One of our Europe Specialists headed far north—above the Arctic Circle!—to explore the wintery realm of Lapland. Here she shares some of her favorite experiences she had on our Lapland Adventures journey.
Summer is generally synonymous with vacation time, but I promise you there’s plenty of magic to be found in winter. Lapland may not boast any white-sand beaches and there’s very little chance of getting a good tan line, but the northern stretch across Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia speaks to the hearts of those looking to layer up and head out for an alternative vacation experience.
That’s me, the WT Ice Queen!
With much of Lapland hard to reach, we begin in the city of Rovaniemi, the most accessible entry point to Finnish Lapland. We sip warm beverages at an ice bar, witness the power of an icebreaker ship, and take a dip in the Gulf of Bothnia before we ceremoniously cross the Arctic Circle into the quiet, cozy, stunning North.
We had a blast experiencing the fun creations in the SnowCastle!
An optional icy plunge in the Gulf of Bothnia. Not an opportunity you’ll come across many times in your life!
It’s a tough job holding an icebreaker ship in place, but we managed very well. (The rope was just out of my reach but I supported with my encouragement and enthusiasm.)
The official leap into the Arctic.
While within the Arctic Circle, we visit the area of Pyhä-Luosto for our snowshoeing outing into the silent forests and visit an Amethyst “mine” to learn about the importance of the mineral to the Sámi shamans. While there, we try our hand at finding our own piece of magic to bring home.
The entrance to the sheltered Amethyst Mine is a welcome sight after a chilly but stunning walk through the woods. Pack good layers!
While it’s unlikely to come across such a big stone, it doesn’t hurt to get our hopes up and learn more about what we’re looking for!
While the ground appeared average, a closer look showed we were surrounded by countless beautiful pieces of amethyst!
Our afternoon brought us to a nearby reindeer farm to learn all about the reindeer herding industry, history, and lifestyle. A delicious meal, a peaceful sleigh ride, and an intriguing chat in a cozy cabin rounded out an awesome day. All that was left to do was think back on it all from the comfort of our saunas.
The town of Saariselkä is such a fun home base for the next few days of our trip! I came into this trip knowing we’d see some amazing nature, but I was surprised by how entertaining it all was—doing activities in the snow and the Lappish cold is humbling for everyone and it was an absolute blast being humbled by the elements as a group. I can’t tell you how many times we had a laugh about taking a tumble while snowshoeing, finding an exceptionally deep foot hole during a walk, gliding a bit on an icy patch, transporting our luggage on a traditional kick-sled, or—my favorite —attempting Nordic skiing (I was so bad but had so much fun on the learning track)!
We snowshoe through the forest and above the tree line to the top of the nearby peak of Iisakkipaa.
We also try our hand at traditional cooking over an open fire in a traditional “kota” hut.
Stepped outside while the food was cooking and caught a little shimmer of the northern lights right over the kota!
Who knew we had it in us?! The meal we cooked was quite possibly the most divine of all of the meals during the trip. Finnish food includes a lot of reindeer, white fish, and mushrooms.
One of the most entertaining activities (in the simplest form), was drilling holes in lake ice and having a go at ice fishing. While no one caught anything, it was great to be out on the ice with everyone, cracking jokes and having fun. Afterward, we took turns in a traditional wood-fired sauna and wood-fired hot tub under the stars, before another cozy kota dinner.
A free afternoon in Saariselkä allows us to pick our own adventure, as there are many available in the area—skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, or relaxing in your private sauna.
I opted for snowmobiling!
All outdoor activities include a break for warm berry juice, often with a view.
We continue on to Inari, the center of Sámi culture within Finland, to learn more about Europe’s only indigenous people. This town is home to the Sámi Parliament, the Sámi Siida Museum, and is positioned along Lake Inari, an important resource for Sámi people throughout history.
An afternoon stroll along a well-maintained path. Note the giant snow hat growing on top of the tree!
From here, the adventurous folks can continue on for a night walk on a less-defined trail, and the rest of us can head back along the nice forest path to get some sauna time in before dinner!
Buildings of an old village outside of the Sámi Siida Museum. The low sun angles make everything a little extra dreamy.
Visiting a local Sámi reindeer herding family is a fascinating experience to see the lifestyle still in action. We see how crafts and clothing continue to be made from all parts of the animals still using traditional methods and are welcomed into their home for a hearty warm lunch.
Martti takes us out onto the frozen lake to show us how far he has to walk to get past the solid ice to fetch fresh water.
After lunch, we head inside of the reindeer pen to get up really close and personal.
We end the trip on a high note with a night in a glass igloo followed by a dog sledding experience! These dogs live to run and mean business while they’re running, but are total softies when it’s cuddle time.
This one kept looking back to make sure I was still having fun. I totally was!
This guy was the cuddliest of them all.
What a crew, what a trip… Our Lapland Adventures is such an absolute blast. I’ll never forget watching the northern lights with the group, all of us squealing and/or laughing with delight as we stood in awe, mentally checking that item off our bucket lists.
My icy heart was so full as I headed home to California, feeling recharged and with so many fun stories of new experiences and cultures.
—Text by WT Europe Specialist Emily Vernizzi, photos by Emily Vernizzi and Trip Leader Stefano Pozzi, Lapland Adventures.