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Authored by ThePickyTraveller

Located above the Arctic Circle (from the “capital city” Rovaniemi in the south all the way up to Utsjoki in the north), Finnish Lapland is an exotic region in northern Finland sculpted by round-shaped rugged mountains (tunturi), extensive pine forests (taiga), treeless flat lands (tundra), pristine lakes and rivers with gold nuggets.

Lapland is a unique destination which casts a powerful spell. Offering a wide array of activities for any nature lover, and with a certain sense of magic in the air, travelers visit for the midnight sun, the Sámi peoples, the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) and roaming reindeer.

This is as close as reality gets for those who dream of a winter wonderland, and even with four very distinct seasons, contrasts are a key factor in the allure here; where 24-hour sunlight in the summer replaces the dark winter days, and the hustle and bustle of towns and ski resorts is just minutes away from the peace and quiet of the wild wilderness.

A Travel Guide to Finnish Lapland: When, Where & How to Go

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When to Go: Winter

A visit in winter means you will experience the phenomenon of the polar night; when the sun doesn’t rise at all (the exact dates depend on how north you go, but the phenomenon is visible as soon as you cross the Arctic Circle).

The Northern lights are visible almost every night, which makes Lapland one of the best places on Earth to experience them! The lack of daylight may seem scary at first, but is in fact a very interesting thing: besides the northern lights, stars shine incredibly bright thanks to very low light pollution (no big cities here).

Around noon and for a few hours the atmosphere goes from different shades of blue (the blue hour is quite impressive on crisp cloudless winter days) to golden rays of light coming from the sun staying right below the horizon, before the sky turns soft pink, purple and blue again.

A thick layer of snow covers everything from early November to late April. Temperatures are freezing (usually between -5C and -30C all the time, with periodical drops to even as low as -50C) but there is no humidity in the air and usually no wind either, which makes them totally bearable if you dress accordingly.

The Northern Lights, Finland

The Northern Lights, Finland

When to Go: Summer

Visit in summer to experience the famous midnight sun; a period where the sun doesn’t set at all! It’s amazing how much you can fit into your day when you have 24 hours to play, and is quite something to see the sun hit horizon, but immediately start to rise again!

Personally I find the midnight sun more difficult to cope with than the polar night as it’s difficult to sleep when the sun never sets, but is quite comforting warming up in front of the fireplace and burning candles during polar nights.

Summer in Lapland (after the last remains of snow have melted in May, until October and the first snowfalls) is a paradise for hikers, from short, easy and well-marked scenic paths to many days long treks in the wilderness.

Shorter walks near the main tourist spots are suitable for almost anyone, but you should be well prepared for longer hikes and consider hiring a guide.

Pro Tip: If you’re planning on wilderness hiking, we recommend brushing up on your orientation skills, as paths are not well marked the further you head in (though cell phone coverage in Finland is pretty amazing, even in remote areas). 

In addition to a good map, also stock up on efficient mosquito-repellent. it’s surprising how fierce and numerous mosquitoes are in Lapland. Really.

When to Go: Autumn / Fall

When fall comes, nature becomes truly magnificent; leaves and needles vary from evergreen (spruces and pines) to golden yellow (birches), orange and red (aspens and rowans).

We can all conjure stunning pictures of autumnal colors in destinations like New England and Canada, but in Lapland they don’t just stick to trees, spreading across the ground vegetation as well (in gorgeous bright red tint).

This special time of the year is short but intense, usually lasting only for the first 2 or 3 weeks of September.

Kilpisjärvi area in September

Lapland in Autumn / Fall

Reindeer, a common sight all over Lapland

Where to go?

For skiing head to Levi, Saariselkä, Pyhätunturi, Ylläs or Ruka (technically not in Lapland but close enough). For snowmobile safaris, in addition to those same locations you can go to Kilpisjärvi close to the Norwegian border, with higher mountains and less trees around.

Snowshoeing can be done pretty much anywhere in Lapland. Book a room or a chalet in a modern ski station if you don’t like the idea of finding yourself alone in a remote area (but then what’s the point of going all the way to Lapland?). I’d rather recommend to rent a traditional wooden cabin with all commodities and enjoy the unique sensation of being in the middle of nowhere.

To visit Santa Claus Village (this is a tourist trap) and/or the very interesting Arktikum museum, head to Rovaniemi. In summertime go to national parks for great hiking opportunities: Urho Kekkonen, Pallas-Ylläs, Pyhä-Luosto, or trek the 65 kilometers long trail to Kevo Canyon.

The area around Kilpisjärvi is also very beautiful in summer (climbing up Mount Saana is a must). In Tankavaara you have the special opportunity to experience some real gold panning!

Book a room or a chalet in a modern ski station if you don’t like the idea of finding yourself alone in a remote area (but then what’s the point of going all the way to Lapland?).

How to go?

The easiest way to access Finnish Lapland from Helsinki is by plane. Main airports with scheduled daily flights are in Rovaniemi (for Santa Claus village, Arktikum museum and Pyhä-Luosto), Kittilä (for Levi and Pallas-Ylläs), Kuusamo (for Ruka) and Ivalo (for Saariselkä, Urho-Kekkonen and Tankavaara).

During Christmas season there are also direct flights from some major European hubs to Rovaniemi. A nice way to get to Lapland (my favourite) is to take the night train from Helsinki. It’s clean, modern, comfortable (there are cabins with 2 beds and private bathroom or cabins with 4 beds and shared bathroom) and sharply on time.

Once in Lapland it’s recommended to rent a car, unless you want to stick to one small area. Driving in summer is very easy (be careful of reindeers on the road though) but in winter, as you can imagine, it requires skills to drive on icy and snowy roads.

You can also drive to Lapland all the way from Helsinki, as Finnish roads are in very good condition (it will take you 10 to 15 hours depending on how far north you go). This option is not recommended in winter though, because of potentially bad weather, lack of light and lower speed limitations.

PRODUCTS WE RECOMMEND FOR LAPLAND: CLICK PHOTOS ↓

Universal Travel Adaptor

 

Smartwool Cozy Cabin Crew

Sorel Women’s Winter Carnival Boot

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ThePickyTraveller is always searching for the best travel opportunities, and paying attention to the small details that make an experience unique. His goal is to inform you about everything he experiences during his trips, including airlines, hotels, restaurants, and destinations themselves.

Specialized in upscale travelling, he is open to all kind of travel experiences…as long as there is access to a comfy bed and a shower in the morning! To ensure unbiased reviews, thepickytraveller remains anonymous.

Visit www.thepickytraveller.com or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Photo credits: Pinterest image, reindeer & handler by sangak. Northern lights in order of appearance by ChrisTimo Newton-Syms, & Timo Newton-Syms. Grassy pond by Mild Delirium. Reindeer pulling a sleigh by zsoolt.

    30 Comments

  1. The northern lights can be seen almost every night….

    I work in the pyhä region. People come with high expectations and leave dissapointed. Aurora activity is there…. But… You need a clear sky, it has to be active in the dark hours and you have to be out to spot it.
    When it snows it is overcast. It can snow for weeks at a time. Last year we had 4 weeks without a clear sky.
    It is like comming to europe to see rainbows ☺️
    And… Northern lights can be seen as far south as northern Denmark. So if you stay below the polar circle you can still see plenty

    • Very true! Tricky weather makes it somehow difficult to be there at the right moment, as you said…
      I recommend the following website for real time aurora forecast: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/Europe/
      Aurora activity is usually at its highest around midnight (local time).
      You should also check hour-by-hour weather forecast according to your specific location: http://en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/
      An unusual but good way to experience the northern lights is on a plane (clear sky guaranteed). If money isn’t a problem, you can even contact Finnair for a personal charter flight above the clouds on a polar night!

  2. The pictures of the Northern Lights are amazing! I think I would have a hard time with both the midnight sun and the polar nights but both are something I would like to experience one day. As for the cold, I live in Canada and I get enough of it already…lol!

    • Aren’t the Northern Lights just incredible! Do you ever see them in Canada?

  3. Wow the pictures look amazing! I tried to find this in Iceland but didn’t get a chance to see it. I would love to visit this place and try to catch it there. Summer also seems like a great time to visit.

    • Hope you have the chance to visit Finland then Christine! One of those places which is so spectacular in all seasons, and really needs multiple trips! :)

  4. These pictures are out of control! I always knew about Lapland but it didn’t come on my radar again until this Chrsitmas season. The Sami are so interesting (cultural anthropology major right here). Thank you for adding the actual words of these places, most bloggers forget to do that! Haha while I love Santa, no thank you to tourist traps and yes please to snowshoeing!

    • Aren’t they just!! Sounds like you would really love Lapland Izzy! Especially as a cultural anthropology major :)

      Hope you have the chance to visit soon!

  5. There are no words to describe how pretty these photos are! They’re absolutely amazing.It makes me want to travel there so badly!

    • Hope you have the chance to travel soon! :)

  6. I’ve been to see the Aurora Borealis last year in Tromso, Norway. I recognize many of the experiences I had there. I was very thrilled to eat and see reindeers.

    • I can’t wait to get to Tromso, Norway as well. So glad you got to see the lights and interact with reindeer! I had reindeer on pizza while in Lapland … it was interesting to get my head around lol!

  7. Lapland is my dream destination. Who wouldn’t want to visit Santa village, enjoy sledging and see the northern lights? Would love to visit one day and explore myself.

    • Hope you have the chance to visit Lapland soon Jo! It really is one of those rare destinations where magic exists :D!

  8. Wow your photos are awesome! I just got back from a trip in north Norway and sounds very similar. Dark days and northern lights shows! It was truly magical and I can’t wait to experience Lapland as well, even more so after seeing your post!

    • Looking forward to getting to Norway in summer this year, sadly won’t see the Northern Lights, but looking forward to enjoying the midnight sun! If you loved Norway you’ll love Lapland too!

  9. Finnish Lapland sounds magical — and like a place I’m going to need during multiple times during the year. I want to see the aurora borealis, and the midnight sun (I got close in Norway, but it was a little too early to get the full impact). And, of course, I want to see the roaming reindeer.

    • Roaming reindeers are fortunately very easy to spot in Finnish Lapland :) Beware though if you drive there, as they often cross the road unexpectedly and are not afraid of cars!

  10. OMG, summer, winter, autumn. It seems like you could go anytime and the trip would be just stunning. This is definitely on my must sees. That midnight sun sounds amazing.

    • Yes, Finnish Lapland is one of those very few regions of the world that always look different and all the time stunning :)

  11. I would love to see the Northern Lights. Good to know it;s almost a sure thing. I would also love to experience I midnight sun. Summer in Paris was pretty cool when the sun set very late, around 10-11pm, but this sounds like a very unique experience.

    • Almost a sure thing indeed, but keep im my mind you need clear skies to be able to see them from the ground.

  12. The pictures are awesome. The experience to passing through the higher mountain must be something extraordinary!!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Miranda … hope you have the chance to travel to Lapland yourself soon!

  13. Finnish Lapland is a proof that miracles exist! They are everywhere in fact! Aurora Boraelis is so beautiful!

    • Absolutely – it’s a land of pure magic!

  14. Hi
    im impressed reading your blog and all the destination you had visit.
    im planning of my trip for this year to Finland, Norway and Sweden.
    Me came from Southeast Asia country(Singapore) which does not has 4 season and ofcoz we would dream to have the snow activities like snomobile husky ride, reindeer and visit to Santa Claus.
    Me going with family of 4, myself, husband and 2 gals.
    During Christmas 24 and 25th December will the places of im mention Closed?
    You was saying of staying in wooden cabin which we delighted to feel it.
    If we are touch at Helsinki to Lapland or Rovianemi theres plane, may i know what airline and how many hours? And from the Rovianemi airport to the safari destination theres shuttle?
    Need your advice and guide.
    Thanks & Regards

    • Don’t worry, everything will be open during Christmas as it’s high season in Lapland. There are many daily flights from Helsinki to different cities in Lapland and flight time varies between 1 hour and 1h30. For transfers between the airport and your places of interests, you can contact your hotel directly or a tour operator.

  15. Thank you for this guide. Yes, it is an amazing place, Finnish Lapland is great for beautiful and peaceful escapes from modern life. I’ve been there many times Wintertimes and it’s gorgeous!

    • You’re welcome, glad it brought back fond memories! Really is such a magical place, I loved my time there though I think a return trip is well overdue!

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