village including reindeer sleigh rides, gift shopping, and meeting Mrs. Claus. You can also find Santa Claus’s Post Office in Santa’s Village, where you can send letters with a special seal. It is also the place where letters arrive addressed to Santa. To best plan your visit to Santa’s Village, it’s advised to book your activities in advance, especially during the peak season from November to January. The line to meet Santa can get really long around that time of year.
Northern Lights Viewing
Seeing the Aurora Borealis is another bucket list item that most people have in mind when visiting Lapland in the winter. Also known as northern lights, the aurora are a natural electrical phenomenon which occur when solar wind particles from the sun collide with Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth’s magnetic field deflects the electrically charged particles towards the poles, which is why you can only see them around the Arctic and Antarctic circles.
The particles interact with elements in Earth’s air, creating colorful streaks of purple, red or green waves of light, or aurora, in the sky. I first saw the Northern Lights in Iceland, and it was an incredible feeling. The displays I witnessed in Lapland were next level! There is something awe-inspiring about watching this natural phenomenon dance across the sky. I even cried a little bit – it is just so special!
Auroras happen all year round, but they can only be seen at night in the winter because of low light pollution levels. You can hire a professional guide or photographer who can both teach you about the aurora and take you to particularly good photography and viewing locations. On clear nights in the winter in Lapland, you can also simply walk outside and look up to spot the Northern Lights.