Lapland is not somewhere you go just for sightseeing. It’s an adventurer’s wildest dream; a place with extreme seasons, amazing wildlife and the possibility of total solitude if you seek it out.
My experiences in Lapland have been true adventures – some of the best times of my life, in fact.
Here’s 3 of my best ideas for adventure trips to Lapland, with rough itineraries included.
Idea #1: Remote arctic getaway
Adventure Intensity: Moderately Insane
This is a great first adventure trip to do (and second, and third). You’ll get to experience the novelty of Lapland and have some great adventures, but within the bounds of comfort that a solid roof over your head and the warmth of a fireplace affords.
Here’s a summary of this idea:
- Plan your trip for late February or early March, when Lapland is just about as cold as it gets but there is increasing daylight (10-12 hours of sun every day, compared to as little as 30 minutes of daylight in early January). The perpetual darkness of December and January can be depressing for anyone not used to it, and limiting in terms of the activities you can get to.
- Book a remote cabin on AirBnB, like the Kolari Cabin or Kuusamo Lakeside Cabin recommended in our Lapland Adventure Trip Guide. We recommend 7 nights. I’ve done 4 and 9 – 4 was too short, 9 was slightly too long. Particularly when it’s dark the whole time (both of those trips were in December). You’d be surprised at just how much this can affect your mood.
- Catch a flight to one of Lapland’s many airports, maybe after an overnight layover in Stockholm, Helsinki or Oslo – three amazing cities with so much to offer.
- Rent a car on arrival at the Lappish airport (remember your license, and international drivers permit if relevant). They’re well-organized and will likely only have options suited to thick snow, so pick the cheapest one and get going. Stock up with Lapin Kulta beer and traditional rye bread and cheese from the grocer on your way.
- On arrival at your remote cabin, it will likely be just as cold inside as it is outside – light a fire! One cabin I went to was so remote that we had to ski across frozen lakes and rivers through the woodland to get there, as the road ended far off before the cabin. You may find yourself spending a good deal of time chopping wood and melting snow for water if you end up at a place like this, but that’s part of the adventure.
- On day 1, go for a long cross country ski around your accommodation. Bring a compass as many places in Lapland don’t have cell phone reception for your gps. See if you can spot moose and reindeer (the bears are in hibernation in winter, so no worries about them, and wolves are scarce and only really roam the Eastern borderlands between Finland and Russia). After a day-long excursion in the wilderness, you’ll be overjoyed to fire up the sauna, crack a beer and hopefully catch the Northern Lights.
- On days 2-4, get out and do whatever activities float your boat. Be it ice fishing, snowmobiling, dog sledding or making a giant snowman, just get out and do stuff! One way or another, you’ll undoubtedly end up spending your evenings in the sauna (my favorite pastime, in case you hadn’t noticed by now).
- Sometime around day 5, get gear together and plan an overnighter. Be sure to wear snowshoes or use skis, as the snow can get as thick as you are tall, and be light and fluffy the whole way down. You can rent gear here. Simply lock up your cabin and trek out into the wilderness, set up camp somewhere and light up a fire. This is one of my favorite things to do on a guys trip – brave the cold and go back to the last ice age.
- On day 6, take it easy at the cabin. Read a book, make a traditional, moose/reindeer antler handle Lappish knife, or buy a Christmas stocking memento from Santa Claus Village, the official home of Santa.
- And lastly, on day 7, a visit to one of Lapland’s many ski resorts is a fun way to end the adventure. We’ve always found that ending off a trip with something active and exhilarating is the best way to end it. When you get back on a plane and head home, the feeling of sore muscles and windswept hair is the perfect way to leave.
Idea #2: Midsummer foraging fiesta
Adventure Intensity: Almost normal
This can be much the same as idea #1 above, but with different activities and done during the summer months. Foraging is a favorite Scandinavian pastime, with many studies reporting that more than half the population goes foraging at least 7 times each summer. Foraging for your food connects you with nature like few other things can, and a bucket full of wild blueberries is just so damn good. Make sure you read our guide to foraging in Lapland, which gives a full account of everything you need to know for a trip like this.
Here’s a summary of this idea:
- Plan your trip for August, which is toward the end of summer. With just ±5 hours of night, you’ll get a super long day to do stuff, and mild weather. This is also the time of year when the most berry, mushroom and herb species are simultaneously ripe for the picking. Mosquitoes are less of an issue in August, and it’s a bit quieter than in the peak summer months of June and July, which is always a bonus. If seeing the midnight sun is a must for you, then July is the best month (the sun sets around 10pm and rises around 3am during most of August). 10 days is an ideal length trip for this time of year.
- As in Idea #1, book a cabin in the woods. North-Eastern Finland, North-Western Russia and anywhere East of Jokkmokk in Sweden are your best bets for a successful foraging trip, and all three areas are abundant with streams and lakes and woodland beauty. If you can’t get up that far North, pretty much everywhere in Scandinavia is teaming with plant life in summer, so you can basically set up anywhere and get in some good foraging.
- Instead of renting a car for this trip, consider renting a bicycle! If you’re halfway fit, pack light and book your cabin close-ish to an airport, you could load up onto a mountain bike and pedal your way through to your cabin. This is the best way to see Lapland in summer, and considering that the region is fairly flat, you won’t have to struggle up too many hills.
- On day 1 at your cabin, chill out by a lake and cast a line for a salmon. August is the last month of the short salmon fishing season, and you’re bound to catch a sizable fish. If you’re into it, keep your catch for a salmon dinner, grilled over an open fire.
- On day 2, you’ve got to get out and go foraging. You’re going to have to pick out the best spots, and these can take some time to find. So we recommend embarking on a lengthy hike to find the spots you want to forage in. Pick some berries, harvest some mushrooms and mark out the spots you want to come back to. That evening back at the cabin try cooking up a traditional Blueberry Pie or creamy mushroom dish with your pickings, and throw in some salmon if you have.
- On days 3 and 4, head out to your new favorite spots with a mosquito net and camping equipment. If you’re near a big lake (which is likely), pile your stuff into the cabin’s rowboat (most cabins are equipped with at least one) and start your trek on the far side of the lake. Start a smoky fire to ward off mosquitoes when you find your spot, and pick berries right into the night. This can be hard work. Camp the night and lug your pickings back to the cabin the next day.
- On day 5, head out to a local market, and, like so many Lappish locals, sell your produce at the market! Demand far exceeds supply for most berries, so you’ll have no problem selling a bucket of berries to a local vendor. Participating in Lappish culture this way is such an awesome experience.
- On days 6-9, do whatever you enjoy. Although August is still summer, nights can bring temperatures as low as 5℃ (40℉), so evenings are a great time to sauna into the night, roast marshmallows around the fire and snuggle up with a book. Consider joining a craft workshop to make your own Scandinavian knife from the antlers of moose or reindeer. Take an extended bicycle trip to the local attractions, and check out AirBnB experiences.
- And on your last day, get onto some canoes and go paddling. There are plenty of routes through the lakes and rivers, and the local tourism office will be able to provide you with maps. A dawn till dusk adventure like this is a must for any adventure-spirited traveller.
Idea #3: Wintertime camping expedition
Adventure Intensity: Level 99
This is for the crazy ones! If you’re mad like me and want to experience the arctic winter in its most splendid capacity, consider doing a winter camping expedition in mid-winter. This is not for the faint-hearted, nor for anyone who has never experienced the striking cold of an arctic winter before.
Here’s a summary of this idea:
- Plan your trip around Christmas time, the end of December. You’ll only have a few hours of faint light every day, but this is when Lapland is in its deepest winter slumber, and it’s beautiful. We wouldn’t recommend spending more than 4 days out in the snow, partly because you’ll likely want to avoid dying from hypothermia, and partly because it can get boring after the novelty wears off. So plan 4 days camping with a few on either side to do some sightseeing or skiing/snowboarding.
- Start your trip in Rovaniemi, Finland, the official home of St Nick at Santa Claus Village. It’s super-touristy, but super-festive, and will make the start of your trip exciting and sociable. Rovaniemi is one of the larger Lappish villages, and there are plenty of places to rent camping gear and cheap accommodations.
- Spend day 1 (and maybe 2) around Santa Claus Village. Sit on Santas lap, see the Christmas lights and eat a hearty meal with strangers during this festive period. Book your camping equipment rental well in advance, and pick it up and gear up!
- After a stint in Rovaniemi, catch a bus out into the wilderness (take your pick for where, but we’d recommend North-Eastern Finland as it is one of the most wild places in Lapland). Plan a route that requires travelling by skis no more than 16km (10 miles) per day, unless you’re very fit, as travelling through snow with either a day pack or dragging a sled is taxing.
- Practise your survival skills by building a natural shelter using just snow and foliage, if you dare, and remember to bring plenty of flint and tinder, an axe and food. While the nights away in front of a long log fire. This is always better in a group of a few people.
- At the tail end of your camping expedition, you’ll be tired, cold and craving a tasty meal. So head to a nearby village and book into a public sauna – they’re usually equipped with alcoholic beverages, espresso machines and fireplaces, making for a soothing end to a crazy adventure.