Looking for a winter vacation that is sure to check everyone’s boxes? Then a trip to Lapland Finland is just what you need! Whether you are craving snow, Santa, sleigh-rides, or saunas, it has it all!
Winter in Lapland Finland is similar to stepping into a winter wonderland. Since the area is sparsely populated, the majority of the fells are untouched and covered in thick snowy powder while the lush evergreen forests are snow-covered and simply breathtaking. In addition to being an awesome location for winter activities, Lapland is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights!
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The Need to Know Basics
Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region located in both subarctic and arctic areas. It is bordered by Sweden, Norway, Russia, and the Baltic Sea and is known for its beautiful open wilderness as well as being home to the infamous Northern Lights. Though many choose to visit this area in hopes to see the Northern Lights, there is more to see and do in this area than just that!
The Language: The official language of Finland is Finnish and Swedish. In Lapland however, you will primarily hear Finnish and sometimes Sami. In addition to Finnish and Sami, a large percentage of people speak English so it is quite easy to talk to locals!
Currency: Lapland, Finland’s currency is the Euro. Currently, 1.00 Euro is equivalent to $1.09 USD.
The Climate: The climate in Lapland is characterized by cold, beautifully snowy winters and mild summers. During the winter, temperatures on average range from 3 to 27 degrees Fahrenheit while the summers reach average temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Credit Cards vs. Cash: Banks, as well as ATMs, are on the decline throughout Finland. That being said if you want to pay for activities, souvenirs, or food using cash make sure to exchange your money in the airport or one of the major cities. For those who prefer to use credit cards like us, you are in luck! Credit cards are widely accepted here.
Getting Around: Public transportation is sparse in this area so we recommend renting a car. Much like in the United States and Canada, drivers in Finland drive on the right side of the road and rental cars in Lapland handle very well on snowy roads.
Interested in Helsinki: Check out our recent post on how to spend one day in Helsinki Finland.
Our Packing Essentials
Where to Stay
After arriving in Lapland, Kevin and I headed south to the capital city of Rovaniemi to stay at Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle. This experience was wonderful and one that we both agree we would recommend to others.
Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle is made up of 71 beautiful glass-roofed igloos offering guests the amenities of a hotel room as well as the experience to view the Northern Lights from the comfort of their own bed. In addition to the beautiful bedroom accommodations, Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle also provides guests with in-igloo bathrooms complete with hot water, which isn’t always the case so make sure to look into this when booking your accommodations!
Some additional amenities offered at Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle include free unlimited wifi, room service (if you choose), a tablet with an Aurora Alarm (which will sound an alarm in the middle of the night if the Northern Lights are visible), transportation from the igloos to Santa’s Village, as well as air conditioning and heated flooring. Our stay even came complete with free breakfast!
After spending the night in Rovaniemi at Santa’s Igloo Arctic Circle, Kevin and I headed three hours north to Saariselka and the Northern Lights Village where we would be spending the remainder of our stay.
Northern Lights Village is another beautiful and luxurious accommodation in Lapland, Finland. Here guests can experience the magnificent Northern Lights while also exploring the wild, untouched nature of Lapland. With over 20 years in hospitality, Northern Lights Village provides guests with a getaway to remember! The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, the service is first-class, and the tours are something you’ll remember for years to come!
Amenities at Northern Lights Village include air conditioning and heated flooring, high-speed wifi, an interactive tablet where guests can sign up for Northern Lights alarms and book adventures, and a full bathroom complete with hot water. Our accommodation even came with free breakfast and dinner where we enjoyed some of the best food we tried in Finland!
What to Do in Rovaniemi
Although there are so many incredible things to see and do in Rovaniemi our top recommendation is visiting Santa Claus Village, Santa Claus’ hometown! Santa Claus Village is truly a magical place complete with all the hope and Christmas spirit that the holiday brings. Here you can visit and meet Santa Claus, pet Santa’s reindeer, explore Santa’s main post office and so much more. In Santa Claus Village guests also get to cross the Arctic Circle every day! Yes, that is correct Santa Claus Village is located on the Arctic Circle line meaning half of the village is located in the Arctic Circle while the other half is not, talk about being in two places at once!
Kevin and I spent hours roaming around Santa Claus Village while taking in the magical Christmas spirit. We visited souvenir shops, Santa’s post office, as well as Mrs. Santa Claus’ Christmas Cottage, just to name a few.
The Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle is one of the five major latitude circles that make up the Earth. The Arctic Circle is located 66°33′45.9″ north of the Equator and is defined by being the southernmost point where the sun can continuously stay below or above the horizon for one full day or 24-hours. Since the sun in the Arctic Circle can stay below or above the horizon for one full day this area experiences both the “Midnight Sun” and the “Polar Night”. The “Midnight Sun” is exactly what it sounds like when the sun remains visible through the night and at the local midnight, this happens during the summer in Lapland. The “Polar Night” is when the sun never rises above the horizon, this happens in Lapland during the winter months.
Santa Claus' Main Post Office
Did you ever write a letter to Santa as a child? Well not to worry, he definitely got it. Santa Claus receives about 500,000 letters to his post office in the Arctic Circle yearly, I mean how special is that! These letters are on display in Santa Claus’ Main Post Office so visitors can get into the Christmas spirit any time of the year. Santa Claus’ Main Post Office is also a full-service post office, so guests can send letters or parcels to loved ones or friends back home.
Another unique thing about Santa Claus’ Main Post Office is that visitors can order a letter for friends or loved ones from Santa Claus which will be sent out by Santa right before Christmas! How magical!
Mrs. Santa Claus' Christmas Cottage
Unfortunately, Kevin and I were not able to go into Mrs. Santa Claus’ Christmas Cottage before it closed, but this is definitely something we would recommend checking out.
Inside Mrs. Santa Claus’ Christmas Cottage guests can join Mrs. Claus and her elves in baking and decorating delicious Christmas gingerbreads! Baking and decorating is a 30-45 minute program and costs 29.00 euros per person.
If you aren’t interested in baking you can also join Mrs. Claus for a delicious soup lunch. During this lunch, you can meet Mrs. Claus while getting into the Christmas spirit. What’s for lunch you ask? Mrs. Claus’ favorite Finnish dishes of course!
Meet Santa Claus
This is a must! Santa Claus Office is located in the center of Santa Claus Village and Santa himself can be found there daily! Santa Claus Office is open every single day so no matter when you visit Santa Claus Village you will be able to meet and talk to Santa completely free of charge!
Want to capture the moment? No problem, Santa’s elves are there to help you capture everything by taking a video of your experience as well as several photos that can be purchased for a fee.
Prior to meeting Santa guests also get walk through Santa’s workshop!
Others Activities in Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi offers guests a number of other activities in addition to visiting Santa Claus Village. Activities include: snowmobile safari into the Arctic Circle forest, snowmobile safari to a reindeer farm, snowmobile safari to a husky camp, full-day snowmobile safari with ice fishing and campfire lunch, Santa’s sleigh ride around the Arctic Circle, Northern Lights sleigh ride, snowmobile safari to search for the Northern Lights, Northern Lights hunting by plane or bus, Northern Lights photography tour, visit Ranua Wildlife Park, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing adventures, and more! For those interested in any of these activities please note that thermal clothing is included for you to wear during your activity so no need to pack your own!
Where to Eat in Rovaniemi
Since Kevin and I only spent one night here we do not have a lot of recommendations for where to eat, however, we did eat dinner at Three Elves Restaurant! Three Elves Restaurant is located in front of Santa Claus’ Main Post Office and is delicious. This full-service restaurant is open daily from 8:00 am until 10:00 pm and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as everyone’s favorite cocktails!
What to eat: Kevin and I recommend getting the salmon soup and the reindeer burger. They are delicious and some of the typical Finnish meals you have to try while visiting!
What to Do in Saariselka
Saariselka is a resort village located about 20 minutes from the Ivalo Airport. This area is known for being Finland’s northernmost Ski Resort as well as home to a number of Lapland winter activities such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and more.
Here Kevin and I stayed at Northern Lights Village in one of their beautiful Aurora Cabin accommodations. Our reservation at Northern Lights Village was for three days and two nights, however, we had to leave very early on our third day there so really we only had two days. That being said Kevin and I scheduled two excursions/activities during our stay, one for each day. Had we had more time we would have booked more since we enjoyed the activities so much.
As we said before Northern Lights Village offers a number of activities and excursions such as ice karting, snowmobiling and ice fishing, snowshoeing in the fells, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, aurora camp by the lake or on the border, aurora hunting by limousine, snowmobile, or seated sleigh, husky safaris, and more.
What We Did
Aurora Hunting by Snowmobile
This is a must when planning your activities at Northern Lights Village especially if you hope to see the Northern Lights. Aurora Hunting by Snowmobile is a three-hour activity and costs 145.00 euros per person, but in our opinion, the experience is totally worth the cost! This excursion takes you through the beautiful snow-covered forests of Lapland, Finland to the silent snowy fells where light pollution is low. Driving to a location where light pollution is low increases the chances of seeing the Northern Lights because it is easiest to see the lights with the naked eye when the sky is at its darkest. Once in the fells Kevin and I were lucky enough to see the lights dancing in the clear skies above.
This experience was honestly so surreal for us. We planned our whole trip with the dream of seeing the Northern Lights and as it was happening Kevin and I literally could not believe our eyes. After watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky, we traveled to a teepee where we warmed up by the fire and enjoyed warm Lingonberry juice while getting to know both the tour guide and other guests! It was truly a night to remember.
Why go Aurora Hunting by Snowmobile at Northern Lights Village? Not only was the experience one we will remember for years to come but the tour was very enjoyable and our guide was super sweet and knowledgeable. She was able to educate us on the Northern Lights and how they are formed as well as the best time of year to see them. She was also very personable, so by the end of the night, we were all talking like we had known each other for years!
This is another must-do activity while visiting Northern Lights Village. This excursion allows you to drive a team of eager huskies across the untouched snow-covered fells of Lapland and through the forests surrounding the village. Each team is made up of eight huskies that enthusiastically drive a sled that can carry one or two adults.
Northern Lights Village offers three different Husky Safaris. There is one-hour, two-hour, and four-hour Husky Safaris offered, all available for different prices. After talking with the concierge, Kevin and I purchased the two-hour Husky Safari and it was the perfect amount of time! We felt like it was just long enough that you were able to get the full experience and the two-hour adventure was just enough time to allow both of us to drive the sled.
This experience is definitely one that I will remember for years!
Pricing for the Husky Safari is as follows:
1-Hour: 115.00 euros per adult, 57.50. euros per child
2-Hours: 145.00 euros per adult, 72.50 euros per child
4-Hours: 199.00 euros per adult, 99.50 euros per child
Other Activities We Looked Into
Reserve the Sauna
Northern Lights Village offers guests a chance to reserve their on-site Finnish sauna. The sauna at Northern Lights Village includes a changing room, a traditional Finnish sauna, an outdoor hot tube, and an ice pool to complete the full experience. The sauna can be reserved for one hour for 100.00 euros or you can choose to share the sauna with others for only 15.00 euros per person.
Kevin and I decided not to do this because we really did not have enough time. Additionally, we had already experienced a Finnish sauna in Helsinki, so we decided there were other activities we wanted to prioritize. However, if you have not experienced a Finnish sauna before, Kevin and I would recommend this it’s truly an awesome experience.
Luckily, Kevin and I were sort of able to do this without booking the activity! While wandering around and taking some photos we met the reindeer breeder who allowed us to go into the paddock located at Northern Lights Village. While in the paddock the breeder explained to us the history behind breeding reindeer and what being a breeder really entails. It was awesome and both Kevin and I were so grateful to have this experience. Not only did we learn so much about the reindeer but we were able feed and pet them! After having this experience, Reindeer Day is definitely something I would recommend to others.
Reindeer Day is a four-hour excursion where you get to meet with a reindeer breeder and learn about both the reindeer and the Sami. During this time you can feed and pet the reindeer and even drive a reindeer-drawn sled through the snowy arctic forest!
Reindeer Day costs 150.00 euros per person and can be booked through the front desk at Northern Lights Village or through the IPad located in your Aurora Cabin.
Aurora Camp on the Border
Although we loved Aurora Hunting by Snowmobile, Kevin and I both agree that Aurora Camping on the Russian Border would have also been an experience of a lifetime.
Aurora Camp on the Border is a four-hour excursion that costs 145.00 euros per person. During this activity, the Northern Lights Village brings guests by bus to the Aurora camp in Virtaniemi. In Virtaniemi there is a Lappish teepee where guests enjoy warm Lingonberry juice and wait to see the beautiful Northern Lights light up the sky.
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Lapland, Finland is the perfect winter vacation that is sure to check the whole family’s boxes and a vacation in Lapland is definitely something the family will remember for years to come. Kevin and I had the time of our lives snowmobiling, going on husky rides, and exploring Santa Claus Village in Lapland, Finland. For this reason, we are recommending these activities to all of you! We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!
Also before making your way into Lapland you will more than likely travel through Helsinki. If you’re like us, then you may want to explore Helsinki for a day or two. Check out our post on how to spend one day in Helsinki with our recommendations on what to do.
As always if you have any questions, comments, or recommendations you would like to share please leave us a comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Have an exciting trip and safe travels!