Lapland (Finnish: Lappi) is the Arctic north of Finland, officially called a province of the same name, but in reality originating near the Arctic Circle.
In winter the temperature can drop to -50 degrees, and during the whole polar night (aka kaamos ) during the whole day there is no sun at all. Conversely, with summer comes white nights, and the temperature sometimes rises to 30 degrees, although summer temperatures are usually around 10 – 20 degrees. The warmest month is July.
Lapland is the wild north of Finland and the last home of the Lapps, a people who live by reindeer herding and the recent growth of selling trinkets to curious tourists.
There are few historical sites here because at the end of World War II, the retreating German army burned all the land and destroyed everything in its path as punishment to the people of Finland for its peace agreement with the Soviet Union. After this action, 100,000 people were missing, 675 bridges were destroyed, all major roads were mined, and only thirteen houses remained in the capital Rovaniemi.
Still, people come here to look not at the architecture, but at nature. Even though there are no cliffs or fjords here, the endless pine forests and deserted rounded hills in between can be breathtakingly beautiful.
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The province of Lapland is divided into four cities and sixteen municipalities. There is only one region in the province, and it is called Lapland. In reality, it’s all the same.
- Kemi ( Kemi ) is a papermaking town, best known for its unique Arctic icebreaker cruise and the world’s largest snow castle.
- Rovaniemi, the capital of the province and the only city of its size, is the hometown of Santa Claus.
- Tornio ( Tornio ) is a small town on the border with Sweden. The Swedish part is called Haparanda.
- Kemijärvi ( Kemijärvi ).
Simo, Keminmaa, Ylitornio, Pello, Kolari, Muonio, Enontekiö, Kittilä, Rännikä.
(Kittilä), Ranua, Posio, Salla, Pelkosenniemi, Savukoski, Sodankylä, Inari and Utsjoki.
The local language is Finnish, but as elsewhere in Finland you can get along just fine in English. And although Swedish is also an official language, due to the remoteness of Lapland from the borders it is barely spoken. So for those who do not know Finnish, English is the only alternative. The Sami language is rarely spoken in the farthest north of Lapland (Sodankylä, Inari, Utsjoki and Enontekiö).
How to get there
The most practical and fastest way to get to Lapland is by plane. But flights are very rare and extremely expensive. There are commercial airports in Enontekiö, Ivalo, Kemi/Tornio, Kittilä and Rovaniemi. The best airlines are Finnair, Blue1 and Finncomm Airlines. Air Baltic flies to Rovaniemi and Kittilä from Riga. To get acquainted with the airfares see different aggregator sites or, for example, here.
The train will take you to the provincial capital Rovaenemi on the Arctic Circle border or to the station in the Far North in Kolari.
If you’re entering from the Swedish side, there’s a chance to go between the Swedish border at Tornio and Kemi, but there’s a free bus there for those who use the Inter Rail and Scanrail railroads.
Intercity buses go anywhere, even the smallest place. It’s the slowest and cheapest mode of transportation. Sure, there are stops, but if you encounter a bus on a lonely country road, you can stop it by extending your arm.
You can get to many places in Lapland by car, but the traffic even on the main roads is fairly quiet and the distances are truly vast. In winter, travel by car can be risky. From the first of December to the end of February you need to use winter tires M+S. This is the most dangerous time, when everything starts to freeze, when a slippery and almost invisible layer of ice forms on the roads. Be vigilant, especially at dawn and dusk, and be wary of wild animals. Reindeer are often the cause of accidents, while collisions with American elk are less frequent and often fatal. If you hit a deer, you should report it to the local authorities, even if the animal is perfectly fine. The authorities will, in turn, inform the reindeer owner (you won’t be blamed for anything, unless you were drunk and speeding).
Bring the necessary supplies in case of a collision or breakdown, especially in winter. Locals will help you to the best of their ability, but you’ll probably have to wait a long time in the cold for help. Unlike American moose, which jump out unexpectedly and on their own, reindeer move in groups, and it is usually easy to avoid a collision by reducing your speed at the sight of a group of reindeer.
The Finnish traffic safety education organization Liikenneturva has a web site in English with useful winter driving tips.
When is the season. When is the best time to go.
Christmas with Santa in Lapland sounds tempting, but at this time of year it is usually dark and cold. It’s a great time to watch the northern lights, plus Finland is known for being frequented by Santa Claus. During this period the number of tours from Russia increases, you can see here.
By the end of February the weather and daylight situation improves. The temperature is around -10 degrees at best, and the sun shines for about 12 hours a day, although it is quite low, which makes it seem like just endless twilight! But the Finns don’t start getting ready for the skiing season until Easter, when it gets really warm and you can ski in just a T-shirt. You have to wait until the snow melts a bit (up to two meters), and then you can ski like in May.
In late spring and early summer, when the snow melts, everything is covered with mud. The Lapland mosquitoes ( hyttynen ) appear, a real curse. And if you think it’s a common nuisance, you’re very wrong, because you’ve never encountered hordes of these insects. Don’t go outside without a proven bug spray. Mosquitoes are rare in central parts of cities, but it’s still impossible to completely avoid their bites. But while the bites are itchy and the buzz of the insects is irritating, they are not dangerous in themselves and do not carry any diseases.
On the other hand, the famous white nights can be observed throughout Lapland. At this time, in order to celebrate the white nights and the equinox, there are special events and festivals. In the city of Rovaniemi from early June to early July the sun never sets, and if you go further north, it only increases in size. Some foreigners find it difficult to fall asleep during this darkness-deprived period, although the usual sleepbands may help them do so.
By the end of June, the number of insects begins to diminish, and in late August they disappear completely. Traveling in the middle of Rusca, the most colorful season of fall, can be an unforgettable experience. There are also many other summertime activities, such as biking, river rafting or fishing. Another key event in August is the Luosto Classic, an outdoor classical music festival.
One of the most interesting and famous areas of Finland is considered Lappi, which covers about a third of the country. It is famous for its snowy winters, pristine nature, developed infrastructure and a variety of entertainment. This is a great place to relax with the whole family.
Rugged, but a fabulous land
To answer where and in what country is the region of Lapland, you should look at the map: it shows that it lies in Finland, and across its territory flows a large river Turneelven. This region covers the northern parts of Norway and Sweden, as well as a small area of the Kola Peninsula (Russia). Almost the entire region is located above the Arctic Circle. Here live the Lapps, who have preserved their linguistic and cultural autonomy.
Most tourists come to Lapland in winter, in this northern province to meet the New Year with children, enjoy the Arctic nature and visit the village of Santa Claus. At this time there is snow everywhere, and the streets are decorated with glittering Christmas trees and garlands. The area covers an area of 100366 square kilometers, with the landscape represented by mountains, rivers and plains. This kingdom of cold is known as the time of “kamos”, when everything is immersed in the blue, and the sun does not overcome the horizon line.
Cities of Lapland, Finland
The region includes 21 communities (municipalities and communes), located in different countries. When we talk about tourism, we mean the Finnish part of Lapland, which has its own coat of arms and capital, Rovaniemi, where excursions to different parts of the region begin. In general, there are a few dozen towns. On their territory work museums and galleries, hold all sorts of festivals and events.
To get to Lapland, tourists must have a Schengen visa, as Finland is a member of the European Union. In addition to Rovaniemi, it is worth visiting cities such as:
- Kemi – it is famous for the Gem Gallery, the Museum of Art and History, and the Snow Castle, which is the largest in Europe.
- Kemijärvi – this Lapland town is surrounded by forests and lakes, where you can go fishing or relax in nature. There are temples and exhibitions.
- Inari – famous for the interactive Gold Washing Museum, where you can feel like a prospector. Gold sands are brought here from the mines, so everyone has a chance to find an ingot.
Population of Lapland
The number of locals in Lapland is 183963 in 2008. Most of them speak Finnish, and the rest speak Sámi, Swedish, etc. About 5 thousand years the Lapps live here, who have preserved their culture, traditions and language. They have their own parliament and even a radio. In Lapland towns such as Ivalo and Inari, street signs and signposts are bilingual. The region is the 5th highest GDP in the country.
When is the best time to go to Lapland?
Most tourists who are going to travel to Lapland, are interested in the question of when you can see the northern lights. The best time for this is considered a period from early September to late March. To observe it is worth choosing a clear night.
Lapland has a continental climate, when warm summers are replaced by frosty winters. In July the air can get up to +25 ° C, and in winter the mercury often drops below -20 ° C. By the way, sometimes it can reach -50 ° C. Snow lies here from May to October, and in the summer there are white nights.
What to do in Lapland in winter?
Most tourists come here in the cold season to find themselves in a real fairy tale. In winter in Lapland, you can visit various attractions, including the famous village of Santa Claus. Here all the dreams come true and the magic is done, which helps create the gnomes and reindeer Rudolph. In the capital there is the Arcticum Museum Center, which introduces the history of the region, life of shamans and indigenous people.
In Finnish Lapland you can visit the zoo and nature reserve, which is home to Arctic animals, climb mountains or ride on a sled with reindeer. It is worth to see such objects as:
- Ice Village – it is located in Saariselkä and is known for its ice structures. The village has a traditional Lapland igloo hut, through the transparent ceiling of which you can see the fabulous polar sky. The temperature ranges from -3 ° C to -8 ° C.
- Art Museum – its exposition is represented by 2 thousand works, the authors of which are local expressionist artists. It is named after its founder and is located in the town of Tornio.
- Lemmenjoki is the largest national park in Europe. An interesting fact about it is that in this part of Lapland you can see untouched hand forests. They are home to bears, deer, wolverines and foxes.
- Ranua is a famous nature park in Lapland, considered the most northern on the planet. Wolves, lynxes, polar bears and roe deer can be found on its territory. Visitors can ride on dog sleds.
- Ski resorts – on the hills of Lapland there is the biggest altitude difference in Finland. Their slopes are equipped with a variety of slopes and convenient elevators. The best places for skiing are Levi, Ruka, Luosto and Yullas.
Hotels in Lapland, Finland
Most hotels are located at ski resorts and tourist centers. You can stay in Lapland in camping sites, hostels, hotels, bungalows, apartments and chalets. The cost of the most budget room will cost €20, and the cost of the cottage – €50. Accommodation facilities are equipped with modern rooms, comfortable furniture and appliances.
Many hotels have spa salons, massage rooms and swimming pools, as well as private parking and Internet. The best places in the region are Youth Center Vasatokka, Hotel Inari and Tradition Hotel Kultahovi.
The ice hotel in Lapland deserves special attention, where the entire interior and objects are made of blocks of snow. The air temperature in the room is -5 ° C. Find such a facility in the town of Kemi, in the fortress Lumilinna.
Cuisine of Lapland
In the menus of restaurants are often found Sámi dishes, which is dominated by reindeer meat. Here it is boiled, stewed, and cured. Be sure to try the delicacy of berries and bread cheese, fried fish and mashed potatoes with lingonberry jam. You can try it all in catering establishments like Laanilan kievari, Santa’s Salmon Place and Cafe Porotupa.
What to bring from Lapland?
As a souvenir tourists take away from here delicacies and national paraphernalia, such as products from trees, horns and skins of deer. It could be slippers, hats, toys, jewelry or cooking utensils. In almost every city there are boutiques, various stores and markets, including flea markets.
How to travel from Helsinki to Lapland?
You can get to Lapland from Helsinki by plane (there are airports in many cities), and by car on highway E75, the distance is 1010 km. Tourists can also get here from the capital by train, the journey time takes up to 15 hours.