Winter Fun in Finland (Our Experience at this Incredible Vacation Destination)

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Way up in Northern Finland, 185 miles above the Arctic Circle line, and 30 miles from the Russian border, lies a small town named Saariselkä. Saariselkä, in the region of Lapland, is Europe’s most northern resort town and is known for its large hilly landscapes and clean air. A five-minute walk from the village center brings you away from the lights of the town and into the peace of the wilderness. The town itself has 300 permanent residents and even though there are many visitors, the town continues to hold a peaceful, serene feeling. Winter in Finland is a special and unique experience.

The region has six weeks of uninterrupted sunlight in June and July, and six weeks of darkness in December and January. On our first day, the sun rose at 10:38am and quickly set at 2:04pm totaling 3:26 hours of sunlight. The sun never made it much above the horizon and always looked like it was about to set! 

The week we visited Saariselkä they were having a ‘warm’ week of weather with temperatures ranging from 7-25 degrees F. Typically the temperatures are coldest during January and range from -20 – 14 degrees F, though a couple of years ago it got down to -63 F! Obviously, we packed many layers, plus our typical ski gear. While walking around the town we took notice of the fresh crisp air and saw that snow covered every surface. It undoubtedly was a winter wonderland.

Getting There

So how did we get to this far away town? First, we flew into Helsinki, then connected on a flight to Ivalo. Next, we took a 30-minute bus ride to Saariselkä. The town bus waits for the few flights to come into Ivalo to transfer to the town. We were dropped off in the “center” of town, which was about a 10-minute walk from the cabin we had rented with friends.

Typical Finnish Food

In the town are restaurants and a grocery store. It was refreshing to walk into town and buy local food at the supermarket for our breakfasts and snacks. We used a sled to haul our load back to the cabin and it worked out very nicely! 

The restaurants in town serve typical Finnish cuisine and it is so fresh and different. Some of our favorites were Finnish salmon soup, rye bread, reindeer with lingonberries, cheese bread, and burbot stew

Reindeer Sleigh Ride

Our first activity was a reindeer sleigh ride through the woods of Lapland. With two people per sleigh, we slowly went through a path in the woods with the moonlight shining our way. The guide who led the reindeer was a member of the Sami people, a rich culture with an interesting history that stretches over the Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish Lapland. This group of people are trying to preserve their culture and small community as much as they can. It was so interesting learning more about them.

After our ride we were invited into a typical Sami “hut” and drank warm gooseberry juice next to the campfire. We were also fortunate to hear an old Sami song that was sung by our guide.

Husky Safari

The next day we left for our second Arctic adventure – a husky safari! We were taken to a ranch where we soon heard the barking of enthusiastic dogs. The head musher talked about the life and training of the Alaskan Huskies, which are better suited to run and pull longer distances than Siberian Huskies. Before leaving we were given instructions on how to control the sleds, which we rode in pairs. For two hours the dogs ran and pulled us through the woods, up and down hills, and around tight curves. The sleds glided effortlessly through the snow while the dogs pulled at full speed. Jon and I both were able to be the mushers, leading our team of dogs and the sled through the woods. Whenever we would stop to take breaks the dogs would start howling and barking ready to go again!

After our rides we met our team of dogs and had a chance to look around the ranch. In total they have 106 huskies, all eager to run!

We were then led into a snow-covered hut equipped with a fire stove and set tables. We were welcomed with a mug of hot gooseberry juice and a large bowl of reindeer and vegetable stew. It was just what we needed to escape the cold and warm up.

Search for the Northern Lights via Snowmobile

After a quick hour of rest, we headed out for the night for our next excursion, a search for the Northern Lights by snowmobile. With the moonlight flowing down, we drove the snowmobiles through snow covered forests, and over treeless fells, stopping a few times to look at the sky. We drove to an igloo site where we were given hot chocolate and grilled sausages. While we didn’t see the Northern Lights on this adventure, we had an amazing time driving about 25 miles on this Lapland adventure.

The Northern Lights

After getting back to the cabin we opened a bottle of wine to warm up. Since it was a fairly clear night the guys decided to go for a walk to see if the Northern Lights would make an appearance. I just couldn’t bring myself to go back outside in the cold at 12:30am! However, after walking around for an hour and feeling defeated, they saw a faint green light in the sky. The clouds moved and they soon saw the amazing aurora borealis dancing in the sky. I got the call and ran out like a nut. It was spectacular!

Downtime

It sounds like we had a jam-packed vacation, but we actually had a lot of downtime. We played in the snow, walked around town discovering different areas, and were able to simply relax in the cabin in front of the fireplace with warm drinks. We are so happy that we were able to spend part of our winter in Lapland, Finland.

Are you ready to plan your next vacation? Schedule a complimentary consultation with Cheryl to learn more. 

For more from Cheryl, you may enjoy reading these adventures. 

 

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