A Finnish Lapland winter escape is what people do in the winter season to experience what winter is really about. Think -35 degree temperatures, steaming hot saunas, 3.5 hours of sunlight and a whole lot of adventure.
Travelers come to Lapland to learn how insanely fun winter can be and of course to see for themselves what the sky can do up above the arctic circle. Not only after dark when the fluorescent colors light up the skies with the aurora borealis, but also throughout the day when the low hanging sun sits on the horizon showering the land in nordic pastels.
There is no better place to see it all unfold than in Muonio. While no Tromso or Rovaniemi, this magical area has all the trappings required of a Lapland visit – reindeer, huskies, saunas and of course clear skies to view the stunning Northern Lights. It is here that visitors can fully immerse themselves in a land of pristine beauty and enchantment with unique experiences amidst its dramatically snowy landscapes.
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Where is Muonio?
When many people think of Lapland, they think only of Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Village, however the arctic region of Lapland encompasses a large swath of northern Finland and offers and abundance of activities both in winter and summer. Muonio (said mourn-E-O) is located 200km North of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland on the border with Sweden.
Finnish Lapland is renowned for its breathtaking winter views, abundant with snow covered trees, frozen waterways and of course the enchanting Northern Lights. The allure of this region, and Muonio specifically, offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
How do you reach Muonio?
Heading north on the train from Helsinki you will arrive to the last stop, the northernmost railway station in Finland, Kolari. This is where you will disembark to head for your Finnish Lapland winter escape in Muonio.
Muonio can be reached by train as mentioned above or by flight. You can fly into Kittilä Airport. Both are about one hour from Muonio, making them equally attractive as travel options. However, I find traveling by train the perfect slow transition between the busyness of regular life and the tranquil landscapes that are awaiting here in the north.
Read more about how to get from Helsinki to Lapland
How cold will it get in Muonio Finland?
When you head out on a Finnish Lapland winter trip, you can expect temperatures to get quite cold and even as low as -40 celsius. During our visit, it got down to -36 one day which was extremely cold even with all our layers and clothing supplied by the hotel. Really it all depends on the current weather conditions, but the best plan is to expect very cold temperatures and be excited if you get lucky with warmer temperatures. The best time to visit Muonio for less extreme temperatures would be earlier and later in the winter season.
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Finnish Lapland Winter Escape at Harriniva Resorts
While there are plenty of places to stay and visit in Lapland, one of our favorites destinations for a truly Finnish Lapland winter escape is the Harriniva Resorts located in Muonio Finland. There are three resorts to choose from – Harriniva Adventure Resort, Torassieppi Eco Reindeer Resort and Jeris Lakeside Resort each offering a different vibe for your stay.
This third generation family run business was the first first to create all-inclusive week-long adventure programs for tourists. Each of the resorts has their own in-house restaurant, adventure activities at the doorstep, and versatile services on call.
During our visit, we stayed at the Harriniva Adventure Resort aka the husky resort, which was absolutely fabulous and perfect for our needs. While most of the outdoor activities mentioned here can be accessed through any of the hotels, it is best to discuss with the hotel what your visions are for your winter escape.
Harriniva Adventure Resort
The Harriniva Adventure Resort is located only 3 km from the main town of Muonio, but feels a world away. This river side property is ideal for a winter holiday to fully immerse yourself into the Lappish lifestyle and one of the best places to spot the Northern Lights. The resort is easily accessible as mentioned above from both the train station and the airport. The resort offers a variety of both accommodation options and activities to fill up your time.
Harriniva is home to one of Europe’s largest sled dog centers with over 300 dogs. These mighty pups take guests on mushing trips from a few hours to several days! This is a great place to stay if you love dogs and like being near to them.
Guests can book 3 to 7 night all inclusive holiday packages that cover all the best activities for you and your family.
Rooms at the Harriniva Adventure Resort
The resort offers a range of accommodation options, from cozy cabins to luxurious two story suites, each designed to provide comfort and warmth amid the winter chill. The spacious woody interiors enhance the overall experience by providing a feeling of being one with nature, with a touch of Lappish culture. From standard rooms, to sauna rooms and even a waterside log cabin, there is something for everyone.
Each room comes with a fold out sofa as well as beautifully appointed bathrooms with everything you need for your stay.
For parents worried about the upstairs loft, there is even a gate so you can keep the kids and sleepwalkers safe at night.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all buffet meals with special request available for gluten free or vegetarian needs. Overall, the food was great, although for me as an American quite different than what I am used to in a buffet! For one, the porridge is salty and the bacon is not crispy! Yes, I know, I am so American! 🙂 No, but really, it was great to have no worries about meals and have plenty of things to choose from.
There is an option for the dinner meals to upgrade to the Wilderness Menu which includes a sit down meal served to you with 3 courses. We tried this one night and it was fabulous. Of course the main was reindeer, which I don’t eat often, so my meal was substituted with fish, which was excellent. I think this is a great option for a special night or if you see something on their weekly menu that looks especially enticing.
Finally, a great way to experience traditional Sami culture is to participate in a dinner served in the traditional kota hut with an open fire. Here you will be served a delicious dinner as well as entertained by live joik music following dinner. You will learn about the stories behind the sounds of the Sami songs. This is a must do on any visit to Harriniva.
One of the best amenities here in my opinion is the ability to borrow winter clothing suitable for the weather conditions here in the far north. The resorts all offer guests winter jumpsuits that come in all sizes, thick winter boots, socks, balaclavas, and thick leather gloves. This offering makes it where it’s so easy to pack and you always know what you will be wearing!
At the Harrivina Resort there is also a communal sauna if you do not book a sauna room. The men and women are separated by a slatted wall sharing the hot rocks in the middle. It’s the perfect way to recover after a long day of activities.
Adventure Activities at the Harriniva Resorts
Harriniva Resort is a gateway to a myriad of winter activities. From husky sledding and snowmobiling to ice fishing and cross-country skiing, guests can immerse themselves in the thrill of many arctic adventures. The resort’s expert guides ensure that every activity is not only exhilarating but also safe for participants of all skill levels. Below I share just a bit about some of the offerings, but to get a better sense of the various all inclusive holiday packages on offer, go to Harriniva’s website.
Day or Overnight Husky Tour
Dog sledding is an imported adventure to Finland, but for the past more than 30 years it has been an integral part of the tourist business here. As such it has become one of the flagship tours for the Harriniva Resorts. The bucket list husky safari tour can be as short as 15 km done in a couple of hours up to a 5 day backcountry husky adventure. Guests can enjoy the scenery while the strong team of 6 pull you through the snow covered swamps and picturesque forests. You will drive your sled and swap with your passenger half way through the tour.
During our visit, as this was my first time, I was nervous to drive, so I enjoyed being the passenger for the entire route, but if you are able it is an exhilarating experience to have.
The overnight and longer husky safari trips sound amazing. I am not sure you can do these with children though, so I will have to wait until my son is old enough – then he can be the musher while I just ride!
Another high speed adventure offered on most of the all inclusive packages at Harriniva is a snowmobile adventure. During the winter months, going out on the snowmobiles allows visitors to fully experience the depth of the Lappish winter landscapes by getting much further afield. The one day program is suitable for beginners, with kids as young as 4 allowed to ride (with the guide). The driving distance is around 30 km for the short adventure and up to 80km on the longer adventures.
During our visit the weather was too cold for us to go out on the snowmobiles, but it really looks to be a great adventure worth checking out.
Spend the Day at a Reindeer Farm
At the Torassieppi Eco Reindeer Resort, there is a 100- year old Lappish Farm house and reindeer museum that you can visit in conjunction with a visit to the reindeer farm. While here, you can test your herder skills by learning about and practicing your hand with a Lappish lasso before driving a 3km track with a reindeer sleigh ride. While this reindeer ride is not the same as many reindeer safari options in other parts of Lapland, it is a eco friendly and sustainable way to work with the reindeer. As part of this time with the reindeer, you will take a short walk over to the village area where there is a beautiful ice restaurant that must be seen. Finally you will end your day with lunch in a traditional kota.
Go Out Ice Fishing
Do you love fishing? Why not try your luck with ice fishing here in Lapland! You will drill a hole through the river ice and learn the tricks of winter fishing with your local guide. This can be so much fun and such a unique experience, even if you don’t catch anything! Again this was not something on our itinerary, but it does sound great for those that are into fishing.
I heard that Finnish people learn how to cross country ski shortly after learning to walk. Whether that is true or not, it is an activity that is quite popular here and super fun to try. Here you will have a guide who will provide a basic lesson on cross country skiing before taking you out on some tracks in the area. I tried this at another area of Lapland and absolutely loved it! This is my jam – no downhills, just cruising along on flat surfaces!
Snowshoe & Arctic Sauna World Visit
One of my favorite activities that we participated in at Harriniva was our time snowshoeing at Pallas-Ylläs National Park,
which is home to the the largest fell area in western Lapland. I learned here that a fell is essentially a large hill, or mountain that has been smoothed over during the Ice Age. This snowshoe adventure is really top notch and so beautiful. Our hike was set right at sunset (which happened to be around 3;3o in the afternoon!) and offered up some of the most stunning colors I have seen in Lapland yet.
Following the snowshoe trek, you will be taken over to the Finnish sauna house, Arctic Sauna World, at Lake Jerisjärvi. You cannot have a Finnish Lapland winter escape without experiencing the favorite pastime of the Finns – a sauna and a cold plunge! There are 4 saunas here including the traditional Finnish smoke sauna as well as an opportunity to try out ice swimming in the frozen lake. We spent a good 2 hours here sampling each of the saunas and going back and forth to the cold water. What a tremendous way to end a day!
Spotting the Northern Lights
One of the most sought after Finnish Lapland winter activities is witnessing the dance of the Northern Lights. This natural phenomenon will delight you even if you have seen it a multitude of times. There really is nothing much like it on earth. The resorts have options where you can go aurora hunting via snowmobile, reindeer or bus. In addition, they also offer educational sessions to provide more information on this amazing sight. Here in Muonio, you have the best chance to see the Northern Lights as there are clear night skies without light pollution. We didn’t do a specific night tour, but rather just walked outside the resort to the frozen river and set up our tripods and got to work! What a stunning place to see one of the worlds most fascinating celestial displays.
What to Pack for a Finnish Lapland Winter Escape?
Layers! Merino wool layers are the absolute best things to pack for a Finnish Lapland trip. Other than that, as I mentioned above, you can borrow boots, (even an extra pair of socks), winter jumpsuit, balaclava and thick leather gloves from the resort which can supplement your own layers.
Overall the quality of the clothing we borrowed was great. I struggled a bit to find boots that fit me, but once I did they did the job and kept my feet nice and toasty.
I used the provided gloves on our first adventure, but they were quite bulky and difficult to maneuver my phone and camera, so I ended up just using my own gloves and mittens during the trip. If you are considering buying any gloves or mittens, I highly recommend these that allow you to easy access your camera or phone when needed without taking the entire glove off.
Of course you can visit this area of Lapland any day of the year as there are an abundance of outdoor adventures year round. However to really experience the wonder of the winter, a visit between Oct and April will make sure your days are filled with snow and ice bars and restaurants. It is also during the early part of winter that you will be able to experience the beauty of the polar night colors.
Regardless, you can’t go wrong whenever you visit. While many people visit Finland and only visit Rovaniemi for Santa’s Village or the snow hotels, I think an important part of being a good travelers is to get off the beaten path a bit and check out other locations!
A Finnish Lapland winter escape, particularly at Harriniva Resorts in Muonio, unfolds as a journey into a world of natural beauty and unforgettable experiences. The combination of Arctic adventures, cultural immersion, and the chance to witness the Northern Lights makes this destination a dream come true for those seeking a true winter wonderland escape that transcends the ordinary.
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