Located in the north of Finland, Lapland is very close to the North Pole, so there are 200 days of cold winter a year. Any visitor, whether a child or an adult, wishes to have a trip to this place to meet Santa Claus, along with the reindeers. Moreover, this place is also an extremely attractive destination with a lot of interesting experiences. Lapland Finland (Finnish Lapland) is world famous as “the Official Hometown of Santa Claus”. In addition to the above nickname, is there anything else that attracts tourists from all over the world? Let’s experience Finnish Lapland through the sharing below. So, what country is Lapland in, what to do in Lapland, how to travel to Lapland Finland and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Lapland for the first-time? Let’s check out our Lapland travel blog (Lapland blog) with the fullest Lapland travel guide (Lapland guide) from how to get to Lapland Finland, best time to come, where to stay, what to see in Lapland Finland, things to do in Lapland Finland as well as what to do in Rovaniemi to find out the answer!
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Lapland travel blog: Where is Lapland Finland and what country is Lapland in?
Finnish Lapland is a very large region with an area of about 100,367 square kilometers of which 92,667 square kilometers is land, 6,316 square kilometers is freshwater and 1,383 square kilometers is sea. Lapland stretching through 4 countries: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia’s Kola Peninsula with an area equivalent to 3 countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland combined.
In which the Lapland region in Finland (Finnish Lapland, Lapland Finland) occupies one third of the country’s area and the capital of the entire Lapland – the city of Rovaniemi is also located here. This is the official hometown of Santa Claus, so it is often said that Finnish Lapland (or Rovaniemi Finland) is the hometown of Santa Claus.
Some interesting things about Finnish Lapland:
- Although this entire Lapland region spans 4 countries, the official name is widely known in 2 countries Sweden and Finland. Therefore, when it comes to the place of Lapland, you should often add the country name, so that people can clearly distinguish which region you are talking about.
- The population of Finnish Lapland is over 180,000 people, mainly concentrated in 4 big cities (Rovaniemi, Tornio, Kemi and Kemijärvi), the population density is about 1.98 people/km2 – the lowest in Europe and less than number of reindeer here (200,000).
- Reindeer here are popularly raised as a meat producing animal in other countries. Near the village of Santa Claus, there is an Artic Circle – marking the arctic circle of the earth. Therefore, there is a phenomenon of 2 months in the summer when the sun never sets (lighting all day and night).
- Lapland Finland is also a very large region rather than a specific city or place. So when someone talks about Finnish Lapland tourism, you should understand that they mention to traveling to Rovaniemi city – the capital of the whole Lapland Finland region, where the village of Santa Claus and some remote surrounding areas is upper it, where you can hunting aurora (the Northern Lights) and other winter activities.
- Rovaniemi was almost destroyed 90% in World War II, but then the great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto redesigned the whole city as it have the appearance as we see today. There is currently a top 2 Finnish university named after his name, Aalto University – the top 7th school in the world in art and design section.
Lapland travel blog: When should you visit Lapland Finland?
Tourists often come to Finnish Lapland with the desire to experience aurora borealis hunting and take part in some winter activities. That’s why I think the most suitable time and best time to travel to Finnish Lapland is in the period from November to March. Because this is the time when you have the highest opportunity to seeing the Northern Lights along with this place is completely covered with white snow creating a magical scene comes along with a special and vibrant Christmas atmosphere.
Personally, I would recommend going from the beginning of November to mid-December because at this time there will be also a Christmas atmosphere here and it is not as crowded as December. Meanwhile, January and February are the peak winter months, the temperature is usually in the range of -20 to -40 degrees Celsius. Therefore, for those who are not used to extreme cold temperatures, coming here in this season is no different from being tortured :). In addition, the aurora often appears when it is cold and clear. If there is too much snow, the opportunity of seeing it is also lower than other times. There are times from September to November when it is very cold but without snow, it is easy to see the aurora borealis.
Lapland travel guide: How to get and how to travel to Lapland Finland (How to get to Rovaniemi)?
How to travel to Lapland Finland from other Finland’s cities?
To get to Rovaniemi Lapland, you usually need to get to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. Then from here, you can take the train, onnibus or plane to getting here. The distance from Helsinki to Rovaniemi is about 700-800km.
- Onnibus: Usually you will need to transfer in Oulu city. Total travel time is about 12 hours (8 hours to Oulu and 3 hours to 4 hours from Oulu to Rovaniemi). Ticket price is around €18-35.
- VR train (the Finland’s national railway company) often runs 2 trips a day from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. Travel time: 8 to 12 hours. Ticket price: €40-90/way. The fare of €40 usually only appears in the summer, when the travel demand to Lapland is less than other seasons.
- Airplane: Finnair (the Finland’s flag carrier and largest airline) often has quite a few direct flights from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. Ticket price is about €70-100/way.
If you depart from some countries with lot of demands for travel to Finnish Lapland such as the UK, the Netherlands, there are also direct flights from these countries to Rovaniemi. As far as I know, there are currently 7 airlines flying directly to Rovaniemi from 5 European countries which are the UK, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine in which the UK is the country with the largest number of tourists to Lapland Finland.
Lapland guide: Getting around Finnish Lapland
If you simply visit Rovaniemi, I think the most suitable means of transport is the public bus. Ticket price is €3.2/way and you can catch a bus from Rovaniemi center to Santa Claus village in 15 minutes.
However, if you want to participate in more winter activities, perhaps renting a self-drive car will be more appropriate. Because Lapland is a very large and extremely sparsely populated region, it will be quite difficult for you to participate in winter activities such as aurora hunting in the north, ice lake fishing, etc. without active means of transport.
Lapland travel blog: Where to stay in Lapland Finland?
Because Lapland is very large and the attractions are not gather in a single cluster like in other cities, finding a room here is not simple at all. Not only that, Lapland is also famous for various types of accommodation that are rarely found anywhere in the world. So, I will write a detailed article to guide you how to choose a hotel in Lapland later.
In general, in my travel experience, you should find a room and book it as soon as possible. Quality rooms in Lapland often sell out very quickly because here are few people, the hotel is not too abundant, but the number visitors flocking here from China, Japan, Germany, and Britain is quite a lot… Last time my friend searched for a room 4 months in advance but she still couldn’t find a good place to stay.
At first glance, the Kaklauttanen looks like it just step out of a sci-fi movie. The hotel consists of many rooms like turtles located next to each other. “Tortoise shell” is made of glass, does not absorb water vapor no matter how cold it is, guaranteed, guests can see the Northern Lights anytime it appears. Each room has a comfortable bed and a comfortable bathroom.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Santa Claus Holiday Village (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Arctic Light Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Scandic Rovaniemi City (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Lapland Hotels Ounasvaara Chalets (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Arctic City Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Original Sokos Hotel Vaakuna Rovaniemi (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Lapland travel guide: Things to do in Lapland Finland, what to see and what to do in Lapland Finland
What to do in Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is the capital of Lapland which is considered the official hometown of Santa Claus. This place is famous for its Santa’s village and many other interesting winter activities such as reindeer riding, husky sledding, skiing, visiting museums…
Some indispensable places, things to do in Rovaniemi Lapland:
Located about 8 km from the center of Rovaniemi city, Santa Claus Village is open all year round regardless of winter or summer. Here you will have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus, visit the post office where Santa works, send letters to people all over the world…
There are 3 most attractive places in this village are Santa Claus Office, Santa Claus Main Post Office and Arctic Circle. Ticket price: free. However, there are some other activities that still cost money. There is also a service to stamp your passport to certify that you have gone through the Arctic Circle for €1, and a service to take pictures with Santa Claus for €20-40. So, fun and interesting!
The museum displays artifacts, provides information about people, animals and plants that have lived in the Arctic Circle of the earth during typical historical periods, such as during the World War II and the period that Finland was invaded and took part of the territory by Russia (1939-1940).
Address: Pohjoisranta 4, 96200 Rovaniemi, Finland
Hours: 10AM–5PM/Monday: Closed
Ticket price: €9
SantaPark – the Home Cavern of Santa Claus
As an amusement park built in an underground cave with many recreational activities, especially suitable for families with young children.
Address: Tarvantie 1, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland
Ticket price: €34.
Visit Raitola Reindeer & Husky Farm, experience reindeer riding and husky sledding
Near Santa’s village there is Raitola Reindeer & Husky Farm (Address: Välttikankaantie 11, 96900 Rovaniemi, Finland) that offers tours of reindeer sleigh riding sleds or husky safari sledding with various tour packages. Ride a reindeer-drawn sleigh like a horse-drawn carriage, while exprience a husky sledding like a thrilling game.
Driving in Lapland Finland needs to be careful because the reindeer often roam on the roads. Sometimes if you’re driving and see a couple of them suddenly crossing the road, don’t be surprised. Because the number of reindeers much more than residents living here.
Ounasvaaran Hiihtokeskus Ski Resort
You can come here to ski or hire a guide if you still don’t know how to ski. Ticket price €20 for 1 hour or day ticket of €40. Hire a guide costs about €30-50.
In addition, if you have children, you can go to the Science Centre Pilke museum (Address: Ounasjoentie 6, 96200 Rovaniemi, Finland) and the Angry Birds Playground (Address: Valtakatu 4, 96100 Rovaniemi, Finland).
Some other activities when traveling to Finnish Lapland
Explore the beautiful lakes and Ice fishing
Lapland is a place full of beautiful lakes. In which, the most beautiful and famous lake is Inari. This is also the largest lake in Lapland with an area of over 1,000 square kilometers. If you come to Lapland on cold winter days, you will see that the surface of Lake Inari is completely frozen to form a giant mirror. You can experience ice fishing.
In winter when the lake freezes, locals often have a hobby of walking on the ice, skating on the lake or punching holes in the ice for fishing. This is probably an experience that requires extremely high patience for tourists.
Hunting Aurora (Northern Lights)
According to an old legend, an arctic fox whipped its tail and sent twinkling lights into the sky, creating the aurora borealis. Lapland is located in the Arctic region, so you will have a higher chance of seeing this natural phenomenon than anywhere else. However, Rovaniemi is a city with a dense population and is “polluted” by lights, so it’s best to go to the very remote hills, the darker and less inhabited the better.
In fact, hunting the aurora is a very bad luck. You will have a hard time guessing exactly whether that time will have the aurora or not. Usually the forecast is only accurate within 1 week. If you wait until that date to book tickets for travel and accommodation, I guarantee that the possibility of staying in a “thousand-star hotel” is very high or else the cost will be sky-high.
In fact, hotel rooms in resorts and convenient locations in Lapland usually need to be booked at least 6 months in advance. So, when traveling to Lapland Finland, if you see the aurora borealis, you are lucky, if not, just unlucky :).
The more you traveling to the north, the clearer the visibility and the higher the chance, so many visitors flocking here because of that. However, there are also many days when the aurora is very visible, so you can see it right in the city of Rovaniemi or even in the southern provinces of Finland. Well, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the Northern Lights right in Rovaniemi, you should go to the Artikum Science Museum. This is the best spot to see the aurora borealis in the city. You download the “Aurora” app to monitor the possibility of aurora in specific locations.
Personally, I would not recommend you booking aurora hunting tour, the aurora appears or not depends mainly on the weather, not on people. If you book a tour but there is no aurora on that day, that’s okay. Instead, always monitor the weather and go up as close to the north as possible, especially in forests with less light pollution, the chances of seeing it will be high. Remember to prepare warm clothes, sleeping bags, food and water. It takes a lot of effort to hunt this “super picky girl”.
Camping in the forest
This activity is quite popular with nature lovers like Finnish. You should camp in national parks where firewood is available, free kitchens for grilling food, and tents near the lake. Camping in the winter is also quite interesting, but it is necessary to carefully prepare warm clothes, fully equipment as well as find out the places where camping and fire are allowed first.
As I mentioned in previous posts, sauna is a Finnish initiative and sauna bathing has become an indispensable part of their lives. Winter is probably the best time to try this experience. If possible, you should rent a hotel room with a sauna room, so that after every day of going out to explore the experience, when you return, you will be able to enjoy a body sauna for comfort and relief.
In fact, when bathing in a sauna, Finns often go nude and after each interval they will jump into the icy lakes outside or take a cold shower. You should try this feeling :D. An indispensable experience when traveling to Finland.
Besides activities such as skiing, husky sledding, reindeer riding… You can try the feeling of snowmobile in the forest or surrounding areas. Usually, tourists will go on a tour, but if you have experience driving this and are not afraid of getting lost, you can rent it. The price is around €150/basic package and €25 extra per hour you rent. You can refer at this progearmoto website. Regarding tours you can refer to Arctic Circle Snowmobile for €55 per person for 30 minutes — 1 hour with a driver. This is one of the experiences that many thrill-seeking travelers enjoy when traveling to Finnish Lapland on their own.
If you are interested in learning about Sámi culture, you should drive 4 hours from Rovaniemi to Inari. The winter nature here is also very impressive with many interesting sites such as The Sámi Cultural Center Sajos (Address: Menesjärventie 2A, 99870 Inari, Finland), Karhu souvenir shop. The Sámi is an ethnic minority of Finland and residents live in Lapland mainly are Sámi people.
Lapland travel tips
If you go with a few people but still want to experience all kinds of winter activities without spending too much, join the tour group of ESN (Erasmus Student Network) organized by the Finnish schools. Most of the people going are exchange students coming to study in Finland, so you will have the opportunity to meet many people, participate in many recreational activities at a very affordable price. The tour package usually includes accommodation with sauna, transportation, activities such as husky ride, snowmobile… are all included. You can choose to go with ESN with any school in Helsinki . In Helsinki, there are a number of schools such as Laurea, Haaga-Helia, Aalto, University of Helsinki, Arcada, Metropolia… Tour prices are around €340 for 7 days. The referal link at Timetravels.
What to do in Lapland: Shopping
Coming to Lapland, visitors will be fascinated to see very high quality products that are famous throughout the Nordic region and throughout Europe. All brands are manufactured according to Nordic standards for safety, accuracy, durability over the years, high applicability and smart and traditional designs such as Finnish Knives (Puukkos), Wooden handmade Kuksa Cups, Taigakoru jewelry, Marimekko fashion, Arabia porcelain,…
How to travel to Lapland Finland: Suggested Lapland itinerary 5 days 4 nights
- Day 1: Go to Rovaniemi and walk around the city
- Day 2: Visit Santa’s village, visit husky dog farm, experience reindeer riding, husky safari…
- Day 3: Visit Santa park, Arkitum museum, aurora hunting
- Day 4: Snowmobile, ski resort
- Day 5: Bonfire camping, ice fishing, aurora hunting
Lapland travel blog: What to eat?
- Reindeer meat: The most popular livestock in Lapland. People in Lapland will often raise a lot of reindeer for fur and meat. Therefore, reindeer meat is a specialty that you must try!
- Smoked salmon
- Muikku fish
These are famous local dishes in Lapland. In addition, you should combine going to the supermarket in Rovaniemi if you want to have a cheap self-sufficient trip.
Lapland blog: Traveling cost
The cost of a self-sufficient travel, I think it largely depends on each individual. There are many factors that affect the trip costs such as where to stay, whether you rent a car, whether you participate in activities such as husky sledding, reindeer riding… I give a few basic costs below:
- Meals: €12/meal. If you buy food from the supermarket to cook, you can comfortably spend about €20 a day.
- Hotel: The lowest price is about €30 per person. The highest is about €300-400.
- Traveling: €12/day. If you rent a car, it will increase to €40-50/person/day.
Participate in other activities: Each activity costs about €30-40.
I think for comfort, the traveling cost is about €150 a day, all inclusive. Of course, this cost is higher than in the capital Helsinki or other European countries but still lower than Norway, Switzerland…
Lapland travel guide: Some tips before you go
- The most commonly spoken languages in Finnish Lapland are Swedish and Finnish. However, most people living in the city will speak English fluently. So, you can rest assured!
- You should exchange money at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport. It is best to exchange at legitimate counters for the best and safe exchange rates.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Lapland you can refer to
- Lapland 2 Day Tour from Rovaniemi
- Highlights of Rovaniemi Day Tour
- The Frozen Waterfalls of Korouoma Day Tour from Rovaniemi
- [DISCONTINUED] Lapland Wellness and Relaxation Tour
- Aurora Borealis Small Group Tour with Free Photos from Rovaniemi
Read more Trip review to the fairy tale Santa Claus Village Rovaniemi, Lapland – Finland, Where to stay in Lapland Findland and Finland travel guide here.