When I visited Lapland in quest of Northern lights, little did I know that I’d have a whole new world opened to me. Of course, The Northern Lights was such an important part of visiting Finland that missing out on them was just not acceptable. However as luck would have it, I could not see it but I had innumerable things to do in Lapland Finland.
I have started calling Finland as the ‘Cool country’ …. Cool not in temperature but in attitude. ‘Cold from outside but warm inside’ country.
Located in Northern Lapland, 260 km North from Rovaniemi, Saariselkä village is in a fell area, by the Urho Kekkonen National Park. If you climb the fells of the area, the big forest opens into dwarf trees and bushes and then beyond to the treeless zone. And lo! Incredible views of infinite landscape spreads out in front of you.
Saariselkä village has just about 350 inhabitants, while Ivalo has about 7000. It belongs to Inari municipality. The region also have one of the biggest Sámi communities in Finland, with about 2000 Sámi living in the area.
If you happen to visit Lapland for any reason, make sure you enjoy it for more than just that one. Here are my top recommendations of a few things you can experience in Lapland.
Gold Panning and Gold Prospector Museum
If you read Saariselkä’s history, it is well known for its gold rushes. The first gold rush lasted until 1900. The second gold rush started in 1936, when Aleksanteri Peltovuoma discovered the Tankavaara gold area. The biggest golden nugget ever found in Finland was found in Luttojoki River, close to Laanila. Its weight was 393 grams. It is still possible today to find gold in Saariselkä area. Many amateur gold diggers come to Lapland, and there are still a few professionals making their living from this precious metal.
Cost: Museum ticket Euro 6
Duration: 2-3 hours
The thrilling experience of driving a snowmobile through snowy forests, over vast lands, frozen lakes and rivers is something that I would never give a miss. First time I did snowmobiling in Poland over a vast area crossing over villages on Tatra Mountains and thoroughly enjoyed it.
This time the setting and the place were different. We were also going a bit slow comparatively but that was okay considering we had people with different comfort level. We drove around 40 KMs 2 way.
The selection of snowmobile safaris range from 2 to 6 hours, and are suitable for everyone with a car or motorcycle driving license. Do not worry, the safaris are led by professional guides to give you a safe and unforgettable experience in the breathtaking white snowy wilderness.
If included in itinerary, you may also have meals at a Sami house.
Tip: Listen to your expert guide for a safety briefing and instructions on riding a snowmobile and strictly adhere to instructions.
Cost: 80 euros / person for 2 persons / snowmobile
Duration: 2 hours
* You may also take a night snowmobile to catch the Northern Lights, and the costs are a bit more for this activity.
Do you fancy racing through the wilderness in Lapland style? Then welcome aboard for husky farm and safari experience. Visit a husky farm in the Saariselkä countryside to be welcomed by the barks of the dogs eager for their run. They would take you racing through snowy forests and plains. After this, a fireside hot drink with discussions about life on the farm is a much needed break.
If you opt for a longer version, you can enjoy a longer sleigh ride and later a Lapland lunch.
Cost: 120 – 160 euros / person
Duration: 2 – 4 hours
Reindeer, sleigh, and snow … what more do you want for an outing in Finland? The thought of Finland, and more specifically Lapland, brings a picture of reindeer in front of us. These harmless animals are almost wild as they live in forests.
Experience this 2-hour slow reindeer ride. You can do a day safari or night (which is actually more fun). Cozy up under a rug in your wooden sleigh and all you can hear is their footsteps, and tinkling of sleigh bells while they pull you gently through the snow-covered forests. You can really relax, gazing at the stars and even doze off if you wish so. Later, rejuvenate yourself with a bonfire, coffee or soup and an interesting session about life in Lapland before you start your return journey.
Tip: Don’t click pictures with flash on and do not touch reindeer.
Price: 95 Euros/ person
Duration: 2 hours
Lapland Northern Lights Safari
What fun is it if you go to Finland and don’t even try to seek out the beautiful Northern Lights? Take a tour to do that, see for yourself the lifetime experience and thank me later. You can travel by minibus into the deep, dark wilderness of Lapland away from any light pollution, increasing your chances of witnessing this magical spectacle. Gaze the skies from the igloos or nearby forests. Along the way, take a break in a cozy Lapland ‘Kota’, a tepee like tent and recharge yourself with traditional reindeer burgers with coffee or berry juice around a warming fire.
I became a penguin one evening! Snowshoe is a footwear for walking over the snow. It works by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person’s foot does not sink completely into the deep snow. Believe me, it’s so much fun walking like a penguin on snow!
Traditional snowshoes have a hardwood frame. Snowshoeing season starts from December when there is enough snow for the shoes to start to carry the walker.
Snowshoeing is a form of hiking and snowshoes enable you to move freely making it the perfect sport for solo hikers. There are signposted tracks in Saariselkä and also in Inari. These tracks are a few kilometres long and well-marked.
Many companies in the region offer guided excursions and hire out snowshoes.
Price : 50 € / person
Duration: 2 hours
I tried ice fishing on a frozen lake, albeit not in Saariselka but in Saimaa. But the experience is similar. Lakes and rivers are an excellent source of food in Lapland. In summer, it’s similar to fishing the way we do, but when the water freezes in winter, people use a different fishing technique to catch fish!
Take an ice-fishing safari to a frozen lake where you’ll enjoy fishing even if you don’t know how to do it! You can reach there by either snowmobile or reindeer. Then it is time to break the ice and try your luck at ice fishing while your guide prepares a delicious outdoor meal over fire. It is a perfect way to warm up and chat.
Cost: 77 – 117 Euros / adult depending on duration.
Duration: 2 hours till whole day, depends upon the package.
Are you bored with your regular snow activities? Looking for something different to ski down? Why not go for cross-country skiing? It’s practically the national pastime in Finland and it’ll give you a chance to explore more of your beautiful surroundings. The round fells of Finland’s main ski area, Lapland, offer a variety of slopes and terrains for skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels.
There are around 75 ski resorts in Finland, the big ones, are in the fells of Lapland and are classic winter holiday destinations. The skiing season starts in late October and until early May.
Cost: 64 euros / person
Duration: 2 hours
Stay in a snow Igloo
One of my lifelong dream is to live in an igloo. However, now a different version of it is possible in Finland as well. I can sleep in an igloo and gaze the stars and if I am lucky, I can even see the northern lights! These igloos are basically cozy glass igloos. Staying overnight in a glass igloo might feel like sleeping in the open, but inside the igloo it is just as warm and cozy as your hotel.
You can visit the SnowVillage in Lainio, where a massive construction made of snow and ice awaits you. This Snow Village has a restaurant, hotel rooms, and snow and ice sculptures. Each year these imposing constructions are artistically built from the scratch with new ice and snow. You can reach here by snowmobile or by minibus.
Cost: The prices vary from 90 euros if you are sharing an igloo with 10-12 persons till 1000 euros in the best of the places.
Rejuvenate in a Lapland sauna
In Finland, Sauna is a necessity, not a relaxation. Sauna in Lapland is unique. Unlike the saunas in the cities, here, after sitting in a hot sauna room, men and women walk out in the extreme winter cold, and either take a dip in cold water or roll in the snow. Mind you, it’s all done in the nude! So more fun added to it. 🙂
Meet Santa Claus in his village
Child or adult, who would not want to meet Santa Claus? Yes, Father Christmas is available to meet & greet you on any day of the year! The most famous inhabitant of Lapland lives in his village just 9 km from Rovaniemi. Besides meeting him, you may also surprise your special ones with a special Christmas greeting to be delivered right from Santa’s very own post office.
I could not meet him at his village but yes, saw his office in Lapland. Rovaniemi has numerous places to stay and many things to do. There is a direct flight from Helsinki.
Finland, especially Lapland is a photographer’s delight. The most important thing is to be at the right place when the lighting is at its best. Often this is early in the morning, even before the sun rises. Another nice time to shoot is in the late afternoon as the sun is setting or already has set. Besides landscape, you can try to shoot northern lights, wild life, Lapp wedding as well. Personally, I would prefer to do Landscape Photography.
Lapland is a place for bird watching. The dense forest population makes Finland an excellent country for bird watching. The Whooper swan (Finland’s national bird), Cranes and Golden Eagle can easily be spotted at any time. The best time for this activity is late May or September during the mass migration seasons.
Learn about Sami culture
The Sami people are traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders. They are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi. The Sámi area of Northern Lapland offers you unlimited outdoor and indoor activities. They are the only indigenous people of the European Union. In Finland, the Sámi population is approximately 9 000 strong. Furthermore, they do not speak Finnish but their own language.
The Finnish govt. is making all efforts to retain their culture and celebrate their uniqueness. I told you earlier that they own reindeer. Reindeer were the primary means of transportation (and fun ride) till snowmobile dominated the scene.
During touristy season, they bring them from the wild and use them for tourism purpose. Reindeer are used for safaris and other activities.
So while you are in Lapland, make sure you learn about them and their culture by participating in various activities. Do not forget to visit the Sami museum, Siida.
Tip: The museum timings are different in summer and winters. Kindly check in advance. Monday is weekly closed.
Entry ticket: 10 Euros.
Angry Birds Activity Park
The themes of the Angry Birds Activity Park in Saariselkä are Space and Lapland. Angry Birds and the northern magic make an interesting and attractive combination. As in any other park, in Saariselkä the starting point is physical activity. Also combined is the virtual world familiar with the Angry Birds Games. Another important idea is to provide activities for people of all ages. Besides, there is also a café at the park offering snacks and refreshments.
Planning a trip to Finland
If you are still in two minds to visit Finland, I am sure the interesting and fun facts about Finland will lure you to the country.
Stay in Saariselka
I chose Saariselka to be my base and I explored Lapland from here. My suggestion is, you do the same for all the activities.
To stay in Saariselka, Holiday Club Saariselkä is the best option. It is the northernmost spa hotel and holiday home resort in Europe.
A number of Russian regions, Alaska and Lapland have joined hands together for the Northern Forum. They are on a same platform. If you wish to go to Alaska to do some activities, here’s an elaborate 10 day guide for it.
1. All images used here belong to me i.e. Nisha Jha.
2. My trip to Finland was made possible by Club Mahindra and Holiday Club Resorts. However, views and opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience in the country.
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