What I Learned From My Visit To Lapland
Lapland – A vast magical region made up of the northernmost parts of Sweden and Finland, best known for its pristine winter landscapes, dancing northern lights, wandering reindeer, and of course, Santa! A place I’ve been dreaming of visiting ever since I was little, so when I got the chance to visit Finnish Lapland last month I couldn’t wait! Lapland is definitely not just for children hoping to meet Santa but for all walks of life who enjoy the great outdoors! If you can think of a winter outdoor activity, you can probably find it here, including reindeer and dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. There are also plenty of opportunities to experience the culture and traditions of the Sami, the native people of Lapland. Read ahead to find out what I learned from my time in Lapland.
It’s cold but not UK cold
Hear me out… Obviously, the Arctic is much, much colder than the UK but thanks to its dry, crisp air you don’t experience that clingy damp chill that the UK is famous for, making the cold a lot more enjoyable here than back home. That being said it’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach – 30 °C therefore thermal layers are key to keeping you cosy and warm. A good wooly hat, thick gloves, and insulated boots kept me going on our days outside, and of course a ridiculously padded sleeping bag coat.
Husky sledding is wonderful…
But expect to be sledding into a cloud of stinky dog toots if you catch my drift… Due to their high protein diet and overall excitement for running, they are prone to letting off some serious air biscuits as they race you around the forest. Don’t let that put you off having a go though! This was probably my most favourite activity during my time in Lapland. It was such a surreal experience whizzing through the most perfect wintery wonderland and I absolutely adored getting the chance to meet all the enthusiastic pups that are not quite big enough to run yet. I must mention here that there is always a worry when it comes to anything involving animals in the tourism industry but after meeting the owners of All Huskies it was clear to see how much they love, respect, and care for their dogs.
You’re never too old to visit Santa’s home
Situated next to the Arctic Circle line, you’ll find one of the most magical place on Earth… the Santa Claus Village! The village is open all year round but visiting so close to Christmas was a real treat even for scrouge like myself! With snow-dusted trees, twinkling light displays, and everything Father Christmas related it’s hard to escape that festive feeling is inescapable so let your inner child run free while you’re there. For something a little different I definitely recommend swinging by the world’s most northern post office and sending a postcard to your loved ones. Santa Claus Village is also a great place to shop for souvenirs at the various handcraft shops or learn about Finnish Christmas traditions at the Christmas exhibition. You could even have your photo taken with Father Christmas himself if you feel so inclined! – As a 30-year-old childless woman I skipped this part… Regardless of age, the Santa Claus Village offers a festive holiday unlike no other, so warm up your Grinch heart and immerse yourself in this magical wonderland.
Don’t be afraid to try the local cuisine!
Lapland has always lived with a strong reliance on nature. Sustenance and food have been obtained from the offerings the wild could provide, such as berries, fish, and larger animals like reindeer. So it’s no surprise that Reindeer are an integral part of Lappish culture and cuisine. The Sámi signature dish of lightly-smoked reindeer meat is called Souvas and is traditionally prepared over an open fire and served with lingonberries and mashed potatoes, but the delicacy is also available as pizzas, burgers, and even sushi! If you aren’t too keen on eating Rudolf and his friends then I suggest the freshly caught salmon. Lapland is home to some of Europe’s best salmon rivers so what better place to eat it than here! For afters try the Lapland bread cheese dessert. Known as leipäjuusto in Finnish, this creamy cheesy dish is traditionally accompanied by cloudberries giving it a sweet but tart flavour. Being a more savory kind of girl when it comes to desserts, Leipäjuusto was perfect for me!
Wild Reindeer are everywhere
Here’s a fun fact for you! Did you know Finnish Lapland is home to about 200,000 wild reindeer, making that 20,000 more reindeer than people! So keep your eyes peeled when you’re driving in Lapland as there’s a high chance you’ll spot a group of them grazing by the side of the road. Not only are reindeer an important symbol of Christmas but are a crucial part of the indigenous Sámi people of this region, providing transportation as well as warmth and nourishment in the challenging Arctic climate. These remarkable creatures have adapted perfectly to the unique and oftentimes harsh conditions the Arctic climate has to offer. Another fun fact! – Did you know the farther north you go, the paler and more ethereal the animals’ coats become? That’s pretty magical if you ask me! Guests staying at the Northern Lights Ranch get the chance to feed their fellow reindeer residents each morning with a bucket of tasty lichen giving you a chance to get up close to them. Loved by the locals and adored by visitors, these real-life reindeer might not fly but there’s something so magical about seeing these creatures, especially out in the wild.
Make sure you visit the Arktikum museum
Being in such an outdoor activity-focused destination it’s easy to skip out on the more mundane cultural sites, however, I highly recommend you don’t miss this. Boasting a beautifully designed glass tunnel stretching out to the Ounasjoki river, Arktikum is one of Finland’s most impressive museums. Here you can immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Arctic and Finnish Lapland! Discover the northern regions and their specific characteristics that help to shape and tell the stories of everyday life in the Arctic. Read about the people that inhabit this part of the world, and the new challenges facing the region, such as climate change and globalization. The Arctic in Change is a permanent exhibition that highlights the multidisciplinary research of the Arctic, including photos, videos, and a scale model making it great for adults and kids alike. Even if you’re not into museums, the building in itself is definitely worth the visit!
Don’t be too disheartened if you don’t see the Northern Lights
Lapland is one of the best places to spot the Northern Lights, But like many things in life, it’s never guaranteed. They depend on natural factors such as solar winds and charged particles in the earth’s upper atmosphere but if you come between October and March, the near-total darkness means you’ll have more time to witness them in the dark sky! So if luck is in your favour, and the sky is clear, you can often see Northern Lights. With heavy snow clouds lingering, luck was definitely not in my favour this time around, however, that didn’t stop me from enjoying my time there because even if you don’t manage to catch the Northern Lights, chances are you still get to experience some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes Earth has to offer! Think the whitest of white snow you’ve ever seen, twinkling blue hour at sunrise, and dreamy pink skies at sunset…
Lapland was one of the most surreal places i’ve ever had the chance to visit and while I didn’t catch the Northern Lights this time around, the rolling landscapes, cute animal encounters and the unavoidable festive feeling certainly made up for it. If you’d like to experience your own Lapland adventure, check out all our available dates here!
Written by Lucy Kaufmann