Lapland, the magical winter wonderland on the northernmost edges of Europe, is an exciting place to spend your winter holidays, 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 long days of winter, huge glittering expanses of snow, amazing wildlife, and displays so pristine that take your breath away, is a magnificent winter destination and a fascinating experience.
Here are the 10 best things to do in Lapland this winter:
See the Northern Lights
Often regarded as 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 wide open!
Some of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis in Finnish Lapland include the resorts of Kittilä and Saariselkä.
Take a Husky/Reindeer/Snowmobile Safari
Ever wondered how it feels like to be pulled on a sled by huskies or reindeers while enjoying the fairytale-like Lappish 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 adventures.
Both husky and reindeer excursions are common activities in Lapland, and they are frequently organized throughout the populated areas. Whether opting for a short ride or a longer journey over tens of kilometers accompanied by traditional lunch and hot beverages, a reindeer safari in Lapland will offer you the chance to explore the frozen wilderness and soak up a bit of the peculiar local culture, and so will do an exhilarating husky expedition.
Meet Santa Claus
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 Claus Post Office, where children are welcomed with tons of Christmas-related items, as well as 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 colorfully lit ice sculptures.
Have Fun at Santa Park
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.
The Christmassy theme park welcomes guests with fascinating attractions and activities, including entertaining sleigh rides, stunning ice galleries, and all kinds of family-friendly workshops and elf shows. Additionally, the facility plays host to an ice bar, a special Christmas carousel, and Mrs. Gingerbread’s famous kitchen, where the little ones can decorate cookies in a cozy, convivial atmosphere.
Go Ski in Ylläs Ski Resort
Home to the longest runs in Finland, Ylläs is a popular ski destination spread across two villages – Äkäslompolo 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, Ylläs 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 swimming in an ice hole for the bravest visitors.
Play with the Cute Animals at Levin Lapinkyla
Levin Lapinkyla is a traditional farm in Lapland, where guests can immerse themselves in the enchanting Finnish culture and traditions. Attractions range from smoke saunas and reindeer rides to wonderful restaurants and cafés serving authentic Lapp delicacies in a charming, traditional atmosphere.
Levin Lapinkyla’s highlight, however, is the domestic animal farm teeming with alpacas, reindeers, sheep, goats, bunnies, gerbils, guinea pigs, and all kinds of cute birds.
They also offer accommodation in modern glass-roof huts designed especially for Northern Lights viewing.
Visit the Arktikum
Beautifully located on the bank of River Ounasjoki, Arktikum 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, offering comprehensive information about the locals’ lifestyle, folklore, and traditions, from prehistoric times to the present day.
Further attractions at the Arktikum Science Museum comprise the Arctic Centre Library, a delightful souvenir shop selling genuine Sámi handicrafts and high-quality reindeer leather accessories, as well as an elegant café where visitors are treated to specialty coffees and delicious Nordic food.
Brimming with alpine vegetation, the scenic Arktikum Beach Park nearby makes for a great spot to observe the Aurora Borealis during the winter months.
Relax in the World’s Only Sauna Gondola
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 modernized this practice, for Finns, 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 Ylläs’ sauna gondola – an amazing 2h experience that allows you to admire the breathtaking snow-capped surroundings from a special gondola equipped with an electric sauna.
Celebrate Winter at the Ice Music Festival
There’s a wonderful celebration going on in Lulea, Swedish Lapland these days. Gültzauudden, the city’s scenic park, hosts Ice Music – a unique and magical event that pays tribute to the region’s winter wonderland. Everything happens inside a one-of-a-kind igloo-like concert hall where a professional orchestra plays classical music using some exceptional instruments carved out of ice. The result is a new form of art that blends music, color, and ice into one memorable experience for guests.
The concept took shape a couple of years ago when renowned ice artist Tim Linhart came up with the idea of creating ice music instruments. He began studying the ice’s unique properties and built his first functional ice instruments in 2003. As the project grew in complexity, Tim founded Ice Music. The event, which is the only one of its kind in the world, can be enjoyed from December until the beginning of April.
Sleep in a Snow Hotel
Set amongst magnificent scenery, nearly 200 km above the Arctic Circle, it’s no wonder Lapland Hotels SnowVillage 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 lit 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 once-in-a-lifetime experience. Therefore, even if you don’t afford the complete package, a stopover here is highly recommended.
Last year’s theme was Game of Thrones and visitors were treated to spectacular design details like a white walker with gleaming blue eyes, a life-sized iron throne with swords, and a spine-chilling Braavosi Hall of Faces.