Family Vacations to Lapland, Finland

Europe Family Travel: Lapland, Finland
Lapland wears its seasons well—especially during tourist-friendly summer months (courtesy, Finland Tourism Board)

Lapland Family Travel Tips

  • Cross the Arctic Circle.
  • Visit Santa and send a postcard home with an Arctic Circle stamp.
  • Hike Lapland's wilderness parks.
  • Mountain bike, raft, and try to pan for gold.
  • See herds of reindeer.

Lapland stretches across Finland's far northern regions into the Arctic Circle, accounting for more than 30 percent of Finland's land mass, and both Finns and foreigners flock here to take advantage of this expansive landscape—hiking and rafting in summer, and cross-country and downhill skiing, snowmobiling, and reindeer safaris in winter.

There's much to discover in Lapland, a diverse region where more than 200,000 reindeer roam. The southern and western sections border the sea. Central and eastern Lapland feature pine forests and moors while in northern Lapland, above the treeline, only stunted trees and bushes grow. Sápmi in the far north is home to many Sámi, Lapland's indigenous people.

Timing is everything when considering a Lapland visit. In the far north, the sun shines constantly during June and July, and during in winter there's continual darkness for more than 50 days. In the more southerly regions, the extremes are less, but the pattern prevails. So when's the best time to visit? In summer, August is ideal. In June there's mud and July can be plagued with swarms of biting insects. In winter, choose February, when there's more light and less gloom than in December and January.

In Rovaniemi, the capital and gateway to Lapland, visit the Arktikum, a museum about the people, history, and culture of Lapland and the Arctic. Highlights include the colorful exhibit on the Sámi and a film on the awe-inspiring Northern Lights.

Cross the Arctic Circle a bit north of Rovaniemi and you discover Santa Claus and his elves toiling diligently at Santa Claus Village, open year-round. Think what you will, little kids love the place, especially meeting the reindeer and posting a letter home marked with Santa's unique Arctic Circle stamp.

Saariselkä, located 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is a popular resort area. In summer hike in the Urho K. Kekkonen National Park, home to golden eagles and bears. You can also go fishing, mountain biking, rafting, and even pan for gold. In winter, take to the groomed cross-country tracks or ski downhill on Saariselkä's 12 slopes. A fun and memorable winter outing: a reindeer safari. Sit snugly blanketed in your pulka (a small, traditional, wooden sleigh) as the reindeer pull you through Lapland's snowy woods.

Visit Inari, a Sámi community, to see the Siida-Sámi Museum and the Northern Lapland Nature Centre, which exhibit Sámi traditions, dress, and dwellings.

Tip: Yes, it's very cold in Lapland in winter, but the spectacle of the Northern Lights dancing across the sky is worth bundling up.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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