Just under 240 km into the Arctic Circle lays a peaceful village called Saariselkä and last winter I was lucky enough to spend 2 months in this magical winter wonderland. Saariselkä is a small village to the north of Finnish Lapland, deep in Sámi country and close to the Russian border. It’s surrounded by kilometers of stunning scenery and magnificent wildlife and makes the perfect place to start your winter adventure. From cross country skiing to mushing your own team of huskies, there is something for everyone in this mystical haven. Throughout this article, I will be sharing my top tips and suggestions with you, as well as the best place to stay.
Must do adventures
Husky Sledding Husky sledding is by far my favorite activity that you can do from Saariselkä. There are no words that can describe the feeling you get as you glide through the winter silence with a team of dogs guiding your way. I was nervous at first to attempt mushing the dogs but, after a few seconds it felt like second nature and I loved every moment of it. After a 20 minute journey through the frozen landscape you then get the chance to meet over 200 huskies and can you believe it, every single one has a name!
Reindeer Safari Reindeer are the traditional animals of the Sámi country and I would highly recommend paying a visit to the local farm. You will learn the history of these beautiful working animals from the owner whilst sitting around a roasting fire and sipping hot berry juice. After learning about the Reindeer and their importance to Lapland you will then participate in a sleigh ride across the frozen lake.
Tobogganing If you’re looking for activities that are fun but won’t cost you too much then be sure to check out the toboggan slope that is tucked away near the ski lift. You can easily pick up toboggans from all over the resort or just wait until you arrive at the toboggan run and grab one of the spare ones from the bottom. It’s a long way to the top but it’s worth the walk just for the view let alone the fun of sliding down.
Snowshoeing Snowshoeing is pretty much self-explanatory but it’s an activity that most people assume to be boring compared to the other activities available in Finland. I myself loved venturing out to the forest that surrounds Saariselkä in search of the Northern Lights. There are lots of various paths available dependent on your walking ability so this really is an activity for everyone. Plus, you may even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in all their glory.
Top places to eat As you can imagine, some of the traditional food in Lapland may be questionable by a lot of people, however, if you have the chance to try some of their delicacies then you never know but it may just be the best thing you’ve ever tried. The resort of Saariselkä is fairly small but I thought I would recommend some of my favorite places to eat and drink.
Tunturi Restaurant This restaurant is located inside the biggest hotel in Saariselkä, the Tunturi Hotel. If you walk into the main reception you will find the traditional restaurant to the right-hand side. Here you can enjoy everything from a soup lunch to pizza for dinner. They even sell reindeer pizza and burgers if you really want to embrace the Finnish lifestyle.
After a night of drinking grape cider and downing Minttu shots, you may just find yourself at a little takeaway shop called Muossi Grill (pronounced Moussy
). Muossi Grill is your typical after-hours takeaway place selling everything from Burgers to reindeer Kebabs. If you’re after a tasty midnight treat then this place is definitely for you.
Cafe Porotupa Last but not least, the smallest of them all but in some ways, my favorite place to visit whilst I was staying in Lapland. This little gem is situated on the main road and as soon as you see it you feel a warmth overcome you. Cafe Porotupa is a little hut that is covered in fairy lights and sweet Christmas decorations. They only have 2 tables inside and a few more outside but the wait is worth it. My personal favorite things to drink and eat were the hazelnut hot chocolates and the Nutella crepes (you can’t go wrong).
Where to stay It can be hard trying to figure out where to stay whilst planning a trip to Lapland. There are so many different options available but after living in Saariselkä I’ve learned how to tell the good from the bad. I would highly suggest taking a look at the Hotel Tunturi when planning your visit to Lapland. The hotel is a family run business and has several different buildings with every room category you could ask for, making it ideal for any budget. Not only that but, the hotel is situated just off of the main road and is very close to all of the main attractions. The main reception area is also directly opposite the forest and makes for the perfect location to view the Northern Lights. The Hotel Tunturi also have a few cabins that are available to spend your nights in and this really makes your whole experience in Lapland feel magical. It’s as though you have walked through the wardrobe to Narnia as winter wonderland surrounds you (you half expect to see Mr. Tumnus trotting around).
Summary Overall, if you are after a special Christmas holiday or just want to feel that warm fuzzy feeling inside then Lapland is the place for you. It’s a haven of soft snow and delicious food whilst having every winter activity you could want right on your doorstep. Another great factor of Finnish Lapland is that you are surrounded by lovely people who are more than happy enough to share their experiences and stories with you. Lapland is a great place for couples and families alike and I have no doubt no matter who you are, you will find something magical in the winter wilderness.