Quest for Northern Lights in Lapland

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

Snowmobile Safari

In the wilderness, surrounded by pine trees

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.

Husky Safari

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 Safari

Reindeer Safari, anyone?

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.

Snowshoeing

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

Ice Fishing

Me, Ice fishing on a frozen lake.

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.

Cross-country skiing

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

Santa has an office too!

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.
Cost: Free

Photography

Lapland is every photographers’ delight…. in any direction. 😀

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.

Bird watching

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

things activities saariselka lapland
A Sami women in her traditional attire.

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.

Siida Museum

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.

Disclaimers:
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.

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
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78 thoughts on “Quest for Northern Lights in Lapland

  1. Super …was waiting for this post. Quick questions – was Seakarting better or snowmobile? Was Santa as cute as we dream of? 🙂 And the last is not a question but a statement – you look so cute in that fishing pic 😀

    1. Thank you very much.

      Aah, that’s a tough one! 😛 Seakarting was super adventure while snowmobiling was under speed control.

      Santa is always very cute and friendly. 😀

      Thank you very much. 🙂

  2. Looks straight out of a fairytale. SO many snow activities! <3 The reindeer safari reminded me of Russian fairy tales! Loved the post for all the options you have listed. My personal favs are Santa's office and staying in an igloo. Totally on my bucket list. To be honest, most people think Lapland to be just famous for the Northern lights. Theres so much more.
    Awesome pics!

    1. Have you read Kane & Able? One of my favorites. And that book reminded me of this much snow and the life over there. 🙂

      Yes, Santa’s village and sleeping in an igloo would be so wonderful.

  3. Oh wow! The Finish Lapland is one of the trips I would love to take and there are so many things to do apart from the northern lights which of course are a must. Because I am not good at ski I would love to try the snow shoeing and the cross country skiing. Thanks for the great recommendations.

    1. You must go there to have a lifelong experience.

      If you aren’t comfortable with skiing, doesn’t matter. You have lot many more activities to choose from.

  4. this looks like an awesome adventure. I cant really handle the cold, but I think the reindeer safari must be really cool.

    1. Well, I live in a warm country and for me also it was very cold.

      But I managed, since they provide all the accessories needed for the outdoor activities. Clothes, shoes, gloves, helmets and so on. 🙂

      I’m sure you’ll love it.

  5. Wow, this post is so full of information about Lapland. I didn’t know you could do so many activities there. Did you plan for this trip yourself or did they help you? Your pictures are great, btw 🙂

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      They planned the itinerary for us and we just enjoyed. 😀

      Thanks very much for pictures, I am happy that they came out well.

  6. Seakarting is always fun! Never did it at this place! but I would love to do it someday! what about snowboarding? did you like it more then Seakarting?

  7. Northern lights! Definitely on top of my bucket list. Also i’ve been saying i’m going to go to Finland for too long! I think this year should be the year. Hopefully i’m going to do at least few of these activities!! 😀

    1. It was on top of my list too. But one needs to be fortunate to see them. We weren’t.

      But we never let it down our enthusiasm to explore Lapland. And thus we had loads of fun. Northern lights will have to wait.

  8. This is an amazingggg experience, I’m so jealous! You’ve done so so much and experienced new things – definitely makes up for the whole trip! You have reason to go back then for them northern lights!

  9. Lapland looks really beautiful! I would definitely like to meet Santa Claus and also learn about Sami culture. But most of all I want to ride with those adorable reindeer. Too cute!

    1. I too loved reindeer. Didn’t know they were so quiet but one should never touch them. Did you know that?

      It was one exhilarating experience for me.

  10. Is ice fishing done with your hands or a rod? Taking a snowmobile to an igloo really intrigues me too. A much more comfy way of seeing the aurora than shivering in a field as I was!

    1. With a rod! The fishes are deep down there in the water. 😀

      Yup, An igloo seem to be the best way…. probably next time I’ll watch the elusive lights from there. 🙂

  11. This makes me want to book a trip right now! Not only do I, of course, want to see the Northern Lights but I’d love to take a snowmobile and take a ride with the reindeer and the huskies. This whole trip sounds magical!

  12. So many fun things to do! I would love to go to the husky safari!!! I also would love to see the Northern Lights again. I saw it in Iceland and being able to experience it again in another country would be fantastic 🙂

    1. There are many more activities!

      Oh you were lucky then! I would also like to go there again, this time not coming back if I don’t see them. 😀

  13. Wow! There is so much to do beyond just going to see the Northern Lights. It’s on my bucket list and I think I’ll have to consider Finland now. I’d especially like to try the husky safari.

    1. Yes, there are great things to do in Lapland. You’ll need at least a week if you really want to enjoy every activity that they offer at your own pace. 🙂

  14. I would love a reindeer sleigh ride — how wonderful! I didn’t realize there would be a Santa Shack in Lapland! I’ve seen the “North Pole” Santa house in Alaska, and of course, I thought that was the only one!

    1. Ha Ha We never know how many surprises are waiting for us to be unveiled. 🙂

      Even I didn’t know about this, thought it would be in Sweden. 😀

  15. Reindeer safari! Oh My I really want to experience it. And visiting Santa’s village is a childhood dream. Snowmobile looks thrilling. Ice fishing needs tremendous patience and not for everyone 🙂

  16. I’m really not a winter person, but Lapland must be amazing! All the snow – and the Reindeer Safari, that’s really interesting. Maybe one day I put up some courage and overcome my fear of cold and go there by myself 🙂 🙂

  17. Lapland is on my bucket list, definitely for the dog-sledding and Northern Lights, but I’m totally taken with the idea of gold panning in Saariselkä. I remember doing this in different places as a kid and it brings back such awesome memories.

    1. Seriously !! I had never ever imagined in my dreams that Saariselka would offer gold panning.

      I have never done it , so probably next time. It gives another excuse to revisit.

  18. Wow, this was such a fun and informative post. I wouldn’t have considered a trip to Lapland but there is so much to do there. I liked that you listed the prices too. This is so helpful when planning activities, especially on a budget trip. Really enjoyed the read and the photos!

  19. We’ve just returned from a 12 month trip chasing the sun. After reading your post I’m definitely excited for wrapping up warm and heading for some snow! I didn’t realise how much there was to do in Lapland, I thought it was just Santa. Great photos and a great list. Really excited for a reeinder safari.

  20. I am allergic to winters but it seems like awesome experience. I never heard about Lapland but looks pretty much interesting.

  21. Lapland, Finland seriously looks like something from a children’s book about a winter wonderland! It’s so beautiful! This is the trip of a lifetime! Your photos were amazing!

  22. It’s too bad you didn’t get to see the Northern Lights. I was recently in Iceland for that same reason but wasn’t able to see them either. The weather wasn’t cooperating. But it looks like you still found a lot of great things to do! I’d really like to try snowshoeing myself one day.

    1. Yes, we could get to see the Northern Lights but no regrets. We did a lot of other activities.

      Andddddd I have excuse to visit Finland again. 🙂

  23. It has been a dream of mine to do this for some time and your post really just cemented this idea. Certainly, snowmobile safari looks like an incredible amount of fun while the reindeer would be pretty cool too. Of course, the highlight of the trip would be the Northern Lights themselves but I’ve been fascinated with the Sami people for some time now, it looks such a unique and almost unbelievable culture

    1. I am glad that this post could do that to you.

      I agree about Sami culture. Given the choice, I would love to live with them for a few months to learn about them. 🙂

    1. Thank you.

      Aah! Then you need to mentally prepare for it. But trust me, once there, you would want to go out in the open. It’s so beautiful! 😀

  24. Northern lights, more often than not, is about luck !

    So it’s great that you got to do a lot of things other than that. Even though not my dream destination but being the home country of someone who has been my hero since soooo long now, Finland for sure is one of those countries where I would love to go someday, hopefully soon 🙂

    Until then, I will travel through stuff like these 🙂

    Cheers,
    Rajiv

    1. Absolutely!! So why fret about something which you do not have control over? 🙂

      We chose to do other things and there were so many! I want to go there again to do other activities also.

      And keep coming, keep reading, keep commenting. 🙂

  25. Gorgeous looking place! There’s so much to see and do and I wouldn’t have thought that you could do gold panning there. I would absolutely love to take my kids there when they’re a bit bigger – they would have a blast! I think meeting Santa would be a dream come true for them 🙂

    1. II hope you take them soon there. 🙂

      Not only your kids who’ll enjoy it to the hilt, I am sure you’d do the same. 😀

      It’s really a fairy tale for kids…. even the hotel.

  26. Lapland looks like an incredible place with so many things to do everywhere you go. It reminds me a lot of where I grew up in northern Canada. I used to go on a husky sleigh ride every winter and reading this brought back a lot of memories.
    I really enjoyed reading this article. It seems like you had a blast.

    1. It’s a winter wonderland I tell you ! 😀

      Yes, I had a blast and want to have some more ! I am glad that it could bring back your childhood memories. 🙂

  27. Going to Finnish Lapland in the middle of winter is high on my list. During the winter, I want to do wintry things like you did. I love the idea of learning about the Sami and their reindeer, going ice-fishing, and of course the Northern Lights. How fun!

  28. Wow! So many different safaries. And then ice fishing. Such an adventure packed journey. I would love to try all of these out when I visit Finland. And looking at the options, it’s difficult to contain myself from planning a journey right away.

    1. Lapland is such a place where you can easily spend a week and still you’ll have some activity to do.

      Let me know if you have some queries.

  29. Of course, it would have been amazing if you had seen the northern lights. However, it still looks you had an amazing time with all of the fun winter activities. What an amazing experience!

  30. While I would love to see the Northern Lights someday I always thought that would never happen for me as I am not a fan of winter. I am glad you found so many wonderful things to do, despite missing the lights. Honestly, it was only the indoor igloo and the snow shoeing that has any appeal to me. My teens, however, will probably visit when they are adults. They love winter and adventure. Clearly, they can find them both here.

    1. Somehow I love winter…. more than summer any day!

      I think there’s something for each age group. What about fishing ? I’m sure you’ll love it.

  31. Lovely post Nisha. Very informative for anyone planning a trip to Lapland. I really liked the tips and cost you shared about each activity. The pictures are really nice. Although Northern Lights remained elusive but nonetheless the experience was really fantastic.

  32. Although I am not a fan of winter and coldness, your post made me actually wish to visit Lapland! The Reindeer safari and the Northern Lights Safari sound absolutely great!! And meeting Santa Claus at his home …… well, that’s called a gorgeous winter trip!

    1. Ha Ha So many people don’t like winter whereas I like winter more than summer. 😀

      Yes, it was a gorgeous trip for me. I wish I had few more days to me.

  33. Amazing post. Really enjoyed reading this. Love cold places and really fancy trying the snowmobile thing one day. It looks like you had a great time in pictures. Thanks for sharing your post of what looks like a once in a lifetime destination 🙂

  34. Wow, I had no idea you could do all of those cool things in Lapland!! I would have missed some of the best adventures if I was only looking for the Northern Lights. I want to go Reindeer sleigh rides – that sounds right up my alley except for the frigid temperatures. You’ve put together an incredible guide to Lapland and I’m sure many people will use this when they visit.

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