If you have always dreamed of experiencing the winter wonderland up close and personal, you should pack your backpack with very (I mean very, very!) warm clothes and take the next plane to Lapland.
In the following, I am sharing their knowledge about the Lapland experiences from February 2017:
Lapland is located in the northern parts of Sweden and Finland – beyond the arctic cycle. Besides the beautiful landscape, it is possible to catch the northern lights there. Best time to see Aurora Bolearis, thus to travel to the north of Scandinavia is, they say, beginning of November until end of March. Between December and February, it’s actually a guarantee to see them.
I’m going on a trip and I’m taking X with me.
What to wear at -20 degrees? Well, It’s more a question of how many layers to wear at these cold temperatures. Believe it or not, wearing 6-7 “normal” layers keeps you warmer than 2-3 thick winter layers. In any case, your “main Lapland-outfit” should consist of thermo-layers (leggings, long-arm shirt, socks), waterproof shoes, neck rest, winter-jacket and skull cap. In addition to that, take pullovers, shirts, snow pants and everything else needed, depending on your planned activities and personal cold feeling.
In any case: Just take the essentials. Also regarding cosmetics. Girls – really no need for makeup! Give your skin some freedom. Actually only shower gel, toothbrush and paste is needed. Better take hand cream and lip balm, as your skin might be dry and cracked due to the cold weather. BTW only use cream, when you are sure not going outside within the next hour(s). Since those cosmetics contain water, the usage will even worsen your skin. Next to that, take some food, which you can prepare easily with the cattle (below you’ll find more info). Therefore, it’s advisable to also take thermo-cups.
RIGA – HELSINKI – IVALO
From Riga, there are no direct flights to Lapland. Therefore, you always have a stop in Stockholm or Helsinki, which actually offers you the great opportunity to start your vacation with a small city-trip. Ivalo, Finland, was our the final (airport) destination. Therefore, we stayed one day/night in Helsinki.
One day in Helsinki
Spending just one day in a capital means planning your time efficiently. So let’s start with the fastest way to get from Helsinki Airport Vantaa to the centrum. Generally, public transportation is easy to take as well as to understand, reliable and compared to the price level in Finland cheap. You’ll find the specific timetable and routes HERE. Tickets can be bought at the train station entrance in the corridor between the T1 and T2 terminals, in the baggage claim hall in T2 and at bus stops as well as via the HSL app or from and R-kiosk. If you download the HSL Mobile ticket app in advance, you’ll save a lot of time, because you can easily buy a mobile ticket instead of waiting in the line. In addition to that, You’ll save money as the mobile oneway ticket is cheaper. (Oneway: mobile ticket 2,20€, machine ticket: 2,90, bus ticket: 3,20€; daily ticket (1 day): 9,90€)) By bus it takes, depending on traffic around 40 Minutes to the centre of Helsinki. By train, You can be there already in about 30 minutes.
As Helsinki’s public transport is quite developed, You don’t necessarily live in the centre. We stayed in the CheapSleep Hostel (30€/night private room with shared bathroom) in Vallila. It is possible to leave luggage there and start directly exploring the city. Since the tram station is right outside the door, it just took 20 minutes in total to the city centre.
So, just take the tram to the centre and start walking around, feel the positive finish vibes and let the city affect you. Walking through those districts is an absolute must: Kaartinkaupunki, Punavuori, Kruununhaka, Hietalahti. Meanwhile, you pass these districts, you automatically stop the top sightseeing spots: Market Square, Helsinki Cathedral, Assumption Cathedral, Senate square, Vanha kauppahalli, Esplanade. Get inspired by the city and try out cute coffees, which you’ll find behind every corner.
Crossing the Arctic Cycle
From Helsinki to Ivalo it takes around about 3 hours, considering that the plane “stops” by a small airport for 30 min, where some passengers leave and the new board. After 20 min of flying, the plane arrives at the super small airport of Ivalo. Since only a few planes land each day, there will be for sure a bus waiting in front of the airport, to take you until Saariselkä (and even further until Kakslauttanen). Bus ride for oneway costs 20€/pp. Duration is approx. 30 Minutes.
Finally arrived in the small village of Saariselkä, the bus driver stops very close to the hotel you are staying and will inform you when you’ve arrived.
SAARISELKÄ – the final destination
If you try to live on low budget Lapland, you’re definitely wrong there. Nevertheless, there a ways to at least spending money wisely.
The time-length of 5 days is perfect. Highly recommended as accommodation is the Saariselkä Inn Majatalo Panimo. It can be easily booked via booking.com. For 4 nights, we paid 252€ for a two-bedroom with bathroom and breakfast (which has been surprisingly nice – see the picture) included. The rooms mostly are equipped with a cattle. So, better bring bag soups and tea (even though you can take it from the breakfast buffet would be easier just to take it).
As previously mentioned Finland is very expensive. Even though there is a supermarket in Saariselkä, you might not be pleased with the prices plus you have to keep in mind what possibilities your hotel offers to cook in your room by yourself. Next to the supermarket, of course, there are some restaurants. Prices starting around 10€ e.g. for an average-Burger (no must do). If you are obsessed with trying local food, you should definitely try reindeer-beef. In conclusion, prepare to bring your own food.
Arrived in Saariselka – What to do now?
Short and sweet, definitely recommended: Cross-country Skiing, Snow-Mobile, Husky-Safari, Wellness, Aurora Hunting, Toboggan run
Saariselkä is a really small village. That means, you can go for a walk around the neighbourhood and in the valleys but for sightseeing, you are definitely in the wrong place. Nevertheless, there are a lot of different activities to do in the area, which will be explained in the following
Several companies have an office, where activities can be booked. Get informed on special agreements between your accommodation and the companies for discounts. Sometimes tours are already booked so it might be clever to book already something in advance. However, it’s no problem to book everything on-site.
- Cross-country skiing: The environment around Saariselkä is great for this sport. The ways through the woods are breath-taking, not only because of the beautiful white landscape also, because of the wild nature, which you will experience. When you are lucky, reindeers might pass by. Furthermore, the cross country ski-ways feel infinite. There are several routes with different degrees of difficulty, which stops by Cafés for a nice lunch break. Before entering the valley, there is a tent with maps of the environment, which give you a nice overview of where and how to go. Renting equipment (shoes + ski and sticks) for 2 days will be around 30 €/pp.
- Snowmobile Safari – the jet-ski on snow. For sure, its a cool and unique adventure. Probably you won’t have the chance again to try it out. However, it’s pretty expensive for a 2,5h Aurora-Hunt ride to pay 140€ pp. Well, if you then see the Auroras as the end it might be worth it. The company will provide you with additional clothes. (With a coupon we got 10 % off the price at Husky & Co)
- Husky Safari: DO IT! This is an unforgettable experience. There are different tours which you can book. No need to take the 6 hours tour. 3 hours for the Safari is enough and felt perfect. The company will provide you with clothes as well. If you take one slight as 2, it costs around 120€ pp. It’s possible to take a slight alone, but it will be more expensive. If you are booking as a group, there are discounts. (Booked with Husky & Co)
- Wellness: Mostly the accommodations offer Saunas, as its something local. In addition to that, The Holiday Club Saariselkä, which is right across the street from Saariselkä Inn has a Pool and Sauna area, which costs around 15 €. Actually, it’s nice after all the activities to relax in the pool area and take a rest, BUT the pool’s water hadn’t been so warm. Thus, it personally hadn’t much to do with relaxation in the pool. On the other hand, the Sauna was super pleasant and relaxing. However, you might be more lucky about pool temperature.
- Aurora Hunting: To get the best view to see the northern lights above the valleys, you have to walk approximately 20 minutes from Saariselkä to arrive at an aurora hut. This hut, which is pretty new, is free to enter and is equipped with a fireplace (and wood), benches and tables. In front of the hut, there is a big panorama view outdoors. So, you don’t need to wait outside in the cold nights to catch the view of Auroras. Take some snacks, drinks and card games, and enjoy your nights waiting for the amazing lights. For sure, you will get in touch with other travellers, who are there for the same aim.
- Toboggan run: In the north of Saariselkä is a longer toboggan run with sledges, which is for free to use and super fun.
AURORA BOREALIS – POLAR LIGHTS – NORTHERN LIGHTS whatsoever
Northern lights arise close to the earth poles, where the magnetosphere is the strongest. Therefore, the closer one gets to the north or south pole, the higher is the probability of the northern lights being seen.
The chance to see the northern lights in Lapland between November and March is the highest. Here the probability of seeing it is about 80% each day. One of the precondition is an (almost) cloudless sky. Seeing those lights is probably a one-lifetime experience, thus make sure that you will be able to see them, even if that means staying awake all night with aurora-hunting.
Besides that, you might have the chance to see other breathtaking natural phenomena. The right picture below shows you what is called polar stratospheric clouds. Fascinating rainbow-like colours become apparent in the clouds.
After I have been to Lapland, a documentary (2017.12, Aurora, Planetarium Hamburg,) stated, that because of a weak performance of the magnetosphere around the earth, the chances to see Auroras is quite low for the next years. As my knowledge of astrology is pretty low, I wouldn’t bother you trying to explain something which is really out of my understanding of life. Anyways, the chance to see Northern Lights will raise up year by year. If You want to be sure, delay your Aurora-vacay for a bit.