Looking to travel to Lapland, Finland & Northern Norway. Details on our trip to the far north to experience the midnight sun and endless forests and lakes of Northern Finland and Norway in July 2018.
Day 1: Arrive at Rovaniemi Airport & drive north to Kakslauttanen
Day 2: Hike Kiilopää
Day 3: Swimming & exploring Inari & Ivalo
Day 4: Expedition to Norway
Day 5: Drive back to Rovaniemi, visiting Santa, & dinner in Rovaniemi
Day 6: Fly home
LAPLAND IS FLAT, VERY FLAT
Northern Finland is not full of mountains, which I think is a common misconception that many people have. The highest summit of a mountain in Finland is Ridnitsohkka, which is only 1,317m (4,321′) tall. Cannon Mountain, NH (my home ski mountain growing up) for reference is 4,081′ tall. Many of these mountains are located in the very far north section of Finland by the Norway border. It is actually pretty spectacular to cross into Norway and watch the scenery almost instantly change.
For the most part our experience in Lapland was long stretches of forest and occasional gentle rolling hills. One day of the trip we hiked Kiilopää (see blog on this experience here), which has a summit of 544m (1,785′). We were recommended this hike by one of our Finnish family members and it did not disappoint. With the far northern latitudes it didn’t take a large change in elevation to rise above the tree lines on the Kiilopää fell (read more about fell landscape and the ice age) and gain stunning views of the Lapland countryside and even a peak into very western Russia.
The sun really doesn’t set during the summer months in Lapland. We were convinced that this would not impact us but every night we were up until 1am with our bodies never really getting to the point where we wanted to fall asleep. One night Steve even went out stalking a reindeer until 1am in the woods by our house. I will admit that when our flight landed and it was nighttime I was very thankful for the pitch black sky. The midnight sun is definitely something that you need to experience in person to really understand.
WORRIED ABOUT SEEING REINDEER?
Don’t be! Reindeer are all over the place in Lapland. We quickly came to find out that the reindeer of Lapland are more like free range cattle then wild animals, with each reindeer belonging to a Sami reindeer herder. The reindeer behaved like this as well roaming all over the place not skittish at all for human (or car) interaction. We saw them in motel hallway’s, sitting at the bus stop, and one even spent the night on the front doorstep of our AirBNB.
When we got to our AirBNB there was an article in the house manual entitled Everyman’s Right, which intrigued us. Everyman’s Right is the concept that, “people of all nationalities have the right to enjoy the Finnish countryside freely”. It is an actual legal concept in Finland and it means that you can walk, ski, or cycle freely through the countryside as long as you don’t get too close to someones home or damage their property. It is an awesome concept and it means that you can just trek through the woods without concern about who’s property you may be on (just don’t get too bold and walk into Russia without a visa, that may not end up too well for you). For me who constantly has anxiety about not being where you were supposed to be it was a somewhat freeing idea (although I did find myself constantly wondering if this was really a thing…it is, trust me, I googled it a million times).
WATER LIKE GLASS
In Finland there are 187,888 lakes with at least 55,000 lakes that are over 200 meters wide. That’s a lot of lakes. On the days that we went searching for swimming spots I kept thinking “where is everyone?”. But really there are just lakes everywhere. We were visiting Lapland during a heat wave and with small kids it was important to find places to stop and take a break. There were no shortage of excellent swim spots available, which I will outline in a later blog post.
NORTHERN NORWAY IS WORTH A VISIT
The crazy geographic check list part of me really wanted to see just how far north that we could make it. We embarked on a crazy road trip for the day from Kakslauttanen, Finland to Olderfjord, Norway, which I will outline in a later blog post.
The trip was well worth it. We got to witness the dramatic change in landscape from Northern Finland to Northern Norway, which is very spectacular, the kids got to play in the Arctic Ocean (they may or may not have been the only people we saw in the ocean the whole day), and we got to see the pristine and beautiful Arctic Ocean. Seriously, the water was beyond clear and there was so much sea life close to shore that we often don’t get to see when we visit more visited ocean locations. A long day but well worth it (and we discovered the kids like to listen to audio-books, who knew?!).
SANTA’S PRETTY SWEET – HIS HOME BASE NOT SO MUCH
Santa’s home in Rovaniemi was not really my thing. It was very touristy, essentially a strip mall dedicated to Christmas souvenirs. I’m sure in the winter there is more magic here but it was very hard to get in the holiday spirit when it was 95 degrees F (did I mention that we visited the Arctic Circle during a heat wave?).
Santa himself though, he is the real deal. During the summer there is no wait at all to visit with him. To reach Santa you have to wind through an air-conditioned building past the time warp machine that Santa uses every year to facilitate getting all the gifts out to all of the children of the world. His elves are beyond friendly and Santa himself is just a right jolly old elf. Maisie still talks about her visit with Santa, “Mama, do you remember when we met Santa. He was really nice”.
FASCINATING DYNAMIC BETWEEN FINLAND & RUSSIA/SWEDEN
After studying abroad in Sweden I expected the experience in Finland to be very similar. But it wasn’t. Finland has a history of being passed between the very strong historical powers of Sweden and Russia. This dynamic has resulted in a culture, that while certainly Scandinavian, is unique all on its own. If you are thinking that you have seen Sweden and that Finland will be more of the same, you are wrong.
Rovaniemi, Finland (A); Kakslauttanen, Finland (B); Saariselkä, Finland (C); Ivalo, Finland (D); Inari, Finland (E); Karasjok, Norway (F); Lakselv, Norway (G); Olderfjord, Norway (H)