Lapland has far more to offer than just Santa Claus, although you won’t be able to resist visiting him during your stay.
It’s true that Lapland is a magical place, but we’re not just talking about visiting a jolly old man who likes to give out presents. This wilderness at the northernmost tip of Finland is full of natural beauty, from the Aurora Borealis to the local Sami culture, there’s so much to explore and discover in this stunning part of the world.
Santa Claus Village
OK, so we couldn’t start any list about the best things to do in Lapland without putting a visit to Santa Claus right at the top. No matter how old you are, there is something particularly special about visiting old Saint Nick in his own home. Lying within the Arctic Circle, the Santa Claus Village is complete with a post office for sending off Christmas present requests and of course, the man himself.
The Northern Lights
We’ve all looked to the skies on Christmas Eve hoping to spot a certain reindeer-drawn sleigh, but gazing upward in this part of Finland is likely to yield something else – the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. Nature’s most spectacular light show is never guaranteed, but travelling to Lapland certainly ups your chances and we are currently experiencing a period of heightened visibility.
Husky-drawn sleigh ride
Looking around at the scenery proves that you are in an unusual place, but the snow-covered landscape necessitates an entirely different form of transport. It seems only right that visitors follow in the footsteps, or sleigh tracks, of the local Sami people and travel by husky power. It’s a surprisingly smooth and peaceful ride and one you are unlikely to ever forget.
With all that snow around, winter sports enthusiasts will not be able to resist the urge to hit the slopes. The world-class ski resort of Yllas lies within the Lapland region and offers 63 different trails accessed by 29 lifts. The apres-ski at the resort’s many bars and restaurants is pretty good too, meaning you can really enjoy the snow sports lifestyle.
Ice hole swimming
Whether or not you believe the claims that taking a dip into cold water accessed through a hole in the ice is good for you, it certainly is invigorating. More and more of these ice hole swimming locations are opening up across Lapland and some of them are even fitted with underwater lights to show off the setting. There is an ice hole at Yllas, but there are others that may be more convenient if you’re not visiting the ski resort.
Lainio Snow Village
For those who prefer to enjoy their ice fully-clothed there is the Lainio Snow Village, which quite simply does what it says on the tin – the entire hamlet has been created out of snow and ice. From the ice hotel to the local pub and slides for children, everything has been beautifully sculpted in freezing conditions.
If all this talk of snow and ice is making you feel cold, warm up with an exceptional sauna experience. Since there are more saunas in Finland than cars, you can find one just about anywhere. There are a few options if you want something a little different, however. There’s the gondola sauna at Yllas, which soars above the mountain; a traditional Sami sauna on the shores of Lake Kemijarvi; and, of course, a sauna made from snow at Sinetta.
As well as enjoying the natural paradise of Lapland it is good to find out more about the science behind it, the region’s history and the people who call this seemingly harsh part of the globe ‘home’. Arktikum provides answers to all of these inquisitive thoughts in a fun and informative museum and science centre.
To take a more in-depth look at the culture of the Sami people of Lapland, make your way to the Siida Museum. Located in the Siida village on the banks of Lake Inari, this national museum is split into two parts – one that looks at the area’s ecology and the other that really explains everything there is to know about the history of the Sami people, their traditions and what it’s really like to live in Lapland.
Ranua Wildlife Park
Arctic creatures have evolved to be equipped to live comfortably in the extreme conditions around the Arctic Circle, making the Ranua Wildlife Park a fascinating place to visit. From moose to polar bears, lynxes and wolves, there are some 50 wild animal species living at the park. As the northernmost zoo in the world, it is well worth a visit.