Tag Archives: reindeer

Spring is the best time to enjoy snowy activities in the wild north of Scandinavia, Lapland

2017-04-06

The dark winter in the northern hemisphere has been left behind, and the sun shines brightly on snowy slopes of fells in Lapland, in the northernmost region of Europe. Even though the nights are cold, the days tend to be warm (if it is sunny – and it often is) making spring the ideal season to enjoy outdoors activities in the snow.

Aavasaksa, Lapland, Finland.

Aavasaksa, Lapland, Finland.


Skiing is perhaps the most popular way to experience the magic of the north. If you mention skiing to the local Finns, Norwegians, Swedes or Sami in Lapland, they may assume you are referring to cross-country skiing. It is a good idea to specify what kind of skiing you mean: downhill or cross-country. Cross-country skiing tracks can be found practically in every village, town and tourist center. Downhill skiing slopes with lifts are available in large resorts, such as Ylläs, Ruka, Levi (in Finland) and Riksgränsen, Björkliden (in Sweden).

Snowmobile safaris have become very popular recently. You can ride a snowmobile yourself (highly recommended – it is a lot of fun) or take a backseat on someone else’s snowmobile. Resorts rent snowmobiles and organize guided tours to the wilderness. Most places have designated tracks for snowmobiles, which means you have to stay on those tracks. The tracks also help you from getting lost in the vast region where people and towns are few (and mobile phone signal disappears after a minute or two).

Husky dog sledge tour in Lapland

Photo: Visit Rovaniemi/Tourism & Marketing Ltd.


There are, however, plenty of reindeer roaming in the wilderness. The animals must dig deep into the snow to reach plants to eat. The owners of the reindeer usually bring supplemental food to the animals on their snowmobiles.

Snowmobile rides are fun, but the engines make some noise. Dogs can take you to a completely silent ride in the snow. Huskies are more than happy to pull a sledge, and once they settle to their travel speed, it is amazing how silently they go. You can sit back, admire the scenery and appreciate the work dogs are doing.

When the sun sets, a magical show starts in Lapland. Spring is also a wonderful time to see the Northern Lights, because the nights are dark, but it is not cold as in winter.
The Northern Lights in Rovaniemi (Photo Copyright Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd).Photo: Visit Rovaniemi/Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.
The high season for spring travel in Lapland is March and April. Easter tends to be the busiest time at resorts and airports.

What you should know about traveling in Lapland

In the spring, be careful with the sun that also reflects from the snow: wear sunglasses and if you are exposed to the sun more than an hour or so, apply sunblock to your face.

I have written a guidebook (Lapland – North of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia) that helps in all aspects of planning and exploring this exotic wilderness region both in summer and in winter.

Here are some bookstores where the Lapland travel guidebook is available:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Apple iBooks
Barnes & Noble Nook Books
Google Play Books

Lapland travel guidebook, book cover image

Ten things every traveler should know about Finland

2015-11-24

People who live in the far north, for instance, in Scandinavia have to cope with different environment than, say, people in Italy or US. This inevitably leaves its mark on local cultures and customs of each region. If you are planning a journey to Finland, here are ten tips that help you explore the country and communicate with locals. Otherwise, you may wonder for the whole duration of your trip why didn’t anyone speak to you or why did locals eat reindeer.
reindeers in Lapland

1. Reindeer is not the national dish of Finland.
In Lapland (the northernmost region of Finland, Norway and Sweden), however, reindeer is daily food. A few restaurants in the capital Helsinki have reindeer on their menus, and meat is available in large grocery stores. If you want to taste reindeer, here is a tip: try the smoked reindeer first. It is a delicacy that practically every meat eater loves. After that, if you are adventurous, try the traditional fried reindeer with mashed potatoes. More tips for touring and eating in Helsinki in this book.

2. Helsinki is the most popular tourist destination, but there are other places worth a visit.
Finland´s capital Helsinki draws the country’s biggest tourist crowds, especially, in summer. Visitors who are looking for natural landscapes, peace and quiet or adventures head to Turku archipelago, Lapland or lake district in eastern Finland.

3. Mobile networks in Finland have a wide coverage, and they are among the fastest and most economical available.
Roaming costs both for voice calls and Internet data are easy to avoid by getting a prepaid SIM card from a R-Kioski shop (it is like a 7-Eleven) and inserting the local card to a smartphone. If you want to find a free Wifi access point, look for a hamburger restaurant, like Hesburger or McDonalds, a shopping mall, or an access point in the center of Helsinki provided by the city.

uspensk cathedral in helsinki
4. Russian influence is evident in Helsinki, but don’t tell it to the locals.
Until 1917, Finland was Russia’s territory. Hundred years earlier, when Russia had won Finland from Sweden, the capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki. The new capital needed administrative buildings, university and proper infrastructure. That’s how Helsinki’s uniform city center around the Senate Square was established. Today, excellent Russian restaurants can be found in Helsinki, and plenty of business is conducted with Russians. A visitor should never question if Finns are eastern or western Europeans: Finland wants to belong to the west.
Read more about Finland’s history between the east and the west.

5. Midsummer turns Finland’s cities into ghost towns.
Midsummer is no ordinary fiesta in Finland. The sun doesn’t set at all in the north, and in southern parts of the country there is enough light to party through the night without artificial lights. The thing is that locals escape to the countryside and into deep forests to celebrate the Midsummer. Shops and restaurants are closed, leaving only innocent tourists roaming on empty city streets. If you happen to be in Helsinki during Midsummer, take a boat ride to Suomenlinna fortress or ferry to Tallinn in Estonia. Other places to visit are medieval town of Turku where an old castle stands by the sea, or the medieval castle in Hämeenlinna by a lake.

6. Leave your cheque book home.
The preferred way to pay in Finland is a debit or credit card that has microchip for added security (chip card). The only alternative is cash (Euros). The overall price level in Finland is higher than in Continental Europe, but somewhat lower than in neighboring countries Sweden or Norway. The price of Big Mac meal was 6.50 Euros in 2015.

7. You will not a see single reindeer or elk.
Reindeers live only in Lapland where it is easy to find them and photograph animals even in selfies. The only town where reindeers occasionally visit is Rovaniemi because they organize reindeer races. A large elk population roam in forests across the country, but you would have to be extremely lucky to see one.

8. Finland is a bilingual country.
Both Finnish and Swedish are official languages in Finland. This is the reason why street signs in Helsinki and in other coastal towns are in Finnish and in Swedish. Children learn both languages at school, but still, English is the foreign language that Finns know the best.

9. Finns follow the rules.
If you see a pedestrian waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to change to green, even though there are no cars in sight, you are looking at a local person. More than 600 000 people live in Helsinki . and more than a million in the metropolitan area, but the city is a safe place. In summertime, public drinking in parks and streets may surprise visitors, as well as Finns’ fairly natural way of dressing, but you should excuse them because of the short summer that they enjoy from the bottom of their hearts.

10. The top sights in Helsinki are not the Sibelius statue or Olympic stadium.
Don’t waste your time, but head to Suomenlinna (a beautiful island fortress outside the city), Temppeliauko Church, also known as the Rock Church, or Ateljee Café at the top of hotel Torni. If you have time, take a hike in Nuuksio wilderness (only 30 minutes from the city) or get an invitation (or rent yourself) a cottage by a lake and enjoy the summer the Finnish way. More tips in the book The Lighter Side of Finland.

Suomenlinna, Helsinki

Suomenlinna, Helsinki.

The Lighter Side of Traveling in the Far North: A Day at the Reindeer Races

2015-03-26

Lapland is a land of surprises. We all know that Santa Claus has his home in Lapland – in Rovaniemi, Finland to be exact – but it may be surprising to you what reindeers are doing when they are not in duty. Some of the reindeers, it seems, like to race.

Reindeers raced for about 210 meters/230 yards slightly uphill. Two animals raced against each other and the winner proceeded to the next round. Video recorded in Koskikatu in the center of Rovaniemi. It is a pedestrian street, and a primary shopping area of the city.

The race speed is so high that the riders are wearing helmets.

For more fun events, habits and places in northern Europe, check out the book The Lighter Side of Finland by journalist Russell Snyder. He has observed life and people of Scandinavia for years and has discovered the funny side of the northern culture and people.