A Guide to Visiting Finnish Lapland in Winter

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Those who want to experience a true winter wonderland should very much consider planning a trip to Lapland in winter. Visiting Finnish Lapland is a holy-grail trip for winter travel enthusiasts, snow wonderland seekers, and anyone keen on the classic winter and holiday feeling that only seems to come from childhood fantasies and winter wonderland films.

While Lapland in the summer, spring & autumn is a delight in its own right, winter in Lapland is unlike anything else. With that being said, the region is certainly one of the extremes, and being prepared is key to experiencing Lapland to its fullest.

Read further to get a better idea of what’s necessary to be most prepared for an unforgettable experience in Finnish Lapland.

Lapland Weather in Winter

Located in Northern Finland, in & around the Arctic Circle, it’s no surprise that temperatures in Lapland reach extreme levels during the winter.

Throughout the winter months, beginning in November and typically lasting throughout March/May, Lapland experiences subarctic and polar climates, around -10°C to -20°C (14°F to -4°F). If you’re hoping to visit during the winter months but prefer to skip the peak of the cold, November can be the best time to visit if you’re keen to travel to Lapland before Christmas.

While this is pretty cold and likely unlike any temperatures you’ve experienced before (unless you’re from a similar part of the world), it’s completely manageable with the correct clothing, which we’ll cover later on in the article.

Santa Claus Village in Lapland
Santa Claus Village in Lapland

Getting Around Lapland in Winter

Lapland is a vast and, in some parts, remote region, so planning your transportation before you arrive is an important part of planning a trip to Lapland. There are a few different ways to get around Lapland, but the best option for you will depend on your budget as well as a few other factors.

To begin with, you can rent a car for your trip to Lapland. This is the most convenient way to get around, as you’ll have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want.

However, it’s important to note that the roads in Lapland (especially more remote areas) can be icy and snow-covered during the winter, so it’s important to be prepared and experienced if you’re planning on driving.

If you prefer to have flexibility during your travels and time in Finnish Lapland, with the freedom to go to/from whenever and wherever you like, renting a car is the best option for your time in Lapland. You can browse car rental options here.

Additionally, you may be visiting Lapland intending to experience the ethereal Aurora Borealis and in this case, renting a car is your prime option as you’ll be able to leave whenever you want to chase after and see the Northern Lights.

Train and bus transportation are other possible options to get around the region as a whole, as well as a great way to see the scenery and to travel between major cities in Lapland.

However, it’s important to note that the train network in Lapland is not as extensive as in other parts of Europe. You’ll be able to reach other major towns/cities by public transportation in Lapland, but not remote areas and smaller towns.

While there are quite a few bus services in the region, the services can be slow, and you may need to wait, & if staying in the Arctic cold longer than necessary isn’t something you are too excited about, I’d go with renting a car if it’s an option for your budget, and you are a confident driver. Your other option is to rely on organised tours from Rovaniemi such as this guided tour.

If you plan to visit Finland in winter and your trip itinerary primarily consists of spending time between Rovaniemi, and Santa’s Village, as well as maybe taking part in an excursion or two, public transportation is a great way to get around this area.

Public transportation options in Lapland range from public buses such as ExpressBus & Matkahuolto to private shuttles around Rovaniemi such as The Santa Claus Express & The Arctic Circle Line. Prices are quite affordable with daily and week passes available as well to give you the most cost-effective options.

Snowmobile parked in Levi
Snowmobile parked in Levi

Which Month to Visit Lapland?

Lapland in November

If you’re trying to decide when to visit Lapland and hope to skip the massive crowds of holiday tourism while still visiting in the lead-up to Christmas, Lapland in November is ideal.

While winter is pretty much in full force in Finnish Lapland in November, the majority of tourism peaks during December, leading to many benefits.

Due to the lower tourist numbers in November, besides the region being void of fewer tourists, costs are also dramatically lower, for both accommodation and activity costs. For example, the price of a hotel room at the same hotel in Rovaniemi is known to typically double in December compared to the cost in November.

All in all, if you’re looking to visit save money and visit Lapland at a quieter time of year with still the Christmas festivity, November is the perfect month. There are fewer crowds and you can still experience all of the great winter activities in Lapland.

Lapland in December

December is truly the most magical time to visit Lapland, as the region is transformed into a winter and Christmas wonderland. The days are short, and the nights are long, but the snow-covered landscape is simply stunning during the short window of the day that the region twinkles beneath the Arctic sun.

If you’re able to brave one of the coldest months of the year in Rovaniemi, December is an exciting and enchanting time to visit Finnish Lapland.

If you’re visiting Lapland with children or are hoping to satisfy your inner child, visiting Santa’s Village is one of the best things to do in Rovaniemi in winter, with an extra special ambiance in December and the days leading up to Christmas.

With that being said, all of this does come at a price; both literally and figuratively. Due to the high demand and popularity of visiting Lapland in December, prices are steep for both activities and accommodation, so if you do decide to visit in December, make sure to plan far in advance to have the best trip possible.

Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland
Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland

Lapland in January

As December and the holiday season close, tourist numbers in Lapland dwindle, along with the arctic temperatures. While December is the season for Santa’s Village and all things Christmas-related, January is the season in Lapland for all things winter sports.

While winter sports are possible and popular in both November and December, the smaller crowds make January the perfect time to get out and enjoy the crisp Lapland scenery. If you’re keen to try skiing among one of Finland’s most stunning backdrops, Northern Lapland is an ideal destination to get away in January and enjoy a winter retreat.

Lapland in February

February is another ideal time to visit Lapland if you’re seeking a winter adventure or a romantic Valentine’s getaway to one of the cosiest corners of the world, along with the caveat that February is the coldest month of the year in the region.

After the Winter Solstice at the end of January, temperatures plummet quite low and if you’re hoping to spend time in Lapland taking part in outdoor activities without the ability to handle cold temperatures, Lapland in February may not be the best time of year for you to visit.

Furthermore, February is winter break for many Finnish people and other Europeans abroad, so there’s a peak in visitors, especially throughout the ski resorts in February.

Sunrise in Levi
Sunrise in Levi

What to Wear When Visiting Lapland in Winter

When preparing for a trip to Finnish Lapland, one of the most important factors to consider and prepare is what to pack and what to wear when visiting Lapland in the winter.

Having the appropriate clothing for Lapland’s Arctic temperatures is a necessity to making the most of your trip and being able to experience all the outdoor adventure’s that you’ve likely dreamed of.

To begin with, layers and waterproof outerwear are the most important aspects of clothing to keep in mind while planning what to wear in Lapland.

Basic long sleeve thermal shirts and leggings along with warm sweaters/fleece and wool socks are important as base layers and regarding outerwear, make sure that you have a waterproof coat, waterproof trousers/snow pants, snow boots, heavy-duty cold-resistant gloves, and a warm hat. Any additional layers or outdoor clothing is helpful and is never too much!

If you’re not keen to travel with such heavy-duty outerwear, especially if you’re travelling via airplane, my favourite option for being decked out in the necessary Lapland clothing is to rent gear from one of the local tour companies in Rovaniemi.

If you’re taking part in any excursions or tours, these companies supply the necessary thermal gear from head to toe, from wool socks and scarves to a complete thermal suit, designed for the Arctic, Lapland temperatures.

Otherwise, you can stop by most of the companies and rent the same clothing for the duration of your visit at an affordable price, including a fitting for the clothing.

Arktikum Museum
Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi

Things to do in Lapland in Winter

The Lapland region is a vast area of Finland with many options for things to do depending on your interests and time of year that you visit.

Explore Rovaniemi

When searching for things to do in Lapland in winter, one of the most popular destinations and bases for any Lapland itinerary is Rovaniemi. The capital city of Lapland and “the gate to the Arctic”,

Rovaniemi is a popular destination for winter sports, including skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating. It is also a Lapland cultural hub with a number of museums, including the Arktikum, which explores the history and culture of the Arctic region.

In Rovaniemi, you’ll also find many traditional Lapland restaurants as well as shopping areas if you’re looking to do some Nordic shopping during your visit.

Santa’s Village

Easily one of the most drawing factors for many people visiting and planning a trip to Lapland, especially families with children, is Santa’s Village. Santa’s Village in Lapland is a magical place where you can meet Santa Claus, his elves, and even reindeer while exploring the large winter village “village”.

While you would expect Santa’s Village to be more catered towards children, it’s actually a place that suits all ages, with a magic atmosphere just around every corner and free admission to the village.

Whether you’re keen to go on a reindeer ride throughout the whitewashed boreal forests or eat traditional open-fire Finnish salmon in a hut, spending time at Santa’s Village is a must, and you may even want to return for additional days.

It is also possible to take a guided tour that includes a visit to the village as well as some nearby attractions.

Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi
Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi

Northern Lapland

Rovaniemi, the official home of Santa Claus, is a city all about Christmas joy and festive cheer. But if you’re looking for a more immersive Lapland experience when planning things to do in Lapland in winter, head to Levi, the main resort city in Northern Lapland.

Here, you can connect with nature in all its forms, from the stunning Northern Lights to the indigenous Sami culture. Levi is a true winter wonderland, with miles of snow-covered trails perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing and fewer tourist numbers as it’s much further in the region.

In the evenings, you’ll have a clearer view of the sky and can gaze up at the sky in search, and hopefully delight, of the incredible Northern Lights. You can organise a Northern Light safari tour from Levi.

Excursions in Lapland

While visiting Lapland in winter, one of the most common ways to experience the Lapland culture and magical outdoors is to take part in one of the many tours and excursions offered in the Lapland region.

In my opinion, this is the best way to enjoy what Lapland is known for and has to offer, even if you just take part in one activity and these activities vary widely, from husky sled rides to Northern Light safaris and snow-shoeing.

Prices certainly vary depending on the tour/excursion that you choose, but are also a great option if you’re visiting the region without a car as transportation is included, as well as outdoor Arctic gear.

Husky sledding in Lapland
Husky sledding in Lapland

Where to Stay in Lapland

Arctic Light Hotel – Located in Rovaniemi, this hotel is a great choice for your winter escape to Finnish Lapland. They have a number of great rooms to choose from, an airport shuttle and there’s even a restaurant/bar on the premises. Click here to see their availability

Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle – Those after a unique accommodation option while on their winter trip to Lapland will love these cool glass igloos in Rovaniemi. They have a number of different igloos to choose from and lots of great amenities available for guests. Click here to see their availability

Hostel Cafe Koti – Budget and solo travellers looking for an escape from the ice and snow will love this cool hostel in Rovaniemi. They have both dorms and private rooms on offer, an on-site sauna, breakfast daily and self-catering facilities. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Rovaniemi hotels!

For travellers looking for an authentic and astonishingly magical winter destination, it’s hard to find anywhere like Finnish Lapland. Whether you want to visit Santa himself or dream of witnessing the Northern Lights, Lapland offers itself to anyone hoping to find a winter wonderland.

Do you want to experience a Lapland winter? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Olivia is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Michigan, USA, she is currently living in Athens, Greece exploring Europe and filmmaking. When she’s not travelling or writing, Olivia can be found cooking delicious new recipes from around the world, reading, and spending time outdoors.

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