You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into the set of Frozen as you disembark your flight in Lapland. Covered in thick, fluffy layers of soft, white snow, this is the landscape of a literal snow globe. Enjoy days where the sorbet skies last for hours before darkness creeps in and Lady Aurora dances across inky skies. Home to Santa Claus, wild reindeer populations that outnumber people and vast expanses of white, Finnish Lapland in winter is a truly magical experience.
How to get there
We began our trip with a quick 24 hour visit to Helsinki, as there are no direct flights from London to Levi, Finland. There are a few airports in Lapland, the largest of which is Rovaniemi. There are direct flights via Norwegian Airlines several times a week between Rovaniemi and London Gatwick, however we wanted to spend our time further north so flew from Helsinki to Kittila, which is located a 15 minute bus ride from Levi. Coaches operate to align with flight arrival and departures at Kittila Airport, so you don’t need to spend more money on a taxi. You can also catch a coach to/from Rovaniemi, which we did to catch a direct flight back to London.
Where to stay
Like much of Scandinavia, Finland isn’t so friendly on wallets for the budget-conscious traveller. However this doesn’t mean you can’t make it more affordable. We opted for a studio apartment in the ski village of Levi. The village is only small, but is close to all amenities, including two supermarkets, so you can save money and self-cater. Our lovely apartment had a huge bathroom which included a sauna, in true Finnish style, and a balcony which when covered in snow made for a convenient fast-chill ‘freezer’ to cool down a few drinks after exploring.
Where to eat
If like us, you like to mix self-catering with a few eat-in meals, then Levi has enough options for a village of its size. For generous portions that can easily be shared, Classic Pizza is just off the main road past the ski fields and can easily be reached on foot like all dining in Levi. Nili Poro offers a taste of Finland with classic Finnish meals where a lot of the menu features reindeer and if you need a little something to warm you up after a big day on the slopes, head to Coffee House & Bar Levi.
What to do
Finnish Lapland in winter has plenty of activities, both inside and out. Whether you are more the cosy up by the fireside or get the adrenaline pumping type, there’s choices no matter your preference.
We spent a bit of time researching which company to take a husky ride with and settled on the family-run team at Tundra Huskies, as they seemed to be the most ethical and well-run business we came across. The dogs are all very well looked after, loved and healthy. This was key for me when taking part in this activity. They offer several packages, of which we chose the 10km tour, which allowed both of us to take turns mushing (‘driving’ the sled). After completing our tour, we had a chance to enjoy a hot juice and snacks by the fireside in a quaint wooden cabin before spending some time meeting a few of the 80 purebred Siberian huskies they have onsite.
Skiing and Santa Claus Hut
We aren’t skiers ourselves, but Levi is the perfect place with the slopes walking distance from the village. Spend a day on the various tracks on offer, or head 10 minutes further around to the slopes near the gondola, and also spend time exploring Santa Claus Hut. We found it to be quite amusing trekking through knee-deep snow beside the ski slopes to reach this little wooden cabin on the mountain side. You can reach Santa Claus Hut by taking the gondola up the fell then head down the South-West side between the gondola and lift 11. Be careful if you are not skiing or snowshoeing, as there are a lot of rocks and crevices underneath all that snow and an injury is less than ideal on holiday!
If you’ve been hard outta luck spotting reindeer in the wild, head behind the K5 hotel in Levi and there are a few hanging around, grazing on mossy stumps. If you opted to take a Husky Ride with Tundra Huskies, they also have a few locals on site that you can hand feed.
Look for the Northern Lights
There are a few things needed to spot the magic that is the Aurora Borealis, and Lapland is one of the best places for it; darkness, clear skies, little to no light pollution and visiting between September - March. Given its location inside the Arctic Circle, Levi is ideally located to catch a glimmer of green dancing across the sky. Patience is key here. Walking 5-10 minutes outside of town will remove your proximity to light pollution and give you a good chance of seeing the lights. There are a number of apps to help you check the KP rating (the higher the number, the stronger the Aurora) but a lot of it comes down to chance and the right conditions aligning. You can also join tours with expert guides that will know what to look out for when searching for Northern Lights. If you plan on photographing the lights, ensure you have a tripod and camera that can operate shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds. More tips and tricks to photographing the Northern Lights will be coming soon in a separate post.
Good to know
Temperatures in Lapland dip well below zero in winter. We visited in February and experienced days where they were -26c at their warmest! Ensure you pack the right layers including natural fibres such as merino wool base layers, and good waterproof jackets and pants for exploring in the snow.
Pre-book your activities to avoid disappointment. We booked our Husky ride nearly 3 months before our visit and it was almost booked out already.
Finland uses euro, which can make things slightly cheaper than elsewhere in Scandinavia, but to save money we recommend self-catering.
Due to its location within the Arctic Circle, Lapland experiences the Arctic winter, meaning the sun doesn’t rise from Late November - Early January depending exactly how far north you are.
Public transport between Levi and other Lapland cities are limited, be sure to check timetables and pre-book wherever possible.
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