10 Exciting Things to Do in Lapland Finland

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A dream for many is a visit to a snowy winter destination. Our suggestion is to head to Finland. There are so many amazing things to do in Lapland Finland in winter that it will make all your wildest dreams a reality! Whether you hope to spot the Northern Lights, see reindeer, or go on an exhilarating sled right with huskies, we have you covered. Below we share our top 10 things that you need to put on your Finland Lapland winter bucket list!

Where is Lapland in Finland?


Lapland is actually a region in the greater Scandinavia that occupies parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. The word “Lapp” was used to refer to the indigenous Sami people who have long lived in this region, thus creating the name Lapland. In general Lapland lies within the Arctic Circle, offering an amazing array of unspoiled nature.

In Finland, Lapland encompasses a large swath of the northern part of the country, beginning just a bit south of the town of Kemi on the sea, reaching up to Finland’s most northernmost borders. For many visitors the town of Rovaniemi is synonymous with Lapland, but as you can see, that town is only a very small part of the region with a huge expanse waiting to be discovered.

Getting to/from Lapland

Shared from Visit Finland

Lapland is quite easily connected with Helsinki, the capital of Finland as well as other destinations around the world. There are now even direct flights to Rovaniemi from the UK and other places in Europe. If you are coming from Sweden or Norway, you can also connect to Finnish Lapland quite easily. 

Read More on our Guide to Getting to Lapland from Helsinki

There are 5 airports in Lapland including Rovaniemi and Kemi.

The easiest is to fly, however, it is quite an experience to take an overnight train from Helsinki to Kemi, Rovaniemi or even to the northernmost railway station of Kolari. The train is clean, comfortable and allows you to not waste time moving from one destination to another!

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How cold will it be in Lapland in winter?

People always want to know, how cold will it be in Lapland in winter and the easiest answer is COLD! Obviously it depends on what time of the year you visit, how far north you go and the current weather patterns, but in general you can assume it will be quite cold. During my recent trip I experienced temperatures down to minus 36 celsius and as warm as -11 celsius (and trust me once you have experienced -36, anything else feels downright warm at times!) with average temperatures around -20 celcius.

During our visit to Kemi, in the far south of Lapland, we experienced minus 24 degrees on the regular, and then as we reached further north to Muonio, we dipped down to -36. However the week after I left temperatures were much warmer and even close to 0 at times. The best is to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Winter jumpsuit is best worn in Lapland Finland
Many places will provide outdoor winter jumpsuits for their excursions. They easily fit over 2-3 layers of clothes to add extra warmth

What should I pack for a winter visit to Finland?

Merino wool and lots of layers is the quickest way to answer this common question. I packed only a small carry on as I knew that it didn’t really matter what I wore each day as it would be covered up by my jacket or a snow suit. The most important thing was having many breathable warm layers and warm clothes. My wardrobe consists almost entirely of wool, so it was not that difficult for me to put together breathable layers. I don’t use fleece, but many people also highly recommend a fleece layer to keep you warm and toasty.

As an example of what I wore almost daily:

  • For my legs: Thin light thermal merino wool leggings, thick Woolx leggings, topped with ski pants
  • For my upper: Think or thick thermal top depending on the temperature, my Wool& hoodie and an Irish thick wool sweater with my long down parka on top.
  • Extras: Gloves, mittens, balaclava plus a hat, neck buff/snood
  • Socks: 2 to 3 pairs of wool socks every day. Ideally with enough to switch out in the day if they get wet with moisture or sweat.
  • Leg Warmers: I wore these inside the hotels when I didn’t have my ski pants on, but needed a bit more warmth

If you haven’t spent much time in the arctic conditions (which I had not!), you will quickly learn that some things are more important than others. One is having room in your jacket, ski suit, shoes and gloves for air to warm up and keep you warm. This means buying your shoes too big so that you can wear multiple pairs of socks but also to keep space for your feet to warm up. This also means having space in your jacket to fit all of your layers and space for air to heat up as well. Lastly, having multiple pairs of thick wooly socks that you can change into when your feet get sweaty. Having any moisture in your socks in these temperatures can quickly make your feet cold. 

Another point to note that for many outdoor adventure guided activities, snow jumpsuits, boots, hats and gloves will often be provided as part of the tour, which means you just need to focus on your several base layers under this suit!

Top Bucket List Things to Do in Lapland Finland

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the things to do in Lapland Finland, this is our top recommendations that most visitors will enjoy regardless of their age or their physical abilities. This includes something for everyone. While many of these activities can be found all over Lapland, I have included the best places where I have personally experienced these and my top recommendations. 

Play in an Ice Castle

Visiting the ice castle in Kemi is a one of the best things to do in Lapland FinlandWith a long winter and an abundance of snow and ice, Finns are expert sculptors of both ice and snow!  In Kemi, an astonishing snow and ice castle has been created almost yearly since the 1990s. The glittering walls, shimmering walkways and sparklingly clear ice sculptures leave you awestruck. The cool thing is even if you visit during the summer, you can still see the Ice Castle as it is now built indoors so that year round visitors can take part in the fun. There is nothing quite like zipping down an ice slide at full speed or sitting on an ice throne!

If you aren’t in Kemi, you can also stay in a snow hotel, glass igloo or get married in a snow chapel in Rovaniemi. In Muonio you can dine in an ice restaurant or drink in a an ice bar at one of Harriniva’s resorts.

Another place to put on your bucket list if you are in Muonio is the Lapland Hotel Snow Village near Ylläs and Levi. With 20 million kilos of snow and almost half a million kilos of ice, you won’t be disappointed in their yearly designs!

RELATED: Discover this stunning off the beaten path Finnish Lapland winter escape 

Float in Ice on the Sampo Icebreaker Tour

One of the most epic bucket list adventures you can have in Lapland Finland is to go on the Arctic Icebreaker Sampo Cruise. This extraordinary boat located in Kemi, was a working boat ploughing the frozen seas of Finland before becoming a tourist attraction in the late 1980s. Today, this historic vessel takes visitors on truly unique cruises, showcasing its might in breaking thick frozen ice, sharing the history of the boat as well as offering visitors the opportunity to float in the frozen seas themselves!

During our visit, we were given a guided tour of the ship, with a visit to the former 1960s control room, the captain’s bridge and the very noisy engine room among other locations on the ship.

After the guided tour, you can slip into a bright orange survival suit  to swim in the frozen sea waters and walk on the frozen sea. This was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. Even though getting on that survival suit was a bit scary, it was well worth it in the end. 

Feed Reindeer & Learn About the Tradition of Reindeer Herding

feeding reindeer in Kemi FinlandYou cannot visit Lapland Finland without an excursion to see reindeer. Luckily, there are more reindeer in Finland than people so you will have plenty of opportunities to visit them. Reindeer are semi-domesticated, so you just might even spot one near roads or your accommodation while in Lapland.

Utilizing reindeer as transportation was an ancient way of getting around by the Sami people. Now, this is one activity that is pretty much available in every town throughout Lapland. During our trip to Lapland, we were able to visit 3 different reindeer farms and meet with a variety of reindeer herders.

One aspect of any reindeer experience I would highly recommend including is being able to learn about the native Sami culture and their traditions as reindeer herders. Not all locations are run by Sami, but do look out for them if you can to support the indigenous communities as much as possible.

In Kemi, we loved our experience with Arkadia Reindeer Farm where we were able to pet and feed the reindeer before going on a short “reindeer safari” sleigh ride just to get the idea of how these animals were used historically. Following the time with the family’s reindeer, we were treated to an excellent reindeer soup, with homemade bread and dessert in a traditional kota.

In Muonio, we also had an opportunity to feed reindeer before visiting a local museum about reindeer herders with the traditional clothing worn, equipment used etc. 

Many visitors enjoy going on a reindeer sleigh ride, I will say that even if you just feed and pet these cuties, it is also pretty special. 

Go on an Exhilarating Husky Safari

Husky and reindeer rides are probably the most fun and popular ways to explore the arctic landscape. While there are many fun things to do in Lapland Finland, these rides are the top of any visitors wish list. As mentioned above, a reindeer ride tends to be more as a showcase of how these animals were used in days old, however, huskies are an imported adventure for tourism purposes and is still going strong.

Husky safaris can be as short as 15km rides around the forest and as long as many days to really get out into the backcountry and experience life in the arctic wilderness.

As a general rule, Finland has very strict regulations on animal tourism and regularly inspects kennels to make sure that the dogs are being well looked after as well as not overworked. 

For some husky safari rides you will be the musher, and in others you will just be the passenger. I was offered the ability to do both, but enjoyed being the passenger more than the driver! I will tell you, these dogs love to RUN and they go fast. It really is exhilarating! We enjoyed our adventures in the Muonio region at both Harriniva Resorts and through Polar Lights Tours. Both had excellent programs with well trained and looked after dogs.

For summer visitors, you can still visit the kennels and often take the huskies for a walk or participate in their summer exercise programs. 

Spot the Northern Lights

I don’t think I know any on earth who doesn’t have seeing the aurora borealis on their bucket list. I have tried for years to spot them, but only here in Lapland Finland was I able to see them on an almost nightly basis.  Arguably the best place to experience the Northern Lights in vivid color is in the north of Finland, where there are clear nights and a long season of opportunity. The best time to spot them is from late October to mid April. If the sky is clear,  it is said that statistically, the northern lights can be seen almost every other night. 

Many visitors book a tour to see the auroras, but you can also hunt them on your own if you are staying somewhere without much light pollution. We saw them nightly on our visit to Muonio, but had no luck in the south at Kemi as there was too much light near the town. A popular way to spot the Northern Lights is on a snowmobile safari!

Top tip: Wear lots of layers, bring a tripod (and never touch your tripod without gloves on. I learned this the hard way!), invest in these mittens that you can take your fingers out of and be patient!

Try a Sauna and Ice Dip

I was told that there are more saunas in Finland than cars. I can certainly understand how that can be after my experiences in Finland. The sauna is amazing and a must for any visit to Finland at any time of year! 

While there are public saunas throughout the country, there are also many stunning sauna experiences that are well worth checking out. I particularly loved my experience at Arctic Sauna World where there were several different type of sauna rooms including the famous Finnish smoke saunas, as well as an icy hole in the frozen lake to take an ice plunge!

The quest is to challenge yourself to the full Finnish experience by dipping into the frozen waters followed by your steaming sauna session. Prior to trying this for myself I couldn’t understand how people got hooked on these ice baths, but once you feel the endorphins and adrenaline rush, you will be hooked as well. This really is one of best things you can do in Lapland Finland during your visit. 

Try Your Hand at Ice Fishing

One of the favorite pastimes for Finnish living in the wilds of Lapland is to go ice fishing. As you drive through this stunning landscape you will often see people sitting on their stool, fishing out of their small ice hole. Again, this is an experience that can be booked throughout Lapland, we highly recommend checking out Nordic Safaris which offers a range of activities. We participated in their night ice fishing adventure which included Finnish sliding snowshoeing out to a traditional fishing net. We then drilled our own holes on the frozen river to try our hand at fishing in a hole. We had zero luck, but still loved the experience and highly recommend trying this out. Nordic Safari offered us winter suits, hats and boots to keep us warm. This is one of the best things to do in Lapland Finland to really connect with the local culture.

Eat Dinner in a Traditional Kota

A kota is a type of traditional hut of the Sámi which offered a place of refuge from the elements of the outside weather. There is a fire pit in the center where you can warm up and cook your meals. Now, a kota is often used as a place to gather for meals either at hotels or still even in the backcountry. 

If you have the opportunity to have a meal in a traditional kota it is an experience to be savored. During our visit, we had lunch in a kota at a reindeer farm as well as part of our hotel stay in Harriniva. One of the best meals I had was Loimulohi, which is an old Finnish technique for cooking salmon on an open fire. I have seen this at German Christmas markets, but it was a true delight to experience it in a kota in Finland. 

Snowshoe or Go Cross-Country Skiing 

One of the best things to do in Lapland Finland is to get out into the beautiful untouched forests. Exploring the crown-snowed landscapes by foot is really an otherworldly unique experience. The silence, the pastel skies above you and nothing but snow around you is breathtaking. It is a great place to replenish your soul with some of the freshest air on earth.

Snowshoeing, cross country skiing or even fat e-biking are accessible and give a new perspective on the wintry forests and fells (basically hills/ rounded mountains).

There are many areas to take a guided tour or rent your gear and head out on your own. Ski resorts and places like Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park for example offers many easy to follow snowshoe routes to go on your own. Alternatively, in Kemi, we went with a local guide (from Airbnb experiences) cross country skiing over the frozen waters of the bay of Bothnia.

Hot tip! If you have the opportunity, try the sliding snowshoe (liukulumikenkä), the Finnish invention which makes moving around in the deep snow easier. We tried this on our ice fishing adventure with Nordic Safaris and it was so fun!

Visit Santa’s village

I said Rovaniemi is synonymous with Lapland, well so is famous Santa Claus Village. The hometown of Santa Claus is one of Lapland’s best-known attractions. I mean, where else can you meet Father Christmas as they say in Finland, in person, all year long? Rovaniemi is considered to be the official hometown of Santa, offering a unique array of activities for visitors, even outside of the Christmas season. This tends to be one of the most exciting things for families with young children and one of the top things to do in Lapland Finland.

Santa Village has tons of shops, restaurants and cafés, the famous Santa Claus Post Office, which is almost as popular as seeing the big man himself and so much more. Mrs. Claus even has her own cabin where you can decorate gingerbread cookies alongside the elves.

Obviously the busiest season here is in November and December, but it is well worth visiting all throughout the winter for a festive visit with Santa. 

There are so many amazing experiences to be had on a Finnish Lapland winter escape, that you just might need to plan several! Visiting during the winter months offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a real life winter wonderland that you thought only existed in fairy tales! Stay in ice hotels? Sure! See Santa’s village? Of course! Walk through a forest with snowy trees surrounding you and pastel arctic skies above? Yep, it is all here waiting for you in Finnish Lapland.

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