Finnish Lapland holidays – best attractions and travel destinations

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Finnish Lapland has raised its profile as an international travel destination from year to year. Its popularity has grown among both domestic and foreign tourists, and Lapland is slowly turning into a year-round holiday destination. In this Lapland holidays special post, we present the best travel destinations and their main attractions.
Lapland holidays - Rovaniemi is one of the main travel attractions of Finnish Lapland

Where does Lapland of Finland start?

Before planning your holidays, it might be wise to learn, where Finnish Lapland is actually located. Perceptions of Lapland vary greatly, especially among Finns. Lapland is often considered to start from Rovaniemi, which is located near the Arctic Circle. On the other hand, many people, especially local people, also believe that the real Lapland only starts in Vuotso, which is the southern Sámi village in the province.

When talking about traveling, Kuusamo, for example, is often thought of as part of Lapland, even though it is clearly located on the Northern Ostrobothnia side. Thus, the concept of Lapland can be described as rather volatile, to which especially those living in the area and those who move a lot there will certainly have their own views.

Officially, the border between the province of Lapland and Northern Ostrobothnia runs between the municipalities of Ranua and Pudasjärvi, a little further to the west, for example just south of the city of Kemi. However, Kemi and Tornio are often said to belong to Peräpohjola, although geographically the cities are located in Seaside-Lapland.

Lapland holidays - the best travel destinations, attractions and sights

Northern lights photo from Multilahti in Ranua
Northern lights are one of the main tourism attractions on Finland © Anna-Liisa Sarajärvi

As a large and close to nature area, Lapland offers tourists diverse experiences all year round. The landscapes of the area also vary greatly, and the difference is, for example, in Rovaniemi and Kilpisjärvi, which is about 400 kilometers away. Planning your Lapland holiday can therefore vary a lot and this is why we also want to present the best attractions of each area of Lapland.

Rovaniemi

It is good to start the presentation of sights and travel destinations with Rovaniemi, which is also known as the capital of Lapland, and perhaps the biggest single tourist attraction and the most popular holiday destination in Lapland. Thanks to this Rovaniemi also has many thing to see and do.

Rovaniemi is known as Santa’s hometown, where it is possible to feel the Christmas atmosphere every day of the year. The best way to immerse yourself in the Christmas atmosphere is in the Arctic Circle, where you will also find the official Santa Claus Village.

Rovaniemi is also the cultural capital of Lapland, where it is worth visiting at least the Arktikum, known as a science center and a provincial museum. Other museums worth mentioning are the Lapland Forest Museum, the Pilke Forest Science Center and the Korundi Culture House.

Seaside-Lapland (Kemi and Tornio)

Due to its large size, Lapland is also generally divided into many different parts. Seaside-Lapland, already mentioned, consists mainly of the cities of Kemi and Tornio. The biggest attractions in the area are, for example, Icebreaker Sampo and Kemi Snow Castle.

Other sights and attractions in Kemi can be seen on Kemi’s travel website

Southern Lapland (Posio and Ranua)

The most famous holiday destinations in Southern Lapland, located south of Rovaniemi, are Ranua and Posio.

In Ranua the two main tourism attractions are cloudberry and Ranua Zoo, which has been open to the public since the 1980s. There are also many smaller sights and memorials worth seeing in Ranua.

In Posio, you can enjoy untouched nature and wonderful hiking trails in Korouoma and Riisitunturi, for example. Posio has been doing excellent job in terms of nature travel in the recent years and in 2020 they were named as the first sustainable travel destination in Finland

Eastern Lapland (Kemijärvi, Salla and Savukoski)

Eastern Lapland, on the other hand, consists of Kemijärvi and Salla, of which the municipal slogan “In the middle of nowhere” is quite descriptive.

Kemijärvi is home to one of the many ski resorts in the area, which is known as Suomutunturi. Salla, on the other hand, has numerous sights and attractions closely related to nature, such as Oulanka National Park and the Tuntsa wilderness area.

Eastern Lapland also includes Savukoski, which is the least populated municipality in Finland, with only 0.16 inhabitants per square kilometer. Despite its sparse population, Savukoski has two very well-known sights: part of Urho Kekkonen National Park, and Korvatunturi, known as Santa’s real home.

Central Lapland (Sodankylä and Pelkosenniemi)

In Central Lapland, the best known town is called Sodankylä, which is also known by the nickname “Gun village” in Finnish language due to the garrison located in the locality.

There are also two well-known fells in Central Lapland, Pyhä and Luosto, which both are popular holiday destinations throughout the year. In the area between the fells you will also find Pyhä-Luosto National Park, which is an excellent destination for hiking, for example.

The third place in worth mentioning is Pelkosenniemi, of which the most famous attraction is probably the statue of Antti Hulkko, Andy McCoy, one of Finland’s most famous rock artists, known from Hanoi Rocks, of course.

Northern Lapland (Saariselkä and Nuorgam)

Northern Lapland, on the other hand, starts around Saariselkä and continues all the way to the mainland of Finland to Nuorgam.

The most popular travel destinations and attractions in the area are Saariselkä Ski and Sport Resort, perhaps Finland’s most famous nature destination, Urho Kekkonen National Park, and the Sámi Cultural Center Sajo in Inari.

Fell Lapland (Levi and Ylläs)

Fell-Lapland, on the other hand, includes the areas of the Finnish maiden’s arm and armpit. The most well-known travel destinations in the area are Ylläs and Levi, known for their many year-round nature activities and ski resorts, where the alpine skiing World Cup event is also held in the beginning of winter.

In Fell-Lapland, you can also find Hetta-Pallas, one of Lapland’s best hiking trails, and Kilpisjärvi, of which fell scenery belongs to the absolute elite of Northern Finland. Saanatunturi, located in Enontekiö, could be described as one of the most beautiful fells in Finland and definitely one of the attractions that you want to see when visiting Finland. 

Lapland holiday destinations and attractions map

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of travel destinations and attractions worth visiting around Lapland of Finland, and it would take up to several blog posts at a time to introduce or even list them all. However, the Kerran Elämässä travel blog has put together an excellent map of Lapland, which lists dozens of places worth visiting in Lapland.

When should you visit Lapland?

Revontulet ja umpihankihiihtäjä Lapissa keväällä 2021
Winter in Lapland is a magical time of year - © Kyösti Kaikkonen

Unlike the rest of Finland, Lapland has a total of eight easily observable seasons or times of the year. Although there are still clear lively and quiet seasons in Lapland travel, I would see this thing so that Lapland should definitely be able to become a year-round holiday destination where there are no quiet seasons at all.

My own favorite time of year in Lapland is definitely summer, when it is possible to enjoy, for example, the bright summer nights of the nightless night, berry picking and my own definitely favorite hobby, ie fly fishing for grayling.

In autumn, it is worth heading to Lapland for a holiday because of hiking and hunting possibilities, for example. Of the autumn activities, mountain biking has also become very popular in recent years, and it is possible to do it, for example, on a fat bike. In the autumn, those who enjoy tourism in Lapland are also greeted by the splendor of color created by fall foliage and northern lights.

Lapland’s winter, on the other hand, is especially popular with international tourists and e.g. Santa Claus and pure white nature attract tourists from all over the world to many Lapland destinations. However, I think that the winter in Lapland is so magical and also versatile that it offers a lot of activities worth experiencing as well as experiences for domestic tourists as well.

Lapland’s winter season activities are at their best after spring arrives, as cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, ice fishing and snowmobiling, for example, are much more comfortable when the spring sun is warming up a bit. Spring in Lapland is the best time for those who are interested in various activities and recharging their own batteries. In the spring, it is also worth traveling to Lapland because the school ski holidays are scheduled for the spring season.

The main image: Visit Finland

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