Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

How to Plan a Successful Trip to Finnish Lapland

Are you looking to plan a successful trip to Finnish Lapland?

You’re in the right place!

Finnish Lapland is filled with one “pinch-me-now-moment” after the next. I’m not talking about the kind of moments that linger in your mind for a while only to fade into a larger collection of travel experiences.

No, I mean moments that combine surreal, grateful, and mind-blowing into never to be forgotten memories. Simply put, Finnish Lapland is an awesome place to visit!

How to Plan a Successful Trip to Finnish Lapland
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How to Plan a Successful Trip to Finnish Lapland

As with any trip, though, you want all the logistics to run smoothly.

But, this is particularly the case when your trip is only 7-10 days. “Things” happen and you have to be flexible and manage.

Even still, the details of how to plan a successful trip to Finnish Lapland are important.

I’ve put together this guide in the hopes of giving answers to all the questions I had in order to save you time and money as you plan your Finnish Lapland Adventure.

Getting to Finnish Lapland

Unless you’re flying from within Europe, you’ll need to fly into Helsinki, Finland’s capital, and connect from there to Lapland.

I used my American Airlines miles to fly off-peak to Helsinki on Finnair, an AA OneWorld partner. Finnair partner flights can be booked directly from AA’s website.

If you have United miles or Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, check for award availability through United on Star Alliance partner, Scandinavian Air.

For paid tickets, check websites like Momondo, Skyscanner, and Norwegian Air using some of these simple tips for finding and booking discounted or budget deals.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland
Airline Alliances are your friend! AA miles can be used on their partners, like Finnair.

Whether you’re connecting from Helsinki to Lapland by plane or train, it’s worth it to compare prices and schedule to see what makes the most sense for your budget and itinerary.

You can connect on short flights to Lapland airports, like Rovaniemi, Ivalo, Kemi, and Kittilä.

Expect to pay anywhere between $150-$400 per round trip ticket depending on the time of year you travel. For our travel dates, flights were in the mid-$300s and not exactly the ideal times to match up with our plans for our arrival and departure in Helsinki.

I also looked into using my British Airways Avios for an award flight. British Airways is also a OneWorld partner and their Avios can be used to book awards on Finnair.

While the Avios needed were minimal and in relation to the actual distance flown, the taxes and fees on a one-way ticket were near $200.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland

In comparison, I booked the overnight train from Helsinki’s Central Train Station to Rovaniemi in a sleeper compartment for 2 people with a private bathroom and shower for the same as I would have spent in BA taxes and fees.

Plus, I saved money by not needing to book accommodations for that night, either.

If you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve or a cash back travel rewards credit card, consider using the travel credit or your rewards to pay for your train tickets. We used our $300 CSR travel credit to cover our 2 round trip train tickets.

The train left around 7 pm from the Helsinki Central Station and arrived at 7:30 am in Rovaniemi. Train tickets for the overnight compartments must be reserved.

Register on the website first and then look for the tickets you’d like to book.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland

Compared to the overnight train from Romania to Budapest, the Finnish train’s sleeping compartment was especially comfortable and clean. The bunks have blankets and pillows and, if you have a shower, towels, and some basic toiletries, too.

There are caddies within the wall next to each bunk with a plug for charging devices, an alarm clock, and a holder for water, reading glasses, and a phone.

The train had good wifi and a decent restaurant car. The bottom bunk is high enough to slide luggage underneath so you have enough room to move around the compartment.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland

If your arrival time is later, leaving little time to visit Helsinki, you may want to stay at the airport longer.

There are more comfortable places to sit and eat and the airport offers free wifi. The Central Station has a few cafes but they are smaller and a bit more difficult to manage with bags. Also, there isn’t any free wifi at the train station.

Depending on the time you arrive into Helsinki, there may be enough time to explore the city. The Central train station has luggage storage and it’s easy to transfer by train from the Airport.

For 5 € per person, take the I or P train. Tickets can be purchased from HSL machines in the arrivals area at the airport or on the train platform. Be sure to validate your ticket on board as you begin the 25-minute ride.

Arrival in Rovaniemi

Taxis are available at the Rovaniemi Train Station and a car rental kiosk is available inside.

The kiosk is shared by several companies and an agent from the company you reserved with will meet you at the exact time you designate.

With limited availability and no 24-hour counter staff, you won’t be able to rent a car without a reservation.

Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

If you’re late and miss the agent, you’ll need to wait for her/him to return. It’s likely they’re also working at the nearby airport.

It’s possible to walk the 1km from the station to the city center in about 10-15 minutes.

If need be, the Rovaniemi Train Station also has luggage storage, but the lockers looked just big enough for an average carry-on.

Spend 3-4 days in Rovaniemi.

dog sledding in Finnish Lapland

Rovaniemi is a great base to explore the area and take part in a wide variety of winter activities. The city has a range of restaurants, shops, and tour operators.

Rovaniemi also has plenty of hotels in the city center, as well as just on the outskirts of town. You can also find apartment and house rentals in a variety of sizes and for all budgets.

For an award traveler like me, I was disappointed to learn Rovaniemi has no loyalty program hotels. Your best option to reduce the cost of accommodation is with a cash back rewards credit card or a travel credit like the one offered with the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland

We stayed at a great studio apartment. It was cozy and had everything we could want, including a kitchen to prepare breakfast. The grocery store and city center were just a couple of blocks away.

Most tour operators begin tours around 10 a.m. It’s easy to arrive on the morning train with an activity already booked, even more so if you can’t check in early to your hotel or vacation rental.

Many tour providers in the city center open around 8:30 a.m and can store your bags in their offices.

Finnish Lapland Rovaniemi

If you’re planning to stay in Rovaniemi and do day tours and activities, a rental car isn’t needed. The city center is compact and pedestrian-friendly. Taxi stands are also conveniently located.

What to Do in Rovaniemi

Now, for the fun part! Rovaniemi has plenty of tour companies offering every sort of winter activity from snowmobiling to dog sledding to reindeer sleigh rides and visits to the Ice Hotel.

Check TripAdvisor and the Visit Rovaniemi page for listings. Some tour companies are on the Visit Rovaniemi page but not listed on TripAdvisor so it’s best to take some time and do the research.

Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

Think about whether you’re ok with big group tours or want something smaller or more personal.

Your preference will help steer you to the right tour company. I prefer smaller tours, and even personal tours, so I tried to choose programs based on this and not necessarily by TripAdvisor rank alone.

The dog sledding at Bearhill Husky is not to be missed! They love their dogs and it shows in how the dogs love to run.

Pro Tip – Gear up! Be prepared & wear the right clothes for the outdoors in any season. This is vital to having fun! Make sure you have the proper winter clothing like hiking pants. In many ways, prepare like you’re going skiing

Finnish Lapland Dog Sledding

Snowmobile with Safartica out to the Ice Hotel. You’ll pass through sparkling evergreen forests and across frozen-solid lakes.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland Ice Hotel

Spend a night with Lapland Welcome on their Northern Lights Tour. Maybe you’ll have just the right dash of luck to see a flash of the auroras. But remember, sometimes you see the northern lights and sometimes you don’t.

Hunting the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland

When you’re ready to adventure out beyond the well-worn snowmobile tracks, head out with Arctic Lifestyle to explore the backwoods and enjoy a fireside, true wilderness, lunch.

Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

Things I didn’t do in Rovaniemi (but you may want to do!)

We were having too much fun exploring the wilderness in Finnish Lapland and we weren’t traveling with children. So, we didn’t visit Santa’s Village. There are tours, buses, and taxis go there if you don’t have a rental car.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapaland
It was a tough pass and there’s no denying the awesome trip, nonetheless.

We painstakingly decided against the Ice Breaker ship experience in Kemi. In all honesty, it was just too expensive.

During our stay, prices fluctuated between 700-900 Euros per person! You’ll have to decide if the Ice Breaker ship experience is worth it for you, but for us, we knew how many other things we could do on this trip and future trips that would create equally incredible memories.

If you do the Ice Breaker ship, you can stop in Kemi for a day or even the night on the way up from Helsinki on the train. You could also fly directly into Kemi on a short flight from Helsinki. Or, simply take a day trip to Kemi from Rovaniemi either by train or with a tour operator.

Spend 2-3 days in the wilderness.

Finnish Lapland’s spectacular wilderness surrounds the small city of Rovaniemi. Even with only a week, leave time to experience life outside the city. Choose a place within a reasonable distance so as not to waste too much time in transit.

Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

Levi and Saariskella are popular Finnish Lapland spots but they are a bit further away by bus or car. We had a limited amount of time. So, instead, we spent 2 nights in Luosto, just an hour by car from Rovaniemi and surrounded by Pyhä Luosto National Park.

Buses operate between Rovaniemi and Luosto. You can also rent a car from the train station. We chose to have a car just for these couple of days to give us more flexibility, particularly at the end of our trip.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland

It was an easy drive along 1 major road to Luosto. We stayed in the Lapland Hotel Luostotunturi log cabins, complete with their own fireplace, family-style bunk bed, and sauna.

From this location, we had access to snowshoeing trails, downhill, and cross-country skiing, ice skating, reindeer farms, and organized snowmobiling tours.

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapland

The log cabin was cozy and pin-drop silent with only the wind and the trees to disturb the peace.

The cabin had a small kitchenette with a microwave, hot plate, mini-fridge, coffee maker, and sink.

Basic kitchenwares were also provided. To save money, we bought some food from the supermarket in Rovaniemi, but we also enjoyed a meal at the hotel’s main restaurant.

Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

Spend an afternoon and/or an evening snowshoeing in the stunning National Park with a guide from Kairankutsu-Call of the Wilderness. 

Later on, feed the reindeer at Kopara farm. Get outside on a clear night and watch the sky for the northern lights. Enjoy the change of pace from the go-go-go of the daily tour activities back in Rovaniemi.

Relax and decompress surrounded by a winter wonderland wilderness.

Last Day in Finnish Lapland

Planning a Trip to Finnish Lapland

On that 3rd morning in Luosto, we decided to spend our last day in Finland doing some more snowmobiling back in Rovaniemi.

We booked a backcountry tour (mentioned above) that fit how we wanted our trip to end. Because Luosto is so close to Rovaniemi, you could easily plan the day in Luosto, as well.

We boarded the overnight train in Rovaniemi when the day was finished and connected directly back to the airport in Helsinki for our flight home.

In just a bit over a week’s time, Finnish Lapland treated us to incredible adventures and lasting memories. I hope to be back north of the Arctic Circle someday but until then…

Planning a trip to Finnish Lapaland

Are you planning a trip to Finnish Lapland? Have you been already? What tip can you offer a first-timer?

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How to Plan a Successful Trip to Finnish Lapland | A complete itinerary to explore the gorgeous Lapland area of Finland including things to do, what to wear, where to stay, and how to travel around in Finland. #travel #finland #northernlights #winterwonderland #snow #reindeer #finnishlapland #europe #europetravel #europeantravels #bucketlisttravel #arctic #adventuretravel #triptofinnishlapland
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44 thoughts on “How to Plan a Successful Trip to Finnish Lapland”

  1. I’ve been seeing so much about this area lately, especially since it was just featured on The Bachelor. I finally made it to Finland a year ago for the first time but only saw Helsinki, so would love to go back and explore more of the country like Lapland!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Was it on the Bachelor, Tamara? I confess I watch almost no TV so I’m out of the loop on that! 😉 Lapland is spectacular. Definitely head north next time you’re in Finland.

  2. I’m not planning a trip to Lapland right now but these are great tips! It is definitely on my list of places to visit, for sure. Such a gorgeous place for outdoor adventures and nature.

    Traveling by train is amazing and the journey length of the one you took is perfect. Really useful to find out more about it.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      The train worked out perfectly, Hugo. It was easy and saved us a good amount of money. I hope you can make it to Finnish Lapland soon. 🙂

  3. Wow you really had a fantastic adventure and it looks amazing from where I’m at, thank god I’m not a cold lover because it would be very hard for me to go to icy places like Lapland – it looks amazing though!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Noel. I’d highly recommend putting some extra layers on and braving that cold. It’s that spectacular! 😉

  4. What a fun place to visit. My son would be ecstatic to go to Lapland, winter is his favorite season and he would love to try the dog sledding and reindeer sleigh rides and of course Santa’s Village. The Northern Lights Tour would be something I would like to do. Just the chance to take photos of the northern lights would be fantastic.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      It is an incredible destination, Rob! I hope you can make it northward with your son!

  5. I’d definitely be using that sleeper train service – I love travelling by train, so much more romantic. Rovaniemi looks like a great place to base yourself for so many experiences.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      You are so right, Fiona! Somehow that little compartment makes for a great experience. 🙂

  6. What am amazing trip! The pictures look so beautiful. Thank you for mapping it all out for the rest of us, planning is so time consuming. I bet it was hard to pass on the Ice Breaker ship!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      It was hard, Sherianne! You always have this feeling like you’re going to miss out. But, honestly, the trip was amazing without it and we saved the money for something else. 🙂

  7. Although I am not a fan of the cold or snow for that matter this looks pretty awesome. I would love to stay in the ice hotel and see the northern lights.

  8. Thank you for all these tips. I do keep trying for cheap tickets but haven’t got any till date. Will look up the suggestions you have given. The white blanketed scenes are gorgeous!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Keep looking, Indrani! Finnish Lapland is amazing. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading.

  9. Wow, this really does look like such an incredible experience! Everything covered in snow looks so magical. I’ve never been on a snowmobile, so that really piqued my interest. I’d love to try it one day. And thanks for the train information. I always forget that sometimes traveling overnight can save you money on flights and accommodation!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      We loved Finnish Lapland, Vicky. And, the train really worked out to be such a smart decision.

  10. Thank you so much for this post! This was just what I needed. Want to visit Finland next winter for about a week, and just didn’t know where to begin. This is absolutely perfect as a starting point for my own research.!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Awesome, Maria! Glad the post will be a help. Have a fantastic time in Finland.

  11. Super helpful– thanks! I was wondering how much clothing did you have on you? How much luggage? Planning to go this winter and I’m from Los Angeles, originally the Philippines. Not a big fan of the cold but checking this off my bucketlist this year. ?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      So fantastic you’re planning a trip to Finnish Lapland, Tee! I had just my large backpacking pack. I packed similarly to how I would for a Ski trip

      You’ll still need Arctic gear once you’re up there, which the tour companies provide. This includes boots. So on the coldest days I had my entire ski outfit on including jacket and then I’d wear the boots and Arctic overalls they gave me. Make sure to go with real high-performance base layers. They’ll be warm but not too thick. Enjoy Lapland! It’s magical.

  12. Thank you so much for posting this! We are working on planning a trip here very soon and I have been having the hardest time finding info that works! So I really appreciate your itinerary. What month were you there? How was the cold? We’ve seen some hotels that offer warmer clothes to use while you are there…we aren’t very well equipped for THAT kind of cold!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Lisa,

      Thanks so much for reading and glad the info is helpful. We were there in February. Living in the northeast U.S., I’m used to a certain kind of cold. So, we did have a couple days that were in the teens-30s Fahrenheit and felt fairly normal. But, there were other days (when we went dog sledding), the wind made it feel -40. (Don’t panic! 😉 ) I can’t speak for the hotels giving clothes, but every tour/activity we did included arctic overalls, boots, and other extras like socks and neck gaiters. On the coldest days, I had my typical ski ensemble on and then put their gear over it. I also packed my ski mask, which came in handy for the dog sledding, in particular. While Snowshoeing, though, the Arctic overalls were too heavy and I found myself unzipping them to cool off. I hope all of that helps. Finnish Lapland is amazing in every sense of the word! Thanks again for reading. 🙂

  13. Jackie hi!))Thanks for the precious info!
    Me and my husband decided to spend our two-week honeymoon in Lapland. in February. And we even got our plane tickets and reservation in Rovaniemi. then we’ll travel to Lapland by train as you did!
    Jackie, it was veeery disappointing to read about such high prices on ice braker cuises. cause it was our dream. but no money-no honey:) so we found several web sources about different activities during this cold-cold February. Instead of ice breaker cruise, we chose ice diving to be our cherry on a cake as we both are passionate extremals. Do you think it worth trying in the wilderness? Of course we plan to see the Northern Lights and we happy that shew , February is perfect month for that. But what can you say about the crowdiness in Rovaniemi during that time, maybe you got an information about that cause we are a bit asocial and try to stay away from giant groups of people. thanks for any idea

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading, Julie. Congrats on getting married and your honeymoon. Rovaniemi was not at all crowded in February. Of course, there will be visitors on holiday, but it is much less so than in the busier month of December. Ice diving sounds amazing and a great alternative to the icebreaker ship. I hope you have a fantastic time!

  14. Hi Jackie,
    thanks for sharing the post. We are going to lapland this december. I have a couple of questions:
    1. Is the train warm enough to travel overnight in December?
    2. how many nights do you think if we would like to visit the santa village, snowmobiling or riding a husky and northern lights tour? We will be there during xmas.

    thanks,
    Yani

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Yani. Lucky you to be heading to Lapland in December. Yes, the train will be warm enough for an overnight in December. We did it in February and were comfortable with the overnight bunks on the train. I’d say you need at 3 nights, at least. It depends on the activities you do and their length. For example, you could do a half day of snowmobiling or a full day. Plus, you might want to give yourself an extra night to see the northern lights in case you get cloudy weather one night. Hope that helps! 🙂

  15. You might want to also visit the Yllas ski resort. which is great for all winter outdoor activities like downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, husky and reindeer safaris, snowmobile safaris, skating, winter biking and of course hunting for Northern Lights
    There is a large wilderness area around called Pallas-Yllas National park with a lot of hiking routes with small cabins where you can spend your night for free if you like. [LINKS EDITED OUT]

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Juha, and for the tips! I’d love to get back to Finnish Lapland and explore more.

  16. Me and my sisters are planning a trip to Finland June 7-18. We are trying to decide for sure how many days in Rovaniemi during this time of year. Do you still think 3-4?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Barbara. Lapland in summer is so pretty. I haven’t been to Finnish Lapland in summer, but I’ve been to Swedish Lapland in summer. I’d say 3 days is probably enough depending on what you want to do. You can still visit Santa or see reindeer if you’d like, but there are also outdoor activities like hiking and canoeing that look great. Also, places like Luosto can be a great day trip or even an overnight, if you’d like to hike more or see what’s just beyond Rovaniemi. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

  17. It is a very informative article. The warm clothes that you mentioned, did they come at an extra charge from the activity providers?

    Between December and February, which would be a better time to go in terms of weather and cost?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Aastha. The clothing was included with all the activities I did. I’d say February is better definitely in terms of cost and people. December is popular because of the holidays and so prices are higher. I’m not sure it makes much difference with the weather, as snow can happen at any time. I will say in February, everything was completely covered in white and frozen over which made everything so pretty. Have a great trip to Finnish Lapland! 🙂

  18. Thank you.
    This is a great content for those planning a family trip to the Northen Lights.
    Planning a trip in December with the kids.
    Would be our first white christmas

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Larry. So glad the guide is helpful. Finnish Lapland would be a spectacular first white Christmas! Our opportunity to see the Northern Lights was unforgettable. I’m sure you and your family will love the destination. Enjoy! 🙂

  19. BHAVESH NAGDA

    hi jackie
    thanks for your past,we would like to visit lapalnd in october with 2 kids.what are the chances of NORTHERN LIGHTS to be seen,
    during october lapland is covered with snow or not yet.
    which is better swedish or finland lapland.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Bhavesh. The fall can be a great time to see the Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland. October is a little early for snow cover. It’s best from November-March if you’re looking for a winter scene. I’ve been to Swedish Lapland in summer and Finnish Lapland in winter. Both are beautiful. The town of Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland is a great hub for tours and activities, not to mention the kids can visit Santa. Swedish Lapland is a bit quieter but will still have outdoor activities. Hope that helps and you have a great trip!

  20. I’m planning a trip to the Finnish Lapland in Sept 2019. Will follow your advice to take the overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. Plan to do day trips from Rovaniemi. Would love to stay a night in Lousto and experience the log cabin like u did. How many days do u think I need to see Lapland? There are 8 of us. Where would u recommended us to stay? Any good budget tips to see more nature or wilderness? Any chance of catching the aurora? Thank you.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Ann. I was there a week and thought it was a good amount of time. It depends on what activities you want to do. Keep in mind the longer you stay the more chances you have to spot the Northern Lights. I stayed at an Airbnb in Rovaniemi and the cabin in Luosto. I highly recommend snowshoeing for getting out into the wilderness. You can really see the forest without the noise that comes with a motorized activity like snowmobiling (which is also fun!) Hope you have a great trip to Finnish Lapland! 🙂

  21. Great post Jackie. Very informative. We’re planning to visit this coming December with 2 teens. This will be our first snow experience and looking forward for the northern lights hunting at Rovaniemi.
    My problem now is booking for the night train with beds, which I have no idea how to secure it. The online website (www.vr.fi) assigned us the seats instead of beds. Possible share how you secure the booking? Thanks

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Herries. 🙂 When you search for tickets, just below where you enter your departure information (leaving from, date, number of people, etc), click on “refine search.” Where it says “On-Train Services,” select sleeping car. When you submit your search, options should come up showing a standard berth. From there, you can customize if you want to share a compartment or if you’d like a compartment with a shower, etc. Hope this helps and have fun in Finnish Lapland!

  22. Hi Jackie,

    Thank you so much for writing all of this. I am planning to go to Rovaniemi to do my placement in one of the primary schools over there. (Still looking for one).

    However, your info is very helpful and I just want to fast forward the time now.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Nadia. Oh, I’m sure you’ll love your placement in Rovaniemi! Good luck. 🙂

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