Nestled in the northern reaches of Finland, dipping into parts of Sweden, Norway, and Russia, sits Lapland.
Known for its snowy landscapes, endless arctic activities, and clusters of small villages, this region is an enchanting holiday destination.
It’s a place where Christmas cheer rings out all year long and the mystical northern lights dance across the dark winter sky. If you’re a traveller that enjoys getting up close with nature, Lapland is for you.
It’s a must-see European winter destination that offers so much for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re visiting Lapland in winter, this list of highlights and useful information will guarantee you have the perfect trip.
I have outlined the best things to do and places to visit in Lapland in winter, as well as essential information on what to expect and pack.
I hope you find this useful in planning your winter trip to Lapland!
- 1 Weather – What to expect when you visit Lapland, Finland
- 2 What to pack for a Lapland winter
- 3 How to travel around Lapland in winter
- 4 Best things to do in Lapland in winter
- 4.1 Feel the rush of Husky Dog Sledding
- 4.2 Enjoy ultimate relaxation while Ice Floating
- 4.3 Peddle the wilderness on a Fat Bike Tour
- 4.4 Try a fun Finnish combo: Sauna and Ice Bath
- 4.5 Go Aurora Hunting
- 4.6 Take a thrilling Snowmobile Tour
- 4.7 Go on a magical Reindeer Sleigh Ride
- 4.8 Meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
- 4.9 Forge your own path on a Snowshoe Hike
- 4.10 Traverse the landscape by Cross Country Skiing
- 4.11 Visit an Ice Hotel
- 4.12 Learn about the Sámi Culture
- 4.13 Speed down the slopes Skiing and Snowboarding
- 5 Where to go in Lapland
Weather – What to expect when you visit Lapland, Finland
Unlike some of the sunnier Europe winter destinations, the temperatures drop down low as autumn turns to winter. If you’re into snowy weather and all the activities that it entails, this is the best time to visit Finland’s arctic region.
Lapland in Finland stretches for hundreds of kilometres above the Arctic Circle, producing especially chilly forecasts.
Depending on the area of Lapland you’re visiting, the average temperature will be between -16°C to 3°C. However, it can dip as low as -30°C.
During the peak winter months (November – January), the daylight hours are very limited. The sun might only come out from 10:00 to 14:00. Make sure to keep this in mind and plan your activities accordingly.
What to pack for a Lapland winter
Preparing for the cold when you visit Lapland is the key to being comfortable. The good news is, if you happen to forget something, you can rent clothing once you arrive.
However, to be best prepared, here are a few suitcase staples you’ll be glad to have with you when you visit.
Layers of clothing are essential. You want to be able to remove them depending on the activity you’re performing.
Thermal clothing is great for regulating your body temperature. It’s breathable, lightweight, and fits perfectly snug under your normal clothes.
Thick Wool Socks
Since you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors in the snow, a thick pair of wool socks are the best shield against wet and cold feet. Since this is an everyday use item, it’s a good idea to bring several pairs with you.
Lapland winters produce plenty of snowfall. To keep your things dry and secure, make sure to bring a lightweight water-resistant backpack. You’ll be able to keep your essentials with you at all times, even when you’re outside being active.
It’s essential to bring with you appropriate thermal clothing and to not overdress. If you wear too many layers you might end up sweating, this then freezes to your body and you end up being colder than you would have been with less layers.
During winter there are very few daylight hours in Lapland. If you plan to spend any time outdoors doing things (any sort of thing really, from cool activities to simply walking around), you will need a torch.
Forget about using the torch in your phone. Especially if you have a touch screen phone, you will freeze your fingers trying to get it out. Go for a headlamp and you’ll be sorted.
How to travel around Lapland in winter
Even in winter, travelling around Lapland is easy. The train and bus service the main areas around the region. These options can be the most convenient mode of transport, especially for the more harsh winter conditions.
You can also easily rent a car and drive yourself. Although the roads will most likely be snowy, they’re well-maintained and very drivable. You’ll find popular car rental companies in the main villages of Lapland.
Best things to do in Lapland in winter
This northern Finnish region is an outdoor playground that supplies endless opportunities for fun. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or something different, here are the absolute best tourist attractions in Lapland.
Feel the rush of Husky Dog Sledding
Husky dog sledding is a great adventure. Glide across the snowy wilderness on a thrilling ride with a team of enthusiastic furry friends.
Huskies love to run. They have lots of energy and running is their favourite way to release it. Travel through the frosted forest at top speed on what is sure to be an unforgettable journey.
Enjoy ultimate relaxation while Ice Floating
When you first hear someone pitch the idea of floating in a freezing lake, it might not sound too appealing. But, with the aid of an insulated suit, this popular Lapland activity might just be the neatest thing you do on your whole trip.
No matter the temperature, your special suit will keep you warm. It’s made with high-quality material that covers your whole body and keeps you dry.
Take a relaxing dip in an icy lake. Peer out over the natural landscape and the endless arctic sky from a totally different perspective.
Peddle the wilderness on a Fat Bike Tour
Take a fat bike tour and explore the wilderness on wheels. This is such a fun activity that takes you over frozen lakes and through frosted forests.
The bikes have wide tires that can easily travel across the snowy terrain, so you don’t have to worry about slipping. All skill levels are welcome, as long as you can ride a bike.
Try a fun Finnish combo: Sauna and Ice Bath
Can you think of anything more relaxing than hoping in a hot sauna during a cold winter day? Saunas are a huge part of the Finnish Lapland culture.
A savusauna (smoke sauna) is a special type of Finnish sauna heated by burning wood.
A large stove pumps hot smoke into the air until a certain temperature is reached. The smoke is then let out and the remaining heat keeps the sauna hot.
After you’re all warm and toasty, the next step is to plunge into an ice-cold bath. This is said to increase your blood flow and raise your endorphin levels.
This activity is one of the most popular things to do in Finland in winter.
Go Aurora Hunting
Seeing the northern lights is never guaranteed, but the weather conditions in Lapland are about as perfect as you could wish for. You could go aurora hunting on your own, but tour companies will know the best locations to spot the lights.
We had our own cars so every evening we would just drive away from the lights of our hotel and head for a point at random on the map, somewhere close to a lake where trees wouldn’t get in the way of our sky view.
Take a thrilling Snowmobile Tour
For something fun and fast-paced, fly through the Finnish forest with a snowmobile safari.
Feel your heart pump on a thrilling ride over frozen lakes and through the tall, snow-covered trees. The Finnish call this a winter safari, and it’s easy to figure out why.
Take the ultimate sightseeing adventure through Lapland’s stunning natural surroundings. Whiz through the wild as you cover kilometres of ground in a short period of time.
You need to have a valid driving licence to drive a snow mobile. I’m not a very good driver but I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to drive a snowmobile through a snowy forest or across a huge frozen lake.
Needless to say it’s a pretty thrilling experience!
Go on a magical Reindeer Sleigh Ride
Reindeer herding is a tradition in Lapland, making reindeer farms very common. For a unique experience, spend a few hours interacting with these beautiful creatures.
Learn about the herding lifestyle and its significance in Lapland’s culture. Feed the reindeer, pose for a picture with them, and go on a reindeer sleigh ride. This is a truly magical wintertime experience!
Meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi is a year-round Christmas amusement park. It’s also the hometown of Santa Claus. Pay a visit and meet the man himself!
Send a letter from the Santa Claus Post Office, posted with an official Santa stamp. Swing by Mrs. Claus’ Christmas Cottage to sing Christmas carols. See the elves hard at work and check in on Santa’s reindeer.
If you’re visiting Finland in December this will definitely get you into the holiday spirit.
It’s a pretty touristy attraction, there’s no denying that, but visiting Lapland and not seeing Father Christmas would be like going to Rome and skipping the Colosseum!
Forge your own path on a Snowshoe Hike
Another popular activity during winter in Finland is snowshoeing. This nifty piece of footwear is great for accessing areas away from the usual routes. You can make your own trail as you head off the beaten path.
Snowshoes allow you to manoeuvre through the landscape without falling deep into the snow.
You can even go snowshoe hiking at night. Strap on some shoes and have a go at aurora hunting. You’ll be guided by the moon, stars and the pure white landscape.
Traverse the landscape by Cross Country Skiing
Finland winters produce ample snowfall and Lapland supplies endless kilometres of well-groomed skiing paths.
Cross country skiing is different from downhill skiing in that you have to rely on your own locomotion to move. In this regard, it’s great for all skill levels. There aren’t any scaling mountain paths you have to worry about travelling down.
However it’s also a lot tougher than normal skiing. I personally find it pretty tiring but it can be a great workout. Dress appropriately otherwise you will sweat and then get cold!
There are ski resorts in all the main cities. The trails weave through frosted woodlands, snowy plains, and across frozen lakes. It’s a great place to enjoy a European ski vacation.
Visit an Ice Hotel
The Levi Ice Gallery is an ice hotel that has it all: ice sculpture, a restaurant, an ice bar, and wood-heated saunas. The rooms are made entirely out of ice and snow, including the beds.
But don’t worry, you’ll be well protected from the cold. You’ll sleep in a warm sleeping bag and enjoy breakfast over an open fire in the morning.
Learn about the Sámi Culture
An important part of exploring a new destination is learning about its culture. The Sámi people have inhabited northern Scandinavia for thousands of years; living off the land as reindeer farmers.
The village of Inari contains a Sámi Museum, called Siida. This institution focuses on the history and culture of the Sámi people. There are two floors filled with exhibitions about their way of life, from the past to the present.
The village of Hetta also has a Sámi cultural centre. Through exhibitions, it outlines the historic and modern-day importance of reindeer in the Sámi way of life.
Speed down the slopes Skiing and Snowboarding
Skiing and snowboarding are popular Finnish winter activities, and there’s no better place to enjoy them than in Lapland.
Although the natural landscape of Finland is quite flat, the ski resorts have slopes. Lapland has many, but the ones in Levi and Ylläs are the most popular.
Glide over the thick snow as you enjoy the fresh open air. The slopes are suited to all skill levels, from beginners to daredevils.
Where to go in Lapland
The villages that makeup Lapland share lots of similarities.
Pretty much all of the activities listed above are offered in the different regions, so there’s no need to travel loads. But here are the towns I particularly liked and think deserve a visit.
Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland and the “official” residence of Santa Claus. It offers lots of modern hotels and winter activities. Although it’s more touristy, it’s still within easy reach of the more isolated and rugged areas of Lapland.
Ylläs is one of the best places to soak in the unspoiled, rugged landscape of Lapland. The skies are wonderfully clear, perfect for witnessing the northern lights.
Because of its natural scenery, it’s especially popular for cross country skiing. In fact, Finland’s longest ski slopes are found in Ylläs.
The small village of Inari is the centre of Sámi culture. It has a small-village feel, with traditional handicraft shops and Sámi-run companies. You’ll get a real sense of the true Lapland culture by visiting Inari.
Final thoughts on visiting Lapland in winter
If you’ve always wanted to visit Finland in winter, Lapland is the ideal place to go. Stretching deep into the Arctic Circle, travellers benefit from exceptional snowy weather.
Winter thrill-seekers can have a go at snowboarding, skiing, or dog sledding. If you prefer slow-paced activities, relax in a sauna, tour the Santa Claus Village or take a reindeer sleigh ride.
Lapland is full of fun attractions, especially in winter. It’s a magical frosted wilderness that enchants everyone who visits!
I hope you find this guide useful in planning your Lapland winter trip! It was a dream trip of mine come true and I’m sure it will be the same for you.