The eight seasons of Finnish Lapland – when should you visit Lapland?

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Over the last month or so, I have come across many times in tourism-related discussions where the winter season has been mentioned to be the only real season for traveling in Finnish Lapland. This view has been a bit surprising, because for me, born and raised in Lapland, there are as many as eight seasons in total, which are all worth experiencing in their own way.
There are eight seasons in total in Finnish Lapland. This image is from mid-winter.

Table of contents

What are the eight seasons of Lapland?

Usually, when we talk about the annual cycle, there are four seasons mentioned. These are of course summer, autumn, winter and spring. However, a person who has been living in Lapland, even for a year, can easily count as many as eight different seasons, which are frosty winter, snowdrift spring, ice-run spring, nightless night, harvest, fall colors, first snow, and Christmas time polar nights.

Frosty winter

Pakkastalvi Lapissa
The lengthening of the days is easily noticeable during frosty winter (c) Tuomas Haapala

The annual cycle can be started from the frosty winter around the turn of the year, which is naturally present after the polar night season.

During the frosty winter, the days are still short and outdoors it is almost always dim. In this case, Lapland often also “enjoys” the hardest sub zero temperatures of the year. Temperatures lower than minus 30 degrees are not exceptional in the beginning of the year.

Snow levels are also often at their highest before the beginning of spring, and it can be said that winter is the deepest in Finnish Lapland during the frosty winter.

The clearest difference between the frosty winter and its predecessor season is, above all, that although it is still cold and dark outside, it is actually possible to sense spring getting closer every day.

Namely, the days are prolonging wildly at this time of year, right from the beginning of January. The lengthening of the days is easy to notice within a mere period of a week and this usually has a very positive effect on the human mind as well. People are now starting to wait for the first warm rays of the spring sun as well as the brighter days.

Snowdrift spring

Revontulet ja umpihankihiihtäjä Lapissa keväällä 2021
Snowdrift spring is ideal time for spotting the northern lights and do some open terrain skiing (c) Köpi Kaikkonen

The skiing season in Lapland usually starts already in October, but many local residents, are looking forward to the spring and snowdrifts that can actually carry the skier’s weight quite easily.

The first of Lapland’s two springs is called the snowdrift spring. The days are already long during the spring and the sun is starting to warm the skin comfortably. The arrival of spring can easily be detected in peope, who are now starting to show up more and more in various outdoor activity areas and around villages. The winter is now losing its grip and Lapland coming back to life.

During the spring, temperatures can still drop quite heavily, especially at night, but during the days are all the time becoming longer and warmer.

Thanks to the warm weather and gentle breezes, the trees begin to drop snow covers from their branches, often as heavy piles. This is one of nature’s clearest signals that the annual cycle is advancing at a rapid pace towards summer.

Snowdrift spring is perhaps the best time for those who enjoy outdoor activities in the snow. Ice fishing, snowshoeing and skiing are definitely at their best in the warmth of the spring sun. Thanks to the extended days, it is also possible to organize longer excursions as the twilight can no longer surprise as early as before.

The time during the Spring Equinox is also probably the best time to see and photograph the northern lights. The real peak season runs from the first weeks of March until mid-April, when the nights are already starting to be so bright that the northern lights can no longer be well perceived from the blue-clad sky.

Despite its name, the snowdrift spring gives no guarantee that you will actually be able to walk on top of the hardened snow. In order to withstand a person’s weight at night, there must be decent sub zero temperatures combined with warm days. There have been many years during which you haven’t been actually able to join the carrying snowdrifts at all.

Ice run spring

Joutsenet palaavat Lappiin kevään aikana
Swans also move back to Lapland when the spring arrives. (c) Kari-Pekka Hiltunen

For those who enjoy spending time close to water bodies, ice run spring may be perhaps the best moment in spring.

Nature has now been able to enjoy the warmth and light for so long that the power of winter is beginning to fade. The power of the water then also takes the neck loop from the ice layers, and the rivers and streams flow free again. In lakes, the melting process is slower largely due to less flow: there is more ice in the lakes and the power of water does not help to melt the ice layer in the same way either.

The snow cover also thins at a fast pace during the ice-leaving spring, and there is little time left in the dark. The observant eye may also notice signs of new leaves beginning to appear on the branches of the trees. The shoots of the first plants on the ground, on the other hand, raise their heads even when they are still surrounded by snow.

The most stunning phenomenon during the ice run spring happens when our larger rivers are released from their ice sheet. The big rapids in particular are very impressive to watch and they also tell a revealing story about how much power the flow of water actually holds.

Ice dams that stop at slower river flow points cause annual flooding, especially in larger rivers. These floods also cause annual damage, especially to the foundations of buildings. Also, the piers and boats of many riverside and lakeside residents are often taken by the flowing water in spring

Nightless night

Yötön yö Lapissa
Lapland's nature awakens during the nightless night season (c) Jari Romppainen

We already talked about  nightless night in our previous blog post. This is the most famous natural phenomenon in Lapland’s summer, with the sun shining brightly even at midnight and always brighter the further north you go in Lapland. At the height of Nuorgam, the white light of the midnight sun is practically no different from the midday sun. In the southern parts of Lapland, the midnight sun, on the other hand, takes on much yellower tones.

On the northern side of globe, the longest day of the year is celebrated during the summer solstice. In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice falls between 19th and 22nd of June each year.

Nature also comes to life during a nightless night with all its authenticity. During midsummer, nature is at its greenest and landscapes at their most beautiful. Reindeer also play an essential role in the nature of Lapland at this time of year. Adult individuals who change their hair look a little sad during the summer, but on the other hand, new calves follow their mothers at that time. This also means that in traffic, it is worth paying special attention and following the given speed limits.

During a nightless night, mosquitoes, also arrive to accompany us. The mosquito season usually begins around mid-June and continues until the first colder days of early fall. If you want to enjoy Lapland’s nightless night in peace, without the companion provided by mosquitoes, it may be a good idea to visit Lapland either in May or before mid-June.

During the nightless night, it is also nice to exercise in the nature. From the beginning of June, salmon rises in large numbers to the Simojoki River, for example. In addition to which, you can also try to lure some graylings with dry flies.

Harvesting season

Hilla- eli lakkasatoa Ranualla kesällä 2020
Cloudberry picking usually starts the harvesting season in Lapland(c) Jari Romppainen

The nightless night is followed by the harvest season, which usually begins with cloudberry and blueberry picking, which in some years is also possible during the nightless night.

However, the harvest is mainly the thing in late summer and early autumn. The greatest brightness of the nightless night is already over at this time, and in the evenings the sun begins to fall completely behind the horizon.

In terms of nature, the growing season is now beginning to come to an end and the various plants produce their harvest. This is a great time to both enjoy the fresh natural treats and start filling the freezer for a long winter.

A variety of berries and mushrooms are then available for all tastes. In addition to humans, the king of our forests, the brown bear prepares for winter by gathering resources and energy from the nature.

Although the trees and other plants are still glowing at harvest time, you can sense from the evening wind that the summer is now running towards autumn. One day, usually during August, the first yellowish leaves begin to appear on birches, and this is the most obvious sign that summer is now at its end.

Autumn foliage

Ruska-aikaa Lapissa
Fall colors clearly visible at Simojoki river in Ranua (c) Tuomas Haapala

While nightless night probably is the most famous natural phenomenon of summer in Lapland, the same can be said about the fall foliage in autumn.

The autumn colors glow in so many stunning colors that it is impossible to miss this time of the year. Many mushrooms and berries, such as lingonberries, can still be found in nature, but the glow of nature is now stealing our attention.

Although the fall colors are best known for the colored leaves of various trees, it is also worth paying attention to fall colors in the ground level. The plants of blueberries and currants for example are now glowing very beautifully. Out of our many trees, aspen is usually the one that is glowing the reddest.  Rowanberries are also glowing in many colors at this time, and even birch leaves can appear orange.

The northern lights season starts in Lapland at the end of August, and in addition to spring, the best times to enjoy the northern lights are around the autumn equinox.

In addition to its color glow, autumn has become known as perhaps the best hiking and trekking time of the year.

While the lingonberries ripen, the reindeer mating period also begins. In this case, it is usually a good idea to consciously try to avoid encounters with reindeer bucks. The male reindeers are now pumped with hormones and they can really be a danger to humans as well.

With autumn, the chilly weather and the first frosts usually takes the fuse out from the last mosquitoes. However, the blackflies may still linger with humans well into the fall.

First snow

Ensilumi Lapissa
The first snow fell to Ranua in October 2016 (c) Tuomas Haapala

The fall colors are followed by first snow. By this time, the trees have already dropped almost all of their leaves and the land plants of the summer are now dying. However, permanent snow cover is still to be expected, although the first snow may fall on the ground during September or October.

The land is getting frostier day by day and this is an important factor in the abundance of deer keds next summer, for example. As autumn progresses toward winter, the are more and more days when the temperature no longer rises above zero at all.

The nights are probably the most “balanced” at this time, i.e. very dark and length of person’s sleeping time. Although there is a lot of autumn rain at this time, on clear days the sun still appears, although there is not much point to dream about warm sun rays anymore.

The waters slowly begin to freeze and eventually the first snow also falls in Lapland. The snow shining white brings a new kind of brightness to the end of autumn, which is one of the reasons why so many Lapland residents are eagerly waiting for the arrival of the first snow.

Christmastime Polar nights

Kaamos Lapissa
The sun rises just above the horizon in December 2016 (c) Tuomas Haapala

After the arrival of the first snow, Lapland is already waiting for Christmas and the beginning of winter tourism season. The cycle of the year in Lapland ends with a Christmas polar nights or darkness.

When the polar nights season starts, in addition to the plants, many habitants of the forests also retreat to their cavities and life in the middle of nature seems to stop completely. The water bodies are already frozen, the trees are covered in snow and the landscape feels somehow stiff in general. In the middle of the forest it is quiet in winter and only the clack of the frost can be heard in the trees. 

The duration of the polar night varies greatly in Lapland, just like a nightless night. In the northernmost parts of Lapland, the darkness officially lasts for about two months, while near the Arctic Circle, the polar night lasts only about a day.

The sub zero temperatures in Lapland are slowly intensifying and the snow cover is getting thicker. The thickening snow cover usually brings its own light to the dark and gloomy weather.

Many Finns suffer from kaamos depression during polar nights, which is mainly due to the lack of sunlight. For many people living in Lapland as well, polar night is a time of the year which one can mostly cope with one way or another.

The shortest day of the year is celebrated in the northern half of the world during the winter solstice. After 21.12, the days are slowly starting to lengthen again.

For those who grew up in Lapland, it is kind of amusing that so many foreign tourists want to experience magical Lapland precisely in the middle of winter, which is also the most depressing and challenging time of the year for many locals.

My favorite season in Finnish Lapland

As an adaptable person, I have learned to enjoy all eight seasons in Finnish Lapland. However, if any of these were to be highlighted, then my own choice would definitely go to the summer of Lapland and the nightless night.

Summer has been my own favorite season since I was little and this opinion has remained the same in adulthood. There are so many things worth experiencing in Lapland’s summer and so few limiting factors that it forcibly rises ahead of other seasons. Even though it is bright all the time, I have never had any problems with sleeping either.

When should you travel to Lapland?

In my opinion, it is worth traveling to Lapland at any time of the year. Each of Lapland’s eight seasons is special in its own way and is definitely worth experiencing. This is a great thing for individuals as well, as there is sure to be a clear variance, both in domestic and foreign travelers. So you can definitely find your own fan base for each of the eight season.

In my opinion, this idea should also be incorporated into tourism marketing throughout the region. Although summer is slowly solidifying its place alongside the winter season, there is still a long way to go for year-round Lapland tourism. I think it would be worthwhile to start walking this path, especially in the various regional organizations, sooner rather than later.

Sources: International Rovaniemi: 8 seasons, Lapland.fi: The 8 best seasons of Lapland, Finavia: Lapland eight seasons

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