Finland wilderness holidays

The Peter Parker Principle runs as follows: with great power comes great responsibility. Which could be a neat summary of Finland’s Everyman’s Rights, the equivalent of Scotland’s Right to Roam. Anyone can walk, snowshoe and forage almost everywhere (though fires are prohibited). But you have an obligation to landowners and other people – to treat wild places with respect.

“This did become a bit of a problem during Covid,” says Riitta Kiukas, founder of our Finland holidays partner, Skafur Tours. “We saw inexperienced people going into the wilderness alone and not behaving responsibly, leaving waste behind for example.” Anyone offering nature-based tourism on state-owned land in Finland must cooperate with Metsähallitus, the enterprise that manages their usage and conservation, to ensure their practices are sustainable.

Organised activity tours in Finnish Lapland such as Riitta’s are the best way to explore Finland’s majestic wilderness. They follow the rules to protect these precious landscapes, but they also give you a deeper connection to them through cultural and nature-based experiences. 

Finland has 12 wilderness areas, spanning 15,000km², all of them found in northern Lapland and maintained by Metsähallitus. These are strongholds of indigenous Sami culture, and only their traditional means of livelihood, such as hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry, can be practised here. But with cities offering more attractive employment prospects and an ‘easier’ lifestyle, many Sami communities are dwindling. Responsible tourism in Finnish Lapland that puts an emphasis on showing travellers authentic Sami culture and supporting their lifestyle can encourage younger generations to stay.
Then there is the Wild Taiga region in north-east Finland but south of Lapland, a spectacular backdrop for photography and wildlife holidays. The pristine landscapes here are host to animals including brown bears, wolves and wolverines, and responsible tourism ensures that encounters with them prioritise the animals’ wellbeing. The bears and wolves have plenty of habitat to roam. More than three-quarters of Finland is forested, and while the country has always had a significant logging industry, in general it is managed very sustainably.

In Finnish Lapland, however, there are problems with mining for rare minerals – the types that are often found in our mobile phones. “The companies are constantly looking for new sites,” says Riitta, “so there is a lot of debate about permissions, as they are spoiling these wilderness areas.” The revenue in mining is a big influence on government policy, but growing nature tourism in wilderness areas can act as a small counterweight to the industry and the scarring it wreaks across such beautiful landscapes.

What do Finland wilderness holidays involve?

In Finnish Lapland, winter holidays in wilderness areas tend to be all about the activities, both physical and cultural, with the occasional wildlife sighting in the forest a happy by-product. You’ll be out and about every day, whether it’s snowshoeing, fishing through holes drilled in frozen lakes, or husky sledding. Evenings are sometimes spent in cabins deep in remote areas, watching the skies for the Northern Lights. Finnish Lapland is a perennial favourite for family wilderness holidays, especially in winter. The wilderness is easily accessible although, as Riitta points out, it’s important to know that transfers from the airport can take up to a few hours.

A typical wilderness holiday in Finnish Lapland might see you arriving into Inari, the Sami cultural heartland, then travelling out to the Arctic Hills on the outskirts of Urho Kekkonen National Park. From there, you have everything right on your lodge’s doorstep: cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, reindeer farm visits, husky sledding and even ice swimming (many lodges also have a sauna, thankfully).

Climate & Biodiversity

Most Finnish Lapland wilderness holidays take place during the winter months, but long-term both the snow and the forests are threatened by climate change.

“If it gets warmer,” says Riitta, “then our trees, especially spruces, might not like the increased rain. We may have to change the type of tree we grow, which obviously can’t be done overnight. And that will, of course, impact the biodiversity too. Then there is the effect of climate change on snow levels, which is such a big reason for people to travel here.”

Acknowledging the climate crisis, many of our responsible holiday partners, such as Riitta’s Skafur Tours, are now taking steps to monitor and reduce the carbon footprint of their holidays, in some cases advising guests how to reach a destination by train. It takes just three days to reach Helsinki from London by train and ferry, with overnight stops in Hamburg and Stockholm. While it takes longer than taking the plane, it’s a lovely journey at a fraction of the carbon cost.

Wilderness holidays in the Wild Taiga region tend to focus more on the wildlife found here. Usually operating in summer between May and September, you’ll head out into the middle of nowhere with a guide who is an expert in taiga ecosystems, spending your nights perched in specialist wildlife watching hides. The big draw is the predators: bears, wolverines and wolves. You’ll need to be prepared to rough it a little as conditions will be basic, though comfortable enough.

Our top Wilderness Holiday

Northern Lights activity break in Finland, Arctic Hills

Northern Lights activity break in Finland, Arctic Hills

Experience the wilderness by car, snowmobile, skies, huskies

From €1460 to €1850 4 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip is available between 25th March and 15th April
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Wilderness or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to go on a Finland wilderness holiday

You can explore Finland wilderness areas all year round. Winter wilderness holidays in Finnish Lapland, which run between December and April, are popular with those seeking an antidote to saccharine Santa tours in Rovaniemi. And, of course, if you’re out in the middle of nowhere you stand an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) during your trip. Finland in winter can be astonishingly beautiful, with pristine forests draped in blankets of snow.

The summer months between May and September are ideal for wildlife watching in the Wild Taiga region, with bears mating and wolves at their most active. These are the days of midnight sun, with virtually round-the-clock daytime in northernmost Lapland.

“I think autumn, from late August through September, is a good time to visit Finnish wilderness areas,” says Riitta Kiukas. “There are lots of routes around Finland where you can enjoy hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and fat biking in this season. And I think the Northern Lights are even more beautiful at this time of year, when you can see them reflected in the lakes before they freeze over.”

What wildlife might I see on Finland wilderness holidays?

The Wild Taiga region, pressed up against the Russian border, is one of the best places in Finland for wildlife sightings. There are around 1,500 European brown bears in these parts, some 200 or so wolves and around 300 wolverines (don’t expect to see much of these elusive creatures though), as well as thriving populations of beaver, mink and elk. While winter activity holidays in this part of northern Finland are fantastic, for wildlife watching in the Wild Taiga you really want to be around in summer (May to September) when the animals are most active.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Alexey Muzalevskiy] [Intro: Ninara] [What do Finland wilderness holidays involve?: fox jia] [Best time to go: Taneli Lahtinen] [What wildlife might I see?: Joni-Pekka Luomala]