We all have that bucket list of things to do and places to visit – Sail the Galapagos islands, spend a night in over water villa in Maldives, hike up Machu Pichu, a helicopter ride over Grand Canyon, the list is endless! Search travel bucket list on the internet and one experience tops it all. Any guesses what that is? Yes, you guessed it right – Seeing the Northern Lights. That gorgeous display of lights for which you need to travel to the remote corners of the earth, bear the bone chilling temperature and yet in the end once you see the Northern lights, you know it was all worth it. But how about you tick more items in your bucket list in one single trip – Riding the reindeer sleigh, cruising through the snow in a husky led ride, go on a snowmobile adventure in deep snowy forest?
Finnish Lapland is where all of all dreams come true. You need at least a week to truly explore the Finnish Lapland and to see the Northern lights because you need to be at the right place at the right time to see the Aurora Borealis. The further away from town & lights you are the better.
The ideal time to see the Northern Lights is between September to March but in my opinion December is the best month (And if you are lucky you get to meet Santa!)
Ways to see Northern Lights
Snowmobiling is the most popular way of hunting Northern lights. It is fast, it is efficient on snow and it is so much fun!
This is just another version of the snowmobile ride where you are actually sitting in a sleigh that is being driven by someone else. You are sitting covered in blankets and enjoying the view while your driver does all the work hah!
One of the best experiences in Lapland apart from hunting Northern Lights is to meet the furry huskies and go on a sleigh ride led by their pack. I am a dog lover and this was such a wonderful way of getting to know these lean furry dogs that thrive in this environment. All they know and want to do is to stay close to their pack and follow their pack. If you slow down or stop they immediately start barking because running in the pack is their most basic need. They don’t stop to pee, they don’t stop to drink water, they simply bury their mouth in snow while running and eat it when they are thirsty. It’s absolutely breathtaking to sit behind in a sleigh and watch them in action.
Snow shoe is a special footwear that is used to walk in snow. When you wear a snow shoe you are literally floating over snow and not end up going deep inside. It is a convenient way of hiking in deep forests covered in snow. A lot of hotels will offer snow shoe hike as an activity & you can walk easily to the nearest viewing point to see the Northern Lights once you have these babies on.
I have seen Northern Lights. What else should I do?
Cross country skiing is very different to the usual skiing on slopes or downhill. In cross-country skiing you use slide from side to side almost as if you are walking or skating. You need a reasonable level of fitness for Cross country skiing. This was and is still used as a common mode of transportation across Lapland and some other countries.
Reindeer sleigh ride
Reindeer is the most important animal here. Apart from being Santa’s helper, Reindeer driven sleighs are used for transportation, Reindeer milk & meat is used in cooking, Reindeer fur is used for clothes & shoes, antlers & bones are used to make utensils, fat is used as light source and even the tendons are turned into threads. If you are squeamish remember that Reindeer husbandry has always been a part of Sami culture & this is important if you have to survive in cold harsh climates seen in these parts.
Eat & drink like a local
Drinking warm lingonberry juice is one of the most effective & delicious way to warm up when you are out in the snow looking for Northern lights. Reindeer is widely consumed across Lapland and sautéed reindeer is a delicacy that you need to try. A hearty meal would usually include reindeer stew or tasty salmon with root vegetables. This meal will keep you full and warm even in the harshest of the conditions.
Also read: Drinking like a local in Lanzarote, Canary Islands in Volcanoes & Wines (opens in a new window)
Most popular airport for tourists is in Rovaniemi which is the capital of Lapland. However Ivalo is the northernmost airport in Finland & it is the closest Urho Kekkonen National Park. You can fly directly to Ivalo from London but chances are if you are coming from any other location, you will need to fly via Helsinki.
I stayed at Muotka Maja Lodge for a week. It is a winter wonderland located deep in a forest & is so far up north in the Arctic zone that I managed to see Northern Lights each night. They have glass-topped igloos, Wooden log cabins (I highly recommend) with massive glass windows facing the right direction for spotting northern lights each night or individual rooms. The lodge is equipped with everything you need for a luxury holiday and the staff is fantastic.
See their website here – Wilderness Hotel Muotka (opens in a new window)
Most important factor to consider before you book any hotel or lodge is that it should be as far away from lights, cities and pollution as possible to get uninterrupted view of Northern lights.
You can find more travel ideas on accommodation, activities & helpful contacts on the Official Visit Finland Website (opens in a new window)
I will soon be putting together a list of items that you need to carry on your Lapland adventure. Till then leave a comment below if you have any specific question and I will answer it!
Hope this post will help you in planning your Lapland adventure.
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