Ice floating in Finland: what is it, and where can you try it?

Bobbing around in the Arctic Sea surrounded by ice might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but ice floating is Lapland’s latest trend.

The best place to go ice floating is in Finnish Lapland.

Cold water swimming is gaining traction around the world as a meditative, therapeutic activity and ice floating is simply the next stage.

So, if the idea of swimming in icy waters floats your – erm – boat, then Finnish Lapland is the place to try it.

What is ice floating, anyway?

As its name suggests, ice floating is a relaxing and slightly surreal experience, that involves bobbing and floating around in icy waters.

It can be done in rivers, lakes and even the sea – anywhere there’s ice, in fact! 

Finland has really led the way with ice floating, and you’ll find more organised ice-floating tours here than in all the other Nordic countries.

When can you go ice floating? 

The best time to go ice floating in Finland is between December and April.

The ice needs to be thick enough to make it an exciting experience but not so thick that a hole can’t be made in it. 

If temperatures are too low and the ice is too thick it’s not possible to make a big enough space for people to move around.

So, how did ice floating originate?

Ice floating is a relatively recent phenomenon that started in Finland, though it has now spread to other icy destinations, including Val d’Isere in France.

The reason why it’s taking off now is because the technology for the thermal dry suits has improved enough to allow people to stay safely in the water for more than just a few minutes.

The high-quality insulated suits have been adapted from those carried by cruise ships to enable passengers to survive in the event of an accident in cold seas.

What does it feel like? 

Most people describe the sensation of floating in ice-cold water, surrounded by large chunks or sheets of ice, as other-worldly and unique.

Watch the northern lights while ice floating in Finland.

Because you’re floating in the sea or a lake, away from any human habitation, it’s a quiet, meditative experience with a back-to-nature vibe.

And since the insulated suits are so thick, you can’t really swim, so you simply have to lie back, look at the sky and think deep thoughts.

It’s a bit like being in a floatation tank, but with real stars above and real nature around you!

Recommended ice floating tours

There are loads of different ice floating trips you can do in Finnish Lapland. We like this tour from Rovaniemi that includes two bucket-list activities – ice floating and seeing the northern lights!

Or, you can combine ice floating with other activities such as ice fishing, a snow-shoe walk and a Lappish barbecue on this fun fishing, floating and barbecue trip.

And for the ultimate ice floating trip, this tour includes a cruise on an ice breaker ship, plus a trip to the Kemi Snowcastle with sculptures, a bar and even a slide – all made of ice. 

Is ice floating good for you?

Many people swear by the physical and mental health benefits of cold-water swimming. 

And there is certainly some evidence to suggest that immersion in cold water in a controlled fashion can be good for you.

Advocates of the habit claim that it can boost circulation, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve sleep and release endorphins that enhance your mood.

Whilst it’s unlikely that a one-off ice floating tour will have such a dramatic effect, most people report a sense of mental relaxation and connection with nature after emerging from the water.

And if we look at the fact that Finland is the capital of ice-floating and its people are regularly ranked as among the happiest in the world, perhaps there’s something in it?

But if nothing else, it’s certainly a unique way to experience the serene beauty of a Finnish winter.

Where are the best places to go ice floating?

Finnish Lapland is where ice floating originated from and it’s still the best place to try the activity, if you want a complete back-to-nature experience.

Levi and Yalläs are both up in Arctic Circle in the heart of Lapland and can provide peace, tranquility and wilderness in abundance.

Known as the gateway to the Arctic, Rovaniemi is just on the edge of the Arctic Circle and is a livelier base, with plenty of other activities available too. 

So if you want to combine ice floating with tours such as dog-sledding, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides or visiting Father Christmas, it’s a good choice.

And if you fancy an urban ice floating experience, you can even have a go in Helsinki – a good option if you’re short of time and want a fun short trip out.

The best ice floating tours in Finland

So, which are the best tours to pick? Well, here are our six favourite ice floating tours in Finland.

Go ice floating in Lake Vatiajärvi

The central Finnish lakeland region has some beautiful watery spots where you can immerse yourself.

Go ice floating in Lake Vatiajärvi in Finland

This hour-long tour from Laukaa takes you to the frozen Lake Vatiajärvi where you can float around in crystal clear waters before warming up with a hot drink round a campfire.

Price: €51; US$53

Float under the stars in Yalläs

For even more atmosphere, try ice floating at night under a clear starry sky and let the darkness envelope you. You may even get to see the spectacular aurora borealis light show in the skies above.

Go ice floating at night and you may see the northern lights.

This tour (2 hours, 30 mins) heads out from Ylläs to the beautiful icy waters of Lake Ylläsjärvi.

Price: €99; US$103

Try ice floating in Helsinki

And you don’t have to be in the middle of nowhere to try ice floating.

You can even go ice floating in Finland's capital city, Helsinki

You can even do it in Helsinki, Finland’s capital city. This 90-minute trip gives you the chance to experience ice floating and jumping between ice rafts in the heart of city.

Price: €125; US$130

Float from an ice breaker ship in Kemi

Ice floating in the sea is the ultimate adventure, and this seven-hour trip involves a cruise on an ice breaker and a dip in the Bothnian Sea. 

Go ice floating on an ice-breaker ship in Finland.

You’ll be taken across the border to Axelsvik in Sweden to board the ship which will set off into the frozen sea, clearing the ice on it way. You can walk on the ice, then float in the sea in a large space cleared of ice by the ship. 

Price: €380; US$400

Take a small group trip from Rovaniemi

This three-hour small group tour takes only a few people out at a time to make the most of the peace and quiet of the natural surroundings.

Take a small group ice floating tour for the ultimate in peace and quiet.

You can even book it as a private tour and just float around with your own friends or family in a calm, tranquil atmosphere.

Price: €98; US$102

Have an Arctic ice floating adventure in Levi

This three-hour trip from Levi is a great way to experience the silence and beauty of the Lappish wilderness.

Go ice floating high up in the Arctic Circle

You’ll float in a frozen lake, some 100 miles or so above the Arctic Circle, surrounded by snow-clad trees and miles of icy landscapes.

Price: €104; US$109

Tips for choosing the right tour

  • Group size. Check the size of your tour. If you want a peaceful, calm, back-to-nature experience, make sure you choose a small group or a private tour.
  • Duration. On most tours, you’ll only stay in the water for around 30 minutes – and believe us, this is usually enough even with a highly insulated suit! But if you have travel far to get to the water or are combining with another activity, the tour will be longer.
  • Additional activities. Check what’s included in your tour. Some trips provide a hot drink round the campfire or even a full barbecue to warm up afterwards. Others include extra activities such as ice-fishing.

Safety and precautions

Needless to say, ice floating is not something you should try on your own! You’ll need an experienced guide to take you to a safe spot, plus a high-tech super-insulated thermal dry suit to allow you to stay in the water. 

All certified tour companies will provide the necessary gear, including gloves, boots and special floating suits that give you the insulation and buoyancy that you need to go ice floating safely.

Also, the experienced guides are trained to deal with any safety issues and to recognise any signs of hyperthermia – and can act swiftly if help is needed.

Clearly, drinking alcohol is not a good idea before ice floating and most companies won’t take pregnant women or anyone under 120cm in height.

If you have any mobility or other health issues, you should check with the tour company first as you’ll need to be able to put the thermal suit on and enter the water on your own.

However you don’t actually need to be able to swim – the thermal suits are so buoyant and insulated that even non-swimmers go ice floating!

See also:
6 of the best snowmobile tours in Levi, Finland
Seeing the northern lights in Finland
Dog sledding in Finland

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