What to do in Finland during winter: 9 activities you have to try

by Hélène
northern lights lapland aurora

Exploring Finland in winter…  A destination that many people dream of, not only for the beauty of the scenery but also for the variety of activities you can do there. Dogsledding, skiing, snowshoe hiking, ice karting: there are many choices, it’ s impossible to get bored during your trip to Finnish Lapland!

Therefore in this article, I’m sharing with you my favorite activities there, which you must absolutely add to your to-do list in Lapland.

 

wilderness inari lapland

 

A dog sled ride

If there is one activity to do, it is definitely a sled dog ride. A unique experience, in an incredible scenery that will make you discover the beautiful landscapes of Lapland in an unusual way.

We had the opportunity to experience it twice during our stay in Lapland, and each time it was magical! The first time it was with “Wilderness Inari“, and for our second ride we went to the “Northern Light Ranch”. During the rides, I was comfortably installed in the sled while admiring the landscape unfolding before my eyes. We also had the opportunity to visit the site and discover how the dogs are trained and cared for all year round, summer and winter.

Being the most popular activity in winter in Finland, many agencies offer this type of excursion. However, be careful with the companies with which you book your dog sledding trip… Especially because some agencies are more respectful of animals than others, and many customers can be fooled. Don’t hesitate to ask what they do with dogs that are too old, and if they euthanize them, run away!

The companies that I’ve been recommended:

  • Berhill Husky. 
  • Hetta Huskies (the guides speak French/English)
  • You can also go directly to your hotel to book your sled dog excursion (that’s what we did). But don’t forget to ask how the dogs are treated!

Price is between 100 and 200 € per person (it will vary according to the time of the ride).

 

Skiing in Levi

As a big fan of winter sports, skiing in Lapland was a must-do during our stay.

Levi being the biggest ski resort in Finnish Lapland, we decided to spend a few days in the surroundings to enjoy the slopes. Although it’s not as big as the ones close to my home in Haute-Savoie, Levi is still a really nice resort. There are slopes for all levels, and I loved the modern lifts (there’s even a chairlift with heated seats!) which clearly have nothing to be jealous of French resorts.

Price: Count about 40€ to 50€ for the whole day, and about 34€ for 3 hours, which is still quite expensive for a ski pass.

Ski rental: As we didn’t have any ski equipment with us, we rented ours at Elan Ski shop, 5 minutes from the slopes. They provide you with the skis, a pair of boots and ski poles. Count about 25€ for 3 hours, and between 35 and 40€ for the day.

ski resort levi

 

An original activity: ice karting!

During our stay in Levi we decided to go ice karting. An unusual activity that was completely different from anything we had done before.

The place we went to in Levi is called Ice Karting. They give you all the necessary equipment: helmet, racing suit, hood and even shoes. For 65 €, you will be able to race twice for 15 minutes. The price also includes a round trip from your hotel. Between these two runs, you can enjoy a short break around a fire, to taste the famous traditional berry juice.

A great super fun experience to do with friends or family!

Ice Karting : Website  | Address: Yrittäjätie 5, Levi

 

Observing the Northern Lights

Seeing the Northern Lights is the dream of everyone who comes to Finnish Lapland.  If you have never seen them before and you don’t know how don’t hesitate to book a guide. This is what we did the first time. We went on a snowmobile ride, and it was very interesting to know the tricks to be able to see them in the best possible way (because when they are not that strong, it’s not so easy to spot them).

A few tips to spot the Northern Lights:

  • Download the My Aurora Forecast app, or Aurora Forecast. Even if these two apps aren’t 100% reliable, they can really help you know if the Northern Lights are close to you or not. My Aurora Forecast even warns you with an alarm, which is helpful because you sometimes have to wake up in the middle of the night!
  • You can only see the Northern Lights if the sky is perfectly clear. So you don’t need to go outside if there are clouds, light pollution or if it rains.
  • Prepare all your stuff in advance so that you can get dressed quickly.
  • Don’t forget your tripod.
  • Watch Youtube tutorials or read specialized blogs to get familiar with your camera settings before your trip to Lapland. It would be a shame to waste time on that when the much-awaited moment is here.

northern lights lapland aurora

 

 

Sleeping in an ice hotel

If you are looking for a unique experience during your trip to Lapland I recommend that you try a night in a hotel made entirely of ice! Who would have thought that sleeping in a room where the temperature is -15°C would be possible?

  • Arctic Snow Hotel: my thoughts

I experienced this at the Arctic Snow Hotel located 30 minutes from Rovaniemi. The hotel is entirely made of ice, with different types of rooms, a bar, but also a restaurant. We had a large room with a double and a single bed. I have to admit that when I arrived, I was a bit worried about the cold. But the hotel gives you the essentials to survive that night: a thermal sleeping bag and another special bag in which you slip first. The hotel also advises to wear only thermal underwear to sleep, as well as a beanie.

However, it is impossible to keep your suitcase with you in the room: you can leave your luggage in a locker room with a deposit system. Inside the locker room, there are also 10 warm beds for those who are unable to spend the whole night in their ice rooms. Toilets and showers are located in another part of the hotel, to be shared with other guests.

My thoughts after a night spent there: I immediately played the game when I discovered this incredible hotel. But I have to admit that I had trouble sleeping properly, despite the sleeping bag… And since I had to breathe, my mouth and nose were exposed to the freezing air in the room, which made it even harder to sleep. So after 3 hours, I went to sleep in the heated room of the hotel. I’m still really happy to have had this experience, and one thing’s for sure: I’ll remember it for a long time!

Price: You have to count a minimum of 200€ per night with breakfast included. This experience has a cost, but I recommend it for those of you who like a little adventure! 🙂

 

 

Snowmobiling

We had the opportunity to go snowmobiling when we were in Inari (in northern Finland) to hunt for the Northern Lights. Despite the cold (-25°C!), I really enjoyed the experience. But if I had to do it again, I would try a day ride, even at sunset, to fully enjoy the view and the landscapes.

If you have never ridden a snowmobile, it is highly recommended that you do so on an organized excursion. Driving a snowmobile is not difficult in itself, but you must follow a lot of rules and understand the basics.

Price: Around 80€ per person – while being two per snowmobile.

You also have the option of renting your snowmobile for the day or just a few hours. You must have your driver’s license and respect the roads.

Trying out a sauna: an authentic Finnish tradition

It’s clearly impossible to travel to Finland during the winter without trying the sauna at least once! You can find saunas everywhere, there are more than 2 million of them for more than 5.3 million inhabitants. In fact, all hotels have saunas for their guests. So you won’t need to go anywhere to try this activity !

While not being a big fan of saunas and other hammams in general, I still found the experience quite pleasant. For the more adventurous, you can go for a swim in ice-cold water or roll around in the snow afterwards! We tried out the Finnish sauna at the Arctic Snow Hotel, which also has Jacuzzi. So we booked a “Sauna + Jacuzzi Experience” and it was super fun!

wilderness inari lapland

Visit a reindeer farm

In case you didn’t know, Lapland is the land of reindeer! Visiting a reindeer farm is therefore a really nice activity if you want to learn more about these majestic animals. There are many reindeer farms in Finnish Lapland, so you will be given plenty to choose from. Not only can you feed them, but you can also go sledding or spend time with them. You can also visit family reindeer farms, where the locals are always happy to show you their culture.

 

Other activities to try on a trip to Finnish Lapland :

  • Take a snowshoe hike: not expensive, and it is very easy to rent snowshoes.
  • Cross-country skiing in Levi – there are many trails in Lapland.
  • Discover the ice hotel at Arctic Snow & Hotel, without sleeping there. You can eat there and have a drink at the bar!
  • Take a cooking class to learn more about Finnish cuisine.
  • Visit the famous Santa Claus village near Rovaniemi.

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