Things to see & do in Finnish Lapland

Forget Santa Claus Village. Move aside visions of rosy-cheeked elves and gift workshops. Holidays to Finnish Lapland give you more in the way of snowshoeing across snow-slumped spruce forests and whiteout wilderness, all doubling as one big cross country ski run. This isn’t cannoned-in, groomed ski snow, either. This is wild snow with only Arctic fox paws before you. Some people going on a winter holiday to Finland don’t get beyond Rovaniemi city, where Santa Claus Village has set up shop, but a great holiday to Finnish Lapland will treat the city as a handy gateway for whisking you out into the wilderness (where, you’ll soon find out, Santa really lives).
Finnish Lapland is hold-onto-your-hats stuff. Dog sledding and snowshoeing will freeze your grin to your face – which is a good excuse to defrost later beside a log fire or in the sauna.
Northern Lights tours explore remote Oulanka National Park, where light pollution is zilch and stars pack the sky. Family holidays seek out Santa on snowshoes and crash at hotels with snow parks, often in not too remote Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Finnish husky safaris teach you the ropes in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, where the last of the Sámi herders camp out with their reindeer. You can join them for dinner under the stars at a kota cabin. But perhaps Finnish Lapland’s best kept secret is its summer. Hike the hills, bike the spruce forests and canoe the lakes – you’ve got over 1,000 to choose from.

You’ll need to travel with a Finnish Lapland holiday specialist to really get to grips with the region. How else would you find the best snowshoe trails or eat dinner with a Sámi family? And who else would be able to tell you the pros and cons of each season, or tailor your activities to suit your group?

Top three national parks
in Finnish Lapland

A vast part of Finnish Lapland is covered by national parks that protect some of the last wilderness in Europe. The best holidays to Finnish Lapland spend most of the time skimming around forests and lakes here. Impossibly picturesque, the colours kaleidoscope from rust-red in autumn and snow-white in winter, to bright green in summer. Keep in mind that many national parks close in spring, when the trails are flooded by snowmelt.

1. Oulanka National Park

Oulanka National Park cosies up to the northerly Russian border, which just happens to be prime Northern Lights viewing territory. Most holidays here will pack you into a remote hotel or restored log cabin surrounded by nothing but peace and a pitch-dark sky. The snowy wilderness turns into an eerie land this close to the Arctic Circle – perfect for cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

2. Riisitunturi National Park

If you like your national parks impossibly photogenic, then pick a holiday that pops its head into Riistunturi National Park. You can go cross country skiing from lake to lake, husky sledding through the storybook forest, or snowshoeing on sugary snow. This is where you could also meet Sámi herding reindeer; a sit down with a Sámi family is the best way to understand the people who have looked after the land for a millennium or two.

3. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park

Ravines, waterfalls, snow-striped hilltops… Keep your hand on your camera, because you’ll need it at northwesterly Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. Autumn photography tours teach you where the best heather hills sit and exactly where to be for the golden hour before sunset. Or you could travel in midwinter, when the only light is the aurora borealis doing a Technicolor Mexican wave above your head.

Our top Lapland Holiday

Lapland holiday, husky safari & log cottage

Lapland holiday, husky safari & log cottage

Luxurious log suite,northern lights & overnight husky safari

From €1923 5 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2020: 7 Jan, 8 Jan, 9 Jan, 21 Feb, 22 Feb, 23 Feb, 7 Mar, 8 Mar, 9 Mar, 20 Mar, 21 Mar, 22 Mar
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Lapland or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Finnish Lapland holiday tips

You’ll need around a week to see Finnish Lapland; perhaps five days if you’re focussing on a theme like Northern Lights or husky safaris. Most holidays are small group tours that match you up with a varied group of people who are all on the same page as you are. It’s basically a readymade friendship group, usually made up of 16 people or less. Tailor made holidays are for travellers who’d prefer to personalise things like the holiday duration and lodgings. Accommodation is designed with the activities in mind. Northern Lights holidays will put you up in restored logging cabins in Oulanka National Park, where the aurora borealis dances right above your head and the sauna is waiting for you after a day in the snow. Family holidays might base you at a hotel with a snow park or swimming pool. Home-cooked food like a Sámi-style reindeer roast is usually a given. Winter holidays usually run between December and March. That means winter clothing (often included; just bring your base layers) and a cold weather mindset are necessary. Temperatures can sink 30°C below zero. Christmas is huge in Finnish Lapland, lakeside summer holidays are usually an August affair, while photography trips run in the autumn. Daylight hours are short in winter, so if you go in December and January you’ll likely sled and snowshoe in the winter twilight. All the better for seeing the Northern Lights with. Smartphones can be as useful as a chocolate teapot. If you want good photographs – especially of the Northern Lights – you’ll need a decent SLR camera that can cope with subzero temperatures. Even better: go on a photography holiday to learn how to use the changing light to your advantage.

What our travellers say
about Finnish Lapland

“Just book and go. Don’t pack too much. All the essential gear is provided and you will have a fabulous time. Take a camera rather than trying to rely on your iPhone which didn’t cope at all with the cold weather.” – Alison Rayner on Finland Winter Activity Holiday and Northern Lights

“Going at the start of January (one of the darkest times of the year for this region) means that one gets only about 2.5 hours of ‘daylight’. This is something to bear in mind as even 1-2 months will make a difference if you are someone who likes things light when doing activities. But if you don't mind, or are open to doing some things ‘at night’, then I would say to just go for it. In the end, it didn't bother me and made for some good long nights of sleep!” – Rebecca Huang on Finland Winter Activity Holiday and Northern Lights

“Be reasonably fit and you will enjoy the trip more, and don't go directly from a warm climate without acclimatising somewhere for the cold beforehand.” – Jonathan Gilbert on Finland Winter Activity Holiday and Northern Lights
Photo credits: [Page banner: Thomas Woodtli Follow] [Intro: Fabrizio Barbieri] [Oulanka National Park: MARCUS BAINBRIDGE] [Holiday tips: Giuseppe Milo]
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