Lapland, located in the northernmost part of Finland in the arctic circle, is famous for its magical Northern Lights and being the home of Santa Claus. This is especially true during the winter months when this frosty tundra is covered in a thick layer of glittering snow that blankets the pine trees.
However Lapland is not just a place to take the kids to meet Father Christmas villages such as Saariselka offer a huge range of winter activities right up until May. We have put together a handy list of our favourite things to see and do in this winter wonderland.
1. Explore Lapland’s dramatic landscape by snowmobile
This is a fantastic way to start your adventure in Lapland as you can cover lots of ground in a relatively short time. Take a guided tour on specially ploughed paths across frozen lakes, through pine-strewn forests and atop the vast snowy expanse of the Finnish highlands. You don’t need any previous experience to drive a snowmobile, but you will need to be over 18 and have a full, clean driving license. The weather can be quite unpredictable – we got caught in a blizzard and it was genuinely quite intrepid (and fun).
Prices for the snowmobile safari start from £59 per person based on two riders sharing.
2. Learn to ski Finnish style
The best way to ski in Lapland is cross-country style. By joining a group ski via a ski school you can learn how to glide through the snow – a puzzling mix of running and skating. There’s a training ring so you can practise the basic moves and then it’s time to head for the (little) hills. There are 200km of ski tracks in Saariselka, so plenty of places to hone your skills even if you inadvertently ski backwards, crash into each other and fall over a lot. Don’t worry – you never go fast enough in ski school to cause.
3. Dare yourself to a glorious ice swim
While a dip in temperatures below zero degrees sounds like madness, it is in fact incredibly invigorating. At the East Village of Kakslauttanen Arctic, you can book one of three saunas, complete with fireplace and private dressing room. A path leads from the sauna to the frozen river where you take a dip down a specially hole in the ice – you may need to break a thin layer of ice before climbing in. For Dutch courage order some beers to your private dressing room. Trust us – you won’t regret it!
4. Hike through the forest on snowshoes
They may look like tennis rackets, but snowshoes are a very effective way of navigating through the white stuff. The area of Saariselka offers excellent conditions for snowshoeing and plenty of marked trails. Book a guided tour and spend a couple of hours exploring the frozen forest – you may even spot a brown bear. Snowshoeing is a great workout, so you can enjoy a totally guiltless supper at the end of your hike.
5. Meet the reindeer and take a sleigh ride
The Sami people are best known in Lapland for reindeer herding. Visit a working farm and learn all about the reindeer, their quirky personality traits and their various uses. Just don’t ask the Sami people how many reindeer they have – it is considered very rude (like asking how much somebody earns). Reindeer are classed as wild animals and don’t like to be petted but you can feed them some lichen.
During the visit you will be taken on a short ride through the forest on reindeer sleighs (two per sled). We were assured that the reindeer are very strong and pulling a sleigh for two takes little effort.