Beyond the Arctic Circle, Lapland is nestled in the northernmost part of Europe, between Finland, Sweden and Norway. Travelling to these lands means discovering a harsh climate, unique landscapes and activities that only exist there. With hundreds of kilometres of pristine wilderness, this is a region with more reindeer than people. Here, the adventurer in all of us wakes up and the Northern Lights enter scène !
Lapland, a mythical destination
In the collective imagination, Lapland is a region where it is very cold and it is the country of Santa Claus. But apart from ça ? It is actually a region inhabited since more than six millénaires by the Sami people (" Lapon " is considered a pejorative term by the population). This nomadic population has managed to survive despite the hostile climate, thanks to fishing, hunting and, above all, reindeer herding
It would take several weeks to travel through the whole of Lapland. From the large Finnish lakes to the northernmost point in Europe, the North Cape in Norway, through the steppes and forests of Sweden, this journey of more than 5 000 kilomètres is not even possible in winter anyway. Between the long nights and the impressive amount of snow that regularly falls on the landscape, some roads become impassable. You will therefore have to make choices and concentrate on a specific region to fully enjoy your trip. In any case, everywhere on the territory, you will be able to indulge in the mythical activities of the area: snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, dog-sledding or snowmobiling excursions, visits to reindeer farms, etc. And to decide on your arrival airport, you can choose, for example, between the Ice Hotel in Sweden or Santa Claus' town in Finland. Then the dream can begin..
Swedish Lapland, between contemplation and sports practice
It is at the bottom of the Gulf of Bothnia that one could guess the borders of Swedish Lapland. There, dwellings become rarer, giving way to dark mining towns, and where fauna and flora seem to control the surroundings. But describing Lapland is much more complex than that, as the landscapes are so different and change with the seasons. From dense forests to mountains, from plains to archipelagos on the coast. From harsh winters with snow covering the landscape in sparkling white, to milder summers when the grass illuminates the plains, becoming a paradise for hikers. Spread over 109,702 km², Swedish Lapland covers a quarter of the country's surface area. The population, estimated at around 125,000, is mainly concentrated in three towns and cities: Jokkmokk, Gällivare and Kiruna. Outside these cities, the population density does not reach one inhabitant per square kilometre.
From Stockholm you can reach the airports of Luleå or Kiruna. From there, you can go directly to Swedish Lapland. The village of Jokkmokkk, easily accessible by train or bus, is ideal for discovering the Sami culture, especially thanks to its museum
Vuollerim, at 15 kilomètres from there, can also be used as a pied-à-terre. Once settled in, there is no shortage of activities. And the one everyone dreams of doing is observing the Northern Lights. It takes a bit of luck, but what an incredible moment when these streaks of light of different colours pass over your head. The spectacle everywhere in this still wild region. There aren't many places on the planet that offer such pristine expanses. To make the most of it, there is nothing like a sled dog expedition. Wrapped up in his " grand froid " suit, you learn to drive through frozen lakes and mysterious forests. In the evening, we get to know each other around a campfire before making a stop in a cottage. Another possibility, snowmobiling on this playground is ideal for those looking for thrills. After these busy days, there is nothing like spending the night in an ice hotel. In winter, the village of Jukkasjärvi is home to a beautiful Ice Hotel. You can also spend the night in a comfortable igloo
Norwegian Lapland, where the sea meets the mountains
On the Norwegian side, there are mysterious fjords, cliffs sinking into the sea and desert expanses. A unique and magical landscape created by this grandiose encounter between sea and mountain: steep hills overhanging, sometimes vertiginously, fjords punctuated by a multitude of wooded islands, and easily accessible. These paintings are a fabulous introduction to understanding the world as it is lived by the Sames, their animism and their way of life. The waters, sometimes ice-bound until April, are ideal for fishing. Sea trout, mountain salmon trout, perch and pike live here in abundance. This succession of small creeks, long white sandy beaches and arctic steppes bordered by wide river valleys offers a wide variety of sites and unique getaways. Narvik or Tromsø are the gateway to Norwegian Lapland, before climbing up to the North Cape, getting lost in the vastness of the Finnmark Plateau, or following the coast to the Russian border.
Finnish Lapland, land of Santa Claus
On the Finnish side, we reach Lapland by landing in Rovaniemi, Kittilä or Ivalo. In the latter region, you can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. And you can even go downhill skiing and snowboarding in Levi, a famous resort that even hosts a World Cup stage. And when the day comes to an end, it's time for a sauna. A heat bath at more than 70 °C, ideal for eliminating toxins and recovering from your icy day. Afterwards, you can put your feet under the table to taste the local specialities: reindeer meat, smoked or grilled salmon, cod, herring and, of course, the famous blackberries from the marshes, famous throughout the region
And it is in Finland that you can get to know Santa Claus at. His village was established a few kilometres from Rovaniemi. You can even see the old bearded man and take a picture with him - for a small fee, after all. Santa Claus' village is also an open-air shopping centre, where you can find every imaginable souvenir of Lapland, from Lappish handicrafts to Christmas decorations and the "special Santa Claus" postmark. The place is fun, but in the end you don't spend much time there. Perhaps the real interest lies in the fact that the Arctic Circle, on which the village is located, is materialized. A good opportunity to take a classic photo! You can also go for a nice dog or reindeer sleigh ride in the surrounding area and discover the Snowman World, an ice village with a few attractions that will delight young and old alike
Finally, in Inari there is the Siida Museum, which stands as the living memory of the Sami people. You can discover their way of life, their customs, their folklore and of course their crafts. Knives with carved handles, ornaments, reindeer skins or kuksa, this traditional wooden container, here is enough to bring back loaded suitcases. But above all, you come back with the feeling of having lived a unique adventure.
When? The best time to travel to Lapland is from mid-December, when the snow begins to fall, until the end of March, when the thaw begins. The months of May to August are the best time to enjoy outdoor activities. July is the hottest month, when the sun shines from midnight to... midnight! The months of October-November and spring are a bit sad.
Get there. On the Finnish side, after a stopover in Helsinki, direction the airports of Rovaniemi, Kemi-Tornio, Enontekiö, Kittilä or Ivalo. In Sweden, a stopover in Stockholm is on the programme, before flying to Luleå, Kiruna, Arvidsjaur, Storuman, Hemavan, Lycksele and Vihelmina. In Norway, stopover in Oslo and take-off for Alta, Kirkenes Hasvik, Hammerfest, Honningsvåg, Lakselv, Mehamn, Berlevåg, Båtsfjord, Vardø and Vadsø.
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