Winter in Lapland means snow and snow means flying down the slopes on skis, trekking Finland’s most iconic mountain with snowshoes, and visiting castles made of snow and ice. Is Lapland on your #BucketList?
Winter in the north means snow, and snow means flying down slopes on skis, trekking iconic mountains, and visiting fairy tale snowcastles. Winter in northern Finland means hazy horizons and snowflake kisses, the mix of silent wilderness and the sound of laughter and reindeer honks. The cold will burn itself into your memory forever, and there’s nowhere on Earth quite like it. Here are the Lapland experiences you definitely want to add to your #LaplandBucketList.
Ski to a Finnish Icon
The sun is a fiery orange ball in in the distant east, but you only have eyes for the beauty practically within your grasp. The day will only last an hour or two today, and the snowy expanse will be blinding. But you brought sunglasses so you’re not too worried. After a quick selfie #korvatunturi, you pick up the pace. The skis glide easily through the deep snow, and the faint outline of the last skiers’ path are still visible. As you fall into the rhythm, you glance up at a Finnish icon, Korvatunturi, location of Santa’s secret workshop. You haven’t seen any elves on this 18 km ski trip, but you still have hope. By the time you pass through the border zone fence and climb the fell, the sun is already setting in the west, bathing the unbelievable view in soft orange light.
TAKE THE REINS
Maybe your winter bucket list just has “reindeer ride” on it. But this is not a 20-minute jaunt in a sleigh through some trees at the edge of a theme park—this is the real deal. First, your guide showed you the basics of handling a reindeer sleigh, and then she handed the reins over to you. The guide leads the way, driving her own reindeer sleigh, as you leave the reindeer park far behind and journey forth into the snowy landscapes of eastern Lapland. Beneath you, the sledge whispers in a steady stream as the spearhead pines glide by. The reindeer clips and clops on the hard-packed snow, and at some point, all the sound in the world is washed away, leaving only your soft breath and gentle heartbeat.
WITNESS THE SPECTACLE OF SKYFIRE
The cold whistles through the dark pines, sending sparkles of snowflakes across the beams of the snowmobile headlights. The guide turns the machines off, and for a moment, it’s just you and the Arctic night. The stars twinkle in merriment, and a gasp comes from someone. As one, everyone’s heads tilt back to see the sky. A hand goes up. “Over there!” More gasps. The sound of cameras being pulled from bags, tripods clicking into place. There’s a tiny note of chaos in this grand symphony of peace. You don’t need a camera, or a phone. You came for the Northern Lights; they do not disappoint.
If seeing the auroras are on your winter bucket list, you don’t want to miss Virtual Lapland’s Northern Lights experience.
TACKLE EUROPE’S LONGEST TOBOGGAN RUN
You came as a group, dense and inseparable, laughter and selfies and pink cheeks. But standing here, atop Finland’s longest toboggan run, it’s every person for themselves. As your friends cheer you on, you kick the sledge into motion and let gravity do the rest. First you sink into the seat, and then as the slope increases, you pick up speed. The cold air prickles your face as you fly down Finland’s—and Europe’s—longest toboggan run. Though the sky over northern Lapland is dark, the lights of the run evoke the Northern Lights, washing over you with blue, purple and red colors. The toboggan run involves long stretches where you try your best to reach escape velocity, and curves and humps, just so you don’t get too distracted by the speed of the snow-crowned pines zipping by.
SNOWMOBILE TO THE ARCTIC OCEAN
The snowmobile crawls to a slow and eventually stops. You step off and lift up your frost-kissed visor, hot breath steaming from your smile. “Thule,” you whisper. The edge of the world. This is the edge of the world, and the reason you came halfway around the world. To breathe in the coldest, cleanest air you’ve ever tasted. To see the frozen waves of the Barents Sea. The snowmobile ride from the small village in northernmost Finland took less than an hour, but this sight, the feeling of exploring the border of the world, the warmth radiating from your very soul, this will last for the rest of your life.
SELFIE WITH A POLAR BEAR
You can’t help it. You know, because you read the little info card in front of the wildlife 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
ATTEND THE OPENING OF XMAS SEASON
What’s a winter bucket list without Christmas? 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 Lapland, Finland, Europe and the rest of the world open.
Go nuts (on skis)
The March sun hangs in the sky for half the day. The combination of unfiltered sunlight and deep pure snow is dazzling almost to the point of blinding. But you don’t have time to dally and admire the view—this is a race! Specifically it’s the annual NUTS Ski event, and like the pinnacle of humanity and athleticism you are, you chose the longer route that winds through the wilderness of Finland’s most beautiful national park. After a big to-do send-off at the nature center, everyone straps on their forests skis.