Lapland holidays

Experience Lapland

Best Places to Visit

Visiting a Sami village, especially in winter, is a highlight of any Lapland holiday. Tours can be taken from most of the tourist towns, and it's also possible to link up with a Sami who will take you into his home village and show you traditional life in one of the most inhospitable climates on earth.

Ranua Wildlife Park is set some 80kms from Rovaniemi and is home to over 60 northern and Arctic species, including polar bears, Arctic foxes, wolves, wolverines and lynx. It's the perfect opportunity to see the wild occupants of the Arctic lands in as natural a setting as possible, and far safer than meeting up with members of the larger species in the wilderness!

The Amethyst Mine at Lampvarra Hill lies in the popular visitor centre of Luosto and introduces visitors to the ancient techniques used to mine the beautiful semi-precious stones. Legends and tales are part of the presentation, and visitors can comb a surface area where the stones are found.

The Arctic Snow Hotel on Lake Lehtoajarvi at Sinetta is world famous and unique as the only hotel in the world carved out of ice and snow and renewed every year. Overnight visitors can sleep warmly in specially-designed sleeping bags surrounded by walls of sparkling ice crystals.

Many visitors arrive in Lapland during the winter for one reason - to see the Aurora Borealis in all its splendour. Known as the Northern Lights, this fantastic natural phenomenon has fascinated humanity for millennia. North of the Arctic Circle is the best place to view the unending ribbons of unearthly green light as they weave across the sky.

Located on the northernmost shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, the towns of Kemi and Tornio have become better known as Sea Lapland. Home to the largest snow building in the world, the Snow Castle, Sea Lapland also attracts visitors for its spectacular white-water rivers and the Bothnian Bay National Park archipelago.

Levi offers a traditional, Finnish experience. While it might be home to the biggest skiing facility in Finland, the pretty village at the base of the mountain is packed with character and a range of excellent shops. The numerous restaurants offer traditional Lappish delicacies.

To learn something of Lapland's indigenous people, the Sami, a visit to Inari is well-advised. A tiny village, it is the cultural centre of the Sami people and the seat of the Finnish Sami Parliament.

Top Landmarks

To find out more about the amazing history and traditions of the Sami peoples, the Sami Museum and Nature Centre in Siida is the place. A meeting place for local Sami as well as a fascinating exhibition space for traditional artefacts and cultural information, the complex gives a glimpse into a way of life that has remained mostly unchanged for centuries.

Arktikum in Rovaniemi is both a science centre and museum dedicated to all aspects of the mysterious world of the Arctic. Its highlight is the Chronicles from Finnish Lapland, an exploration of man and nature in the land of the midnight sun that takes in the lives of moose, bears, birds and much more.

As every child knows, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole. But he has a second home in Lapland where he and his helpers prepare for their annual Christmas trek across the skies. Santa, his reindeer, his elves, his workshops and the Santa Park are must-sees during family visits to Rovaniemi.

Lapland is home to a plethora of national parks, with the best known in Swedish Lapland. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Laponia holds two parks, the largely untouched Muddus National Park with its primaeval forests, ravines and swamps, and the Padjelanta National Park, set above the tree line.

The landscape around Kittila is the closest to mountainous in Lapland and is stunning in the winter season. It's also the home of Lapland's famous Levi ski resort and a popular tourist destination for UK holidaymakers.

Entertainment

Nightlife in Lapland is concentrated mainly in the little towns of Rovaniemi and Kevi, and consists of cosy pubs and watering holes. The best way to find what's hot and what's not in Rovaniemi is to wander down to the main square and interact with the locals. Hanging out with your new friends for the night or even being invited to a house party is standard here and gives a glimpse into life in this remote, inhospitable land.

For a hot night in a cool climate, Rovaniemi's Doris Disco comes recommended as friendly and fun, and features a great choice of beers. Pub Paha Kurki is a favourite pub in the town, set near the centre and offering domestic and international rock music. Beer is the traditional drink here, with Koff, Kahu, Olvi and Lapin Kulta the favourite brands.

Nightlife in the ski resort areas during the winter season may not be as lively as in the Alpine resorts, but it has its own charm. Laplanders adore karaoke, and the sight of female revellers arriving on snow-cats, stripping off their helmets and snowsuits to reveal black cocktail dresses and changing their boots for high heels is one of the delights of a night out here.

Rovaniemi Theatre is the northernmost professional playhouse in Finland, set in the Lappa House and giving regular performances of works by Finnish playwrights. The Maxim movie theatre shows films in English with subtitles in Finnish and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra holds several concerts a year.

Dining Out

Although Lapland isn't a hub for fine dining, even the smallest towns have a few eateries serving warming, filling food. Rovaniemi and the winter ski villages have the best choice, with restaurants located in hotels as well as in the centres.

Fish, especially salmon, reindeer and other game meat, and a variety of berries form the base of Lapland cuisine, with the cloudberry highly valued and used in desserts. Rich, warming soups such as bierggojubttsa are made with root vegetables, potatoes and meat, and suovasbierggo is smoked meat, usually served fried. Birtggomales are chops and other meats, served as a five-course meal, with each meat accompanied by a rich broth.

Fish dishes include salmon (fresh, smoked or salted) and cod is also popular. Favourite desserts involve cloudberries, served either fresh or as warm jam with ice cream, and jabma uses the stewed leaves of the mountain sorrel, served with milk and sugar. To end a meal, coffee is served with the unique and delicious Lapland cheese.

Traditional restaurants are often set in wooden Lapp huts and offer entertainments such as Sami storytelling and traditional music and dance. The hotel eateries have a choice of international cuisine, including pasta and salads.

Parks

Most of Lapland is an unspoilt natural wonderland divided into a good number of national parks. Sarek National Park in Swedish Lapland is a true wilderness, great for hiking in summer and views of the Sarek Mountain chain in winter. Perameri National Park is set on a huge, isolated bay with offshore islands and fishing points, and the Urho Kekkonen National Park borders Russia and has a wide variety of wildlife.

Romance

Perhaps the most romantic Lapland setting of all is a snug, warm log cabin in a snowy forest with the Northern Lights gleaming overhead. Even cuddling down onto a layer of reindeer skins on your ice bed at the famous Arctic Snow Hotel can be romantic, and taking a dog sledding trip to your private cabin complete with a Finnish sauna gives a new meaning to getting away from it all. For the most romantic, snowy-white wedding ever, choose a lakeside, ice hotel or igloo village destination.

Family

The famous Santa Park in Rovaniemi may be the most popular family destination in Lapland, but there's much more to keep kids amused in this snowy wonderland. Dog sledding and reindeer sleigh rides are exciting and fun, and are available at all the large towns. Family-friendly skiing holidays are on offer at all the resorts, with the villages themselves smaller and less frantic than the popular Alpine resorts in Europe.

Adventure

The wild, untamed expanses of Lapland are perfect for outdoor activities at any time of year, although for the magic of a unique Arctic experience, a winter visit is best. Favourite activities include safaris across vast snowfields by snowmobile, learning to drive your own team of huskies, reindeer sleighing, downhill or cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. For summer visitors, horseback riding, hiking and trekking the vast wildernesses make for the perfect break.

Need to know

Language

Set in the Scandinavian Arctic region, Lapland covers large areas in Finland and Sweden, and a small part of Norway, with Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish the local languages. Finnish is spoken by about 5 million people, on the mainland. The nomadic, reindeer-herding Sami peoples are its principal inhabitants and have their own Sami language. Although an important reminder of the Sami culture, only around 15,000 people speak Sami and the language is considered to be under threat. English is spoken by those working in the tourist industry in towns and cities across the region. However, it is always worth picking up a Finnish phrasebook, as the Lapps tend to favour those who make even the most basic attempts.

Currency

Euro and the Swedish Krona are accepted currencies in Lapland, and all major credit cards are accepted in cities and towns. In the Finnish/Swedish and Finnish/Norwegian border areas, the Krona is the most acceptable currency, but it's convenient to use a credit card for most payments, keeping small change for buses and small purchases. ATMs are readily found in the towns and currency exchange is best done at banks or airports. While banks tend to be open between the hours of 10am and 4.30pm, many only operate exchange services between 10am and 1pm. While exchange rates are consistent between banks, there may be a variation in the rates of commission. Notes are available between five and 500 Euros while coins range between five and fifty cents. One and Two Euro coins are also accepted as legal tender.

Visas

Finland, Norway and Sweden are all members of the Schengen Agreement. This is an agreement between 26 Schengen members, allowing citizens of nations which are party to it to enter without a visa. Additionally, nationals of EU and EFTA countries, including the UK, do not need a visa, even for an extended stay. Nationals of certain other countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, may enter visa-free for a stay of up to 90 days. All other nationals should contact their nearest Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish consulate or embassy for further visa details.

Climate

It’s no secret that Lapland can be more than a little chilly, with temperatures dropping to around -12°C during the winter months. When summer arrives, these can rise to around 0°C, but it isn’t just the higher temperatures that make Lapland such an enchanting summer destination. Throughout June and July travellers can expect to witness the ‘Midnight Sun’, where the sun doesn’t set at all for several weeks.

Main Airports

Lapland is served by six main airports which are operated by the country’s airport organisation, Finavia. Collectively, the Rovaniemi, Kittila, Ivalo, Kemi-Tornio, Kuusamo and Enontekiö airports handle around one million passengers annually, each featuring their very own draw.

Rovaniemi airport sits right on the Arctic Circle, and is often referred to as ‘Father Christmas’s airport’. Kittila is located close to many tourist centres, Ivalo is a haven for wilderness trekkers and Kuusamo is nestled right in some of Lapland’s most picturesque scenery, making it a bit of a tourist hub.

Flight Options

Finnair and Norwegian are the main airlines with routes to Lapland airports, although Thomas Cook, Jet2 and Thomson offer winter seasonal charter flights and package holidays. Helsinki is the hub for flights from the UK, with onward flights to Rovaniemi Airport. Monarch offers a direct seasonal route from London Gatwick and Manchester to Kittila, while easyJet and Thomson operate seasonal flights from Manchester and London Gatwick. For Norwegian Lapland, a flight from the northern Norwegian city of Tromso runs to Hammerfest.

Travel Advice

Most Lapland airports don't offer daily flights to destinations outside the region and, during the high winter tourist season, fares rise and seats sell out. The shoulder seasons see special offers, but the melt from the winter snows can put a dampener on outdoor activities. Summer sees many thousands of Scandinavians flock to Lapland for fishing, hiking and trekking, with travel costs rising as a result.

Other Transport Options

It's possible to travel from the UK, as far as Helsinki, by train and ferry, although not all ferries operate during the winter season. The fastest route is by Eurostar to Brussels, picking up the ICE high-speed express to Cologne and continuing to Copenhagen via the Borealis night sleeper. The Copenhagen express to Stockholm is the next step, followed by a Viking Line ferry trip to Turku in Finland and an inter-city train to Helsinki. Once there, a 90 minute flight to one of Lapland's airports, a long-distance bus trip or self-drive gets you to the heart of the region.

Getting Around

Lapland is sparsely populated, with considerable distances between destinations and dangerous driving conditions in winter. In the Finnish and Swedish sectors, trains, buses and planes are the most-used options and, in the Norwegian sector, planes and long-distance buses are popular.

A scenic way to travel along the coast in Finnmark, Norway's Lapland, is by the Norwegian Coastal Express ferry, calling at all the little harbours spread out along the coastline.

Bus

ExpressBus, Ketosen Liikenne Oy and Matkahuolto Bus give a wide network of links between inhabited areas. There are fewer bus networks in Finnmark, including Norwaybus Express, and Swedish Lapland has LTN Buses and Lanstrafiken Buses.

Train

Finnish Lapland trains run as far north as Rovaniemi and Kemi. Train travel from Helsinki to Rovaniemi with VR, Finland's national rail service, takes at least 12 hours and sleeping cars are provided.

Air

There are no connections by air between the three countries; Lapland sectors. The only way to travel between the popular towns across Lapland is to fly to Helsinki and pick up a connection. The exception is Kittila Airport, which offers domestic flights to Ivalo with Finnair, but Kuusano, Kemi-Tornio, Enontekio and Rovaniemi airports only offer services to Helsinki. Finnair and Blue1 are the most-used carriers, along with Wideroe in Finnmark.

Ferry

A scenic way to travel along the coast in Finnmark, Norway's Lapland, is by the Norwegian Coastal Express ferry, calling at all the little harbours spread out along the spectacular coastline. The route is famous as one of the world's most stunning sea voyages.

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LAPLAND`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. Lapland is Finland's largest region
  2. For 73 days a year, the sun doesn't set. In the month of June, there are between 21 and 24 hours of sunlight a day.
  3. The number of reindeer in Lapland is roughly equivalent to the number of people.
  4. There are 23 municipalities in Lapland with the northernmost being Kiruna.
  5. Lapland is home to Sweden's highest mountain, Mount Kebnekaise.
  6. Lapland has its own, gourmet cheese. Known as 'Squeaky Cheese' because of the noise it makes when eaten, it is the oldest cheese in Finland.
  7. Lapland's Ice Hotel aims to be carbon-neutral within the next year.

FACTS

  1. Lapland is Finland's largest region
  2. For 73 days a year, the sun doesn't set. In the month of June, there are between 21 and 24 hours of sunlight a day.
  3. The number of reindeer in Lapland is roughly equivalent to the number of people.
  4. There are 23 municipalities in Lapland with the northernmost being Kiruna.
  5. Lapland is home to Sweden's highest mountain, Mount Kebnekaise.
  6. Lapland has its own, gourmet cheese. Known as 'Squeaky Cheese' because of the noise it makes when eaten, it is the oldest cheese in Finland.
  7. Lapland's Ice Hotel aims to be carbon-neutral within the next year.

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