For many visitors Lapland is the most exotic of Finnish destinations; certainly it is one that is not quickly forgotten by those who come here. Sparsely populated, it provides a wide range of unique experiences in nature, whether hiking across Europe's last wildernesses, fishing some of the best salmon rivers in the world, whitewater rafting, or even panning for gold; and all the while breathing in air that has been identified as the cleanest in Europe.
Winter time brings a whole new set of experiences to enjoy, when the internationally recommended ski resorts of Levi, Ruka, Saariselkä and Olos, amongst others, open for the season. Syöte National Park in Pudasjärvi covers almost 300 sq. metres of forests and fells, with 2 adjacent ski resorts and Ranua Wildlife Park also close by. Alpine ski slopes and cross-country trails, snowmobiles for hire, reindeer safaris, and even dog-sled rides, are just some of the many activities you can enjoy in the pristine snow. For those seeking a truly memorable experience, the chance to spend a night in snow accommodation is one that shouldn't be missed. Whether it's one of the magical Snow Hotels in Enontekiö, Kemi, Kittilä or Rovaniemi, or in an igloo in Kittilä, Muonio or Saariselkä, these unique accommodations provide unforgettable experiences. Especially on those nights, and there are many, when the aurora borealis light up the skies.
However, holidays in Lapland have more to offer than just experiences in the great outdoors. Finnish Lapland remains home to the country's indigenous Sámi people who have a rich cultural heritage which can be explored in museums like Siida and the Skolt Sámi Heritage House in Inari, or Skierri in Enontekiö. There are almost a dozen local history museums located in the region, and in Rovaniemi, the regions capital, you'll find the impressive Arkitkum building which houses the Provincial Museum of Finland and the Arctic Science Centre, and the Pilke Science Centre. Other cultural gems include the Jutajaiset Folklore Festival, the Midnight Sun Film Festival, the Skábmagovat - Indigenous Peoples Film Festival, Arctic Fury Film & Media Festival, the LuostoClassic festival of classical music, Pyhä Unplugged, and Kalottjazz & Blues Festival.
Rovaniemi is the regions largest city, sitting astride the Arctic Circle, and it is here that you will discover the country's most famous resident: Santa Claus! A village devoted to the most loved character in the world is situated here, and includes the post office which handles the tens of millions of letters sent by young children to him every winter. Visitors have the opportunity to meet Santa, and have a photo taken with him in his grotto, and nearby is the SantaPark theme park, a place never forgotten by the children, or the adults, who have visited.
Despite it's northerly location, Lapland is well-integrated into Finland's efficient road, rail and air networks, and has excellent domestic and international connections. Rail services - including overnight sleepers and car trains - run between Rovaniemi and Helsinki. International air traffic is operated directly, as well as via Helsinki and other Finnish towns, to Rovaniemi, Kittilä, Enontekiö, Kemi, Kuusamo and Ivalo. Airports are modern and equipped to facilitate extensive international traffic whatever the weather conditions.
Situated at the junction of the majestic rivers of Kemijoki and Ounasjoki on the Arctic Circle, in the midst of a captivating and rugged wilderness, Rovaniemi is Lapland's capital city, an energetic jewel of the North which lays claim to being the home of Father Christmas. Indeed, visitors from all over the world travel here to meet him, at the famous Santa Claus Village or at SantaPark, located in a deep underground cavern, while many other winter visitors arrive to holiday at the Ounasvaara Ski Centre & Resort. Rovaniemi also has a rich cultural life with its own orchestra, theatre, 6 fine art galleries, 4 excellent museums and 2 science centres.
Kittilä is a municipality and village in the province of Lapland, some 200km north of the Arctic Circle. The region has become a very popular holiday destination, especially in winter, thanks to the world famous ski resorts at nearby Levi and at Ylläs in the Kolari municipality, and the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park which surrounds Ylläs and reaches the 4 Fell Lapland municipalities of Muonio, Enontekiö, Ylläs and Kolari.
Renowned for its natural beauty, a region of fells and forests in an almost untouched wilderness adorned by lakes, rivers and rapids, Kuusamo is one of Finland's major holiday destinations, attracting almost a million tourists annually. Many of these arrive in winter to enjoy the excellent skiing available at the nearby ski resorts, especially Ruka Ski Resort, one of the largest in Finland, and of international standing. Indeed, Ruka hosts numerous international competitions in ski-jumping, cross country skiing, and nordic combined - in 2011 it will host the opening of the FIS World Cup in those disciplines. In 2005 Kuusamo hosted the World Championships in Freestyle Skiing.
Enontekiö is a municipality in the Finnish part of Lapland, situated in the outermost northwest of the country occupying a large and very sparsely populated area. Although there is no town in the region named Enontokiö, the main village of the region, Hetta, is often called by that name, and is the region's administrative centre. Finland's highest point is located in this municipality; the Halti fell, or Haltitunturi, is 1,324m above sea level, and is a part of the Scandinavian Mountains.
This beautiful small town in Northern Ostrobothnia, located on the shores of the Iijoki River, is a perfect holiday destination for outdoors enthusiasts and nature lovers in summer, and for winter sports enthusiasts in winter. To the northeast lies Syöte National Park, almost 300 square kilometres of forests and fells, with hilltop bogs unique to the region. There are two skiing centres adjacent to it, Iso-Syöte and Pikku-Syöte, as well as Ranua Wildlife Park where visitors can discover all the large mammals native to Finland along with much more. The region claims the oldest dated rock formations in the EU, in Siuruankylä, where the trondhjemite gneiss has been aged to 3.5 billion years.
Situated in the northern-most corner of the Bay of Bothnia, just 30 minutes from the Swedish border, Kemi is known as the City of Snow and Sea, and is gaining an international reputation for tourism, thanks in no small part to the fabulous SnowCastle which has attracted millions of visitors since it was first built in 1996. However, although it is one of Finland's most popular winter holiday destinations, it is also a fine spot for summer vacations, with a wealth of attractions and activities available.
The village of Inari is the centre for Finland's Sámi culture, and home to approximately one thousand inhabitants. Pleasantly situated on the shore of Lake Inarijärvi, Finland's third largest lake, and next to the River Juutuanjoki Bridge, Inari is in the midst of Europe's largest untouched wilderness, and is a truly alternative destination for anyone seeking to 'get away from it all'. Despite its northerly location, this municipality is one of Finland's most significant tourism districts, visited every year by hundreds of thousands of travelers.
The municipality and town of Posio is situated in an idyllic part of southern Lapland; surrounded by ancient forests, lakes, canyons and waterways, this magical part of northern Finland, an old Sámi district, has long been a popular destination with nature lovers, hikers and anglers. There are literally thousands of lakes and ponds here, and in the winter there is a long period of snow cover due to it being a highland area.
Situated above the Arctic Circle on a neck of land bordered by the River Kemijoki and Lake Kemijärvi, Lake Kuumalampi, and Lake Pöyliöjärvi, the town of Kemijärvi has the distinction of being the most northernmost in Finland. It has 396 lakes and ponds, and is close to well known fells Pyhätunturi to the north and Suomutunturi in the south. The region was first settled around 1580 by Paavali Ollinpoika Halonen who arrived there from Niskakylä. His place of residence is now known as the village of Halosenranta, located a little south of Kemijärvi.