A bucket list destination, Finnish Lapland is truly one of the most magical places to visit. Although Northern Finland can bring below zero temperatures and very little sunlight, depending on the time of year, the snow-covered trees, festive lights, real-life reindeer, and warm fires all make for a uniquely cozy experience. Finnish Lapland is located in the northern part of the country of Finland. While it can certainly be tough to get to from the United States, Finnish Lapland is worth the trip. Not only will you get to check off a bucket list destination, but there are also a number of incredible bucket list moments you can experience while in Finnish Lapland.
The Best Way to Get to Finnish Lapland
First, let’s go over how to actually get to Finnish Lapland from the United States. You can certainly plug in your departure city and arrival city (Rovaniemi, Finland). However, you will end up spending way more money than necessary. Instead, I recommend booking a roundtrip flight to London Gatwick and then a separate flight from London Gatwick to Rovaniemi, Finland. Due to timing of London to Rovaniemi flights, you will have to spend one night in London. Flights typically take-off from London Gatwick at 6am and land in Rovaniemi at 11am. Note it’s only a 3 hour flight but there is a time zone change!
Most flights from the United States to London are overnight, which can be tough if you aren’t great at sleeping on a plane. The benefit of booking a red-eye, though, is you can land in London early the next morning and have the entire day to explore.
After spending the day in London, I suggest returning to the Gatwick Airport. I highly recommend booking a stay at one of my favorite airport hotels: Bloc Hotel. The Bloc Hotel is a clean, convenient hotel that is minimalist and high-tech. It is perfect for a one night stay at the Gatwick airport. I have stayed at the Bloc Hotel at least three times now and can’t recommend it enough. Plan to wake up early the next morning to fly from London Gatwick to Rovaniemi, Finland. Once arriving in Rovaniemi, rent a car and drive to the Wilderness Hotel & Igloos Nellim. The beautiful hotel is located in the village of Nellim along the shore of Lake Inari.
I saved a generous $300-$500 by booking my Finland trip this way! Unfortunately, I lost that money as things didn’t quite go as planned…
The Way I Made it to Finnish Lapland
Everything was going great in terms of sticking to my plan. I left Boston on time, landed in London, explored the city, and returned safely to the Bloc Hotel to finally sleep after an exhausting 36 hours of travel.
Regrettably, I woke up the next day at 6:30am, 30 minutes after my flight departed Gatwick. For the first time ever, I slept through my alarm and missed my plane. In a haze, I really thought I was just having a nightmare at first, but nope. I really did miss the only flight out of London to Rovaniemi. Since the rest of my trip was non-refundable, I absolutely had to find a way to get to northern Finland.
After desperately searching possible routes online and talking with customer service at Gatwick airport, I was able to buy a new plane ticket from London to Helsinki. Once in the capital of Finland, I had a 6 hour layover before flying from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. Despite losing both the money I saved and a full day of my trip, I was determined to make the most of my adventure to Finnish Lapland.
And I did! After a few setbacks (including a snowstorm once I landed in Rovaniemi), I finally made it to Wilderness Hotel & Igloos Nellim where I could fulfill all my Finnish Lapland bucket list dreams.
Top 5 Bucket List Moments in Finnish Lapland
The entire trip was a bucket-list experience in itself, but, in no particular order, these are five of my favorite bucket list moments in Finnish Lapland.
As a dog-lover, I can’t tell you how excited I was to go dogsledding! I was really surprised to learn that the guides let us all mush our own dog teams. Still, I trusted that the dogs knew what they were doing and off we went through beautiful snowy forests and across a large frozen lake (Lake Inari). This bucket list moment is definitely one you don’t want to miss while visiting Finnish Lapland.
I admit I was way too old when I learned that reindeer are real. Of course I knew that deer and caribou existed, but I honestly just thought reindeer were made up for Santa and Christmas. Fortunately (or unfortunately), a quick Google search reveals that I am not the only confused human.
Well, it turns out reindeer are, in fact, very real and very cute. I highly recommend visiting a reindeer farm where you can have the chance to pet the friendly animals.
See the Northern Lights
Honestly, there are no words to describe what it’s like standing in the middle of a frozen lake watching the northern lights dance across the sky in the northernmost part of Finland. It was complete blackness surrounding me with the only lights coming from the sky. Given how remote you are, and blankets of snow softening the forests, it is effortlessly quiet.
Seeing the northern lights is a bucket list moment that I hope everyone gets to experience one day. I sometimes wonder if I am just so appreciative that I can see them still, knowing I soon won’t be able to, but I really do believe that even if you have a lifetime of vision, the northern lights will be just as magical each time you see them.
Snowmobile to the Border of Russia
Did you know that Finland borders Norway, Sweden and Russia? One of the more unique experiences you can’t miss on your visit to northern Finland is the opportunity to snowmobile to the border of Russia.
Despite being from the Northeast in the United States where winters are never-ending, I had never snowmobiled on my own. I had only ever been a companion with someone else driving. Getting to drive a snowmobile was incredibly fun, especially in a place where there are very few obstacles.
The coolest part of snowmobiling is driving to the border of Russia. There is just a flimsy plastic fence dividing the countries and a Russian sign that probably says ‘Do Not Enter’. (I’m trying to learn Russian but my relationship with Duolingo is a little rocky). The snowmobiling journey also includes other highlights, such ice fishing, stopping to look at a beautiful church and eating lunch by an open fire.
Sleep in Aurora Bubble
The first four experiences are in no particular order, but I purposely saved the biggest bucket list moment for last! Sleeping in a ‘glass igloo’ really is as cool as it sounds and it is 100% one of the top bucket list moments you need to experience on your trip to Finnish Lapland. It comes at a cost, of course, but it’s worth it. I only opted to sleep in an aurora bubble for one night, but it is more than enough time to experience this bucket list moment.
Also, pro tip: consider booking a bubble with a bathroom attached. Given the negative temperatures, I cannot imagine having to leave my cozy bubble in the middle of the night to trek to the lodge for a toilet. Most hotels that offer aurora bubbles do not have a bathroom attached, but you will not have this problem at Wilderness Hotel & Igloos Nellim.
Given the unreliability of northern light appearances, you may not get to see the lights from your bubble. I didn’t see them while laying in bed, but it was still an incredible bucket list experience.
To book all five of these bucket list moments in Finnish Lapland, reserve a stay at the Wilderness Hotel & Igloos Nellim. Make sure to book at least one night in the ‘Aurora Bubble’. The hotel staff can help you arrange dogsledding, northern lights tours, snowmobiling, and more.
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Disclosure: I may receive a small commission should you decide to book directly through my accommodation links. Every dollar goes directly back to support Wanderlight Moments & Usher syndrome awareness.