The region called Lapland stretches out across 3 countries (Finland, Sweden and Norway) and is quite different in each of those countries. From rugged mountain landscapes and treeless tundra in its western and northern parts, Lapland becomes hilly and covered by endless taiga towards the south (and suprisingly much colder in winter, as inland is way colder than the efficiently Gulf Stream-heated coastline). It’s one of the very few easily accessible and fairly populated places on Earth above the Arctic Circle (which geographically marks the limit of the globe’s arctic area where the sun doesn’t set and doesn’t rise for at least one day during the year, a phenomenon also known as midnight sun and polar night). The further you go north, the longer these periods last (for example at North Cape, the sun doesn’t set at all from May 13th to July 29th and doesn’t rise at all from November 18th to January 23rd). Lapland also is one of the best places on Earth together with Iceland to chase the amazing northern lights.
Winter (and spring) in Lapland
For many people winter surely is the most exotic season to visit Lapland, which turns out to be a true winter wonderland. Heavy snowing and freezing temperatures can be expected from as early as October, until as late as May. During the coldest and darkest months of December, January and February, temperatures can easily go as low as -40C, besides the Norwegian coastline which remains almost totally iceless throughout the winter! One may think those cold dark months are pretty unbearable. In fact, for a few hours around noon skies are beautifully coloured by delicate shades of orange and pink before the amazing blue hour. When all sunlight is gone and the sky is clear, stars shine incredibly bright (thanks to no light pollution) and northern lights are visible in varying intensity almost every night. Snow and ice cover everything. Finnish Lapland features many ski stations and other infrastructures to fully enjoy the snowy nature. For exotic (and pricey) accommodation, consider the glass igloos of Kakslauttanen, and the ice hotel of Jukkasjärvi on the Swedish side. Snowmobile safaris on Norway’s mountains is also strongly recommended (only with a guide; if you feel more solo go for the safer forests and lakes) . Note that distances in Lapland are long and road conditions tricky (don’t rent a car if you are not used to drive on snowy and icy roads). When February turns into March, sunshine hours increase fast and the snow cover is at its deepest. The line between winter and spring in Lapland is difficult to draw, as temperatures below the freezing point are common until late May. Then snow finally melts, the sun doesn’t set anymore and summertime begins.
Summer in Lapland
Nights are almost inexistent from May to August and watching the midnight sun is a very special experience. Driving is easy, especially in Finland where roads are in excellent condition and the rather flat land allows to drive long distances fast (but beware of the reindeers that often cross roads unexpectedly, or just decide to walk on the middle of the road…!). On the Swedish side, situation is pretty much the same but you can expect a lot more road works that will severely slow you down… In Norway it’s completely different, as roads have to make their way between high mountains and along deep and tortuous fjords (distances can seem short on the map, but turn out to be very time-consuming in reality). Best thing to do in summertime: hiking! Numerous national parks (like Urho Kekkonen National Park or Kevo National Park in Finland, for example) offer plenty of hiking trails in untouched nature. Easy or difficult, long or short, there is something for each and every hiker. Prepare well (the risk of getting lost is real as most of the time you are pretty much “away from everything”, especially during long hikes), and pack lots of mosquito-repellent… Mosquitoes in Lapland are fierce and numerous. Consider yourself warned! Most of tourists are also willing to see the famous North Cape. Being at Europe’s “northernmost point” (the actual one is over a kilometer further north, but looks way less appealing and isn’t attainable by car) surely is a thrill, however the road until North Cape is long (and crowded in the middle of summer) and you will pay a hefty entrance fee to the site to basically see nothing more than a cliff and a souvenir shop.
Fall in Lapland
Last but not least, fall in Lapland is short but magnificent. A burst of gold and red illuminates the nature. Most beautiful colours are usually met in the first 2 weeks of September, however exact timing is difficult as it depends on weather conditions. Temperatures can be as high as +20C or as low as 0 and first snow usually falls during this same period…