Lapland—the mysterious place we all know as the home of Santa Claus, so distant and fairy, that when we were kids we felt like it doesn’t exist—is a real destination that can offer its visitors a once-in-a-lifetime experience. No matter whether you decide to book a flight in the winter and celebrate Christmas in the best way possible or to visit Northern Finland in the summer, Lapland always has something to make your journey a memorable one.
1. Spending a Night in a Glass Igloo
Ever thought about quitting your job and leaving the city after a busy day at work? Are you tired of the never-ending rush of the crowds and the road traffic? With its facilities, the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort offers its guests exactly what they have been dreaming about: tranquility, peace and comfort, combined with mesmerizing scenery and a modern interior touch. You can choose to spend the night either in a traditional log cabin or in a glass igloo. If you choose the second option, you can gaze upon the sky or even observe the magical dance of the northern lights and all this from the comfort of your own bed. The best part is you don’t need to worry about falling asleep and missing out on the phenomenon, because there is a special aurora alarm which informs you when there is northern lights activity.
2. Taking Part in a Reindeer Safari
There is probably nothing more pleasing than admiring these noble animals in their natural habitat. What’s even more impressive is that in Lapland their number roughly equals the number of people. By joining the reindeer safari, you would firstly be taken to a reindeer farm, where you can learn more about the animals and the people who take care of them. After that you can experience one of the traditional ways of travelling in the north- reindeer sleighing. This outlandish activity usually lasts about two hours, but for the enthusiasts there are also longer rides available with meals around a warming campfire included.
3. Joining the Arctic Survival Skills Workshop
If you are more adventurous and want to test your survival skills without risking your life, Lapland lives up to your expectations once again. With this course you will learn more about nutrition, hydration, clothing—their importance, how to choose the best materials for the cold, etc.—and some psychological aspects of surviving in the harsh conditions of the North. Everything from the length of the course to its content and goals depend on you. The workshop goes off under the supervision of experienced instructors—members of the Finnish Survival Guild and arctic explorers, so you can join even if you are a beginner and don’t have previous outdoor experience.
4. Go Ice-Fishing
Another interesting thing you can do in Lapland is going ice-fishing. It might sound complicated but in reality what you need more than experience is good planning. First of all, you would have to arrange some way of transport—for example a sled-car or a dog sled. Then you should choose a frozen lake and start fitting yourself out. Your fishing gear includes a fishing rod, a core drill for making a hole in the ice, a fishing lure and a folding chair since this activity requires a lot of patience. You should also put on several layers of warm clothes and bring some more with you. Last but not least you should have food and water supplies. Ice- fishing can be really enjoyable and soothing, almost feeling like meditation. It’s a good idea to look at it exactly as a spiritual experience, as catching fish itself depends more on luck. You can, of course, inform yourself about the direction of the wind on that day and the behavior of the fish in the particular season in order to increase your chances for success, but even this can’t guarantee you good results. Take some company with you and never underestimate the weather conditions of the North.
5. Visiting Santa Claus Village
Located in the Arctic Circle, 10km North from Rovaniemi, this holiday village is just like a place taken out from a fairytale. Its origins date back to the years after World War II when the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, wanted to visit the area to see the rebuilding process, after the destruction of Rovaniemi during the war. When the officials heard about this, they set about building a cabin eight kilometers north from the city. It marked the birth of the Santa Claus Village and can still be seen standing there. Today the village is a well-known tourist destination. Apart from the various activities included such as reindeer, husky safaris, fishing, skiing, and hiking, it offers something more—an attraction that draws more than 300 000 people from around the world every year—the most famous resident of the village—Santa Claus. You can meet him every day of the year for free or invite him to your cabin for a private visit and ask him to distribute personal gifts to your family and friends. You can also surprise your close ones with a letter sent from Santa Claus Main Post Office. Each post is stamped by hand with the special postmark of the post office.
6. Visiting Lampivaara Amethyst Mine
Does digging for a gemstone sound like your type of thing? Then you’d probably like the idea of visiting Lampivaara Amethyst Mine—the only gemstone mine in the world open to the public. The whole process of planning, buying tickets and getting there is guaranteed to awake your adventurous spirit, since the mine is located in the Pyha- Luosto National Park where cars aren’t allowed and there are strict starting hours for each tour, depending on the time of the year. If you plan your trip in the summer, you will get there by hiking through the Luosto forest. In the winter the roads leading there are closed, so you will travel through the snowy forests with a special vehicle—Amethyst Pendolino. After you reach your final stop, you can have a warm beverage, while listening to interesting history and geology stories, told by your guide. The last part of the tour takes you to the mine, where you can dig for your own lucky gemstone (which of course you can keep and bring back home).
7. Taking a Trip to the Northernmost Zoo in the World
If you are staying in Rovaniemi, visiting the Ranua Wildlife Park is a must. The zoo is open throughout the year and gives you the opportunity to observe around 50 Arctic species such as arctic foxes, polar bears, brown bears, fish otters, golden eagles, graylag gooses, moose, wild boars and many others. If you want to learn more about the animals and their habits you can book a guided tour in English, Spanish or Finnish. The guide will accompany you through the park and answer your questions. You can also rent an MP3 player at the ticket office with audio clips of the animals at the park. You will be provided with instructions and a map with markings to the corresponding audio clips.
8. Experiencing the Midnight Sun Phenomenon
Also known as The Nightless Night, this is another natural phenomenon, occurring in the polar regions of the world, which is worth witnessing. It’s mainly caused by the axial tilt of the Earth, which remains constant while the Earth revolves around the Sun. This results in the Northern Hemisphere receiving sunlight continuously for more than 24 hours. The closer you are to The North Pole, the longer the phenomenon lasts. You are probably asking yourself what you are going to do with all this time and light. Just enjoy all the summer activities such as horseback riding, swimming, hiking, river cruises and so on. You can also join a photography workshop organized particularly for this event in Saariselkä and meet other open-minded people, with whom you are going to learn more about photography and embark on a 12-hour photography mission at the end of the workshop.
9. Getting on a Riverboat Cruise
In the summer the landscape in Lapland changes beyond recognition—the snow melts, the rivers and lakes are no longer covered in ice, and everything becomes green. What better way to enjoy this whole picture than sailing? Apart from organized river safaris, there are boats available for renting. Each one has safety equipment, an electric route map, GPS locator, and an emergency button, so you can wander without actually getting lost. You can stop wherever you want and have a picnic, go for a swim, or simply drop anchor to watch the sunset.
10. Trying Sauna
Saunas are widespread all over the world and most of us have probably tried staying in one, but only in Finland have they been entwined in the local culture, so if you want to experience this country to the fullest, you have to give it a try. This Finnish tradition has been practiced for around two thousand years and gives no sign of vanishing any time soon. In contrast to other countries, here people have saunas not only in hotels but also in their houses or apartment buildings. For a population of 5.3 million people, 2 million saunas aren’t that bad, so you can be sure finding one wouldn’t be hard. The etiquette is pretty simple—you only have to take off your clothes and get in the sauna, where temperatures are around 100°C. It is considered polite to shower before you go in. When you get too hot you can go out, roll in the snow or jump in the water if there is a lake or a pool around you, and repeat. The most valuable advice in order to enjoy this relaxing activity is to try and not to worry about being naked.