I’ve been traveling the world since I was 18. And if there’s one trip that has left its mark on me, it’s my holidays in Finnish Lapland. To be surrounded by endless white landscapes, to see the northern lights for the first time, to sleep in an igloo, to go dogsledding… A dream came true !
Good to know :
Lapland is a huge region of 100 366 km² covering several countries in the north: Norway, Finland, Sweden but also part of Russia. People very often prefer Finnish Lapland (just like us), but you can also plan a trip to Swedish Lapland or Norway.
Are you also dreaming of going to Lapland? In this complete guide, you’ll find all of my advice to help you organize your holidays: plane tickets, accommodation, what to do, how to get around etc.
Table of contents
Why did we choose to go to Lapland in the winter?
No matter what time of year it is, Lapland is still an absolutely incredible place. But to be honest, I just had a big crush on Finnish Lapland in winter. The landscapes are completely transformed, and it’s THE time to be able to see some Northern Lights! Finally, it’s in winter that you’ll be able to take part in many cool and unusual activities.
When to start planning your holidays in Lapland?
The sooner the better. You should know that Christmas and New Years are very touristy times : at this time of the year, accommodation are going like hot cakes… Mainly because some people book their holidays in Lapland more than a year in advance!
As an example, we started to organize our trip in September 2019, for February 2020, which is almost 6 months earlier.
So a piece of advice: don’t wait too long!
The best time to go there in winter:
Depending on your availabilities, I highly recommend that you go between December and March to take full advantage of the activities that Lapland has to offer.
Wintertime in Lapland is composed of different well defined periods. This is always good to keep in mind when planning your trip, as each period is different in terms of sunshine, amount of tourists etc.
December – beginning of January: as said before, it’s THE most touristy period in Lapland because of Christmas and New Years. Tourists are coming in numbers to spend the holidays there, and discover the world famous Santa Claus’ house (which is the number one activity). It’s a magical time, but very ofter prices are soaring and I highly recommend to book your accommodation at least 8 to 12 months in advance. NB: the days are extremely short and poor in light, as it’s the polar night.
Mid-January – February: it’s the time we chose. The days are longer: we had between 5 and 6 hours of sunshine per day, which is not only pleasant but also convenient for planning some activities. There are also far fewer tourists than in December, and it’s especially a good time to go to Lapland to see the Northern Lights.
March to April: there are much less tourists, and prices are more “affordable”. It’s a lot less cold which is ideal for outdoor activities such as snowshoe hiking, cross-country skiing etc. However, as the days get much longer you’ll have less chance to see the Northern Lights!
How to get to Finnish Lapland?
Depending on your accommodation, you’ll have several choices of airports:
Rovaniemi: It’s Finnish Lapland capital, and therefore the busiest airport. The airport is located 9-10 kms from the city center, where you’ll be able to find a lot of accommodation. There is quite a large choice of restaurants and tourist agencies to organize your activities there. It’s also where you’ll find Santa Claus’ house.
Kittila: Located much further north in Lapland, this is the closest airport from Levi, one of the biggest ski resorts and one of the top tourist destinations in Lapland.
Ivano: In case you want to travel to Northern Finland, Ivano is the airport of choice. That’s where you will have the best chance to see the Northern Lights.
All of these airports are served/operated by the FinnAir company, which we travelled with. Whether it was from Paris or Geneva, we had to make a stopover in Helsinki.
Although if the company lost my suitcase on the way back (due to a very short connection), I like FinnAir very much. The staff is super nice, smiling, and the seats are nice and comfy enough for short flights!
As for the fares, depending on the period you chose you’ll have to count between 400 and 500 € for a round-trip ticket, luggage included. I personally paid 500 € from Geneva with FinnAir including two 23kg checked luggages (1 included + 1 additional baggage that I added while making my reservation and that I paid 50 €).
How to get around in Lapland:
Most of the hotels, but also the activities you will book during your stay often offer transfers (free or not – depending on the case) to allow you to make the round trip from one place to another.
Personally, I clearly prefer the freedom to be able to move around everywhere as I please by renting a car. With this solution, you won’t have to rely on scheduled transfers!
If you are interested in this option, you will find many car rental agencies at the main airports: Rovaniemi, Ivano and Kittila.
We paid about 814 € for our 12 days stay. This included full insurance and a 7-seater car (as we had a lot of luggage, we decided to rent a big car).
Good to know before renting a car:
- I highly recommend you to choose a car with full insurance. The roads in Lapland are very well maintained, but an accident can happen quickly… And not necessarily with other cars, but with animals. For example, reindeers don’t hesitate to cross the road without any warning: so be careful!
- Don’t worry about snow tires: cars in Lapland are all equipped with such tires.
- Don’t forget to bring a GPS to help you find your way around.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for snow scrapers, brooms etc. to sweep your car in the morning 🙂
- Don’t forget to book your car quickly to get the best rates.
- A four wheel drive car is best for the extreme conditions of the region, but you can rent any type of car.
Companies such as Free Mobile or Orange in France offer packages including data abroad, which I highly recommend.
That’s the case of Free Mobile (my own network). There is a 19.90 € package including 25GB abroad in more than 65 destinations including Finland. Therefore, I didn’t have any worries about the internet, as the network is surprisingly good in Lapland! It was indeed so good that I always had an internet connection, even in the furthest parts of the country.
In case you don’t have included roaming in your package, don’t worry: every establishment offers Wifi!
Do I need an adapter?
Fellow French friends, do not worry: plugs in Lapland are the same as ours, i.e. from standard voltage to 220 V to European standards.
Where did we stay during our trip?
We stayed in 5 places completely different from each other:
Arctic SnowHotel and Glass Igloos (2 nights): How would you like to sleep in rooms made entirely of ice and snow? This is the unique and original experience that this hotel offers. A moment that I will never forget. The hotel also offers to sleep in an igloo.
Wilderness Inari (3 nights): Located in northern Finnish Lapland, the Wilderness Inari is the ideal place to see the Northern Lights.
Northern Light Ranch (3 nights): This hotel has cabins with huge windows and is located close to Levi. There’s nothing like waking up to a breathtaking view of nature all around!
Northern Light Village Levi (3 nights): A new resort located in Sirkka, which has wooden cabins where you can admire the Northern Lights and stargaze.
What to do in Lapland (activities)?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Lapland, it’s that it’s impossible to get bored!
Here are some examples of activities you can do:
- Go dogsledding
- Skiing in Levi
- Visit a reindeer farm
- Go ice karting
- Sleeping in an ice hotel
- Chasing the northern lights…
But as each activity deserves its full description, I made a list of the must-do activities during your holidays in Lapland (with a price estimate) in this article: “What to do in Finland during winter: 9 activities you have to try “
How to dress to survive Lapland’s cold?
Temperatures can be as low as -30 degrees celsius in winter, so it’s imperative to be well equipped before travelling to Lapland.
The key to facing the cold? Thermal underwear, but also layering! Putting layers of clothing on top of each other will help you survive the extreme conditions.
I’ve written a complete article to help you pack your suitcase, explaining from A to Z what you absolutely must bring with you for your holidays in Lapland : “Winter travel packing list : what to wear in cold weather”
As I said before, thermal underwears are a must, and it would be difficult to survive without them in Lapland’s cold. But you will also need to bring waterproof shoes, warmers, a good jacket, gloves, hats or beanies and some scarves.
Compared to other countries, holidays in Finnish Lapland can be very expensive. This will mainly depend on your accommodation, but also on the activities that you will do there.
As an example, here’s what the budget for a trip like ours looks like:
- Plane tickets: It costs between 400 and 600 €. I personally spent 500 € for the round trip with two 25 kg luggage.
- Car rental: Count about 30 to 65 € per day depending on the size of the car. We paid 271 € each for a 12-day rental.
- Accommodation: Very often we stayed in igloos/glass cabins, which cost between 200 and 300 € per night.
- Activities: It all depends on which particular activity, but for a dogsled ride you should expect a minimum of 100 € per person, for a ski pass it’s 40 € per day, and a snowmobile ride will cost you 120 €.
- Food: Between 15-25 € per meal.
Basically, I would say that you should count on a minimum of 1400 € per person for a week of holidays in Lapland… Obviously, this budget will change according to you, your desires and your needs!