There has always been something rather mystical about the region of Lapland. Perhaps it’s the area’s remote location north of the Arctic Circle, its unique weather conditions, or its legendary reputation of being home to none other than old St. Nicholas himself. Whatever it may be that captures yours attention, don’t hesitate in adding a holiday in Lapland to your list of things to do this coming year.
The term “Lapland” refers to the cultural region in Fennoscandia (an area made up of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula), stretching across Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. However, it is only in Sweden and Finland where the Lapland name is formally used; both countries have provinces called Lapland.
Largely within the Arctic Circle, Lapland is known for its valuable metal and mineral deposits (including gold, silver, and iron ore), its beautiful Northern Lights, and its dramatic landscape. Yet, it is perhaps best known for being the true home of Santa Claus. According to folklore, Santa has numerous bases across the region.
It is said that Finland’s Ear Mountain (“Korvatuntari”) in Lapland includes a secret office located deep inside, where elves transmit the dreams and wishes of children to St. Nick, and mysterious winding tunnels that can only be accessed by Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their elves.
With four distinct seasons, Lapland offers a variety of great experiences year round. However, it should come as no surprise that Lapland truly comes alive during the Christmas season. If you’re lucky enough to be spending the Yuletide season in Lapland, consider a stay at the Winter Wonderland Hotel and Cabins at Lake Pohtimolampi in Rovaniemi, where you can be entertained by their elves, songs, dogsled rides, snowmobiles, and cross-country skiing.
The log cabins and crackling fires especially enhance the Christmas spirit. Not far from the hotel is Santa Claus Village, where children can see Santa himself while parents make the most of the shopping opportunities, as the village is home to shops that sell everything from locally-made handicrafts to top Finnish design products.
Santa Claus Village also offers thrilling experiences and activities such as the Arctic Circle Husky Park, underground caves, gold panning, and a reindeer farm. Another great holiday activity is a visit to Joulukka in Sierijarvi, Rovaniemi. Deep in the Lappish forest, Joulakka gives visitors the chance to try out various elf activities (such as making gingerbread), visit reindeer, and roast marshmallows on an outdoor fire.
Christmas might be Lapland’s most magical season, but that doesn’t mean that the region doesn’t offer other thrilling and unique experiences throughout the rest of the year. Lapland breaks can be enjoyed at any time. Spring is one of the most popular seasons to visit Lapland, and continues to offer great cross-country skiing and ice-fishing. It’s also when the area’s wildlife begins to rouse, providing you with many opportunities to see local reindeer, or the willow warbler.
If you’re visiting in summer, prepare to adjust your internal clock; due to its position north of the Arctic Circle, Lapland experiences “nightless nights”, where the sun does not set. You can spend your long, sunny days canoeing the Akasjoki River or Lake Inarijarvi, mountain-biking, white-water rafting, or golfing.
As autumn arrives, so do shorter days, misty days, and gorgeous fall colours. Golf remains a good activity, as does hiking; Lapland offers plenty of fantastic trails, ranging from simple day trips to more challenging overnight trails. Winter is the region’s longest season, usually beginning in mid-October. Fortunately, there is plenty to enjoy during the winter months. As the weather gets cold, the spectacular Northern Lights (also known as the Aurora Borealis) become clearer. You can also try out reindeer sleigh rides, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. Downhill skiing and snowboarding can be done at one the area’s ski resorts, such as Levi, Finland’s biggest ski resort.