July 14, 2024
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9 Things to Do in Finland in Winter

Finland in winter is magical. If you love snow and all things Nordic, you’ll love visiting this amazing country in the depths of winter. The days are short at this time of year, but six hours of daylight is more than enough to pack in some fun activities. Read on for a guide on things to do in Finland in Winter.

See the Northern Lights

The northern lights are an amazing phenomenon – nature’s very own light show. Like Iceland, Finland is one of the best places to experience the spectacular aurora borealis, and if you arrive over the winter months, you have an excellent chance of ticking this off your bucket list.

To have the best chance of seeing the northern lights in all their glory, head to the north of Finland (Finnish Lapland). This region of northern Finland is where the aurora borealis appears with greater frequency and intensity. There are many different viewpoints for watching the show, but unless you know the local area, it is wise to connect with a local guide for some insider tips.

Kemi and Rovaniemi are the best places to see the Northern Lights. Both towns have plenty of accommodation options and other activities to enjoy while you are there.

The best time to see the northern lights is in February and March, as the skies are clearer. The light show is more likely to appear between 10 PM and 2 AM, so be prepared for a light-night excursion.

If you decide to head out on your own to see the lights, wait for a clear night and head as far away from artificial light sources as you can manage safely. The darker the sky, the clearer the aurora borealis.

Skiing

Finland is a winter wonderland over the winter months, despite the relatively short days. In Lapland, which falls within the Arctic Circle, the ski season is long and snowfall is always reliable. Ski locations are remote, the scenery is magnificent, and you won’t have to deal with the crowds normally seen at other European ski resorts of this calibre. Everywhere you go, the scenery looks like something from a Christmas card!

Downhill skiing and cross-country skiing are available in Finland, although the country is relatively flat,

The around 100 ski resorts in Finland. All are suitable for skiers of all experience levels and most have other activities on offer too. Then there is Iso-Syöte in the Syöte National Park; this has 17 ski slopes and is family-friendly. Other notable ski resorts include Ounasvaara, Saariselkä, Pyhä, and Vuokatti.

Levi is the largest ski resort, with 43km of si terrain and 230km of cross-country ski tracks. Ruka is another popular ski resort, with 35 slopes to choose from.

If skiing is your passion, book a cabin or a glass igloo and look forward to some of the best skiing in the world. Note: ski areas usually don’t open until late February, when the number of daylight hours increases.

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding has long been an integral part of Finnish life and is one of the many things to do in Finland in winter. Originally, dog sleds were used to transport people and belongings across large swathes of the Arctic tundra in the absence of roads. Today, dog sledding is mostly a leisure activity rather than a mode of transport, but it does offer some unique insights into the local culture and traditional way of life. It’s also a wonderful way to explore the snowy landscape in Finland. Give dog sledding a try if you want to experience the peaceful sensation of gliding over snow – it’s an unforgettable way to see the countryside.

Things to do in Finland in winter - Dog sledding

There are many ways to experience the wonders of dog sledding or ‘mushing’ as it is known. Book a half-day trip or settle in on a multi-day dog sled expedition. There are lots of dog sledding tours on offer. On longer adventures, you can learn how to harness the dogs and more about this traditional lifestyle.

Always book a dog sledding tour with a reputable supplier that makes safety and animal welfare a top priority.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a fun way to explore the beautiful landscape of Finland and is the perfect activity for people that enjoy hiking. If you have never tried any winter sports before and you don’t fancy skiing, strap on some snow shoes and head out into the wilderness. It is an enjoyable winter sport anyone with a moderate level of fitness will enjoy.

The best time to try snowshoeing in Findland is from the middle of January to late March. The days are beginning to lengthen but the snow is still soft. Snowshoeing isn’t terribly hard, although it is definitely a good workout if you are out for several hours! There is a technique to learn for ascending and descending but most people get the hang of it pretty quickly.

Anyone can try snowshoeing. Finnish National Parks have marked trails you can follow and most outdoor sports providers offer snowshoe equipment rentals. There are also providers that offer organised snowshoe tours and activities, which is ideal if you have never tried show shoeing before. You may also decide to book a long-distance snowshoe-guided expedition! Although bear in mind, most snowshoeing holidays involve trekking long distances in bitterly cold temperatures. This means they are not suitable for younger children.

Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling, like dog sledding, is a traditional way of getting around in Finland, especially in Lapland. There are snowmobile options to suit everyone, from absolute beginners looking to try this fun sport for a couple of hours, to more intrepid types looking to go on a multi-day snowmobile adventure.

The great thing about snowmobiling is that modern snowmobiles are electric, so not bad for the environment. They are also quiet, which lets you enjoy peace and quiet as you explore this amazing country.

There are lots of snowmobile tour operators to choose from. Book a snowmobile safari to a reindeer farm, chase the northern lights on a snowmobile, or head out into the moonlight for a nocturnal moon safari experience. There are even family snowmobile safaris available for people with kids.

Prices range from 130 Euros to 300+ Euros per adult.

Visit a Sauna

The sauna experience is something all visitors to Finland should try at least once. Almost everyone in Finland has or uses a sauna and even big companies have saunas on-site. Sitting in a sauna is very much a normal activity for Finns, and traditional wood-fuelled saunas are the most popular.

A traditional Finnish sauna experience involves getting naked. You are expected to take a shower before entering the sauna, where you and the other people in there sit and soak up the heat for as long as you like. It’s all very civilised. Of course, getting naked isn’t obligatory if you are sharing a sauna with strangers rather than friends and family. In that scenario, it’s perfectly acceptable to wear a bikini or swimming costume.

When you exit the sauna, it is traditional to roll in fresh powder show or hop into a freezing lake. However, you might not like the idea of this, so a cold shower is an acceptable alternative.

Many saunas still employ a washing-lady, who washes sauna guests. She’ll expect you to be naked, so gird your loins and leave your self-consciousness at home.

Always follow sauna etiquette: sit on a towel for hygiene purposes. Relax and enjoy the experience. To increase the humidity, add water to the hot stones. Don’t indulge in a heavy meal and alcohol before a sauna session.

Finnish hotels and guest houses usually have saunas for the use of guests and staff, but you will also find saunas in sports centres, and even ships. If you visit Finland on business, expect to be invited to a sauna by your colleagues; it’s normal to take a sauna with business associates, even if you have never met them before.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is one of the most peaceful sports you’ll ever have the opportunity to try. Head out to a frozen lake, sit by an ice hole, and enjoy a truly meditative experience where you are at one with nature.

Ice fishing is something you can do anywhere in Finland – all that’s needed is a frozen lake or pond, which are not in short supply! Most Finns fish for perch, which is the national fish, and any popular fishing spot usually attracts plenty of locals.

Some essential quipment is needed for an ice fishing session, but warm clothing is an absolute must-have. It gets very cold out on the ice and you’ll need to wrap up in plenty of layers!

Other essential ice fishing kit includes an ice auger, a stool, and a jogging lure with bait.

Choose your ice fishing spot carefully. The thickness of the ice will depend on current weather conditions, and uneven ice or ice that’s too thin is dangerous. Frozen lakes are most dangerous in spring, where the warm sun can cause ice to become dangerously brittle.

If you haven’t tried ice fishing before, book a session with a local guide or a tour operator. Many ice fishing locations are miles from the nearest population centre and only accessible via snowmobile. It’s often better to combine a day of ice fishing with dog sledding or snowmobiling, followed by the chance to cook your catch over an open fire.

Ice Swimming

Surprising as it may sound, ice swimming, also known as avanto, is a popular activity. Finns think nothing of plunging through a hole in the ice into water that’s around 3 degrees Celsius. They consider it an envigorating activity with lots of health benefits. Ice swimmers claim their hobby can cure many ailments, from depression to headaches.

Most ice swimmers only stay in the freezing water for around 30 seconds, although some hardy souls do last for up to three minutes. While initial immersion can be uncomfortable or even painful, ice swimmers report an exhilarating feeling of euphoria where their body begins to tingle all over and they feel amazing post-plunge. Experts say this is because the experience releases feel-good endorphins, which reward the body’s pleasure centres and act as a natural painkiller.

If you follow ice swimming with a session in a sauna, you’ll experience other benefits, like better circulation and toxin release. Why not give it a try!

Stay in an Ice Hotel

Ice hotels really are a thing, and despite what you might think, they are very comfortable!

The first ice hotel was built in Sweden, but the idea soon spread to other Nordic countries, as well as Canada. Today, ice hotels are a novel alternative to traditional hotels. Some are huge complexes made from ice and snow; others are more traditional igloos.

Don’t worry about being cold in your room. While temperatures are kept chilly to preserve the ice, you’ll have warm sleeping bags and snuggly reindeer blankets to keep you warm and toasty. Plus there will be a sauna on-site to chase away any shivers.

There are several ice hotels to choose from in Finland.

The Arctic Ice Hotel in Rovaniemi is hidden away in a forest and features beautiful ice-sculpted rooms and glass igloos. Make this your base and enjoy other activities like ice fishing and snowmobiling.

The SnowCastle in Kemi has a different theme each year, so it never looks the same from one year to the next. The on-site ice restaurant serves locally sourced food on ice tables and the glass villas have fabulous views of the frozen landscape.

The SnowVillage in Kittilä is also themed. Enjoy the beautiful ice sculptures and look out for the northern lights while you are there.

If you are not sure which activity to try from this list of things to do in Finland in winter, why not book a tour and sample more than one?

Finnish hotels and ski resorts usually offer multiple activities: book a room in an ice hotel and go dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and finish each day with some downtime in a sauna. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

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