Lapland is the northernmost region of Finland and lies almost entirely inside the Arctic Circle. Covering about one-third of Finland’s total area, Lapland is a region of mires, fells, pine forests and lakes. It is especially popular as a winter destination, with visitors arriving to experience its vast, snowy landscapes, and see the northern lights. The ‘Home of Santa Claus’, Rovaniemi, is the main gateway to Lapland. A city of about 35,000 inhabitants, Rovaniemi (map) offers visitors a large variety of winter activities, such as snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, husky safaris and ice-floating. Here are the best winter activities in Lapland which can be experienced in and around Rovaniemi:
Ten things to do in Rovaniemi in the winter
1. Ice floating
One of my favourite winter activities in Lapland, ice-floating is a surreal, deeply relaxing experience. Visitors are given thick, survival suits (which make you look like a Teletubby) and are then led into a carved out section of a frozen lake. The calm water and the warm suit make your mind and body relax in an instant. If you choose to go ice-floating in the dark, you may be able to witness the northern lights as you float in the lake; a simply magical experience! Read about my ice-floating experience in Lapland.
I’m not much of a skier so, to me, snowshoeing is the next best thing! I absolutely loved snow-shoeing in Lapland. The low hills and forests near Rovaniemi make for breathtaking areas for a snowshoe trek. Along the way, stop to admire the otherworldly snow and ice formations on the trees and shrubs.
3. Husky safari
This is another of my favourite things to do in Lapland. I was a bit apprehensive at first but the well-trained huskies made me feel at ease. The safari across the plains and through the forests was unforgettable! Check out this husky farm and sledding experience. Read more about my husky safari in Lapland.
4. See the Northern lights
Seeing the northern lights or aurora borealis is one of the top reasons to visit Lapland. It is one of the best places in the world to experience this enchanting phenomenon. Keep your fingers crossed for clear nights, and leave the city lights behind you to stand a better chance of seeing them. It can be a bit boring and cold while you wait for the northern lights to appear, so I recommend combining it with an activity, such as ice-floating, a sauna experience, snowmobile safari, or a Lappish BBQ! Or join a photographer for a photo tour. Read about my northern lights experience.
5. Reindeer safari
Reindeer sleighs are the most traditional form of transport in Lapland, and a popular Lapland winter activity for visitors. This truly is a wonderful experience for individuals, couples or the whole family. There are reindeer safaris during the day, when you get to see the stunning snowy landscapes, and at night, when you have the chance to see the northern lights.
6. Snowmobile safari
For the thrill-seekers, a snowmobile safari through the hills and snow forests near Rovaniemi is an experience that shouldn’t be missed! You’ll have the opportunity to weave through the forest and slalom down slopes. Join this 5-hour snowmobile safari and ice-fishing adventure or this 2-hour snowmobile trip.
7. Cross-country skiing
The gentle landscapes around Rovaniemi are perfect for a cross-country skiing adventure. Follow a guide through the snow forests, learn about the area and its fauna, and visit ‘hidden’ lakes. For the more adventurous skier, there’s also guided cross-country skiing in the backcountry; off the beaten path and into the snowy wilderness.
8. Lappish sauna experience
This is another of my favourite things to do in Lapland! You can’t leave without having tried a Lappish sauna at least once! One of my favourite sauna experiences is the combination of a traditional sauna with a quick dip in the icy waters of a nearby lake or river. It’s a fantastic experience (and apparently great for the skin) to warm up in the sauna before dipping in the icy water or jumping into the snow! Join this sauna and ice-swimming experience.
9. Visit the Arctic Snow Hotel
Every year, in late-November, massive truckloads of snow and ice are used to create the Arctic Snow Hotel, just 20 minutes from Rovaniemi. You can visit the hotel to see the beautiful ice sculptures, have a drink or meal at the Ice Bar or Ice Restaurant, or you can spend the night there in a bed made of ice!
10. Stay in a glass igloo hotel
Lapland excels in unique accommodations, such as the Arctic Snow Hotel and rustic forest lodges, but one of the most delightful is arguably a stay in a glass igloo. The experience of lying in bed and looking up at the star-studded sky and witnessing the northern lights dancing above you, is unbeatable!
Best igloo hotels in Rovaniemi
Numerous hotels in Rovaniemi and across Lapland offer this accommodation type, so there’s a good variety to choose from. Check out these aurora hut igloos in Rovaniemi, the glass igloos at the Arctic Snow Hotel, or the luxurious Pandomes Aurora Igloo Hotel located outside Rovaniemi. The Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Rovaniemi offers luxurious cabins with panoramic views.
How to get to Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi has an international airport with frequent connections to Helsinki and major hubs in Europe, especially in the winter months.