Lapland, the magical winter wonderland settled on the northernmost edges of Europe is an exciting place to spend your winter holiday, see the Northern Lights, try some unique activities and meet Santa Claus. Spanning the north of Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Kola Peninsula of Russia, this one-of-a-kind region within the Arctic Circle with its 200 days long winter, huge glittering expanses of snow, amazing wildlife and displays so pristine that take your breath away, is a magnificent winter destination and an adventure in itself.
Here are 10 things that will make you winter break in Lapland unforgettable:
1. The Northern Lights
Often regarded as the nature’s most spectacular show, the Northern Lights can be seen playing on the Arctic sky of Finnish Lapland between January and April. Unfortunately, the eerie phenomena cannot be predicted, but when the night is clear and dark, don’t forget to keep your eyes open! This year, the experience promises to be even more exciting as NASA’s experts have predicted that the winter season 2012/2013 will enjoy the brightest Aurora Borealis in the last 50 years.
2. Husky, Reindeer and Snowmobile Safaris
Ever wondered how it feels to be pulled on a sled by huskies or reindeers while enjoying the fairytale Laponian surroundings? Well, a winter trip to the land of Santa will certainly endow you with the greatest husky safaris, the best reindeer sleigh rides and the most thrilling snowmobile jaunts.
Both husky and reindeer excursions are common activities in Lapland and they are organized throughout the populated areas. Whether opting for a short sprint or a journey over tens of kilometers accompanied by traditional lunch and hot beverages, a reindeer safari in Lapland will offer you the chance to soak up a bit of the pelicular local culture, and so will do the exhilarating husky expedition.
3. Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi
Although many would call it a tourist trap, one thing is for sure, you cannot leave Lapland without paying a visit to Santa Claus Village. After all, this is Santa’s only official home and a unique experience in its own right. It lies on the Arctic Circle, 8 km north of Rovaniemi and can be reached through a 30-min bus ride from the city.
Highlights include the Santa Clause Post Office, where children are welcomed with tons of Christmas related items and the official Santa Claus’ Office – the place where visitors can actually meet Santa. Another special attraction here is the white painted line that marks the Arctic Circle. Additionally, the village plays host to a wonderful variety of restaurants, souvenir shops and stunning lit ice sculptures.
4. Santa Park, Rovaniemi
Situated within a mere walking distance from Santa Claus Village, Santa Park is an underground amusement park and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rovaniemi. Guests at Santa Park will be delighted with all kinds of elf shows and workshops, entertaining sleigh rides, ice bar, stunning ice galleries, shopping, a special Christmas carousel, Mrs Claus’ famous kitchen and many more fascinating attractions and activities.
5. Yllas Ski Resort
Home to the longest runs in Finland, Yllas is a popular ski destination spread across two villages – Akaslompolo and Yllasjarvi, and a paradise for both skiers and snowboarders. Tourists in search of dramatic alpine surroundings would probably be disappointed, but those looking for high-quality snowboarding, off-piste slopes, Telemark ski and plenty of fun in the snow will be surprised by the great variety of opportunities available.
In addition to winter sports, Yllas ski resort offers a decent selection of bars, restaurants and accommodations, as well as various entertaining activities such as reindeer and husky safaris, snowmobiling treks, horse riding and even winter swim in an ice hole for the bravest visitors.
6. Levin Lapinkyla
Levin Lapinkyla is a traditional farm in Lapland, a great family-friendly attraction and an excellent base to explore the enchanting Finnish culture and traditions. Guests are greeted with excellent smoke sauna, reindeer rides and wonderful restaurants and cafes, where they can sample authentic Lapp delicacies in a charming traditional atmosphere.
The destination’s highlight however, is the domestic animal farm with its lovely creatures: alpacas, reindeers, sheeps, goats, bunnies, gerbils, guinea pigs and cute birds.
Beautifully located on the bank of River Ounasjoki, Arkticum is not only one of Rovaniemi’s main cultural spots, but also the 4th best travel attraction in Finland. The attractive museum displays the history and culture of Finnish Lapland and the Arctic region, with comprehensive info about locals’ lifestyle, folklore and traditions from prehistoric times to the present-day.
Other attractions at the Arktikum Science Museum comprise the elegant Arktikum Café, the Arctic Centre Library and the delightful Arktikum souvenir shop.
8. The Ultimate Sauna Experience
Often considered a landmark of Finland, the sauna has always been used for bathing and relaxation in this part of the world. But, while many countries have embraced and modernize this practice, for Finnish it has remained the same sacred custom deeply rooted in their culture.
According to Wikipedia, in Finland there are more saunas than personal vehicles, so fortunately you can experience them anywhere: in the local homes and cottages, in hotels or in public places. For the ultimate sauna experience though, one should definitely try the one and only Yllas’ sauna gondola – an amazing 2h experience that allows you to admire the breathtaking snow-capped surroundings from a special gondola equipped with electric sauna.
9. SIIDA Museum
Mainly focusing on the incredible Sami culture and the unique nature of Northern Lapland, SIIDA is undoubtedly one of the finest museums in Finland. It is located on Lake Inari, in the village with the same name and comprises two institutions- the main exhibition hall, describing northern Lapland’s ecology by season and the other one entirely dedicated to the fascinating Sami culture and history.
Additionally, SIIDA provides the visitors with various events, a gorgeous open-air museum (open in summer) and a versatile suite of temporary exhibitions.
10. Lainio Snow Village
Settled in the middle of a magnificent scenery, nearly 200 km above the Arctic Circle, it’s no wonder Lainio Snow Village offers visitors such an authentic Lappish experience. Built entirely of snow and ice, the village features a wonderful Ice hotel, a stylish ice bar and restaurant, stunningly lighted snow and ice sculptures as well as all kinds of snow slides for the delight of children.
All in all, this winter wonderland may cost you a bit, but it’s a one in a lifetime experience. Therefore, even if you don’t afford the complete package, a stopover here is highly recommended.