This winter set your travel sights high, all the way to the Northern sky, by experiencing the wintry wonders of Lapland, Finland. In the northernmost part of Finland lies Lapland, a region surrounded by Norway, Russia, Sweden and the Baltic Sea. From the indigenous people known as the Sami to reindeer safaris, Lapland is a world away from the US. In fact, the only notable similarity the US shares with Lapland is the winter season, which stretches from December 21 to March 20 for these Northern Hemisphere countries. This winter season get outside of your cozy comfort zone and go for these unique experiences in Lapland, Finland.
Aurora Borealis aka the Northern Lights
In Lapland in the wintertime the sky above Lapland stays dark for most of the day and night. In fact, the region gets only six hours of sunlight a day. Talk about a perfect place to hibernate! You’ll want to sleep in and cozy up by the fire. The lack of sunlight and close proximity to the Arctic Circle also provides Laplanders with one of the most awe inspiring night skies. In fact, rather than tucking in early, since you are on vacation you’d better catch a glimpse or two of those uber famous Northern Lights.
The sparse population and lack of industry also helps you to see the Northern Lights, otherwise known as Aurora borealis. This phenomenon transforms the night’s sky into a blur of colors ranging from pale green to pink with splashes of blue, violet, yellow and red. The colors are created by a collision of gas particles within the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are totally harmless and quite surreal. Insider’s tip: the best time to watch the Northern Lights in Lapland is midnight, local time.
There’s more than one way to experience this natural phenomena but it’s up to you to choose your experience! You could snuggle up under a warm blanket as you glide through the forest on a Reindeer sleigh. You’ll be pulled behind these incredible creatures as you hunt for the Northern Lights. Looking for something a little more adventurous? Hop on the sled pulled by 6-8 of man’s best friend… huskies! These dogs love to pull and they want to take you to find the best views of the Norther Light, while giving you a little adventure along the way. After your tour return to your hotel and snuggle up under the glass ceiling of your igloo where you can fall asleep to the breath-taking views as the lights dance across the sky.
Capital City of Rovaniemi
For a more bustling view of Lapland culture, explore the capital city of Rovaniemi. Located four miles south of the Arctic Circle, the city is situated on the Kemijoki River and between two hills called Ounasvaara and Korkalovaara. The total population of the city is 62,000 people. While several famous people have come from Rovaniemi including snowcross world champion Janne Tapio and Finnish’s famous author Jari Tervo, the most famous resident of all is Santa Claus. Rovaniemi was originally cultivated around 750 to 530 BC by the Sami, but it wasn’t until 1453 that the city became official. At that time Rovaniemi provided a centralized place for logging and gold mining.
Step forward a few centuries and Rovaniemi is a modernized as a tourism capital. More than 481,000 tourists visited the capital city in 2013 alone. While visiting top sites include the Jatkankynttila bridge, which is the city’s most recognizable landmark. The bridge is home to the eternal flame symbolizing a lumberjack candle. Finnish architecture is highlighted in a concert hall, library and congress centre, while many restaurants and hotels dot the landscape. The Santa Claus Village and adjoining Santa Park are also located in Rovaniemi, as well as the Arktikum, which is a massive museum showcasing Finland’s history.
Visit Santa Claus
Speaking of the Santa Claus Village, one of the most treasured experiences of a visit to Lapland, Finland is a trip to see Santa. Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa, and you can visit the jolly man yourself in his village. The Santa Claus Village is an amusement park that was first opened in 1985. While there you can stand at the very center of the Arctic Circle, the perfect place to snap a photo.
Stop in to the post office while in the village to get a letter or package mailed with a Santa’s Village postmark. The post office sells a variety of souvenirs including Christmas cards and gifts that you can have sent to your favorite recipients for the upcoming Christmas holiday. If you are extra lucky you may even catch St. Nick himself. When Santa is in town he hangs out in his office where you can stop in for a chat or photo.
Located next to the Santa Claus Village is Santa Park, another amusement park that was opened in 1998. The park was constructed in a cave underneath the Arctic Circle. While there experience treats from Mrs. Gingerbread’s Kitchen, ride the Magic Train and watch a Magical Christmas show.
Go on a Reindeer Safari
Once you have met Santa it’s time to venture over and meet Rudolph’s not-so-distant kin. In Lapland you have the unique opportunity to go on a reindeer safari. Ride along a traditional horse-pulled sleigh through the Finnish forest where you will encounter reindeer at a local farm. You even have the opportunity to feed the reindeer. While on a reindeer safari you can meet traditional reindeer herders for a cultural lesson in Lapland history. Maybe even enjoy a cup of soup while you embrace the experience of being in the midst of one of Lapland’s authentic way of life.
Winter Sporting Activities
Snowshoeing, cross country skiing and sledding are just some of the winter activities that keep Finns moving all year long. In addition to being a great form of exercise, these winter sports were once the primary mode of transportation for those living in Lapland. You can also experience a truly Lapland experience by taking a husky safari. This involves riding a sled pulled by a team of huskies steering you through the winter wonderland. Learn what it takes to be a musher as you are taught the basic commands of driving the sledge. Choose to go alone or with a partner as you fly across the frozen ground of Finland with a team of huskies at your lead.
Sweat It Out in a Sauna
Perhaps the most important tradition of Lapland, Finland is the sauna. Taking a Finnish sauna can be overwhelming with the nudity component combined with sitting in a steaming hot box. However, when you experience this relaxing retreat you come away mentally and physically rejuvenated. After a few days of reindeer safaris, mushing huskies and touring Rovaniemi you will be ready to relax in a sauna. And while Finns prefer to go in the buff, it’s perfectly ok for tourists and visitors to wear a towel or swimsuit. The goal is for you to be comfortable so you can truly enjoy this one of a kind Finland experience.
Enjoy Unique Experiences in Lapland, Finland
If your goal is to go on a winter adventure that you’ll never forget, consider the many unique experiences in Lapland, Finland. Your horizons will expand as you explore sites and sounds not available to you in the US. Start planning your winter retreat to Lapland today for your upcoming holiday. Whether you want to spend Christmas in Santa Claus’s village or your New Year’s Eve staring at the Northern Lights, it’s all possible when you go to Lapland, Finland in the winter season.