Step into a winter wonderland of breathtaking landscapes and thrilling activities in Finnish Lapland. Imagine gliding through pristine snow-covered forests on a husky sled, or gazing up at the shimmering Northern Lights as they dance across the night sky. The opportunities for unforgettable winter experiences in Lapland are seemingly endless, from skiing and snowboarding to ice fishing and reindeer-sledding. And for the ultimate adventure-seeker, a dip in an ice-cold lake followed by a warm sauna is a must-try Finnish tradition. Whether you’re seeking thrilling outdoor activities or simply wish to bask in the serene beauty of one of the world’s most enchanting winter destinations, Lapland is ready to offer you an unforgettable experience.
Perfect For Winter Experiences in Lapland?
After visiting Finnish Lapland for the first time last winter and finally getting the chance to experience the beautiful wilderness and witnessing the charm that draws millions of visitors from around the world. It truly lived up to every expectation and beyond. Here i’ve brought you the ultimate guide to winter experiences in Lapland.
Lapland is simply a beautiful and magical place in any season, with much of it’s area in the Arctic Circle. Most people have Lapland high on their bucket list for it’s jaw dropping landscapes, connection with Santa and being the ultimate postcard location for a winter wonderland. However it offers so much more than this with spectacular adrenaline inducing outdoor activities on offer throughout winter.
We chose to go to lapland for a trip of adventure filled activities last winter and loved every second of it. The unique and calm atmosphere where everyone indulges in this snow capped adventure playground. In this article we have brought you the ultimate guide to winter experiences in Lapland, to help you plan your perfect trip with a blend of exciting activities on offer for everyone.
Skiing and Snowboarding
The skiing resorts are small and less populated compared to others in Europe and their centers are built around small fjells rather than huge mountainous ranges. There are so many ski resorts in Finnish Lapland that you are kinda spoilt for choice when making your decisions. Many of these have easy public shuttle connections making it easy for access from the airports.
Additionally despite Finland’s reputation for being an expensive destination I would still argue that the prices for food, accomodation, lift passes and gear hire are either on a par with the European Alps or in many cases costing less. Lapland is just a stunning magical landscape which means skiiing or snowboarding through this winter wonderland is something so different to that of the mountainious alps of Europe. I also love how laid back and relaxed the resorts feel in comparison, despite having a big ski and snowboarding scene. Check out: Levi, Yllas, Saariselka, Pyha Luosto, Pallas, Urho Kekkonen National Park, Ruka.
Yes you heard me right I said snow surfing. Snow surfing also known as powder surfing or ‘snurfing’ is said to have originated in Japan. However this has become a favourite pastime in some areas around Lapland. Snow surfing usually involves the participant hiking or snow shoeing to more remote points on the slopes (off piste or in the snow-crowned pines of the uplands) involved a board without binding. This is definitely a bit more challenging but looks like a really fun way to enjoy the slopes.
They offer lessons on this in Pyha Luosto with guys from Lucky Ranch and Bliss Adventures.
I tried snowmobiling for the first time in Lapland at Apukka and it was an amazing experience, I would love to do it again. It is so much fun gliding over the snow through wild snow covered woodland and across frozen lakes. They tend to have heated handles which is great when you are picking up speed in more exposed areas. Make sure to wrap up warm and enjoy a hot berry juice during a quick break if possible.
Be sure to check that you are able to ride the snow mobile yourself especially if you are in a couple and only one of you gets the chance. We were lucky we swapped half way and both had a good hour or more driving them. We did this during our stay at Apukka (pictured above) just 10 minutes outside of Rovaniemi. I’d love to do a night snowmobiling tour where you can enjoy a bbq and the northern lights all at once.
Ice climbing was actually our main reason for visiting Finnish, Lapland earlier in 2022. We had originally booked to go for 2020 but we all know what happened there. By the time we finally got to visit we absolutely loved it.
We got to start our ice climbing at an ice fall in Pyha Luosto ski national park on the ski resort and we went for a full day of ice climbing at Korouoma Canyon (which has a series of frozen waterfalls, known as the best area for ice climbing).
You can book with the Pyha Luosto guides at Bliss here.
Whilst visiting Phya Luosto National Park we got the opportunity to spend the morning snow shoeing through the forest of Luosto and it was truly a wonderful way to explore the wild on top of the fresh snowfall.
When the snow is soft and thick, it is difficult to not find yourself wading through it. The snow shoes allow you to displace your weight across a larger area and step easily on top of the snow. I should point out I still managed to maintain my knack for half disappearing under the snow and in this case losing my snow shoes. But this a unique set of skills, I seemed to have developed for the amusement of others.
My reputation as a walking safety hazard remains intact.
Check out my full experience snow shoeing in Pyha Luosto here.
Sami Safari or Expedition
Sami tradition in Finnish Lapland is an incredibly vibrant and unique culture that should not be missed. Visitors to the region have the opportunity to experience a range of activities such as sampling local Sami cuisine, learning about traditional Sami folklore and storytelling around a campfire in a lavvu, reindeer feeding, and even engaging in some traditional Sami singing or joiking. Although reindeer herding is no longer the main economic activity for many Sami people, it remains an integral part of their cultural identity, so taking part in reindeer-related activities can be one of the most memorable experiences. Furthermore, because the Sami are skilled artisans and craftsmen, visitors can learn how they make clothing, Puukko (a sami knife) and art pieces, whilst maintaining ancient traditions. Exploring traditional Sami culture is a great way to gain insight into this fascinating and important culture that has been present in Finnish Lapland for hundreds of years.
Traditional Saunas Experiences (including Ice Dip)
What is a visit to finland without trying out their Sauna’s?
Sauna’s are obviously not unique to finland, however they are woven into the finnish culture. The extent of was truley apparent when our local guides shared that it used to be common practice to give birth in a sauna, especially in rural areas during winter. Not whilst the sauna was on but it still held a suitable temperature and they were maintained as a sterile environment.
There are just over 5.3 million people in finland and over 2 million saunas in the country
There are wood burned saunas (wood burned will have a chimney), stove burned and electric saunas.
- Have a shower first
- In Finland it is normal practice to be naked in the sauna
- It is also common practice to dip into the ice cold waters immediately afterwards or follow with a cold shower.
We opted for our swimwear (even though each of our sauna’s at Apukka we had to ourselves). On our first night after our reindeer safari and gourmet BBQ dinner we headed back to our Kammi suite where our sauna carraige was delivered outside of our accomodation…
Yes that’s right we had a sauna carraige.
By pure coincidence our first day ar Apukka resort was on valentines day so this turned out to be a really amazing romantic experience. Our wooden barrel design sauna carraige was towed by a snow mobile directly ourside of our cabin at Apukka and it was perfect.
It was a traditional wood fired sauna so we were given the wood to restock, but this had already been set up for us. It was a perfect way to finish our amazing valentines experience.
Sauna And Ice Dip?
When we were in Pyha Luosto National Park we did do an icy dip in lake Pyhajarvi at lucky ranch sauna with our group following a day of hiking and ice climbing. We walked across the snow covered deck and pier out to the waters edge then lowered ourselves down into the lake. We did this at night but I imagine this could also be done during the day. Here are some top tips:
- Would be to take a dry robe with you (so much warmer than a towel or a dressing gown (towel robe) – We took our passenger robe and one of the others in the group borrowed it on their go. Because it was wool lined and the exterior is made from recycled bottles, it broke the cold wind as well.
- Take your time walking across the deck, pier or frozen lake. No need to rush and slipping on ice is not a pleasant experience.
- Do not do this alone!!!
We had a guide with each pair that went out to the lake. If we injured or don’t listen to instructions and go under then there isn’t anything they can do to save you. They would need emergency services because you would be under the ice.
We all lasted less than a minute but it was actually really energising. I loved it so much I did it a second time that night. Each time you went back to the sauna you felt a rush of blood flow like a tingling across your skin. Following this there is a sudden sensation, what I can only describe as feeling like you have been breathing wrong for years. All of a sudden your lunges are full with clear air.
Arctic Fat Bikes
This one we haven’t had chance to try just yet, but after watching a few people go past us at different points throughout our trip, we really hope to give this one a try. It looks like a great way to explore and suitable for everyone. For this one the snow does need to be a bit more compact than the terrain you could head out onto on the sleds or snow shoes. The local guides at Pyha from Bliss offer some amazing opportunities to do this in beautiful surroundings.
Hunting The Northern Lights
What winter trip to Lapland would be complete without witnessnessing the Northern lights. Now I should be frank here and remind anyone who is going to here, Iceland or any far northern countries, that you shouldn’t get your hopes up too much or pin your entire trip on seeing this phenomina. There are certain times of the year that are more likely and some that area less, but when you visit for a few days or a week or two, you may just be unfortunate and hit a low visibility period where there may be heavy snowfall and cloudy skies.
That being said when you do see them it is utterly wonderful and every bit as magic as expected. We went out on our first evening in pyha to find them with our guide. The second night we were really tired but got a glorious show that we could see from outside our accomodation. We also saw them for two more nights at Apukka.
If you plan to capture this:
- Take a tripod with you or find something to lean against. I find taking a deep breath and holding my breath when snapping it helps to keep steady.
- You can capture this on your phone now with most modern cameras being able to adjust automatically if they are bright (my iphone was amazing at capturing – all of the above were on the iphone), but can be difficult when the northern lights start to spread or dance faster around the sky. Phones don’t tend to pick up the colour quite as well.
This popular activity takes place across the arctic regions and nearby when winter hits. We had been husky sledding before in Iceland, but decided we would like to do it again to see more of the area we were staying in and just because we love animals (especially dogs) and this did not disappoint. If you are thinking about trying husky sledding yourself then check out my review of our experience at Apukka for some key considerations to get the most from your experience.
Reindeer Safari or Sledding
This is a great activity for those of you who like to be more relaxed and not worry about steering of driving the sled. It is quite slow paces as the guide will lead at the front on foot.
I would recommend that if you opted for this chose either a half day one or go for this in the evening so you can also enjoy the night sky and hopefully the northern lights.
We stopped for hot blueberry juice and a hot dog over the fire at a local Lavvu half way around the trail.
There were a few couples there like us as well as families with children. I think this is definitely more suited to families with children, though we enjoyed it; we did get a little bored after a while and don’t think we’d opt for this one again. But i’m greatful for the experience.
Arctic Horse Riding
Arctic horses look little like shetland pony’s but a little larger. We didn’t know these were a thing until we were booking our trip and chosing activities. We didn’t opt for this and chose the reindeer sled over this one. Our thinking was that we could ride horses anywhere (but it looked great). The horses are treated well, you can go out on a ride or you can be in a horse drawn sled. Again this one I would opt for the nighttime
The serene, snow-covered landscape of Finnish Lapland creates the perfect setting for a unique winter experience, ice fishing. As the icy surface envelops the surrounding lakes, fishing enthusiasts make their way to the tranquility of nature, seeking the thrill of reeling in their catch through a hole in the ice. With temperatures regularly dipping below freezing, it may seem daunting to try outdoor activities in Lapland; however, the beauty of the scenery and the promise of a unique, authentic ice fishing experience make it worth the extra layers. Underneath the still waters lies an abundance of freshwater fish, from trout to salmon, just waiting to be caught. In Lapland, it’s not just about the catch of the day; it’s about the serene surroundings and experiencing nature’s gifts firsthand. Inari Lake is a favourite for visitors to get an authentic experience.
Other Fun Experiences To Try In Lapland
- Ice Floating
- Finnish cuisine
- BBQ Lunch and Dining
- Snowman Building
- Hill Sledding
- Arctic Expeditions
- Arctic Survival Training