Written by Bradt Travel Guides
High inside the Arctic Circle, Lapland is a place where the summer sun never sets. Hitch a ride with a reindeer and visit Santa Claus or marvel at nature’s fireworks – the northern lights. From the dramatic fjords and unspoilt islands of the North Cape to mountainous hiking routes such as the Kungsleden trail, from midnight concerts in Tromsø’s Arctic Cathedral to a stay at a remote wilderness camp – there’s plenty to tempt the adventurous visitor.
The man in red
Children know Lapland as the home of Santa Claus and his illustrious red-nosed reindeer, Rudolph, who take to the starry skies every Christmas Eve to deliver presents and goodies to homes across the globe, a truly remarkable feat of aviation, timetabling and largesse that leaves even the world’s favourite airlines lost for words. If you’re visiting Lapland to meet the man himself, head to Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. Santa Claus Village is where it all happens, and you can visit his office, post office and reindeer enclosure, amongst other things.
Santa Claus Village © Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing
Climb every mountain, fjord every stream
First-time visitors are often astonished at the sheer variety of Lapland’s landscapes: classic Norwegian fjords amid some of the most awe-inspiring mountain scenery anywhere in Europe; sweeping forests of pine and spruce that cloak the great inland plateaux of Swedish Lapland; and austere, treeless fells surrounded by steely grey lakes and unforgiving marshes that give Finnish Lapland its very individual character. This is Scandinavia at its most elemental. Some of Lapland’s best-known hiking routes are the Kungsleden and Padjelanta trails in Sweden and the Nordkalottleden, which traverses all three countries.
Trollfjord © To-Foto AS/Northern Norway Tourist Board (www.visitnorthernnorway.com)
Hitching a ride
A trip to Lapland in winter would arguably be incomplete without a ride on a sledge pulled by huskies or reindeer. As well as the excitement of being up close to the animals, this kind of excursion offers you the opportunity to see the beauty of the landscape in the way the Sámi people would have done – and still do. Hetta Huskies in Finnish Lapland is worth a stop, whether you’re looking for a sledding tour or not. The farm is home to around 150 dogs and offers tours around the kennels and the chance to meet the dogs and learn about their training as well as various sledding options, including the chance to drive your own.
Reindeer sledging © Discover the World
Embrace the cold at Sweden’s Icehotel
Winter temperatures in Lapland can plummet to –30° and so why not make an adventure out of the chilly weather? The Icehotel is undoubtedly Swedish Lapland’s best-known attraction. It is built each year out of blocks of ice hewn every winter from the frozen Torne River and stands tall until the spring thaw in May. Whether you stay here or not, you should make every effort to get here for this truly amazing sight. Although the actual details of the design and interior decoration vary each year, the overall shape of the hotel remains the same: one long arched corridor, naturally lit at either end by giant ice windows, forms the main walkway, from which other corridors then branch off to the left and right leading to the bedrooms and suites. Intricately carved ice sculptures adorn the interior seemingly at every turn and only add to the overall sense of amazement most visitors feel.
Icehotel © Discover the World
One of the most spectacular sights in Lapland is the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. During the darkest months of winter, the sky is often lit up by these shimmering arcs of green, blue and yellowish light, which can disappear as fast as they appear. The science behind their existence is complex but essentially the displays are caused by solar wind or particles charged by the sun, which light up as they reach the earth’s atmosphere: blue is nitrogen and yellowy-green is oxygen. In order to see the northern lights, the night sky must be clear of cloud. It is said that the colder and stiller the conditions the better the chances of a display, and the further north you travel the more impressive the lights will be. If you’re flying to Lapland during the hours of darkness, be alert as you look out of the plane windows because the aurora borealis can also be seen clearly when you are in the air above the cloud.
© Lunde Ingvaldsen/Northern Norway Tourist Board (www.visitnorthernnorway.com)
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