Finland’s northernmost region is calling, and it wants its thermals back! I love Finnish Lapland — there’s something so ‘hygge’ about bundling up and visiting a snow-covered destination in winter. Think cuddling beneath warm blankets while sipping a hot chocolate to understand this Scandinavian word!
Finnish Lapland sits in northernmost Finland and is bordered by Sweden, northern Norway, Northwest Russia and the Baltic Sea. If you’re looking for a remote getaway, and a magical winter wonderland, Lapland has a lot to offer! This sparsely populated region has four main hubs. These are the towns of Rovaniemi (the capital of Lapland), Saariselka, Levi, and Ivalo. Between these towns lies acres and acres of vast wilderness; home to the Sámi people, the indigenous Finno-Urgic people inhabiting the northern lands. In summer, Finnish Lapland is dominated by glorious green pine forests, endless hiking trails and the midnight sun.
The mysterious Northern Lights are stunningly beautiful!
Here’s a Pro Tip: Although you may not expect it, Lapland’s currency is the Euro. That makes things easy!
Most visitors to Lapland will touch down at Rovaniemi Airport, which is a popular gateway for accessing all of Lapland, Northern Sweden and Norway. During the winter season, you’ll be able to fly directly to Rovaniemi from a number of European destinations. If you’re struggling to find a direct route, book an international flight to Helsinki (Finland’s southern capital) and then organise a domestic flight to Rovaniemi. Once at Rovaniemi Airport, I strongly recommend renting a car. Cars can be rented from the airport, or you can take a bus to Rovaniemi city centre and pick up a rental in the city. If you don’t feel confident driving in winter conditions (roads are well cared for, but you never know what those Arctic winds might throw at you), then you might be better suited to exploring by pre-arranged bus tours or taxi.
Here’s Another Pro Tip: Layers, layers and then more layers! If you’re visiting Finnish Lapland in Winter, make sure you pack your thermals and plenty of long sleeves (and long-legged) layers. The Arctic is more humid than Antarctica and thus can feel colder even when the thermometer doesn’t say so.
- Santa Claus Village – If you’re travelling with little ones in tow, or perhaps you’re just young at heart like me, a visit to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi is a must. Explore the post office and read letters from children before heading to Santa Park!
This is a taiga of a different stripe!
- Ranua Zoo – Visit the northernmost zoo on the planet! There are no non-native species here. Instead, you’ll be surrounded by over 50 arctic species, including polar bears and lynxes.
- Aurora Borealis – There’s a good chance you’ll see the northern lights most nights of your trip, but if you want a better understanding of this beautiful light display I’d recommend booking a night safari with a local guide.
- Levi Ice Gallery – The Levi Ice Gallery sits just a short distance from the Levi Ski Resort and is home to some impressive hand-carved ice sculptures. I recommend renting snowshoes from the resort and embarking on the 3-mile cross country trail to the gallery.
I hope it snows for you, but it might rain dears!
- Reindeer Ride – Most towns in Lapland offer reindeer rides through nearby pine forest, and if you’re looking for the winter wonderland experience, this is it! Similarly, husky safaris are a popular past time.
- Sámi Festivals – The Sámi people celebrate their heritage through annual festivals and days of celebration. If you’re here in January, celebrate the end of the polar night at the Skabmagovat Film Festival in Inari. Or, if you’re here in February, attend the Sámi National Day celebrations!
Finnish Lapland is home to many fantastic restaurants, including contemporary city eateries and remote family-run lodges. Here are my top three restaurants in the region:
- Arctic Boulevard – Nestled in the heart of Rovaniemi town centre, Arctic Boulevard creates traditional Finnish dishes and serves them in a contemporary setting. The Arctic char, reindeer soup, and stewed moose are all menu highlights for me!
- Restaurant Tapio – This remote restaurant sits in the Posio forest and specialises in rustic cooking. All ingredients on the five-course menu are sourced locally, and while the menu changes weekly, you can always expect to dine on authentic Finnish delights.
- Restaurant Kammari – If you’re after a break from Finnish cuisine or fine-dining, head to Kammari in Muonio town. This laid-back restaurant offers an array of hearty dishes, including pizzas and burgers in a contemporary but casual setting.
Lapland isn’t known for its wild nightlife, but there are plenty of late-night bars in the region’s larger towns, particularly in Rovaniemi. Here are my favourite establishments to enjoy a tipple or two:
- Rakas Restaurant and Bar – If you’re staying at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel, it’s worth nipping next door to this modern restaurant and bar. Take a seat next to the floor-to-ceiling windows or the cosy fireplace and enjoy a refreshing cocktail.
- Arctic Light Hotel Bar – The Arctic Light Hotel has a special ‘winter garden’ themed bar that is open to non-residents all year round. Order a cocktail to make the most of the onsite mixologists and settle in for an evening of live music!
- Kauppayhtio – This retro bar is one of Rovaniemi’s most popular hangouts and is the place to be if you’re after a casual atmosphere and late-night music. Think plastic chairs, pinball machines, and rocking DJ sets.
Moose stew: it’s rude not to Finnish!
From glass igloos with endless views of the northern lights to cosy log cabins tucked deep into the forest, Lapland is home to some of the most unique properties on the globe. Here are my top three accommodation options when exploring Lapland:
- Northern Lights Ranch – This spectacular hotel and activity centre combines the tranquillity of nature with the joy of evening entertainment. I enjoyed tucking into northern delicacies at the onsite restaurant before retiring to my glass-roof cabin to watch the northern lights.
The glass is held in place by igloo!
- Pyhä Igloos – These contemporary igloos are set in the heart of Lapland’s wilderness and feature modern Scandinavian decor, large glass windows for night sky viewings, and a handy kitchenette and living area. Some igloos feature a private sauna and jacuzzi!
- Arctic TreeHouse Hotel – Enjoy utter luxury at this 5-star hotel located in the Arctic Circle. A night at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel is a night in front of a roaring fire, wrapped in heavy Scandinavian blankets and sipping wine, all while watching the northern lights unfold from your living room. Utter bliss.
Finnish Lapland truly is a winter wonderland and a destination that honours its rich indigenous heritage. Strap on your walking boots, pack your thermals and prepare for a cool time in the Arctic Circle!