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11 Best things to see & do in Finnish Lapland

  • Finnish Lapland, Finland

Last updated: 04 July, 2023
  • Kemi, Lapland, Finland

Snow Castle at Kemi

Bucket List Experience

Snow Castle at Kemi

Built each winter, this icy architectural showcase has become one of Lapland’s – and indeed Finland’s – biggest draws. Designed by a different architect each year, it always includes the castle, a restaurant, wedding chapel and the infamous ‘SnowHotel’. Bedecked with dramatic ice sculpting enhanced by colourful lighting, it’s a unique visual spectacle that will captivate adults and children alike.

The castle contains bedrooms for guests to stay over in; beds made from of ice and room temperatures a chilly 0°C to -5°C. Thick furs and sleeping bags are provided, but one night is usually enough.

There’s also a restaurant (open to anyone) that serves up Finnish cuisine on tables made of ice; choose between a 3-course menu or a simpler menu of soups and pastries. Drinks include fresh juice from pressed local berries, mulled wine or hot chocolate if you need some warming up, and a fully licensed bar. It’s open for lunch and dinner.

Adult price: £350

Good for age: 8+

  • Lapland, Finland

Speeding out onto tundral plains and through dense boreal forests that make up Lapland’s most spectacular wilderness is one thing. Doing it on a sled pulled by husky dogs is truly something special. It’s a signature Lapland experience not to be missed. Speed, dogs and exciting wilderness to explore – what kid (or adult) could resist?

Tour options range from several hours to several days. Overnight or longer tours will include the opportunity to harness, rig, feed and prep the pack for the following day’s mush, followed by dinner and a sauna – a culturally immerse experience for older kids that’s so much more than just a quick thrill ride, that the whole family can enjoy and share together.

Most tours include educational talks from guides about the animals and the wilderness, and finish up with the irresistible opportunity to pet the cuddly huskies close up.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1+ hour

  • Kemi, Lapland, Finland

Sampo Icebreaker

Bucket List Experience

Sampo Icebreaker

The 3,500-tonne Sampo icebreaker kept shipping lanes open in the Gulf of Bothnia for thirty-odd years until she was forced into retirement. Now, the ship departs on thrilling excursions throughout the winter months, breaking through the Bothnian icefields off Kemi for the pleasure of adventure-seekers.

During the tour, the ship will make a one-hour stop to allow the more adventurous-minded to don a bright-orange puffy rubber survival suit and (safely and warmly) bob in the icy waters off the ship’s stern.

Adult price: £280

Good for age: 6+

Duration: 3 hours

  • Saariselka, Lapland, Finland

The iconic igloo has been used by generations of Inuit for shelter (the word igloo comes from the Greenlandic word Illu, meaning ‘house’). Air pockets in the ice insulate the inside, which can reach temperatures of 16°C, while outside, temperatures plummet to an icy -40°C. Unlike the Intuit, you’ll be supplied with cold-reflecting thermal mats, insulating sleeping mats, thick reindeer furs and expedition-grade thermal sleeping bags.

The brilliant Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort offers you the chance to sleep in a real one. They promise the cosiest of igloo stays, providing thermal sleeping blankets and thick furs.

NB If you don’t fancy the real thing, opt for one of their luxury glass-domed ‘igloos’ instead.

Adult price: £60

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1 night

  • Lapland, Finland

The world’s greatest light show is Mother Nature’s own – the famous ‘Aurora Borealis’ – or more commonly known as the ‘Northern Lights’. It’s an extraordinary natural spectacle, caused by shifts of magnetic energy in the ionosphere, and it’s magical to watch them dance across the heavens, ethereal shapes in shimmering colours forming and dissolving. No wonder seeing them features on so many travel bucket lists.

If you haven’t already, see our round-up of great ways to see the Northern Lights that also explains why they happen, where and when you’re most likely to see them (NB the best viewings are spring and autumn).

Lapland is in the so-called ‘Aurora Belt’, where Northern Lights are at their most intense and colourful. Its vast wilderness is about as far from civilisation as you can get in mainland Europe, with star-studded, inky black skies – making it one of the best places in the world to see the Lights.

Still, there’s no specific one best place or time to see this notoriously fickle phenomenon, so we always recommend pairing it with another experience as part of a broader holiday adventure. See below for our recommendations of other great bucket list experiences in Lapland, where you’re also likely to see the Northern Lights along the way.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: Any

When: Any

Freq: weekly

  • Lapland, Finland

Snowmobiling in Finnish Lapland

Bucket List Experience

Snowmobiling in Finnish Lapland

Snowmobiling is the ultimate high-octane way to get out and experience the great outdoors. Speeding at up to 100km/h, they allow you to cover vast distances, even on the short tours.

Lapland, being a vast, unspoilt wilderness with spectacular scenery and miles and miles of empty trails º is perfect for it. No wonder, then, it’s recognised one of the best places in the world to snowmobile.

Tour options will range from ‘try it out’ experiences lasting several hours, to authentic adventures lasting several days or even a week that often also include experience of the traditional Sami way of life. Some tours are aimed specifically at seeing the Northern Lights

There are countless variations of times, locations and add-on experiences, but see our recommendations below of specific snowmobiling-inspired experiences and organised tours (provided by our partner Viator).

Adult price: £30

Min age 3

Good for age: 6+

Duration: -

  • Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, Finland

SantaPark

Bucket List Experience

SantaPark

Santa Park, just outside Rovaniemi, is the ‘official’ home of Santa Claus and the place to meet Father Christmas in person. This miniature theme park, with rather elaborate Christmas grotto, is also home to several Santa-themed attractions.

There’s Santa’s office, where Santa sits in a plush red-and-white lair, chock full of decorative Christmas kitsch, as elves parade around and giddy young visitors cue up to meet the great man.

There’s an ’elf school’, offering 20-minute lessons in elf secrets and skills, an elf show performed 3-4 times per day, an elf workshop where kids can make a wooden Santa decoration, an ice sculpture gallery and a small train that takes kids through Santa’s house.

At the end, kids can leave their name in the adjacent post office to receive a Christmas letter from Santa. All the magic of Christmas is here…

Adult price: £35

Good for age: 4+

  • Lapland, Finland

Small circular cabin in the woods

Bucket List Experience

Experience a Finnish Smoke Sauna

Finns have used saunas for centuries – for hygiene, warmth and community. The traditional ritual alternates between intense heat and icy cold plunges into nearby frozen lakes.

It sounds unpleasant, but if you heat up enough first, you don’t feel the cold – only an exhilarating, full-body tingling and a deep physical, emotional and spiritual cleanse.

It’s best experienced in the tranquil Lapland wilderness, surrounded by forests and stars.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1-3 hours

  • Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, Finland

Santa Claus Village

Bucket List Experience

Santa Claus Village

Not to be confused with SantaPark, the nearby ‘village’ just down the road is also home to a (smaller) Santa grotto and post office. It is, however, more of an activity centre.

You can sign up for the usual mix of winter activities: reindeer and husky sleigh rides, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, swimming in ice holes, and so on – so plenty for older kids, not just the youngsters. There’s a reindeer farm and husky farm close by. In winter months, Snowman World – an icy playground within the village – has ice slides and ice skating.

For parents, Santa Claus Village hosts stores selling three of Finland’s top design brands – Iittala, Arabia and Marimekko. There’s even an ice restaurant and ice bar for parental escapism.

Good for age: 4+

  • Kuusamo, Finnish Lapland, Finland

Blue car drives by icy track on snow covered lake at winter. Aerial view. Sport car racing on snow race track in winter. Driving a race car on a snowy road.

Bucket List Experience

Rally driving on ice, Lapland

Learning how to control a supercar at high speeds and how to drift a hairpin bend with perfect control – in the snow – is one of Lapland’s more hair-raising and unique experiences.

Four-time World Rally Champion, Juha Kankkunen and his team will teach you expert handling, braking techniques, rally driving skills and 4WD drifting techniques are you race around an ice-covered racing circuit. You learn driving basics in a 4WD Volkswagen Golf, but as your level advances, you’ll move to a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Audi RS4, Porsche Carrera 4 and Lamborghini Gallardo.

Programmes are tailored to anyone, from beginners to advanced – all you need is courage.

Adult price: £1400

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1 day