Things to see & do in Lapland with SNO®
Up, up and away near the arctic circle, Lapland’s quite simply one of the most enchanting places on earth. Many dream of visiting this bucket-list destination, and those who’ve been often declare it the one place they’ll return.
As far as activities go, the offerings are spectacular: set off on winter wonderland pursuits of reindeer sleigh rides and husky safaris, try age-old Sami traditions like ice fishing or ski your socks off – the list goes on and on.
The ski resorts are typically smaller and less populated than resorts elsewhere in Europe and they’re based around smaller ‘fjells’ rather than vast mountain ranges. This makes them absolutely perfect for beginners or intermediates after a safe, quiet and beautiful place to hone their skills. The cross-country skiing here is legendary, too.
If you’re coming to Lapland just for the skiing, though, you’re doing the place a huge injustice. The opportunities for fun, adventure, rest and relaxation are pretty much endless here. Adrenaline junkies will want to get their hands on a snowmobile and head out into powder fields on a safari, whilst those who prefer a more peaceful adventure can take similar trips with snowshoes, or on sleds pulled by reindeer and huskies.
There are various science and culture centres if you want to learn a little more about the history of the region. Incredible natural spectacles like the gigantic Lake Inari, with its 3000 islands and of course the otherworldly Northern Lights are bound to leave you awestruck. Saunas and spas are abundant throughout Finland, if you fancy a bit of pampering and relaxation. Of course, Lapland is also home to Saint Nick himself, and you’ll have plenty of wonderful opportunities to meet him, wherever you’re staying.
This is all just a tiny taster of what you can expect from a holiday to Lapland. For more information and to discover loads of other available activities, have a look below or check out our resort-specific activity pages.
Lapland is known for its vast, snowy landscapes with deep forests, majestic fells and open snowy plains. Snowmobiling is one of the most popular ways used by locals to traverse all this, and you can try your hand at it too! Snowmobiles are available to hire pretty much all Finnish resorts and there’ll almost always be a guide at hand willing to show you the best local sights. Most snowmobile excursions can be combined with other activities, such as a visit to a reindeer farm or Santa, an ice fishing trip or even a night time quest to spot the Northern Lights!
Reindeer have been herded in Lapland for hundreds of years, and one of the oldest and most traditional ways of travelling through the wintery landscape is by reindeer sleigh (if it’s good enough for Santa, it’s good enough for us!). This tradition is still alive and neighing and most resorts have a number of reindeer farms nearby where you can have a go at traditional tasks like reindeer herding and lassoing, then get them harnessed up and head out into the wilderness on a guided safari. Salla even has a Reindeer Park, where you can learn all about the history of reindeer husbandry in Finland. Most of the grounds here are open to the public, so you can ski or snowshoe amongst the reindeer, too!
There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere just before you set off for a ride on a husky sled! The dogs are all incredibly excited to get going and the air is filled with the sound of their beautiful howls. You should be able to experience this for yourself at any of the resorts in Lapland and there are plenty of opportunities to go on guided safaris through the stunning wilderness. Glide past frozen lakes, through snow-laden forests and across vast open snow plains behind your loyal companions! Most excursions even include instruction that allows you to drive (or ‘mush’) the sled yourself, making this one of the ultimate winter wonderland activities.
Everyone knows Lapland is the place Santa Claus calls home and as you’d imagine, there are oodles of opportunities to meet him all season long! No matter which Lapland resort you’re staying in, you’ll be able to give the kids (or yourself!) the experience of a lifetime – a meeting with Father Christmas himself. Some holidays in Ruka, Saariselkä, Levi, Iso-Syote and Yllas have programmes where you can meet Santa in resort, with special houses, cottages and even mini villages set up for him! Pyha and Salla, on the other hand, are both within easy reach of Rovaniemi – often thought to be Santa’s hometown, and home to the amazing Santa Claus Village, where you can meet Santa as well as taking part in loads of other fun activities.
Cross country skiing is Finland’s most popular winter sport, and it’s easy to see why! The landscape here’s absolutely ideal for it, with mile upon mile of gentle tracks passing through pristine wilderness. You can negotiate majestic fells, follow meandering rivers, cross frozen, snow-covered lakes and glide through ethereal forests on skinny skis here, with routes to suit total beginners and seasoned experts. Many of the Lappish resorts are even within skiing distance of beautiful National Parks. A good proportion of cross country trails are illuminated for skiing after dark, and most trail networks are dotted with shelters, campfires and even cafes to provide warmth and refreshment on the way!
Clipping on a pair of snowshoes has to be one of the most liberating things you can do in Lapland. Whilst skiing, snowmobiling and animal safaris confine you to specified tracks, snowshoeing’s the only activity where you really are free to go wherever you want. This opens up a world of possibilities and lets you seek out the most peaceful, untouched areas of wilderness - and have them all to yourself! There are plenty of chances to hire guides to show you the best the area has to offer, no matter which resort you’re staying in and trips can last from under an hour to multiple days. Some of our highlights include the Pääsiäiskuru ravine in Saariselkä and the Oulanka Wilderness Trail in Ruka.
Finnish Lapland is up in Northern Finland, mostly inside the Arctic Circle. This location ensures that the ski areas here enjoy some of the longest winter seasons around, with winter skiing usually available from October until May –sometimes even June! The ski resorts in Lapland are highly snow-sure, making them great for early season ski holidays. Resorts tend to be smaller than their counterparts in more well-known countries, but for many people this just adds to the appeal. Crowded slopes and lift queues are usually non-existent here, as the crowds flock to the likes of France and Austria instead. The skiing in Lapland is generally really well suited to beginners and intermediates, with most resorts made up mostly of wide, cruisey blue and red runs that are absolutely perfect for building your confidence on.
If a glimpse of the mystical Northern Lights is high on your wish list, there are few places better than Lapland to do so! The long, clear nights and almost complete lack of light pollution combine to make some pretty perfect viewing conditions. Seeing them often requires a fair bit of patience, as well as a sprinkling of good fortune but if you do manage to spot them you’ll instantly understand what all the fuss is about. Few experiences can compare to a trip into the silent, snow-covered Lapland forest, in the dead of night, via reindeer or husky sled, snowmobile or snowshoe in search of the Aurora.
This is fishing like you’ll never have experienced before. Take a husky, reindeer or snowmobile safari out to a remote, thickly frozen lake - here you’ll be able to drill holes through the ice, drop a line in, then settle in next to a warm fire and wait for that rod to wiggle. Lakes in Lapland are home to pike, trout, grayling and perch, amongst many other species, so who knows what you’ll get. Once you make a catch, your expert guides might even prepare and cook it for you over an open fire. Of course, you can also choose to let them go if you’d prefer.
The sauna has an almost holy status in Finland. Women here traditionally gave birth in saunas and they were also used for marriage rituals and even the preparation of bodies before burial... On average, there’s one sauna for every household! Finland has three main types of sauna; the smoke sauna, the wood-heated sauna and the electric sauna. For real enthusiasts, there are also mobile saunas, which can be built into buses, cars and, in the case of one famous sauna in Yllas, a ski gondola! Saunas are also commonly found on the banks of lakes in Lapland, combining perfectly with another popular pastime – ice swimming. The tradition is to sit in a sauna – at up to 130ᵒc – for as long as you can bear, before plunging into freezing water to cool off. It’s said to be a great way to relieve stress...
Finland has a vibrant freestyle scene and, despite their generally small ski areas, lots of Lapland’s resorts are well known for the quality of their snow parks. The Finnish freestyle team are often based in Pyha, where there’s a 600m park with a variety of obstacles to suit all abilities. Ruka is also super for park rats, with two snow parks, a superpipe and a freestyle mogul run. The freestyle world championships were held here in 2005, too, so it must be pretty special! Other ideal resorts are Saariselkä, which has a whopping 1200m park and Levi with its two separate freestyle areas.
If you really want to feel connected with nature, there are few better ways to do so than by taking a peaceful ride through the wintery forests of Lapland on horseback. Our favourite Lapland resorts for horse riding are Levi and Yllas, both of which have riding schools that usually offer lessons and guided excursions in winter as well as summer. Horses in Lapland are specially adapted to the snowy conditions with thick coats, bushy manes and big hooves – just make sure you wrap up warm as well!
Tobogganing has to be one of the most popular winter sports for families, and there’s no shortage of chances to give it a go in Lapland! Most of the Lappish ski resorts have specific tobogganing areas on their piste maps. These are usually close to the main village or at least a café or two, and some have magic carpet lifts to take you back to the top. As if you needed any more reason to give it a go, a few of the resorts even offer free toboggan hire. For some record-breaking tobogganing, Saariselkä has the oldest and longest slope in the region. These great little contraptions aren’t just good for sliding down hills, either – they can also be used to drag tired kids around the resort with minimal effort!
The awesome Lainio Snow Village, near to the resorts of Yllas and Levi, really has to be seen to be believed. Around the end of October each year, the work starts to turn 300 tonnes of natural ice and 1500 tonnes of snow into a real, working village. The size and layout of the village changes slightly each year as it’s built from scratch but common features include a restaurant and bar, a hotel and even a chapel! This terrific range of facilities means that you can enjoy a meal, stay overnight and even get married - all in buildings made completely from snow and ice.
Ever dreamt of spending a night sleeping in an igloo in Lapland? How about spending a night under the stars, searching the skies for the elusive Northern Lights? At the Kakslauttanen Igloo Village near Saariselkä, you can do both at the same time - the incredible glass igloos here are likely the most unique bedroom you’ll ever stay in. Each one’s insulated with thermal glass and sleeps two people, with twin or double beds available – perfect for couples and friends. We’ve heard rumours of new four-person igloos, so you could even bring the whole family. We can usually arrange for a one night stay here during your Lapland holiday – just check with us for more details.
Lake Inari is the largest lake in Lapland, covering a staggering 1040 square kilometres. The most amazing thing about this lake isn’t its size but the fact that it has over 3000 islands dotted within it. These include Hautuumaasaari – an ancient Sami burial ground – and Ukonkivi, a place where historical inhabitants used to carry out sacrifices. During the winter, it’s possible to take snowmobile safaris across the frozen surface of the lake and have a go at ice fishing. In the lakeside town of Inari, you’ll also find the fascinating SIIDA museum, specialising in Sami culture and Arctic nature. The nearest resort is Saariselkä, and we can usually arrange for you to visit the town and lake with your booking.
In Rovaniemi you’ll find the Arktikum - an incredible example of Finnish architecture and one of Finland’s most popular museums and science centres. There are usually a number of fascinating exhibitions here, and one of the main themes is the amazing culture and history of Lapland. Other exhibitions often showcase current Arctic research and show how the people of Lapland have adapted to cope with life in this extreme environment. There are generally loads of interactive activities for kids and adults alike, and even a 3D Northern Lights theatre! Our nearest ski resorts to Rovaniemi are Pyha, Yllas, Levi and Ruka.
What visit to Lapland would be complete without a trip to see Father Christmas?! Rovaniemi, plonked right on the Arctic Circle, is often said to be Santa’s home town and it’s here that you’ll find the famous Santa Claus Village. This magical village is always gorgeously decorated with lights, ornaments and Christmas trees – all ages are sure to be completely enchanted by it. Meet Santa Claus in his office, have photos taken with him and even send letters from the Santa Claus post office – they’ll be delivered with Santa’s official stamp of approval...
15 minutes from Rovaniemi city centre (the city that Santa calls home!) is a magical world of underground caverns, filled with Christmas activities that will delight kids and adults alike. This is Santa Park, and if you’re having a holiday in Lapland you owe it to your inner child to pay a visit! There are all kinds of incredible things to do here - in past years you’ve been able to go to elf or calligraphy school, visit an ice gallery, take a magic sleigh ride and even help Mrs. Claus bake gingerbread. Of course, you’ll also get a meeting with the big man in red, so make sure you’ve been especially well behaved and have that Christmas list to hand!