It seems that when most people imagine their dream holidays, tropical beaches come to mind. They want to escape the relatively cold weather of their temperate homes and relax in shorts and flipflops, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for some people, a sense of adventure draws them in the opposite direction—the far north. The Arctic Circle makes for a unique holiday destination for many reasons, but the most obvious is the natural environment and outdoors activities that are only possible there. Lapland in particular has many exciting activities to offer.
This region that spans both Sweden and Finland is a paradise for those that love the outdoors, though it changes drastically with the seasons. The difference between winter and summer there is dramatic, to say the least. In the winter, the harsh Lapland climate is intimidating but allows for some of the most scenic skiing in the world. The top-rated resorts have excellent terrain and almost non-existent lift lines, with expansive panoramic views over vast tracts of wilderness on clear days. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are also popular activities, and in some regions are actually necessary for basic transportation when the snow buries roads for extended periods of time. Some remote Scandinavian villages still rely on dog sleds for transporting goods and supplies across long distances, and dog sled treks are a fantastic way for visitors to get a feel for the people, the countryside, and the animals. Bonding with the hardworking sled dogs is a fun and rewarding experience for anyone, and trips lasting anywhere from a week to an afternoon are easy to arrange. Snowmobiling, the modern answer to dog sledding, is another popular activity for visitors.
After and before the depth of winter, in March and September the earth is at its best location for viewing the famed aurora borealis, or northern lights. During the spring and fall equinoxes of these months, there is an increased chance of the geomagnetic storms that ignite the wildest colors of this eerie and beautiful phenomenon. To get the best views of the northern lights, escape the larger towns and cities and instead seek areas with less light pollution coming from human activity. Experiencing these sweeping curtains of color in the sky is undoubtedly the highlight for many visitors to Lapland and other areas in the far north.
In the summer, the weather becomes surprisingly temperate. Sweden and Finland are both marvelously pleasant at this time of year, and activities like trekking become more popular. Abisto National Park, one of Europe’s largest natural areas, is the home of the Kungsleden (“King’s Trail,”) a 425 km trek that takes about a month. Small trips are also very feasible, and take intrepid visitors through beautiful countryside, glacial waterfalls and lakes, and fields of wildflowers. Kayaking is another common pursuit.
Lapland is a beautiful area, and visiting at any time of year is a rewarding experience. So why stay on the beaten path? Leave the sunscreen at home and go on a real adventure.