1. Midnight sun
Between May and June the nights are bright and full of light everywhere in Finland, but only in Lapland you get to realize what this magical phenomena is all about; it really doesn´t get dark at all and in the most northern parts of the country this lasts until the end of July. The contrast is huge especially if coming from somewhere further down south and at first it might even be hard to get sleep without blackout curtains. Other thing that often happens due to this is losing track of time and getting the feeling that the days just never seem to end.
2. Hiking during the colors of Autumn
After the intense northern summer, it´s time for the more serene and peaceful Autumn season. This is a wonderful time of year to head on a hike to experience the restful atmosphere of the northern wilderness, one great bonus being that the mosquitoes are gone for the most part. The colors of autumn begin to appear around the beginning of September and last until the end of October, but there´s slight variation between years. The peak of these beautiful colors depends on the latitude of course, but usually they are at their best around mid-September. Three great easy access options for an Autumn time hike in Lapland are the Pallas-Ylläs, Urho Kekkonen and Pyhä-Luosto National Parks. In all of these parks you can choose between doing day trips and staying in a hotel / cabin or heading on a several day adventure and sleep in a tent or in wilderness huts.
3. Skiing resorts
Snowboarding and cross-country- and down-hill skiing in Lapland are a dream come true for many who are into winter sports. The slopes and hills can´t compete in length with the ones in the Alps for example, but then again they are more suitable for families and people with varying skill levels as there is something for everyone. Places like Levi and Ylläs are the biggest ones with the longest slopes and the most services available including bars, restaurants and shops but if you are looking for a more peaceful atmosphere and not so touristy destinations, Saariselkä and Pallastunturi are two great options. Finland is known for high quality of service and this is true regarding the skiing destinations too; skiing schools and equipment rentals work well and offer the possibility to rent all kinds of equipment on the premises and learn the basics of these wonderful winter time outdoor activities.
4. Sleeping in a rustic wilderness hut
Lapland is home to countless open wilderness huts and lean to –shelters where anyone can just go and spend the night, all year round. Often these charming and rustic huts and log-cabins have been built long time ago to serve as a base for reindeer herders and hunters/fishers for example, but have eventually been left unused and now serving as a resting place for everybody. The level of comforts varies from some being very basic with just a fireplace/wood-burning stove and a place to sleep on whilst others even have saunas to wash away the sweat of a long days hike and sooth the aching muscles. These huts are maintained by the Forest department and they are not meant for a several days´ stay; there´s certain guidelines and unwritten rules like there always should be room for the next one coming, even though you were there first one to arrive and that you should leave it in the same or in better condition than it was when you arrived, meaning that you swipe the floors, make firewood ready etc. Sleeping in a rustic wilderness hut is a thing to remember and it´s a wonderful way to expose oneself to the simple joys of life and the surrounding wilderness.
5. Northern lights
“Aurora watching” or hunting for Northern lights has become extremely popular the past few years and it´s something that millions of people have on their bucket list and no wonder; witnessing this light phenomena with your own eyes really is magical in the true sense of the word. Actually witnessing the lights yourself depends on the solar winds and the weather conditions (clear sky) of course, so a little luck is required. Also you need to be in a place where the light pollution doesn´t prevent them to become visible to the naked eye. You can improve the probability by extending your stay or by heading further up north because the closer to the magnetic north pole you go, the better are the chances for an amazing light show.
6. Snow-scooter trip
Snow-scooters are very common and almost an everyday means of transport / working tool for many local people in Lapland and you see them all around, but driving them is also one of the most popular winter activities and it sure is fun to rent one and head on the maintained trails by yourself or join a guided trip. Driver´s license is required and one should be very cautious because even though they are very simple and easy to drive, a lot of accidents happen and this is mostly due to careless handling and over-trusting your own skills. Better safe than sorry so start easy, learn how to drive first and then head on a thrilling trip through forests and over snowy fells.
7. Local food
You can´t visit Lapland and miss tasting all the special local treats like different berries, reindeer meat, bread-cheese (also known as Finnish squeaky cheese), vendace and other fish caught from the clear and fishy waters of the north. For the most part Finnish cuisine is very simple and relays highly on top quality ingredients with no special tricks required to serve delicious and nutritious meals, but as the world develops and cultures collide, new innovations are constantly made and especially in the skiing resorts one can find very interesting infusion kitchens serving unique dishes and fulfilling even the most demanding of tastes.
8. Reindeer and huskies
If you didn´t meet and feed the reindeer during your visit in Lapland you have missed one integral part of Finnish culture. This traditional source of livelihood and a very special form of keeping livestock is the number one reason why there even is culture in Lapland and there simply is no better symbol for the northern wilderness than this extreme survivor of a deer. During winter the reindeer are in their winter pastures or in corrals where the owners keep them for the most harsh winter time to ensure their health and safety from predators but in the summer you see them roaming free all around. Husky-safaris are another Lapland´s classical animal-related experience and a trip to the wild with these adorable dogs is a thing you remember for the rest of your life. These dogs are born to run and mushing your own team across the snowy landscape of Lapland is something people fall in love with and want to do again and again.
9. After ski
We already mentioned the skiing resorts and an integral part of them is the night life and after ski. No matter if you are not that much into partying, you should definitely visit the after parties to witness and experience the relaxed and fun atmosphere of people letting loose after a long day spent on the slopes. Karaoke is quite popular in Finland and so it is in the skiing resorts so some singing and dancing on the tables can be expected. The most active after ski and nightlife are found in Levi and Ruka where there´s several bars, clubs, restaurants and live-performances / gigs taking place throughout the year. Especially young and middle-aged groups of friends / colleagues are often found partying and enjoying themselves in the several skiing resorts of Lapland.
10. Snow and ice castles
Some of the most popular attractions in the north are the castles built of ice and snow. The first snow-castle was built in Kemi in 1996 and it is still sculpted there every winter for people to visit and admire this temporary and special work of art. Other similar destinations are the Arctic Snow Hotel in Rovaniemi and the Lainio SnowVillage near the Ylläs skiing resort, the latter of which received some major international attention couple of year back with its Game of Thrones –themed castle. Great idea from someone as the series was a huge hit and combines several aspects that perfectly fit into the northern hemisphere; white walkers, harsh winter, king in the north and message ravens to mention a few.
11. Meeting Santa Claus
Santa Claus is not only a Christmas time specialty in Lapland as our beloved Father Christmas and his little helpers can be met face to face in Rovaniemi at Santa Park throughout the year. If you have your Christmas present wishes ready at midsummer, it´s handy being able to give them directly to the person responsible for fulfilling them right? Visiting Santa Claus is a wonderful thing to experience for adults and children alike.
12. Special accommodations
How about sleeping in a glass igloo and watching the night sky from a warm cozy bed? Well that´s possible in several places around Lapland nowadays as more and more of this kind of special accommodation services are being offered, with glass-roofs and large windows that give a feeling that you are truly inside the landscape. Besides glass igloos the traditional type log-cabins are a way better option than a boring hotel room, which are pretty much the same all around the world with only slight differences in the interior. These special options are often more pricey especially during the high season, but as a once in a lifetime –experience they are definitely worth the cost.