Finnish Lapland is packed with bucket list activities no matter the season. There are amazing things to do in Lapland, Finland. From extremely inspiring to paralyzing experiences: it is almost too much to handle within a single holiday!
Let’s get started with the 7 arguably most appealing winter activities (that you may not have thought of before).
1. Go to a sauna and dip in an ice hole!
There’s nothing quite as genuinely Finnish as the traditional sauna, which dates back thousands of years. For a Finn going to the sauna is something very casual yet sacred at the same time. As a tourist, you will never forget the tingling sensation throughout your body when you run from the 80°C (176°F) sauna to jump in 4°C (39°F) cold water and run back inside the sauna!
Read 10 sauna tips for beginners from Visit Finland
During winter in Lapland lakes and rivers alike get covered by ice. The all-natural ice shield often gets tens of centimetres thick and strong as steel. This gave the sauna-obsessed Finns the obvious idea: “Let’s make a hole in the ice and then we can swim in it! As awkward as it might sound it was a great idea indeed. Dipping oneself in an ice hole has been proven to have several health benefits. According to a study conducted at the University of Oulu – among other established research institutions – ice hole swimming has numerous benefits to personal health including stress management, boosting self-confidence and relieving pain.
Want to try a sauna and ice swimming?
Our friends at Beyond Arctic will be happy to help you to find salvation close to Rovaniemi, the Lappish capital.
P.S. If you can’t fight your way through that ice, Finns will approve if you just roll in the snow instead.
2. Ski in a national park in Lapland!
If there should be an activity challenging sauna in Finnishness that must be cross-country skiing. To be exact, cross-country skiing in forest, across unbroken snow rather than skiing on ready-made Nordic skiing tracks, which is a sport. To ski in a forest is not only mind-calming gentle exercise but also a spiritual journey into the Finnish state of mind. It is also very easy and totally suited also to the absolute beginner. No previous experience required.
The purest place to cross-country ski in Lapland is a national park. They are large and plenty! Pyhä-Luosto National Park, known for its diversity, ranks among the most attractive ones.
Skiing has been around in current day Finland probably as long as Finns themselves. The oldest known ski in the World is believed to have found in Salla, in rugged Finnish Lapland. Scientists estimated it originating from 3200 years Before the Common Era (BCE), making it well above 5000 years old!
If you are coming to Lapland during winter you will definitely not want to skip Bliss Adventure’s Wilderness Skiing packages. You will get to experience true wilderness in a genuine environment with skilled and friendly guides. For the ones with a bigger appetite for adventure, don’t miss the 2 day 1 night Wilderness Skiing tour where you spend an overnight in a backcountry hut!
3. Grab the axes and climb up the ice wall
Ice climbing is a newcomer in Lapland winter activities compared with the beyond classic acts of going to sauna or skiing. Why its winning hearts so fast? Perhaps because the Lapland’s half-a-year ice climbing season is among the longest in the World. Also, the ice quality is enviable, since it is safe and solid and very much fun to climb with well-sharpened ice tools. In addition to that, the approach to ice climbing walls in forests is often very reasonable – sometimes within minutes like in Pyhä, Lapland!
Bliss Adventure is the leading ice climbing agency in Lapland, having a decade’s experience and a track record of thousands of happy climbers, most of them first-timers.
Ice climbing is done on steep ice formations. The climber will climb over various features of ice using a very specific gear such as ice axes and crampons. Every climb on ice is unique and therefore very rewarding. It is about true interaction with Mother Nature’s frozen creations.
Ice climbing does require a tad of an adventurous mind. However, it does not require an athlete’s strength nor an extreme mindset. When ice climbing is done with Bliss Adventure guides’ instructions, it is a very safe activity also for the absolute beginner. It’s all about technique, determination and challenging oneself the safe way.
Book your safe and fun ice climbing experience here. The trips start from 82 Euros and the kids join too! (But let’s not tell the grandparents, ok?)
4. Eat like a local in Lapland
Cooking and dining in Lapland is all about world-class raw materials and the pure tradition of respecting the simple and refined flavours of nature. There’s the wild berries, mushrooms, fish and game – and of course the reindeer!
Lapps love reindeer and moose meat. Sometimes it is smoked or roasted, often stewed or even air-dried, these meat dishes are a true part of Lappish culture. Traditionally these kinds of meals are served with potatoes, boiled or mashed. Especially in Eastern-Lapland, potato can be beautifully replaced with kaskinauris, which loosely translates as Arctic Swede, or turnip, the predecessor of potato.
For the fish lovers, there’s a whole lot to choose from. Lapland’s cold lakes and vast rivers are rich in fish from the tiny tasty vendace to the massive salmons and everything in between. A big classic for a reason is the glow-fried salmon, cooked patiently with open fire. Ahhhh… Mouth-watering!
If you are looking for the currently most fascinating restaurant in Lapland look no more. It is Restaurant Tapio in the backwoods of Posio. They have dazzled the church of culinary by their lovely, small-scale concept and beyond thorough commitment to the authentic Lappish tastes. Be early though! This restaurant is very popular and it can take weeks to get a table reservation.
An excellent more well-known restaurant option is the Sky Ounasvaara in Rovaniemi. We have lost count a long time ago how many times they were awarded and rewarded – every time for a good reason. For more budget-conscious visitor Cafe Kauppayhtiö is a great choice as they make wonderful reindeer pizza and burgers in Rovaniemi downtown. Their motto goes: “Taste the taste!”
5. Meet the reindeer (and the herders)!
The reindeer is an internationally well-known partner of Santa Claus, but it is also an icon of Finnish Lapland. Reindeers have co-existed with people of Lapland for ages, and in many cases made it possible for the locals simply to exist and survive.
The number of reindeer, the semi-domestic deer-like animal, is in the province of Lapland somewhere above 200 000. This exceeds the number of people in the area.
A great place to encounter the reindeer and the herder equally well is Jaakkola Reindeer Farm in Luosto. This small family-owned and friendly farm welcomes everyone from toddlers to seniors to learn of their traditional lifestyle – and of course to spend time with the reindeer!
Wish to learn about more activities with the reindeer? Here you go.
If there is one thing to remember about the reindeer, it would be this: “Reindeer droppings look like little chocolate balls. They do not taste like chocolate.”
6. Hunting The Northern Lights and better yet, capturing them!
Want to see Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis? Go North. In Northern Lapland where the magical lights shine in the skies roughly every other clear night between September and March. Please note, that due to snowfall and general overcast those clear nights could sometimes be scarce.
The Aurora Borealis folklore is full of so wonderful stories that it is almost a shame to let the modern science ruin it. However, it is everyone’s choice if a magic fox running across the sky sounds more appealing than high electro-magnetic activity in the thermosphere, directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. I prefer the magic fox!
The thrill of witnessing the Aurora Borealis is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. Some, however, get hooked and can never get enough of the blazing colours in the sky and keep returning to Lapland year after year. For some, it is like wanting to go to Pavarotti or Rolling Stones concert, again and again, kind of?
To witness the Aurora Borealis is wonderful. To learn to capture them by one’s camera is even more so. For this Bliss Adventure’s Northern Lights Photography Workshop in Pyhä is the perfect choice. You only have to bring your own camera and you will learn to get the perfect picture against the starry night sky and the Finnish winter landscape.
You will benefit from the skills learned at the photo workshop for the rest of your life, no matter if the Auroras will reveal themselves on that particular night or not! Another solid reason for choosing Pyhä as your Lapland destination is the Pyhä Aurora Alert Realtime Service. It is the most sophisticated northern light alert system in the whole World, intelligent enough to combine the solar activity data and the current weather. This means, that Pyhä Aurora Alert Realtime service only alarms when there’s no overcast disturbing the views to the sky. Better yet, it is free of charge for the guests in Pyhä-Luosto area! Activate it here:
Further reading for the Aurora lovers
7. Ride e-fatbike on snow!
Everyone knows how to ride a bicycle. But not everyone gets to enjoy the Arctic taiga forest’s winding paths on a fatbike! Fatbike? Well, it does look kinda fat indeed. Those bulky, wide tyres make its appearance somewhat different from a standard mountain bike. What is it like to ride, then? Very much like the conventional mountain bike, just easier and more fun! Fatbike is more agile than anyone could guess and excels on snow or any other soft surface. Chubby tyres offer a huge grip on the uphill and float the bike on snow surprisingly well. How about the e-fatbike? It simply elevates the effortlessness and fun to the next level. The electric pedalling assistant requires the rider still to pedal, but the battery-powered electric engine-like unit flattens the uphills beautifully. Conquer the fells on an e-fatbike and enjoy the vast views!
Bliss Adventure not only organises guided e-fatbike tours into Pyhä-Luosto National Park in Lapland but also offers unique tours to Luosto Amethyst Mine. If you’d rather grab a map and explore the Pyhä-Luosto trails on your own, you can also rent an e-fatbike. Pyhä-Luosto region could be an amazing place to visit and enjoy also on a bicycle, but there is some great stuff happening elsewhere in Lapland, too. Should you be heading to Rovaniemi for some days, or Saariselkä further north, please consider contacting Roll Outdoors. They are a professional and fun squad, and their e-fatbikes are sweet and quick.
Looking for more ideas? Check out our list of Lapland activities for solo, duo and family trips