Winter wonderland in Finnish Lapland

I have magical memories from my childhood when we went on a road trip with our family to Lapland to visit Santa. Of course as a kid, the Santa visit and reindeer sleigh ride left the most vivid impressions but I also remember the Northern lights and how the whole sky was amazingly colorful while we were driving in the polar night. My boyfriend has never seen Northern lights so we decided to give it a try and fly to Lapland for 4 days.

I did some research on the probabilities of seeing the Northern lights and learned that:

  • You should go when it's not full moon (which we did)
  • Best season is from November until March
  • You should go somewhere without light pollution, best places are next to the lakes or on top of the hills.
  • The sky has to be clear
  • There are mobile apps that give you detailed forecasts on probabilities for the next hour or so. We used the app called "My Aurora Forecast & Alerts". 
In the end we didn't see any Northern lights. It was snowing every night and the sky was completely overcast. I was actually ready for this result already before going because if you spend there only 3 nights, you have to be extremely lucky to see them. Unfortunately it wasn't possible for us to stay longer because of some other appointments. 

Although we didn't fulfill our main goal, we still had very nice time in Lapland and we plan to go back there sometime for longer time and then hopefully witness the light show as well. 
So what did we do?

We flew from Helsinki to Rovaniemi and rented a car from the airport. As we were already there, we had to go and check out Santa's village as well.

Santa's village

It is very touristic. You can go and visit Santa for free but it's forbidden to take any photos yourself and then later you can buy an official photo for surprisingly high price (we skipped that). There are loads of restaurants and souvenir shops and you can send postcards to your friends and family which will then get a special Santa stamp on them. 

After seeing Santa, we made a stop at groceries, got enough food for next days and started a 100 km journey to our destination. 

We rented a holiday home in Pyhä-Luosto National Park in the middle of the forest. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful there. It's just you and the nature. At the same time the civilization was only 6 km away (Luosto village) with couple of restaurants and a small grocery store. 

We didn't do any typical tourist activities like reindeer rides, husky rides, snowmobile tours etc. We drove around a bit on our own. 

There were frozen rivers and lakes everywhere:

Sodankylä was the nearest town to us. As a town it's nothing special but there is a nice museum-gallery of a local artist Andreas Alariesto. He started to paint very late in his life and depicted mostly Lappish life. There's lots of humor in his work. There is also one small old church in Sodankylä:

Sodankylä old chuch

Sodankylä new church

There is also a small open air museum but it's closed during the winter season.

We also went to Ranua to see the zoo of arctic animals. It was quite a long drive and one thing about driving in Lapland is that you have to pay attention on reindeer. They can show up in the places you least expect it and then just stand in the middle of the road. I read that there are quite a lot of accidents happening all the time.

Ranua zoo is very nice. It's not very big but you can really see most of the animals. If the animal is not outside, you can go inside a small house and see the animal inside either sleeping or minding his own business.

Polar bears eating

Little wild boars having a lunch nap

There's also a small ice bar at the zoo where we had some nice hot drinks:

If you are looking for peace and quiet and the feeling of being in the wilderness, you should definitely consider Lapland. There are plenty of cross country skiing opportunities and in Pyhä there's also a small ski resort. Next time I would go on a guided hike with snowshoes and stay for a week or so.

Some useful links