I quite enjoyed seeing the looks on people’s faces when I told them I was going to Lapland in winter.

You can’t blame them, it’s not a popular holiday choice that one often hears about in Australia. So where the hell even is Lapland? Largely contained within the Arctic Circle, Lapland stretches across parts of Northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and areas of Russia.

In winter, the temperatures can drop to -40 degrees Celsius with only 4 hours of sunlight a day. We would wake up at 9am to pitch black darkness. And marvel at the setting sun as we walked home from lunch. It is a discombobulated reality.

Instead of seeing this as a reason to run screaming however, embrace the experience knowing it is the polar opposite of everything you are used to. Isn’t that what travelling is all about?

So grab the reindeer by both antlers and check out 5 reasons why Lapland is your new vacation destination.

It’s The Best Place To See the Northern Lights

Experiencing this rare phenomenon in the flesh was truly spectacular. One of those pinch-me moments where the struggle between remaining in the present trying to drink it all in, and simultaneously trying to press the button on your camera in -29 degree temperatures without taking your glove off, is a real one. I had heard how these mysterious lights in the night sky “dance” above your heads, and they really do.

One moment we sighted a vague green tinge and the next they were there, shimmering above us, moving quickly and unexpectedly, continually keeping us guessing.

So if you like the sound of standing on an ice-covered bridge wearing a sexy thermal jumpsuit in temperatures so freezing it’s like your whole body has an ice-cream headache, then this place is for you. A bucket list must.

Tip: October-March is the optimal time for Aurora Borealis hunting in Lapland. December is even better, as it is mostly cold and dry with less cloud cover so your chances increase greatly. Make sure you stay as far away from artificial lights or pollution as possible, so the more remote the better. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge in Nellim, a tiny village on the border of Russia with only 150 inhabitants. The nearest shop is 42km away so you get what I mean when I say “remote”.

You Can Drive A Husky Sled

This was an experience I will never forget. Partly due to the fact that I thought I was going to die the whole time (crack in the ice, frostbite in my toes, unexpected blizzard, the usual) but there’s nothing like a bit of facetime with mortality to get the blood pumping.

Work life, home life, the pressures of the daily grind, none of this matters when you find yourself driving a sled pulled by 6 over-enthusiastic husky dogs 25km over a frozen lake surrounded by nothing but snow and breathtaking landscapes. It is seriously impressive how these dogs do not tire, their stamina and enthusiasm is to be admired. This was particularly evident by their impatience and annoyance whenever you try to brake (good luck with that).  A crazy ride in more way than one, this is a non-negotiable when visiting Lapland.


Tip: Try and source a reputable husky safari company as far away from the main towns as possible so you really get the true experience. Our husky ride was organised as part of our accommodation package in Nellim, but we hear Lapland Safaris are the company to book with.

Jump On A Slowmobile & Get Exploring

These things make you feel like a big kid who’s just got a new toy to play with. Zigzagging through snow-covered pine forests and traversing frozen lakes, it’s easy to feel like you are in a life-size game of Mario Kart. Our tour took us to the middle of frozen Lake Inari where our guide, a French nomad named Anthony, taught us the art of ice fishing with a rod the size of a pencil.


Despite leaving empty-handed, it was a nice chance to sit back, enjoy the silence and drink in the surroundings. Jumping on our snowmobiles, we raced over to the next idyllic location where Anthony went about his business building us a campfire in the snow.


We warmed our freezing fingers, sipped delicious creamy salmon soup (a staple in Lapland) and cooked crepes dripping in butter and topped off with lingonberry jam. It doesn’t get much better than that.

See Reindeer In The Wild (& Eat Them Too)

Reindeer may seem like mystical creatures that are more at home in the pages of a Christmas story but in Lapland they are rife. Approximately 200,000 exist in Finnish Lapland alone. We spotted them on two separate occasions and it was nothing short of magical. Quiet and skittish, their unmistakeable antlers perched proudly on top their heads, we held our breath and watched as a family of four passed us by, wary of our motives.

I don’t blame them for being suspicious, considering reindeer meat is a popular choice on restaurant menus throughout Lapland. After seeing them in the wild it seemed blasphemous to think about chowing down on some reindeer steaks but you can rest assured the consumption of reindeer is quite ethical.

In the summer months their population increases by more than 50%, which the land cannot support, hence the reason for consumption.  Less gamey than venison, it was surprisingly tender and subtle in flavour. Served with cloudberry quince and pureed parsnip, reindeer meat is a Lappish delicacy. Sorry Rudolph!

Tip: If you find yourself in Rovaniemi, the hometown of Santa Clause on the Arctic circle border, a long lunch at Restaurant Nili is a must. Don’t be put off by the slightly kitsch décor and the waitresses wearing traditional costumes (stay with me), the food here really is top notch. Serving an array of Lappish specialties, it is a great introduction to the tastes of the Arctic. The gingerbread cheesecake with mulled wine sauce was a memorable highlight.

Escape The City Life

Perhaps my favourite thing about Lapland, besides the adrenaline rushes and once in a lifetime experiences, was the simplest thing of all. The silence. The white snow. The pale sky. The pristine landscapes. Lake water so pure you can drink it straight from the source. There is no advertising here. No honking horns or traffic jams. No crowds in sight. The only thing assaulting your senses is pure white noise. And in our increasingly deafening world, that kind of serenity is worth searching for.


We stayed at Nellim Wilderness Lodge and did the 3 nights/4 days Northern Lights Adventure Package.

Sophie Penhallow is a Sydney-based writer and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @hello_sophie_pen

You can follow CITIZENS OF THE WORLD on Instagram @citizensoftheworld

Meg & Dom

Tags: Adventure, Finland, Lapland

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