Lapland in winter is a pocket of snow-dumped paradise that many overlook as a place where children visit Santa – which of course, you can do.
But, it’s way more than that. It’s where skies are filled with the dancing northern lights and reindeer aren’t just a thing you see in Christmas films. It’s where heaps of unique, magical and even thrilling activities can be had.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip that will undoubtedly become one of your favourites.
After a recent trip to Finland in the winter, we squeezed in as many bucket list things to do in Lapland in winter as we possibly could.
In this guide, you’ll not only discover what activities there are but also everything you need to know before you go. This includes things like where to stay and what to pack – because trust me, you won’t want to forget any layers for this chilly winter destination in northern Europe!
LAPLAND IN WINTER: 15 BUCKET LIST THINGS TO DO
By far one of the most exciting things to add to your Lapland bucket list is a snowmobile safari. It’s thrilling, idyllic and stunning, all in equal measure.
The experience usually lasts between 3-4 hours and you’ll head deep into the forests and across open planes of untouched snow. At the halfway point, you’ll usually stop for a hot drink and something to eat at a log cabin with a fire built by your guide.
It’s important to note that to go snowmobiling in Lapland you must hold a driving license and bring it with you on the day of the safari. Children over the age of 15 will be able to sit on the back of the snowmobile and under 15’s will be pulled along in a sleigh by the guide.
Check prices: Snowmobile tours
Check out the full guide: Snowmobiling in Lapland
There is a real sense of magic about going on a reindeer safari in Lapland. Even though at the age of 28, I know Santa is not real, I still found a sense of excitement about all of the reindeer being owned by Santa and searching for Rudolph – which of course, I couldn’t find.
Nevertheless, learning about the life of a semi-wild reindeer, being pulled in a sleigh, and getting to feed the reindeer at the farm is one of the most special and unique things to do in Lapland in winter.
There is nothing strenuous about this excursion – in fact, it’s pretty relaxing. As such, this makes it a great activity for all ages.
Check prices: Reindeer Safari
Check out the full guide: Reindeer Safari in Lapland
Whilst you may have the assumption that a husky safari is similar to a reindeer safari – you know, relaxing, nothing strenuous etc, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A husky safari is fast and exhilarating and requires a bit of strength to drive the sledge.
You’ll be put into pairs and one of you will drive the sledge – known as mushing in Lapland – and the other will sit back and relax as they’re chauffeured through the snow-drenched forest. At the halfway point, you’ll switch with your partner.
Once you’ve completed the trip, you’ll usually head into a tipi or log cabin with a fire to learn a little more about why huskies are used for sledging and how they’re prepped for the season each year. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to meet one of the huskies too.
Check prices: Husky Safari
Check out the full guide: Husky Safari in Lapland
DISCOVER THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN LAPLAND IN WINTER
The northern lights in Lapland are truly spectacular and are something most visitors are desperate to see during their trip.
We saw them in Luosto, but you can also see the northern lights in Rovaniemi, as well as other locations.
You’ll need to be at the correct altitude with clear skies, have the correct solar winds, and no light pollution to be in with a chance of seeing this natural phenomenon.
To help with your chances, I’d recommend downloading the Aurora App.
This will provide a forecast of when they can be spotted and give you the best locations nearby to view them. You can also turn on notifications to be alerted if they’re visible, however more often than not this is during the night when you’ll be asleep! If you’re super keen to see them, then make sure you keep your device on loud – we promise that it will be worth it!
Alternatively, you can leave the hard work and logistics to the locals and book onto a northern lights tour.
Of course, you’re not guaranteed to see the northern lights, but should they be on the horizon then your tour guide will undoubtedly take you to one of the best and most peaceful viewing spots.
Check prices: Northern Lights
WINTER SNOW SHOE HIKE
If hiking is your thing, then snowshoeing in Lapland will certainly be one of the most unforgettable hikes you’ll ever do.
You’ll head deep into the deserted forests of Lapland and tread through untouched knee-high snow. You’ll quickly begin to realise how essential snowshoes are for any hiking trip in Lapland during the winter months.
Although the activity is strenuous, the serenity of nature and the cold air hitting your rosy cheeks is a feeling hard to beat.
One of the best places to go snowshoeing is Pyhä-Luosto National Park – one of Finland’s points of interest. There are heaps of signposted trails that lead to the top of the hill and provide fantastic views over Lapland covered in a blanket of snow. Our guide also told us that this was one the best places to catch the northern lights too!
Check prices: Snowshoeing tour
While regular fishing and ice-fishing do share some similarities like relaxing among nature and well, catching the fish, the whole experience is totally different. First of all, you have to take a drill with you – which is definitely not something you do with regular fishing.
You’ll head out onto a frozen lake and your guide will pick the perfect spot for you to get beneath the snow and ice.
You’ll learn the art of how to drill the perfect hole to reach the water and discover the best techniques for catching the biggest and best fish. With some luck, you should catch one and be able to cook it on the fire which your guide will build for you after the experience.
Check prices: Ice Fishing
If you love go-karting then ice-karting will be right up your street. With slippery surfaces requiring significant skill and the unique setting of snow-laden trees in the background, what’s not to love?!
You’ll get suited and booted and head out onto a frozen lake (or something similar), be strapped into your kart and then let loose for heaps of exhilarating/terrifying fun.
Typically, the driver will need to be at least 150cm to drive the kart, however, for those smaller, some companies offer a mini-karting experience.
Check prices: ice-karting
WINTER ICE-CLIMBING EXPERIENCE
Much like many of the other experiences on this list of things to do in Lapland in the winter, ice-climbing isn’t something many countries can offer due to their lack of ice. As such, ice-climbing isn’t just one of the most awesome bucket list things to do in Lapland, but the world.
You’ll need a decent amount of strength for ice-climbing and the heights certainly aren’t one for the faint-hearted.
Although you’ll be dressed head to toe in appropriate weather gear, you’ll soon work up a sweat as you scramble up the icy cliff edge.
Many of the best ice-climbing experiences take place in Pyhä-Luosto National Park which is a beautiful setting.
You’ll usually need to be at least 12 years old to give it a go and from start to finish is typically around two and a half hours.
For the more creative people out there, then ice-sculpting is a great activity in Lapland. Although, I will say it is slightly deceptive with the name ice-sculpting, as it’s more a large block of solid snow than ice. But then again, you’ll probably find a few misleading things like that when you’re in Lapland.
Like beef and….
…I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Anyway, for your ice-sculpting experience, you’ll be put into small groups of around 4 – although this will vary by company. You’ll agree on what masterpiece you’re going to create and then be given some small tools to start carving your creation.
Ice sculpting is relaxing and enjoyable for those who are looking for something a little less intense, while still offering a unique and fun experience.
A trip to the Amethyst Mine in Pyhä-Luosto is both fascinating and unique.
Upon arrival, you’ll hop in a snowcat – a special type of truck used to move across deep snow – and this will take you to the top of a hill where the mine sits. After you’ve admired the view, you’ll head into the mine to learn about the different types of stone formed over 2000 million years ago deep within the ancient mountains in Finland.
Once you’re clued up, you’ll have the opportunity to mine your very own stone – likely to be amethyst, however, there are a few different types of stone down there. You’ll be able to take this home for free as a reminder of your trip to the Amethyst Mine!
This is an exciting experience for both kids and adults alike.
Check prices: Amethyst Mine
ENJOY A NATURAL SPA EXPERIENCE
A Lapland spa experience is slightly different to the usual, relaxing spa experience that you’d get in the UK. Whilst you will definitely leave feeling refreshed, it isn’t the kind of place where you sit around the pool reading your book in between trips to the jacuzzi. In fact, it’s far from it.
If you’ve heard of Wim Hoff, then you might be able to guess what’s coming.
A Lapland spa experience involves an ice-cold dip in a frozen lake before rushing to the sauna to regain feeling in your toes – any probably many other parts of your body. Once you’ve completed one round, you’ll repeat this a few more times.
You may be thinking I’m going completely crazy with this suggestion, however, there are proven benefits of this madness – including better heart health, blood circulation and skin!
Fat-biking is essentially mountain biking in the snow. It’s called fat-biking as the tyres on the bike are really fat, which allows you to speed through the snow without slipping all over the place.
Although most of the towns will have great trails nearby if they’re offering fat-biking as an activity, you’ll have a particularly great experience if you’re staying somewhere like Luosto which has a national park nearby!
Check prices: Fat Biking
VISIT THE ARCTIC CIRCLE IN THE SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE
Not only is the Arctic Circle home to Santa Clause himself, but it’s where you’ll find heaps of festive activities such as reindeer rides alongside dozens of cute shops and restaurants.
It’s a popular spot among tourists and just moments away from Rovaniemi Airport, making it the perfect place to pop spend half a day exploring before heading back home.
It’s worth noting that due to the popularity, you’ll need to book ahead for reservations during peak season.
STAY AT THE FIRST EVER ICE-HOTEL IN LAPLAND
The ice hotel in Lapland was one of the first of its kind to be created. It’s located 200km north of the Arctic Circle and is definitely a bucket list activity in Lapland if you’re visiting in winter.
Each guest suite is built entirely out of ice and furnished with appropriate bedding to ensure you still get a restful night’s sleep. This is an incredibly unique experience and one that changes with each year that goes by, as the ice melts away in the summer months and the guest suites are re-designed and carefully built ahead of the winter season.
Although we didn’t get to stay here because we were on an organised trip, if we were doing a DIY trip to Lapland then we certainly would have had this on our list!
STAY IN A GLASS IGLOO
Alternatively, if you’d rather keep out of the cold then a glass igloo is a great alternative. You’ll spend the night under the stars, and hopefully the northern lights if you’re lucky!
Due to increased popularity, glass igloos can be found at most resorts these days. However, we quite like the idea of heading into Lapland’s wilderness to a more remote location with little more than snow-covered trees and crystal-clear skies.
LAPLAND IN WINTER FAQ
WHERE IS LAPLAND?
Below is an interactive map so that you can see exactly where Lapland is in the world.
WHERE IS LAPLAND, AND IS LAPLAND A COUNTRY?
No – Lapland is a region that spans over four different countries: Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. However, the most popular country to visit Lapland is Finland.
HOW COLD IN LAPLAND IN WINTER?
During the winter months, the weather in Lapland can reach lows of -40 degrees, so you’ll need to have all of the appropriate gear to stay warm.
WHAT IS THE COLDEST MONTH IN LAPLAND IN THE WINTER?
Typically, the coldest month in Lapland is January.
BEST TIME TO VISIT LAPLAND
The best time to visit Lapland is between November and March. However, spending Christmas in Lapland is the most magical.
WHAT AIRPORT DO YOU FLY INTO TO GET TO LAPLAND IN WINTER?
As mentioned earlier, Lapland spans over 4 countries. However, if you’re visiting Finnish Lapland then you will most likely need to fly into Rovaniemi Airport.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAPLAND IN WINTER
Luosto is just 1 hour and 30 minutes from Rovaniemi Airport and it’s where we chose to base ourselves. It’s a remote town in the Finnish wilderness and is situated practically in Pyhä-Luosto National Park . As this is one of the best locations for activities like snowshoeing and ice climbing, it’s a pretty good spot to stay in! There is also a small ski resort in the town if you fancy an afternoon on the slopes or you’re just starting out too – in fact, it’s where I learnt to ski when my parents took me to Lapland as a child to see Santa! I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know you were able to ski in Finland!
Although I may be slightly biased, I think that Luosto is one of the best places to visit in Finland.
Rovaniemi is probably the most convenient of locations to stay in Lapland, particularly if you’re doing the whole Santa thing with children. Or not with children, that’s cool too. Most accommodation will be no more than a 10 minutes drive from the airport and you’ll have heaps of choice when it comes to choosing a company to book excursions with. We briefly stopped in Rovineimi and it’s certainly one of the busier locations. Plus, it’s super convenient if you’re only heading to Lapland for a short trip.
One thing to bear in mind is that Rovineimi isn’t very far north and this means you have less chance of seeing the northern lights.
Levi is actually a resort and Kitilla is the nearby town. However, most people refer to Levi being the area. It’s the farthest north of all of the locations and arguably the best place to see the northern lights. Similarly to Luosto, there is a ski resort as well as a national park so it’s a great place to do some of the best winter activities in Lapland.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO LAPLAND IN WINTER
Throughout this post, I’ve mentioned that Lapland gets extremely cold in winter and you’ll need to pack as many layers as you can – particularly if you’re doing a DIY Lapland trip where you only have yourself to rely on for extra clothes. We’ve put together the below list of everything you’ll need to keep warm for your trip to this super awesome, but SUPER cold country. I’d also recommend overpacking rather than underpacking, purely based on the cost of clothes (and pretty much everything else) in Lapland.
- Thermal layers
- Base jumper
- Thermal socks
- Snow Boots
- Hand warmers
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING LAPLAND IN WINTER
To summarise, visiting Lapland in winter is one of the most magical, once-in-a-lifetime, experiences that is way more than a place to see Santa; it’s a place for festive and unique activities. A place to witness the other-worldly aurora and discover the interesting way of living in Lapland.
We hope you have the most amazing trip and as always, if you have any questions then feel free to drop a comment down below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
If you’re looking for more information on Lapland then the below posts may be of interest to you.
- Snowmobile Safari in Lapland / A bucket list adventure activity that should be on everyones itinerary for a trip to Lapland
- Husky Safari in Lapland / An amazing adventure through the snow and surrounded by insanely cute huskies!
- Reindeer Safari in Lapland / A peaceful and magical experience through the snowy forest
Stay Wild Travels.
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