There is a place where you can see the magical winter wonder land that you have seen in so many films for real! This place is called Lapland and it's situated at the northernmost tips of Sweden, Finland and Norway.
A stroll through the somewhat otherworldly landscape, a scenic ride on a Husky sleigh or a glimpse of the world-famous Northern Lights will surely make your trip to Lapland a lifetime adventure to remember!
Based on my guided group tour in February 2017, here are my 10 best tested-and-tried tips for what to do in Lapland…
1. See the Northern Lights
Getting a glimpse the magnificent Northern Lights is the number one reason for many people to visit Lapland during the dark winter months.
Generally speaking, the Northern Lights can be spotted between October and April. However, there is no guarantee to see them and you need a little bit of luck.
My tip: Head to the Swedish town of Abisko, which is known as a place with one of the highest chances to see the Northern Lights in Lapland.
And don't worry if you haven't had any luck in seeing them out in the nature… At the Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi (see number 9), you can see the Northern Lights all year round – via a film and a special Northern Lights show.
2. Go on a Husky Safari
The second most popular reason for people to flock to the Lapland during the winter months is to enjoy the beautiful landscape on a scenic sleigh ride drawn by huskies.
This was certainly one of my biggest bucket list items.… and I wasn't disappointed. The dogs were super cute and the Finnish landscape around Korvola showed itself from its sunny side that day.
It was slightly scary that me and my riding partner had to drive the sleigh ourselves as this was something I hadn't anticipated. However, in the end it was pretty easy to control the huskies' speed with the help of the brakes.
3. Speed on a snowmobile
If you want to go really fast, try a snowmobile – besides a husky sleigh the most common means of transportation in Lapland.
You can book just a snowmobile tour from Rovaniemi or combine your snowmobile ride with an ice fishing adventure, a Northern Lights safari, and a visit to Santa's village, a Husky farm or a Reindeer farm.
4. Feed the reindeers
Visiting and learning more the indigenous population of Lapland (the so-called "Sami") should be included in every Lapland itinerary. Many Sami still live a nomadic lifestyle and reindeers are their most important animal.
When we stopped by on a Sami farm during our tour, we got a chance to pet and feed the cute reindeers. Afterwards, a local Sami man told us more about his people and their culture while we were all gathered in front of a campfire in a traditional Sami tent.
He also passed around some hot drinks and samples of reindeer meat (obviously a specialty for the Sami). Since I am a vegetarian, I politely declined. But the others said it tasted pretty good though.
My tip: Wrap up warm though, the Sami farm was one of the coldest places throughout my entire tour in February 2017.
5. Stay at or visit the Ice Hotel
A visit to the world-famous Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden should also be on everyone's Lapland Bucket List.
Located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, the temporary Icehotel is reborn every winter since 1989. In 2016, a permanent Icehotel called ICEHOTEL 365 was added.
Obviously, the nightly rates in a hotel completely made of ice are quite high (you have to set aside a few hundred euros). But even if you can't afford to stay over night, it is super cool (literally!) to learn more about this unique hotel, its differently designed rooms and the original ice bar on a guided tour.
6. Meet Santa!
The Santa Claus Village amusement park just outside the town of Rovaniemi in Finland, is the rumored home of Santa Claus (called Joulupukki in Finnish)!
Every year, millions of children write their Christmas wishes to Santa and send their letters to this address. On all other days of the year, you can take a picture with the man himself. This has proven a popular attraction – even with tough-looking Finnish rock stars! 🙂
7. Cross the Arctic Circle
While you're at Santa's, you can cross another item off your bucket list as you will automatically cross the famous Arctic Circle there.
8. Warm up in the sauna and cool off in the snow
Another typical Finnish winter activity (or for that matter for the whole year) is a good sweat in the sauna and an ice-cold swim (or dip) afterwards.
Literally every accommodation in Lapland has a sauna – perfect for relaxing after an adventurous day in the cold!
9. Check out the Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi
The Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi, Finland is a great place to learn more about the indigenous people of Lapland, the flora and fauna as well as historical and current developments in the area. The changing contemporary exhibitions are also really good and included in the entry price.
Tickets cost 13 EUR for adults.
10. See the Norwegian Fjords
If you're on a guided tour by coach instead of staying at one place, you might make a trip to Norway. On the Scanbalt Tour, we drove from the Swedish town of Abisko to the Norwegian town of Narvik and spend just one afternoon there.
Here you will see a very different kind of landscape. While both Finnish and Swedish Lapland are quite flat, Narvik offers stunning fjord views as well as an unusual "mild" climate due to the nearby gulf stream.
Because of this special climate, the city was of great interest as a strategic army base during the World War 2. You can learn more about Narvik's turbulent history at the brand new War Museum, which opened in July 2016 (tickets cost 100 NOK for adults, which is approximately 11 euros).
Good to know before you go
5 Travel Tips for Lapland
When to go?
Generally speaking, you will have a snow guarantee from November to March. This is also the time when you can spot the Northern Lights. But just bear in mind that December is the darkest month of the year and you will only have a few hours of daylight.
My tip: Go in February! The days are already a lot longer than in December and January, yet you can still enjoy plenty of snow and might even get to see the Northern Lights.
How to get there?
It's best to go to Lapland on a guided tour, or directly by plane or train. I would not recommend to drive to Lapland yourself due to the changing and sometimes difficult road conditions.
In my opinion, the "Magical Lapland Tour" with Scanbalt Experience is the best budget tour out there as it only costs 374 EUR for students and 440 EUR for non-students. Plus, you will go from place to place with your own group coach, which means that you usually can tick three Nordic countries off your bucket list: Finland, Sweden and Norway!
The downside to this unbeatable price tag is that you have to endure two long nights on the bus on the way from and back to Stockholm. This won't be very comfy, especially if the tour is sold out and every seat is taken (which was the case on my tour). But if you're young and want to bag yourself an absolute bargain Lapland tour, I am sure you can manage. 😉
What to pack?
- Several layers of warm clothes! (ski trousers, warm and long underwear, warm socks, gloves, mittens, windproof jacket, hats and winter boots). The worst for keeping you warm are tight clothes such as skinny trousers and shoes with too little space to move your toes.
- Bathing suit or bathing trousers for the sauna and an "arctic swim" afterwards
- A torchlight (it gets dark soon)
Over to you: Do you have any questions or anything to add to this Lapland Bucket List? If so, let me know in the comments below!
Unless otherwise credited, all photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
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