Winter Bucket List, Lapland, GoT
Photo by: Lapland Hotels SnowVillage
Kiteskiing in Nuorgam with Alma Arktika
Photo by: Alma Arktika
Winter Bucket List, Lapland, Kemi
Photo by: Visit Kemi
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Snowkites & Snowcastles: Lapland Winter Bucket List

Winter in Lapland means flying down the slopes on skis, trekking Finland’s tallest mountain with snowshoes, and visiting castles made of snow and ice. Is Lapland on your #BucketList?

For much of the world, Lapland IS winter. The snow, the Northern Lights, the castles of snow … there’s nowhere quite like it on Earth. Here are 8 Lapland winter experiences you definitely want to add to your #LaplandBucketList.

1. SNOWSHOE THE SUMMIT OF SAANA

The sun didn’t bother to rise today. It won’t for another week, and even then, it will just poke its head above the hilly horizon before heading back to sleep for 23 hours. But none of that matters right now. Right now, there is only the slope up Saana and the train of travelers. The path before you is pale and steep, ending abruptly in a cobalt sky. You reach the summit by starlight, green hints of auroras in the northern sky. Campfire, coffee and clouds of breath. Hints of the Northern Lights sway over the village of Kilpisjärvi far below. Enjoy this moment before stretching and heading back the way you came.

Snowshoeing to Saana Fell in Enontekiö, Finland
Photo by: Visit Finland

2. VISIT THE CASTLES OF LAPLAND

Your journey begins in the pearl of the Bothnian Sea, the city of Kemi. The frozen towers of the Kemi SnowCastle pierce the electric blue sky. Then you travel north, ever north, to the heart of Santa Claus Village, where the Moomin SnowCastle offers a soft, round and colorful snow castle experience. But the north calls, and you must answer. You step inside the frosty halls of the Game of Thrones -inspired Lainio SnowVillage. The glowing eye of a frozen dragon watches you from a crack in the icy wall. The Mountain stands silent next to the glistening Iron Throne. In case you ever doubted it, Winter is Here.

Winter Bucket List, Lapland, GoT
Photo by: Lapland Hotels SnowVillage
SnowRestaurant in the Kemi SnowCastle in Finnish Lapland
Photo by: Kemi Tourism
Fireworks over Moomin Snow Castle in Rovaniemi, Finland
Photo by: Simo Vilhunen

3. WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS OVER THE FROZEN BOTHNIAN BAY

“Sometimes, unfortunately, you can’t see the Northern Lights with your naked eye,” your guide says. Your team has been sitting in the snow atop the frozen Bothnian Bay for a couple hours, cameras ready. “They’re too thin, that to us, they’re practically invisible. Or they’re too violet. The violet auroras appear when the solar wind is particularly strong. We can’t always see them, but our cameras can. We just need some kind of hint.” Suddenly, there’s a gasp and the guide’s face splits in a smile. Above you, the heavens burn green. “That’ll do.”

Northern Lights over Kemi, Finnish Lapland
Photo by: Lapland Media Bank

4. GO SNOWKITING IN NUORGAM

The wind roars. There’s nothing else in your ears, and your eyes are squinting behind shaded goggles against an impossibly bright day in Nuorgam. You thought the Arctic was supposed to be cold and dark and wet. But it’s none of those things. You let out a shout, as the kite redoubles its efforts, carrying you and your snowboard atop the frozen lake at speeds usually reserved for motorcycles. Every time you hit a tiny slope, the kite tries its best to pull you into the big blue sky. When you finally reach the end point, your kite tumbles to the snow, and your friends pull up behind you. Who’s ready for round two?

Snowkiting in Nuorgam with Alma Arktika
Photo by: Alma Arktika
Sunny day in Nuorgam, Utsjoki, Finnish Lapland
Photo by: Explore Inari

5. GET A SELFIE WITH A POLAR BEAR IN RANUA

You can’t help it. You know, because you read the little info card in front of the enclosure, that this is the largest bear on Earth. It’s one of the only animals in the world that views humans as prey. But it’s so fluffy and white and cute, and you just know everyone’s going to die of jealousy when you put this up as your profile pic. You frame yourself just right and wait for the moment. The mama bear is playing with a big red ball, trying to chew it, but it keeps slipping away. Out of nowhere, the little one bounds out of its cave and tackles the mama, just as you click the button. Killer bears, killer pic. #FromRanuaWithLove

Curious polar bear at Ranua Wildlife Park in Finnish Lapland
Photo by: Markko Junttila | Visit Ranua

6. ATTEND THE OPENING OF CHRISTMAS SEASON

There’s a buzz in the chilly Arctic Circle air, and you hear a dozen different languages speaking. You recognize the name Santa Claus. But he’s not here yet. There is singing. Applause. The SnowWorld mascots have a cute dance. Suddenly, the energy throughout Santa Claus Village grows ecstatic and you hear, “He’s here! He’s here!” as a little girl sitting atop her father’s shoulders points and laughs. With kind words and a twinkle in his eyes, Father Christmas declares the Christmas season in Rovaniemi, in Finland, Europe and the rest of the world open.

Christmas season opening at Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland
Photo by: Visit Rovaniemi | Lapland Media Bank

7. GO ON A HUSKY SAFARI IN HETTA

You wake in the middle of the night, shivering at a cold spot in your sleeping bag. Outside the hut, you can hear the dogs snoring. You never thought you’d live to hear a dozen huskies snoring outside a log cabin atop a fell in Enontekiö, Finland. Instead of bundling yourself up, you decide to head outside to see how the dogs are doing. When you step outside, you’re stunned. Not just by the -20 degree weather, but by the way the Milky Way bisects the sky. When you finally tear your eyes away, you see that one husky has left her warm doghouse. A shared look, the bump of a chilly wet nose, and you both head back inside.

Howling husky pups in Hetta, Finland
Photo by: Riku Pihlanto | Visit Finland

8. FLY DOWN FINLAND’S LONGEST SKI SLOPE

It’s akin to the thrill of a roller coaster, except you’re in control. Atop Ylläs Fell, the landscape distant and dark below you, you slowly gain speed. You pass by other skiers, and the speed grows. You hear nothing but the grind of your skis against the snow, the air roaring past, and the occasional errant twang of ski poles. You’ve left the others behind; it’s just you and the slope now. A pine tree passes by, and your speed drops. This is the longest ski run in Finland, and you wouldn’t want it to be all speed, all the time. But just as your mind start wandering, the speed picks back up, and you pass a snowboarder. The trees thicken on either side of the slope and you realize you’re not even halfway done.

winter bucket list, Lapland, Ylläs
Photo by: Markus Kiili | Lapland Material Bank
Mist in the valleys of the Ylläs-Pallastunturi National Park
Photo by: Tea Karvinen | Visit Finland