Finland in the winter an adventurous wonderland filled with crazy things to do that can only be described as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities!
We visited Finland and Lapland in late December and early January – the dead of the polar winter. And during that time we spent the most incredible week exploring the wilderness and towns. From Inari, Ivalo, Saariselka, Rovaniemi, and finally Kemi. The adventures and activities we took part in are so unique and spectacular that we still can’t believe we did them.
Now winters in Finland, and specially Lapland, may not be for everyone. The day’s are short and cold, and the nights are long and colder. While we were there, the temperature ranged from -30° C (-22° F) to 3° C (37° F). But if you can summon up courage to brace the cold, I guarantee you that your trip will be an unforgettable experience full of unique experiences!
Lapland in the winter
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Finland offers so many activities for everyone that it’s really hard to narrow them down to a top 10 list. But if I had to make a list, I’d pick these unique activities.
1. Chase The Northern Lights
Let me guess – seeing the Northern Lights is on the top of your list too. And why not? The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) are visible in the Finnish Lapland 200 nights in the year. And your chances of catching the Northern Lights are higher in northern Lapland, and of course during winters.
Out of the 4 nights that we spent in northern Lapland, we saw the Northern Lights on 3 of those nights. We saw the lights bright and beautiful, shine and dance above our heads! It was truly an unearthly experience.
Want to learn more about the Northern Lights, and what are the best places to catch them? Read more here.
2. Embark On A Husky Safari
There are many modes of transport in the Arctic winter, but nothing beats the joy of huskies pulling your sledge. The fun of exploring the great Lappish wilderness on a dog sledge is incredibly fulfilling. Especially, if you’re a dog lover.
We went on the most surreal husky safari in Ivalo. It was the closest we felt to nature. For those few hours, it was just us and the huskies surrounded by a breathtaking snow-covered landscapes.
And stay at a Husky Farm
In fact, we even stayed on the husky farm with 140 huskies and their puppies. If you’re a dog lover, there is no way you should pass up this amazing opportunity to stay at Guesthouse Husky. Read all about our experience here.
3. Take An Icebreaker Cruise & Float In The Frozen Sea
Imagine going on a cruise, smashing through a frozen sea, and then jumping into the water! Sounds crazy? That’s exactly what we did, and it was the most adventurous activity that we took upon in Lapland!
The Icebreaker Sampo from Kemi took us on a cruise through the frozen Gulf of Bothnia, before we anchored in the middle of the sea, and jumped into it! Crazy or fun?! Read all about our Icebreaker Sampo experience here.
4. Spend A Night In A Snow Hotel
Ice hotels are some of the coolest structures ever (pun intended). A entire hotel, with rooms, restaurants, and even a church all made of ice? There is no way you want to pass this opportunity of visiting a hotel made of snow and ice.
Read this post to learn more about visiting a snow hotel, and whether you should spend a night on a bed made of ice, or not.
5. Enjoy A Smoke Sauna Followed By A Dip In A Freezing Lake
Sauna’s are an essential part of the Finnish culture. It is where Finnish people relax, socialise, and unwind.
There are many different types of saunas in Finland, and smoke saunas (savusauna) are still in existence and found mostly in this part of the world. In fact, smoke saunas have made a revival as they are considered superior.
What is a smoke sauna you ask? Smoke sauna is a special type of sauna without a chimney. The wood is burned in a particularly large stove and the smoke fills the room. When the sauna is hot enough, the fire is allowed to die and the smoke is ventilated out. The residual heat of the stove is enough for the duration of the sauna.
We went inside a smoke sauna at the Kiilopaa Fell Centre in Saariselka. The highlight of the sauna experience is to run out into the freezing cold after the sauna, and jump into the frozen lake. It was simply epic!
Unlike the Icebreaker Sampo, where we jumped into the frozen sea with bodysuits, here we jumped in our bathing suits! Brrr!
6. Go Ice Fishing
There are 187,888 lakes in Finland. On average, there are 40 lakes per 100 square kilometres in a district.
Fishing is a not just a pastime in Finland, it is every person’s right. So, when you’re in Lapland during the winters, I would highly recommend that you try your luck with ice fishing.
We went a short ice fishing trip from Rovaniemi. But no matter where you’re located, there will be a frozen lake near you, and a guide who’s willing to take you ice fishing. Or jut click the click below.
7. Visit Santa Claus
Santa Claus is real, and lives in Lapland. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You can visit him, his elves, and reindeers in Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. There you can visit Santa, see his Post Office, and all letters sent to him from children around the world.
After a trip to the village, head down to Santa Park and enjoy spending time in a Santa-themed park inside an underground cave. Of course, both these activities are a whole lot of fun if you have kids.
Also, just keep in mind that the line to see Santa can be extremely long. With wait times over 1 to 1.5 hours. So, budget your time accordingly.
Also, the Arctic Circle passes right through Santa Claus Village. It is marked, and you want to take a picture with it!
8. Snow Mobiling
Snow mobiling is actually a lot of fun. I didn’t realise how easy it is to slide through all that snow and ice with so much power under you.
Snow mobiling excursions are another great way to explore the Lappish outdoors. Unlike dog sledging, these machines can go much further, and faster.
As is with most activities, your local activity centre or hotel/accommodation will be able to get your a snow mobiling tour.
9. A Reindeer Safari
If you’re not a dog person, or don’t like snow mobiles, there’s a third method of transportation available – reindeers. Although not as fast as dogs, or snow mobiles, reindeer safaris are fairly relaxed and very kid friendly.
10. Enjoy Lappish Cuisine
And finally, when in Lapland enjoy some delicious Lappish cuisine. Feast on a variety of bread, and local meats, such as fish, game, and reindeer. And don’t forget to try the salmon soup.
Here are some recommendations for authentic Lappish (and Finnish) cuisines:
- Restaurant Savotta, Aleksanterinkatu 22, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
- Muru, Fredrikinkatu 41, 00120 Helsinki, Finland
- Salve, Hietalahdenranta 5 C, 00180 Helsinki, Finland
- Nili Restaurant, Valtakatu 20, 96200 Rovaniemi, Finland
- Santa’s Salmon Place Restaurant, Santa Claus Village, Tähtikuja 1, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland
And don’t forget to drink lot’s of gloggi to keep yourself warm in the polar winter.
Finland In The Winter
We still haven’t gotten over all the incredibly unique things that we did in Finland and Lapland. When we tell our friends and family that we jumped into a frozen sea, a frozen lake, saw the Northern Lights three nights in a row, or stayed on a farm with 140 huskies, they can’t believe us. But it’s true. All these activities were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
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