Finland’s northern region of Lapland offers visitors a distinct travel experience in a land defined by its landscape, nature, and unique culture. Making up about a third of Finland, Lapland is often seen as the last wilderness of Europe. Lappish culture is influenced by this vast geography, and the region has elements of Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Russian cultures.
A visit to Lapland is defined by the region’s natural setting. You can experience calming silence in this unspoiled wilderness with boundless forests and vast expanses. During the summer months, the sun does not set for 70 days. During the harsh winters, the sun rests at the horizon throughout the day resulting in an eerie eternal twilight. Winter is also the ideal time to witness traditional reindeer roundups and admire the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis. During the snowy winter months you can participate in sleigh safaris while spending nights in log cabins with soothing wood saunas. The striking landscape of Lapland includes Finland’s longest river, the Kemijoki. Some of the largest artificial lakes in Europe are also found in the region, including Lake Porttipahta and Lake Løkka.
The rousing landscape also provides for thrilling pursuits. Canoeing is popular during the summer, when you can explore Lake Inari, the paddlers’ favorite Ounasjoki River, or the challenging rapids of the Ivalojoki River. Skiing is best in March and April, with popular ski resorts located at Pyhä, Suomu, Salla, Luosto, Olos, Levi, and Pallas. Some of Finland’s best cross country and downhill skiing can be found in Saariselkä, a gateway for hiking and mountain biking trails in the vast wilderness of the Urho Kekkosen National Park. Hiking and mountain biking among the region’s striking moor-like expanses is also popular from Lusto, a tourist town south of Saariselkä. Hiking in Lapland is best from July to mid-October, particularly in August when biting insects have all but disappeared. In September, the landscape turns into a canvas of colorful hues.
Although it is one of the most remote parts of Europe, Lapland is also home to thriving communities and culture. Also known as the Sámi, the indigenous people of the Arctic region trace their roots to prehistoric times and are Lapland’s original inhabitants. The capital of Rovaniemi is home to the stunning Arktikum museum with informative exhibits on Lapland, the Arctic, and the Sámi culture. The city has also evolved into the unofficial residence of Santa Clause, with waves of visitors arriving in search of Santa every December. Flights operate from the city’s airport to Helsinki and a handful of other European destinations, and the city is the region’s main transportation hub with daily bus services to most destinations in Lapland. The city is an ideal starting point for exploring the region’s natural wonders. Located 300 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Inari is Finland’s most important center of Sámi culture. The tiny village is home to Siida museum, which contains wonderful exhibits on the Sámi people. Inari is also close to the sprawling Lake Inari, and a popular destination for canoeing, fishing, and hiking.
Each season in Lapland is unique, from a winter wonderland in perpetual night to a vibrant and colorful haven of ceaseless sunlight. Despite the remote and rugged landscape, the region has warmth and charm. Whether to experience the unique Sámi culture or appreciate the vast outdoors in a pristine setting, a visit to Lapland is a fulfilling adventure and unforgettable journey.