Santa Claus is Lapland’s claim to fame, but its true main attractions are the wide, free space and the unparalleled stillness.
While Japan crams an average of 337 inhabitants into a square kilometre, Great Britain 255 and Denmark 128, Finland’s figure is roughly 17. Its northernmost part, Lapland, has two inhabitants per square kilometre.
All of this space is open for free roaming. Everyman’s Right, a law applicable to the Nordic countries, gives both citizens and tourists access to all land, as long as one does not harm or disturb the landowner. Picking berries and mushrooms is allowed, but building a fire on someone else’s property is not.
The nature of Lapland represents the western outskirts of the Siberian taiga and tundra. Made up of pine, spruce and marches, taiga dominates the landscape. Forestry and agriculture have partially transformed its landscape, but they have also left a network of roads that has made it more accessible.
In winters, the area is known for the northern lights (aurora borealis), ski trails as well as reindeer and husky safaris. Its summers are still a question mark to some, but offer just as many outdoorsy opportunities.
Vacationers in Lapland can enjoy activities ranging from fishing and hiking to rafting and canoeing. Resorts such as Ivalo, Saariselkä, Ruka and Levi run guided programmes. It’s recommended to book with a reputable tour operator who can customise an itinerary according to a traveller’s tastes and capabilities.
Accommodations in Lapland include retro camping cabins, Sámi huts and new state-of-the-art hotels, and small businesses offer activities ranging from fishing excursions and hikes to lake cruises and paddling adventures. The Ivalo River, once the site of a gold rush, has 70 kilometres of paddling routes. Some paddling excursions end at a quiet, wood-burning sauna.
The Land of the Midnight Sun is an appropriate nickname for Lapland in the summer. One day transitions into the next as the sun makes a quick dip toward the horizon and rises again. Many find it hard to sleep without thick curtains.www.reindeerfarm.fi
Visiting Lapland from August to mid-September has its own charms. The nuisance of mosquitoes has quieted down, and nights spent by the fire with a hot drink in hand tug at primeval strings in your heart.
Lapland’s mosquitoes often move in swarms, but even a single one can drive you crazy with its high-pitched, monotonous melody. Without them, however, the fishes and birds would starve, and berry flowers would die without pollination. These mosquitoes also don’t spread malaria.
Still, avoid walking in thickets and swamps during warm, damp days, as sweaty skin and clothing (especially dark fabrics) draw mosquitoes. Stay cool and clean, and use repellent. And if you get bitten, don’t scratch!
Text by Gunnar Pettersson
Photo by Visit Finland
A longer version of this article was previously published in Finnair´s Blue Wings magazine (May 2011).
Published May 2, 2012
Category: Local features