Looking for the perfect winter destination, a true celebration of the season?
I’m here to help you plan the ultimate Lapland itinerary that includes all of the best winter experiences Finnish Lapland has to offer.
With awe-inspiring natural phenomena, adrenaline-pumping activities, and an introduction to Finnish culture, this Lapland winter itinerary is a customizable guide to experiencing the best of the season!
For the purposes of this itinerary, I recommend you base yourself in Rovaniemi — after all, it’s the official hometown of Santa Claus, so it should be good enough for us!
From Rovaniemi, all the winter enchantments of Lapland beckon, whether its the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights to the heart-pumping thrill of dog sledding through snowy forests to enjoying the quintessentially Finnish tradition of the sauna.
If you’re traveling Rovaniemi with family — or you simply want to relive your childhood a bit — you have to make a stop at Santa Claus Village, where you can meet Santa himself, cross the Arctic Circle, and send postmarked letters from Santa’s “official” post office.
Rovaniemi not only delivers on all these essential Arctic winter experiences but also simplifies your travel logistics, serving as a convenient hub for accommodation and activities on your Finland winter itinerary.
Table of Contents
How This Lapland Itinerary Works
This itinerary is designed to be additive, meaning that I clustered what I think are the most essential winter Lapland activities at the beginning of the itinerary.
That way, you won’t miss out by, say, having a Northern lights tour on day 5, when you’re only planning a 2 day trip to Rovaniemi!
It’s also activity based, since Rovaniemi is all about enjoying the different outdoor activities.
The city itself is a nice hub for meals, accommodations, etc., but this itinerary focuses on the activities.
I’ve broken up each day into morning and evening activities (being that afternoon in the Arctic is not really a concept that translates well).
In the event that you don’t like one day’s morning activities, you can simply look to the next day’s (same goes for evening).
At the end of the post, I’ll also list a few other morning and evening activity suggestions, in case you didn’t quite find what you liked.
That way, this itinerary is perfectly customized to what you really want to see in Rovaniemi and Lapland — not just what I think you want to see!
Day One of Your Lapland Itinerary
Morning: Visit Santa Claus Village
Visiting Santa Claus Village is one of the must-do activities while visiting Lapland in winter, especially for those with children!
But even those without kids can enjoy the fun, Disney-like setting of Santa Claus Village and relive their youth a bit!
Depending on how you prefer you travel, you can explore Santa Claus Village and Santa’s Post Office either on your own or with a guided tour.
For independent travelers who want to visit Santa Claus Village, it’s quite easy!
Hop on the local bus #8 departing from the Rovaniemi train station, or take a taxi there.
Note that admission to Santa Claus Village is free of charge, but you’ll likely spend a bit of money on dining or souvenirs from Lapland and the Arctic Circle while you’re there.
There are also more structured guided visits while perhaps are better suited for families.
This small group tour includes a visit across the Arctic Circle (accompanied by a certificate of crossing), a festive Christmas buffet lunch, and an enchanting encounter with reindeer!
Evening: Go on a Northern Lights tour
For the first night of your Lapland itinerary, join a tour on a riveting chase of the Northern Lights!
Since Rovaniemi is situated just 4 miles south of the Arctic Circle, as well as being an inland location, Rovaniemi is a hotspot for aurora borealis tours throughout the Nordic region!
While you might see the lights while in Rovaniemi itself (read this guide I wrote about the Northern lights in Rovaniemi to know more), going on a specialized aurora chasing tour promises a significantly enhanced viewing experience.
These intimate expeditions, often undertaken in minibuses, are led by experienced aurora trackers who know exactly where to go to find the best aurora chances.
They whisk you away from the lights of Rovaniemi into the serene Finnish wilderness, enhancing your chances of witnessing this otherworldly display of colors!
Rovaniemi provides a plethora of Northern Lights tour alternatives — here are a few different options.
The most standard option is this 3-hour Northern Lights tour, bringing you to a frozen lake roughly 15 miles from Rovaniemi, setting the stage for an atmospheric evening.
As you wait for the lights to appear, relax in the warmth of a campfire and savor a BBQ dinner of fire-roasted sausages, fish soup, Lappish bread, and blueberry tea under the stars.
Other inclusions are cold-weather gear if required, as well as hotel transfers.
For those seeking a unique spin on the Northern lights tour, Rovaniemi has some fun options that are more than just your standard tour!
One option is a Northern Lights sauna retreat, where you can warm up in a sauna while waiting for the lights to appear.
Another is a photography-centric tour with professional assistance for capturing the most epic photographs of the aurora with an expert helping you set up your shots.
Whichever experience you pick, the odds of witnessing the mystical lights are relatively high.
However, it’s essential to remember that the Northern lights are a natural phenomenon, and sightings can never be guaranteed.
Day Two of Your Lapland Itinerary
Morning: Get your thrills on a dog sledding tour
One of the must-dos on any Lapland itinerary (or any Arctic itinerary in general) is going on a dog sledding adventure!
Dog sledding holds a special place in my heart, having done epic husky safaris in Tromso and Abisko, where I fell in love with this winter activity.
Just outside of Rovaniemi, this tour brings you to husky farm in Apukka — before your tour, you’ll have the chance to acquaint yourself with the charming huskies that will make your visit so magical!
Your expert guides will introduce you to the mechanics of husky sledding, demonstrating how to self-drive your own husky sled independently to ensure a safe experience for both you and the huskies.
However, be aware that self-driving is more of a collaboration than a leisure activity!
You’ll find yourself actively engaging all throughout the tour — running alongside the team and pushing the sled up inclines, contributing to the team effort with your huskies.
But that activity may be too intense for those with kids or those with disabilities or mobility limitations, in which case, a musher-led husky tour is the perfect alternative!
On these tours, you’ll sit in the sledge as your experienced husky sled driver manages all the maneuvering.
That way, you can focus on the excited yelps and howls of the huskies and the stunning beauty of the snowy landscapes around you!
Evening: Visit the epic Arctic SnowHotel
On the second day of this Lapland itinerary, we’ll pay a visit to the unique Arctic SnowHotel, one of the most unique places in Finnish Lapland!
It’s one of perhaps a dozen snow hotels in the world — there are others in Sweden, Norway, Quebec, Austria, and Andorra, to name a few.
While an overnight stay in a snow hotel is often really expensive, usually over a thousand dollars for a night, taking a tour of a snow hotel is a surprisingly economical alternative!
Departing at 4:45 PM, this is the perfect evening activity after a dog sled tour, giving you time for a rest and lunch after your busy morning.
This specific tour has great value — you get to visit both the snow hotel and its glass igloos, but you also get to enjoy a tasty 3-course dinner featuring Lappish-inspired cuisine.
A sample menu is a rich forest mushroom soup, followed by a choice of four main courses (roast elk, fresh Arctic salmon, chicken breast, or cold-smoked tofu for vegetarians), and concludes with a sweet note of lingonberry-caramel custard.
The tour will show you all of this snow hotel’s distinct offerings, like its paradoxical snow sauna, intricate ice sculptures, ice bar, frozen dining area, and naturally, its uniquely designed rooms!
Transportation is included, as the snow hotel is located about 30 minutes outside of Rovaniemi.
For an added touch of luxury, consider enhancing your experience with a private session in the snow sauna, complemented by relaxation in your personal jacuzzi!
Bear in mind, this ephemeral snow hotel is reconstructed annually, so it only officially opens its doors on December 16th.
If your travels align with these dates, you simply must visit this highlight of a Lapland itinerary.
Alternatively, if you wish to just explore the snow hotel without the dining experience, you can book that option here to save some money (or in case you have pretty restrictive food sensitivities).
That said, given Finnish restaurant prices, it’s my opinion that the visit with the meal inclusion arguably provides a more satisfying bang for your buck.
Day Three of Your Lapland Itinerary
Morning: Visit Korouoma Canyon and its frozen waterfalls
This 7-hour day trip to frozen waterfalls will keep you busy, exploring one of the best nature areas near Rovaniemi.
Leaving at 9 AM and getting back around 4 PM, this is is a nearly full-day adventure, so plan accordingly!
Korouoma Canyon is massive and impressive, stretching 30 kilometers long and 130 meters deep.
In the winter, once-rushing water over the edges of the canyon crystallize into stunning ice waterfalls — and you might even get to watch ice climbers attempt to scale them!
Your tour is a lot more horizontal than vertical, though, as you hike through the canyon and admire the landscape of cliffs and waterfalls, looking for native Lapland wildlife.
They’ll provide snowshoes for you so you can hike down to the canyon and along the snowy paths.
At the end of the hike, you’ll have a BBQ lunch of sausages roasted over a campfire to keep you satiated on the drive home!
Evening: Enjoy an aurora-chasing snowmobile safari
Depending on your activity budget, tonight might be good time to experience the Northern lights in a totally different way — on snowmobile!
While the first night had you enjoying an aurora camp outside of Rovaniemi, this tour takes a more active approach with an adrenaline-fueled snowmobile aurora chase, hoping the lights appear overhead.
There’s no better way to combine the shocking beauty of the Northern Lights and Lapland’s serene, still wilderness.
Journeying through the night with an expert guide on a 1 to 1.5 hour snowmobile ride, you’ll take a break at an aurora camp to enjoy warm drinks and cookies by a crackling fire.
While snacking, drinking, and warming up by the fire, you’ll await the aurora’s potential appearance.
Note that this tour requires a valid driver’s license for you to be able to operate the snowmobile, and each snowmobile can seat two people.
If you’re traveling with kids, they can be pulled behind a snowmobile in a sled, cozied up with some warm blankets.
The snowmobile tour leaves at 8 PM and ends at 11 PM, so you’ll definitely want to have dinner in Rovaniemi first before going on this tour.
Day Four of Your Lapland Itinerary
Morning: Visit a reindeer farm and go for a sleigh ride
One of the most essential Lapland experiences is visiting a local reindeer farm to help you understand the history of the Sámi people and how important reindeer are to their culture.
Meeting Sámi reindeer herders is a unique way to learn about the lifestyle of Finland’s only Indigenous people.
After you’re picked up at 9 AM, you’ll visit a reindeer farm, where you’ll learn all about the adorable reindeer and their domestication under the Sámi reindeer herders.
You’ll even get to experience a sled ride pulled by reindeer through the snowy forest — how’s that for feeling like Santa Claus? (Your sled, unfortunately, does not fly).
Speaking with the Indigenous Sámi herders, you’ll gain a first-hand understanding of their ancestral traditions and the role reindeer husbandry has played in their lives.
I wrote about reindeer sledding in Tromso in depth here, where I also go into the Sámi history of reindeer domestication — it’s fascinating!
This is a short tour, starting at 9 AM and ending at 11 AM, so you’ll be back in Rovaniemi in time for lunch and some downtime to explore downtown Rovaniemi before enjoying your evening activities!
Evening: Enjoy a sauna and a traditional Finnish evening.
A lot of these activities have been rather active — how about a chill night, the Finnish way?
This 4-hour evening tour takes you on a 30-minute drive to the nearby Langonlamp Lake.
Here you can have a traditional Finnish evening of sauna and ice swimming, with a traditional dinner and hopefully a taste of the Northern lights for dessert!
The guides will show you how Finns enjoy the sauna, starting with brief increments and then extending their sauna sessions — sometimes cooling down with rolling in the snow or even plunging in the hole made in the ice of an Arctic lake!
They’ll provide a towel and slippers, just BYOBS (bring your own bathing suit!).
Amidst the sauna-ing and ice plunging, you’ll enjoy a traditional dinner of salmon cooked over the fire served with non-alcoholic drinks.
Day Five of Your Lapland Itinerary
Morning: Go snowshoeing in the Lapland wilderness
Sleep in a bit and enjoy this hiking and snowshoeing tour that leaves Rovaniemi at 12:30 before embarking on a scenic hike through the wild.
This fun snowshoeing adventure brings you through the Arctic forest, learning how to use snowshoes to hike amidst deep snow comfortably and safely.
These winter trails are great for potential wildlife sightings in the frozen landscape.
This slow-paced, family-friendly tour brings you through serene forests with churning rapids that defy the frozen temperatures of the surrounding area.
Along the way, you’ll stop somewhere scenic for a quick snack of gingerbread cookies accompanied by a Lapland favorite of warm blueberry juice!
This tour includes transfers, a guide, snowshoes, and a winter overall and boot set to keep you nice and toasty.
Evening: Go for an ice float under the Northern lights!
On the final night of this Lapland itinerary, here’s a unique activity to end your trip: an ice floating experience with the Northern lights (hopefully) overhead!
What exactly is ice floating?
Wearing a high-quality insulated suit similar to the dry suit that intrepid scuba divers wear before going into icy waters, you’ll float serenely in an icy lake, admiring the night sky.
Without the light pollution of the city, expect to see beautiful stars and planets in the sky — and if you’re lucky, you’ll see the Northern lights as well as you float!
To warm up, you’ll end the tour with some blueberry tea and snacks before heading back to Rovaniemi
Alternative Activities for Your Winter Finland Itinerary
If these morning activities didn’t quite scratch the itch, here are a few other suggestions.
I’ve also included a few suggestions for what to do in between morning and evening activities in town in Rovaniemi.
- Arktikum Science Center and Museum
- Korundi House of Culture and Rovaniemi Art Museum
- Walk along the Kemijoki River
- Pilke Science Centre
Where to Stay in Rovaniemi
Mid-Range: Arctic City Hotel
For a balance of cost, comfort, and convenience, the Arctic City Hotel stands out, with an unbeatable position in the heart of Rovaniemi.
Expect roomy, inviting spaces adorned with contemporary Finnish design touches, with a complimentary breakfast buffet.
A standout feature is the hotel’s dual sauna — and you even have the unique option of booking a room that includes your personal sauna space (see the junior suite with sauna).
Splurge: Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle
Fancy an overnight stay beneath the stars in a glass-ceiling igloo? Your dream comes true at Santa’s Igloos Arctic Circle!
These famed Finnish glass igloos are warmed and have amenities like an ensuite bathroom with a rain shower, along with bathrobes and slippers for that extra touch of comfort.
Unique to the igloos is an in-house tablet, your line to the reception for any requests, or to receive alerts for the Northern lights — the ceiling defrost feature ensures unobstructed views.
Opt for the superior igloos for an indulgent private sauna experience, or choose family-sized igloos that cater to four guests, featuring an additional sleeping nook for two.
A short 5-minute stroll from Santa Claus Village, the property also includes shuttle service for easy access to Rovaniemi’s downtown.
Save: Guesthouse Arctic Heart
This well-reviewed guesthouse has rooms ranging from private single or double rooms to 4-bed dormitories segregated by gender.
Though amenities are basic, its great for budget travelers, with cost-saving shared facilities like a kitchen and laundry room.
Discover more about availability, pricing, and guest experiences by clicking here!
Allison Green is a former teacher who has been travel blogging since 2016. She has a Masters in Teaching and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. Her blog posts merge her background as an educator with her experience traveling to 70+ countries to encourage ethical, meaningful travel. She has been a speaker at the World Travel Writers Conference and her writing, photography, and podcasting work has appeared in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, CBC Canada, and Forbes, amongst others. Now a full-time traveler, she has lived in Prague, Sofia, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area.