7 of the best places to visit in Finnish Lapland

Finnish Lapland is massive – and at least 8 hours from Helsinki by road or rail. So where do you even start?

Here are 7 of our favourite places to visit, along with insider tips on the best things to do when you arrive. From ice floating to panning for gold, there’s plenty to keep you busy here all year round…

1. Ylläs

Ylläs has more than just skiing
Ylläs has more than just skiing

Less than half an hour’s drive from the Swedish border, the ski resort called Ylläs (or Yllästunturi) is home to Finland’s longest downhill slope.

The pistes here seem to soar out of a surprisingly flat landscape, so on clear days you can expect epic views as you start each run.

Even if you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, we think it’s worth stopping by for some of the other winter activities on offer, like this guided snowmobile tour that takes you to the nearby SnowVillage hotel, which has rooms made of snow and ice.

More sedate activities in Yllas include ice floating and snowshoeing through the snowy forests on a guided tour.

Although we like these kinds of tours, there’s still loads you can do independently and without breaking the bank.

Snaking north from Ylläs is the vast Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. There are well-marked cross-country skiing tracks and magical snowshoeing routes to explore here, but we think the park really comes into its own during summer, when you can hike through mighty fells, pick wild cloudberries or sleep under the stars (see our guide on camping in Finland, or download the free trail maps on the official national park website).

2. Korouoma Nature Reserve

Ice falls in Finnish Lapland
Serious ‘Narnia’ vibes in Finnish Lapland

Around a dozen ‘ice falls’ form at this national park in Lapland every year, making it a wild and beautiful place to visit during the winter.

Set around a 30km long canyon, the whole park feels like something straight out of Narnia when the deep freeze sets in.

You can check out the canyon and falls pretty easily on tours from tourist hubs like Rovaneimi.

And while it might sound extreme, you can actually have a go at climbing up the near-vertical, bluish-white ice (Bliss Adventure runs a tour like this, but we haven’t tried it so do your own research).

If adrenaline-fueled adventures leave you shivering, you can hike one of the circle routes that start from the Saukkovaara parking area. What’s best about the 5km Koronjää trail, our favourite of the lot, is that you can hike it all year round.

3. Kemi

Ice floating in Kemi, Finnish Lapland
Not your usual swimming trip

Most famous for its SnowCastle (a big fort made of snow), Kemi is a small coastal town that pulls in a big number of visitors.

The cold climate and close proximity to Sweden have helped it to grow into an unlikely tourist destination, with the SnowCastle going head-to-head with the nearby IceHotel in the ‘craziest attraction in Lapland’ category.

Even if you’re visiting outside the main winter season, which runs from December to late March, you can still get a taste for snowy adventures at the (very touristy) SnowExperience365 attraction, which is open all year with sculptures, a slide, a bar and even tables made entirely of ice. 

For something that truly blows the cobwebs off, we’d recommend a trip aboard Sampo, a massive icebreaker ship.

Once used to clear the shipping ways of the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea, the boat now offers journeys through the ice.

If the promise of otherworldly vistas won’t convince you to hop on board, then maybe the chance to swim in icy water wearing a thermal survival suit will.

4. Levi

Whether you’re a cross-country newbie or a seasoned schusser, the ski resort of Levi has options to suit all skiing abilities.

After an exhilarating day on the slopes, you can tear through the dark arctic night on a snowmobile tour in search of northern lights or dive into the après-ski scene for a little post-piste revelry. 

Husky and reindeer safaris are the staples of any visit to Finnish Lapland, and Levi has you covered.

Our favourite dog sledding tours are the ones where you hold the reins. You’ll feel at one with nature on guided trips like this one, which lets you speed past snow-coated trees while huskies strain at the leash, yapping into the cold blue air. (You can get more tips on dog sledding in this guide).

During summer, Levi reinvents itself as a mountain biking hub, with the Levi Bike and Outdoor Fest taking place in late July each year.

5. Urho Kekkonen National Park

A reindeer in Urho Kekkonen National Park, Finnish Lapland
Just another reindeer, Urho Kekkonen National Park

There’s no shortage of unspoilt nature in Urho Kekkonen National Park, a vast tract of wilderness that stretches east from the village of Saariselkä towards the Russian border.

With its old-growth forests, fast-flowing brooks, and truly off-the-grid location, it’s the perfect place to get away from it all.

If there was ever a place where to blow the accommodation budget in Finnish Lapland, Saariselkä is it – auroral displays are pretty much a given here in winter.

We love these crazy glass ‘igloos’ at the Kakslauttanen resort, which combine the luxury of a log cabin with unrivalled northern lights views. 

For a cultural fix, try the Tankavaara Gold Museum to discover more about the area’s gold rush in the 1870s. If your visit leaves you hungry for more of the precious stuff, try your hand at gold panning or stay overnight in one of the wood-panelled rooms at Tankavaara Gold Village.

6. Rovaniemi

Even before you land at Rovaniemi airport, you see a reindeer: Santa’s ‘official’ residence and gateway to Finnish Lapland boasts a street plan in the shape of a reindeer’s head, antlers and all.

You can experience close encounters with the real thing during this cute tour to meet traditional reindeer herders and enjoy an enchanting sleigh ride through deep, fluffy snow.

Aside from arctic adventures that make you feel miles away from your office desk, Rovaniemi also offers lots of urban activities.

Jump into the city’s restaurant scene to enjoy an Arctic feast of fish and reindeer or visit the Arktikum Museum to learn about the region and the local Sámi culture, which faces huge pressures from the outside world.

The city’s most famous attraction, Santa Claus Village, pulls in thousands of visitors annually, as do the various northern lights tours that leave from town.

7. Tornio

Tornio is right on the border with Sweden, and you can play a game of golf on both sides
Sweden on one side, Finland on the other

It’s worth a visit to Tornio, a surprisingly vibrant city on the border with Sweden, to get a taste for two different countries in one… ahem, swing.

Weekend warriors and seasoned pros can put their golf swing to the test on the grounds of Tornio Golf, the world’s only cross-border golf course.

If you’re anything like us, you’ll find it endlessly entertaining to say you can hit the ball into a different country and time zone!

Another way to stretch your legs is by walking the Alkunkari Bay Nature Trail, a 5.6-km circle route great for bird watching. 

And if you’d rather spend the afternoon giving your credit card a workout, you can do so at Rajalla På Gränsen, one of Lapland’s largest shopping malls.

See also:
Winter tours in Ruka, Finland
10 of the best dog sled tours in Rovaniemi
Where is Lapland?

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