Travel Update


northern lights finnish lapland

7 Reasons to Visit Lapland in Winter

Imagine frost-covered trees, festive lighting, and outdoor fun in the snow followed by cuddling with a warm beverage. It doesn't get much closer to a winter wonderland than Lapland!

Lapland comprises the northernmost regions of both Finland and Sweden. For this reason, there is both Finnish Lapland and Swedish Lapland. They are amazing to visit for a snowy getaway.

You will not be disappointed if you travel to Lapland in winter. This Arctic destination has no shortage of awe-inspiring natural attractions, thrilling excursions and unique accommodations.

We’ve compiled the 7 best things to do in Lapland in winter. Read on to get inspired for your next northern holiday!

1. Watch the northern lights dance

First, the bad news: the northern lights, also called aurora borealis, never show up on demand. They depend on natural factors such as solar winds and charged particles in the earth's upper atmosphere.

northern lights in Lapland

However, the good news is that Lapland is one of the best areas in Europe to spot them! This is thanks to its Nordic location.

It is indeed set right by the “Northern Lights Belt”, the region with the most activity in the northern hemisphere. And if you come between October and March, the near total darkness means you’ll have more time to witness them in the dark sky.  

Once in Lapland, you can check through your window for the lights. Or you could book a northern lights experience. These usually allow you to get out of town to more remote and darker areas for the best chance of sightings.

2. Experience a real Arctic adventure

Lapland isn’t just known for its fantastic natural beauty, but also its fun winter activities! Want to feel like a Nordic explorer? Or would you like to experience snow like never before?

There are so many different kinds of tours and pursuits you can enjoy during the winter months. You could go on a sledding safari (with reindeer or huskies!) or buzz through the forest and along frozen lakes on a snowmobile. You only need a driving licence and the courage to take the wheel!

snowmobiling in the snow

In Lapland, you not only get to try first-hand, but also learn from the experts themselves! They’ll teach you so you can experience a real Arctic adventure.

For something a bit more physically challenging, you could try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Looking for something even more unique and extreme? Go for an "arctic swim" during a tour onboard the Sampo icebreaker ship.

If you'd prefer to relax and stay away from the chills, Lapland also offers plenty of calmer and cosier activities. Visit a museum, learn craft or warm up in a sauna.

3. Head "sky-high" in the mountains

For a different outlook on the region, why not head even more north? This time up the mountains of Lapland.

In the Laponian Area, at the heart of Swedish Lapland, you’ll find one of the country’s magnificent national parks, Abisko. It is known for its Aurora Sky Station, one of the best places in Sweden to spot the elusive northern lights.  

You can reach the station via a chair lift which will take you closer to the heavens. This will give you an unspoilt view of the stars above!

Aurora Sky Station © Chad Blakley

From the station, you could go on a short walk around the hotel as well to experience the top of the mountain, but make sure to be dressed for the occasion.

If you want to be experience even more of this mountaintop, why not hire some skis or go snowshoeing?

4. Get into the Christmas spirit

If you didn't get to see Santa climb down your chimney last Christmas, you can make up for it by visiting his Finnish hometown. The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi has declared itself Santa’s official “North Pole” residence. You could even meet Santa himself!

This is a festive activity that will make for a memorable trip for your whole family.

Santa and reindeer © Visit Rovaniemi

Can't travel at Christmastime? No problem! The village is open year-round so you can meet Santa, Mrs Claus, Rudolf, and the busy gift-making elves. You can get a Christmas card-worthy photo here and even send postcards from Santa Claus’ Post Office. They even have a special postmark!

Located across the street, you’ll also find Santa Park, a thematic Christmassy cavern. Here you can cross the Arctic Circle underground, see elves perform acrobatics and more.

5. Warm up in a traditional sauna

Saunas are an integral part of Finnish (and Swedish) culture. Typically, it is in a little hut heated by a wood-burning stove with temperatures in the range of 80-110 C° (176-230 °F).

Fun fact: Did you know that there are half as many saunas as there are people in Finland?

women in sauna

When you’re visiting Lapland, this is your chance to experience this typical tradition. You may find them in hotels and at camps.

A sauna is the perfect way to relax upon your arrival, after a long flight. Or perhaps to warm up after an adventurous day of winter activities.

6. Meet the local Arctic animals

When visiting Lapland, you can look forward to not only a true winter wonderland, but meeting some of its adorable inhabitants. From reindeer rides to husky safaris, you can book excursions to experience their power and cuteness from up close.  

It’s good to remember that reindeer are far more than Santa’s helpers, they're an important part of the cultural fabric in Lapland. For the indigenous Sámi people, these animals have provided transportation, warmth, and nourishment in this challenging Arctic climate for centuries.

To learn more about the tradition of reindeer herding, don’t miss a visit to a Sámi reindeer farm. Depending on your hosts, you may get to help feed the reindeer, go on a reindeer safari, and even taste smoked farm-fresh reindeer meat.

dog sledding in lapland

Alternatively, dog sledding is another fun way to relax and admire the landscape. Dogs have been used for hunting and transportation in this region for over a millennium. And they are not just any dogs, they are usually specially trained Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes.

If you’re not up for an adventure, you could go see the Arctic animals at the Ranua Wildlife Park in Finnish Lapland. It is a treat for animal lovers! Ranua is in fact the northernmost zoo in the world and focuses on animals from the Arctic region that are endangered.

7. Chill out in an ice or snow hotel

Visiting an Arctic destination is already impressive enough. Want even more bragging rights? Spend a night inside a room made of ice!

It's really not as cold as it sounds. Although snow and ice hotels are kept to around -4°C (25°F) inside, guests are provided with thermal sleeping bags and soft reindeer skins to keep warm and comfortable.

And, of course, wearing plenty of layers is a must. Especially when visiting the ice bars, restaurants, and frosty surroundings. After a good night's rest, there's a steaming hot sauna to look forward to in the morning.

ice hotel room

In Swedish Lapland, you’ll find the original Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, near Kiruna. In Finnish Lapland, you can stay at the Arctic SnowHotel outside Rovaniemi, or the SnowCastle in Kemi.

Read our guide to the best Nordic ice hotels to find the one you want to experience.

Frequently asked questions about Lapland

Have all these activities got you excited about booking a trip to Lapland? Maybe you still have a few extra questions. We answer your most commonly asked questions below to give you an idea of what to expect in Lapland.

When is winter in Lapland?

The winter season in Lapland is between the months of October and April.

To experience the best of winter, we recommend visiting between December and March. During this period, you’re more likely to enjoy snow activities, experience the true Lapland winter wonderland and see the northern lights.

How cold is Lapland in winter?

It can get very cold! From November, temperatures drop below 0°C (32 °F) and continue to decline throughout the winter. They can reach temperatures all the way down to -30°C (-22 °F).

Will there be snow in Lapland in winter?

It is extremely likely to snow in Lapland during your winter tour. The snow season starts in November in Lapland and can last until May.

trees and sunset lapland

How many hours of daylight are there in Lapland in winter?

In December you can expect very little, if no, daylight hours in Lapland. This is because the winter solstice, 21 December, marks the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

In Rovaniemi, in northern Finland, daylight hours drop to only 2h15 a day at this time.

This is slightly different from Kiruna, which is located more north inside the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Kiruna experiences a full polar night for almost a full month between early December to early January. A polar night is when the sun does not rise at all over the horizon.

From the solstice until late March, daylight grows steadily. By mid-March you can expect daylight between around 6 AM and 6 PM.

The low amount of daylight hours means there is more time to enjoy the dark skies and try to spot the northern lights.

What is the temperature in Lapland in winter?

You can expect cold temperatures in Lapland between the months of November and March. On average the temperatures drop to -10°C (14 °F). But you should expect the possibility of it falling even more to -20°C (-4 °F) or even -30°C (-22 °F).

Best check the weather before you set off on your trip and pack all the warm clothing needed. This way, whatever the Lapland climate throws your way, you can enjoy all the activities you want to do.

Are you excited about the prospect of a trip to Lapland? We’re sure these 7 reasons (and there are many more!) to visit this Nordic region in winter will have convinced you.

When you are ready to start planning your picture-perfect Lapland winter getaway, get in touch. Our travel consultants are experts in the Nordic region and will help you craft a tailored Arctic adventure best suited to your interests.

Post by: Jessica

When not writing about Northern European tourist attractions, Jessica Bowe is busy daydreaming about her next trip or scouring Instagram for travel inspiration. Originally from Wisconsin (USA), she's lived in Iceland since 2008 and has since become fully immersed in Eurovision mania and Scandinavian coffee culture.

Find Jessica on LinkedIn.

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Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.