Have you ever heard that Father Christmas or Santa Claus has a headquarters somewhere in Northern Europe? Well, you’re lucky to know that visiting Santa is one of the many things to do in Lapland in Finland.
The magical wonderland for winter holidays located on the northernmost sides of Europe, Lapland is such a beautiful place where you can try some different activities, meet Santa Claus, and witness the Northern Lights.
Located on the north of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Kola Peninsula of Russia, Lapland is a unique region in the Arctic Circle, with its great glittering stretch of snow, wildlife, and breathtaking displays with its 200 days long winter. Such a great experience and winter destination are hard to miss.
What to do in Lapland?
Though it is chilling -30°C outside, there are so many things to do in Lapland. It is the best place to enjoy all the winter activities you can imagine.
From just playing with the snow to all the adventurous Lapland activities for the adrenaline junkies, there are so many attractions here. So, let us take a look at the best Lapland attractions to make your trip memorable
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Table of Contents
- 1 What to do in Lapland?
- 2 Quick information and Lapland travel tips
- 3 Experiences and top things to do in Lapland, Finland
- 3.1 Visit Santa Claus Village
- 3.2 Visit or stay in an Ice Hotel
- 3.3 Go on an adventure and snowshoe on the snow!
- 3.4 Play with huskies and go dog-sledding
- 3.5 Go camping in Ruska
- 3.6 Experience reindeer safari!
- 3.7 Be mesmerized by the Northern Lights
- 3.8 Go skiing!
- 3.9 Do not forget to go to the sauna and jump in a hole in the middle of the frozen lake!
- 3.10 Try local delicacies like Elk or Reindeer stew with mash and lingonberry jam
- 3.11 If you are coming in summer, do not miss the midnight sun
- 3.12 Go trekking and enjoy the Finnish wilderness
- 3.13 Experience Ice Fishing
- 3.14 Don’t forget to explore Lapland’s nature both in summer and winter
- 4 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Quick information and Lapland travel tips
- Currency? Euros
- Languages? Finnish and Swedish
- Where is this place? Located in Northern Europe; Northern region of Finland.
- What is Finland famous for? Skiing, Northern Lights, Santa Claus Village, Forest, Lakes, Vikings, and many more!
- Best time to visit Finland? Visit during Winter (November to March) and do some winter activities, explore Santas Village, and witness Aurora Borealis. Come around Spring (March to May) to see the surroundings bloom to life and Summer (June to August) to explore the lakeside, festivals, and the midnight sun. That said, Autumn (September to October) is also a beautiful time to visit as the weather is still nice but chill and the surroundings start to change color from green to beautiful golden yellow and orange.
- What to wear during winter in Lapland? Read our winter packing guide and as well our jacket reviews
- Closest Airport? Rovaniemi Airport
- How to get to Lapland? The most popular way to get to Lapland from Helsinki is by taking the train and it will take about 10 hours. You can also drive but the fastest way (but not the cheapest) is to fly.
- Other famous places in Finland? Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Espoo, Porvoo, Vaasa, Tampere, Pori, Åland Island, Savonlinna, Turku, Rovaniemi, Salla, Jyväskylä, Kuhmo, Kajaani, Oulu, and Joensuu
- Famous neighboring countries? Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Russia, and Sweden
Do you need a visa for Finland?
In order to enter Finland, you need to have a valid Schengen visa. If you’re a citizen of the EU group of countries, you can enter Finland without a visa. However, if you’re a citizen of Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and Australia – you can stay in Schengen areas for 90 days.
Check out our detailed guide on how to apply for a Schengen visa – read it here.
Where to book your flights to Finland?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need travel insurance for Finland?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Experiences and top things to do in Lapland, Finland
Visit Santa Claus Village
Even though it is known as a tourist trap for a few reasons, you cannot simply deny the fact that Santa Claus Village is one of the best Lapland attractions.
It is the only official home for Santa in the world, and it has a unique experience waiting for you inside. It is located 8km north of Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle, and you can get there by hopping a bus within 30 minutes from the city.
Children are greeted here with loads of Christmas related goodies in the Santa Claus Post Office, along with Santa Claus’ own office where visitors can personally meet Santa.
The white painted line, which marks Arctic Circle, is another great attraction here. Also, a lot of restaurants, well-lit ice sculptures, and souvenir shops are located here in the village.
Visit or stay in an Ice Hotel
Visiting ice hotels is one of the most relaxed Lapland activities. As the name suggests, an ice hotel has everything, be it restaurants, churches, and rooms, made of ice. There is no other way you can make an excuse for skipping the visit to this hotel built of ice and snow.
The igloo hotels, glass igloos, and ice hotels are the most exotic attractions here. You can have the opportunity to spend the night in a room completely made of ice and snow. It is a very popular activity for many people in Finnish Lapland.
You can enjoy your stay in a room in the Ice hotel or igloo hotel, which is entirely designed for snow, or in a relaxing glass igloo. No matter how chilling the temperature goes outside, you will stay warm and comfortable on your bed made of warm and soft reindeer skins in a comfortable and thick sleeping bag.
A constant temperature of around 0 to -5°C is maintained in glass igloos here. Before you sleep, you might be served a warm berry juice as part of the accommodation.
Go on an adventure and snowshoe on the snow!
Finland is considered among the safest nations in the world, especially Lapland. So, going for a hike with some snowshoes is no big deal. Be careful; do not sink just into the thigh-deep snow.
You may choose to go for a nighttime walk because who knows you may get lucky to catch the views of Northern Lights.
It gives such a peaceful experience that you would not want to leave. You can witness the steam of your breath in crusty arctic air and listen to the crunching sound of snow underfoot. There is nothing more exciting as snowshoeing in Lapland.
You can access some of the most untouched and serene attractions for Lapland holidays, feel the silence when you learn another skill, breathe fresh air, and learn more about the local lifestyle from the guide.
Some of the snowshoe trips are happening in the evening so you can have a great chance to catch the Northern Lights in your camera if you are in luck.
Make sure that when you traveling to Lapland during cold season that you have the proper warm clothing on hand! Check out our post on what to wear for winter in Europe and as well our top recommendations on what lightweight jackets are the best.
Play with huskies and go dog-sledding
Have you ever imagined being pulled on a sled by a herd of huskies while savoring the serene and fairytale-like surroundings in Lapland? You will be endowed with some of the best husky safaris by visiting the land of Santa in winters.
You can enjoy some of the most exciting snowmobile adventures, reindeer sleigh rides, and husky safaris. Dog sledding is a tradition in North America, which is the main reason why so many tourists flock here from there to explore the other side of the world to try.
In Lapland, the conditions are favorable for the Huskies, which perform well in dry, thick snow, which is possible when it is quite cold outside.
If it’s your first time to meet huskies, they will amaze you with their energy. These beasts are always ready to run, and being on the back of sled is surprisingly peaceful for you. Reindeer excursions are also organized in populated regions.
Whether you are going for a long journey accompanied by hot beverages and lunch or a short ride, you can explore the snow-capped wilderness from another angle, soak up some peculiar culture of the locals, and enjoy some husky expedition.
Go camping in Ruska
The forests in Lapland look most beautiful themselves for at least a few weeks in the middle of September. This period is known as Ruska, a Finnish term that means changing hues of leaves.
It is the time when visitors and locals gather for some leaf-peeping. Forests are coniferous in Lapland, but those firs and pines are interspersed by hardwood.
It forms a picturesque mess of soft tones like reds, light browns, and oranges contrast with deep green canvas. Around a month before settling the snow and long after mosquito season in mid-summer, autumn is the best time for walks here.
Experience reindeer safari!
Reindeer is the primary mode of transport for the locals in Finland. When it comes to food, tools from the antlers (which they lose and grow again every year) and clothing from their hides, animals have always been, and are still helpful to humans.
Another great fact is that reindeer are semi-wild by nature, and they voluntarily come back to their home stables every winter to find some food here. They live in the forest in the summer and spring where they breed and forage.
Reindeer safari is one of the best things to do in Lapland, and these activities are organized every winter across the populated regions. If you have done snowmobiling or you do not like dogs, reindeers are the alternative modes of transportation.
However, they do not run like dogs, or as fast as snowmobiles, you can get a relaxing experience with kids in reindeer safaris.
Be mesmerized by the Northern Lights
Also known as the most magnificent show played by nature, the Northern Lights (also known as Aurora Borealis), can be seen on the Arctic sky of Lapland from January to April. Sadly, it is hard to predict the exact timing of this spectacular phenomenon.
But be sure to keep your eyes open when the night is dark and clear. The resorts of Saariselkä and Kittilä are some of the best attractions to witness the Aurora.
In short, seeing the Northern Lights is an activity, which should be on top of your bucket list. The Northern Lights can be seen in 200 nights in the year in the Finnish Lapland.
There are high chances to catch the Northern Lights during winters. If you do not live around the Arctic Circle, it could be the experience you should have at least once in a lifetime.
You might depend on some luck with the weather because you can see the Northern Lights only on clear skies. It is up to you as to how you are going to see them. You could speed out on a snowmobile in the icy wilds and get intrepid or walk with your snowshoes at a vantage point.
If you don’t want to do such hard work in winter, you could book a suite in glass igloos or ice hotels to gaze up at the Northern Lights at your accommodation.
You can find some excellent slopes in the Ylläs ski resort, mainly because they pass through trees where you can find so much snow. You could try some red runs here, officially started from the blues where you can learn skiing.
It is such a great opportunity to learn when you ski down through the vast, dreamy, and powdery slopes without much crowd. If you are more into snowboarding or Nordic skiing, you can try both here. Both boarding and backcountry skiing are popular for trained people.
Do not forget to go to the sauna and jump in a hole in the middle of the frozen lake!
The sauna is an essential part of Finnish culture and, honestly speaking, just the thought of sweating our brains out on the little wooden room is painful. Well, it is not that good in a warm climate. However, it is wonderful when it’s cold and dry outside.
You can even rent a sauna gondola at Yllas ski resort and booze some beer, get in Jacuzzi outside and take another sauna inside. For one or two people, it may not be cool financially. Nevertheless, if you are getting here with a group of 12 with a VIP room, it is a cool idea, which costs only €100 per head.
After taking a sauna, you may not want to go out and jump into a hole in the mid of a frozen lake. Trust me; it is just another part of a coin in Finnish tradition. You get to feel the extreme cold after the extreme heat and then heat up again.
Some roll in the snow while some jump off the ice lake. At first, it sounds crazy, but it gives a relaxing experience once you do this. Athletes do this to train their endurance levels. Well, for faint-hearted, it is not suitable, but for this is another fun things to do in Lapland for those who are adventurous.
Try local delicacies like Elk or Reindeer stew with mash and lingonberry jam
After having lots of fun, it is time to quench your hunger with some hot and crispy Reindeer stew or Elk, if you love meat. Thin strips of meat are fried in butter or reindeer fat to prepare this dish. Then cream or beer is added, and the broth is cooked down until meat is tender properly.
Then, it is served on mashed potatoes with pickled cucumber and preserves. If you are getting here in summer, you can try the north-meets-south combo, Suovakebabs. It is smoked reindeer meat with garlic sauce and salad in pita bread. You can also try reindeer stew with lingonberry jam and mash.
Related read: Finnish cuisine and what to eat when you visit Finland
If you are coming in summer, do not miss the midnight sun
You can see the Midnight Sun in summer when there is absolute darkness in winter. The sun is at the top of the horizon for 70 long days in northern Lapland. The sun dips down further south, but you can still witness the illuminating sky.
To see the Midnight Sun as a Finn, be sure to visit a remote cottage and take some extra hours fishing, walking, or teeing off at some golf courses to extend your time in summer.
Go trekking and enjoy the Finnish wilderness
Lapland has plenty of walking trails that you can take in August when days are mild and still plenty of light. The terrain can be surprisingly flat here.
When mosquito season is gone, it is easy to stride off in some of the remotest areas you do not know. There are log cabins in national parks where you can find shelter. You can learn about the ecology of the city on some information boards.
Read also: Top National Parks in Europe to Visit
Experience Ice Fishing
Ice fishing is such an excellent pastime for such a meditative and reserved country like Finland. Expect nothing to happen for hours when you come here for ice fishing.
It will be you and your loved ones alone in the serenity of nature at the heart of the frozen lake ringed by lush greens. All of the lakes have at least 5 cm of ice in winter months. Etch a hole, bait your hook, cast off, and wait.
Don’t forget to explore Lapland’s nature both in summer and winter
If you want to visit a wonderland in winter, there is no better choice than Finnish Lapland. If you want to see how contrast seems in the allure of Lapland when the sun is at full bloom 24 hours and seven days a week for 70 days, visit here in summers. Both seasons have their perks when you want to escape into the quiet and secluded wilderness.
If you want to visit other destinations in Finland, make sure to also check the archipelago and visit some of the top islands in Finland you can spend beautiful summer days either camping or for picnic.