Many people spend their summers in Lapland enjoying fresh air and expansive nature under the midnight sun. While those are fantastic reasons to visit Lapland, the Finnish summer holds more delights, from delicious food and unique accommodations to mythical creatures and magical light. You might come for the things to do, but you’ll never forget your uniquely Finnish Lapland experience. Read on to discover the 15 reasons to visit Lapland in the summer.
45 Days of Sunshine
The Arctic Circle, by definition, is the latitude where the sun doesn’t rise on the Winter Solstice or set on the Summer Solstice. These phenomena, known as the polar night and the midnight sun, create magnificent visual displays as the sun interacts with the horizon. During the polar night, short wavelength blue light bends over the horizon, illuminating the frozen landscape in a particular arctic blue color. During the midnight sun, the short wavelengths get attenuated as they pass through the atmosphere, leaving only the longer wavelengths of red and orange in the sky.
These effects are identical to the golden hour and blue hour in photography, but in the arctic, they last for days instead of fleeting moments at sunset. The farther north you go, the more days of sunshine you’ll get. In Finish Lapland, towns like Levi and Ylläs enjoy 45 days of summer sunlight centered around the solstice (June 21). The abundance of light creates endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and phenomenal lighting to capture the moment.
Forests Bigger Than the UK or Italy
Finland is the most forested country in Europe. More than 75% of the country is covered by trees, making the Finnish forests larger than the total area of either the Uk or Italy. It’s not only the sheer size of the forests that make Finland special but the reverence they hold for the people, including canonized ‘Everyman’s Rights‘ for land usage and an extensive system of backcountry huts. From Nationalpark.fi:
All people, whether residing in Finland or just visiting, have the right to enjoy nature anywhere in the Finnish countryside regardless of land ownership. The legal concept of ‘Everyman’s Right’ in Finland extends immense freedom to roam but comes with some serious responsibilities. Primary is a mutual respect for nature, people, and property. The outdoor enthusiast’s golden rule requires a desire to preserve and protect nature’s unspoiled beauty and wonder for future generations to enjoy.
The Cleanest Air on Earth
You might expect Finland to have clean air with the most forests in Europe. It turns out you’d be right. Not only is it pure, but the cool weather and low humidity make it feel incredibly refreshing after a day (or night) of hiking, biking, or paddle rafting. Plus, there’s also the ever-present aroma of summer wildflowers and pine forests. John Denver might have been thinking about Finland when he wrote – “You fill up my senses; like a night in a forest; like the mountains in springtime; like a walk in the rain.” Visit Finland documented their claim to the cleanest air in the world –
Air quality in Finland is the best in the world according to data released by the World Health Organisation, WHO. The level of airborne particles in Finland is on average 6 micrograms per cubic metre – the lowest level for any individual country. The information comes from measurements from 2,500 locations in nearly 100 different countries between 2008 and 2016.
If the air is this good all over Finland, imagine how incredible it must be in Finnish Lapland, where they have…..
More Reindeer than People
Per Visit Lapland – “Finnish Lapland has a reindeer population of about 200,000. That’s 20,000 more reindeer than people!” To be fair, there aren’t that many people in Finish Lapland, and it’s a vast area(149,943 mi²). But that’s still a lot of reindeer. Reindeer (and deer, too) are the only mammals that can digest the lichens, which, along with their thick winter coats, make them perfectly adapted for life in the Arctic.
Reindeer were tamed from European reindeer (Rangifer tarandus/R.t. tarandus) long ago and are semi-domestic animals. Every reindeer belongs to somebody, but they wander freely through the forest and are gathered in roundups by Finland’s herding cooperatives. You’ll see hundreds of free-range reindeer coming out of the woods and even walking through town on a visit to Lapland in the summer.
The Happiest People on the Planet
With the vast forest, fresh air, and plenty of sunshine, you’d think that Finnish people would be happy. It turns out they’re the happiest people on Earth, according to the World Happiness Report 2022 ranking.
Now, there are different kinds of happiness. For example, the soft-spoken Finnish happiness differs from the Ibiza rave happiness. Some people say it’s more content than joy. Others, like author Lorelou Desjardins, say it’s because of a concept called ‘friluftsliv’, which literally translates from Norwegian as ‘open-air living’. Everything is relative, but if your idea of nightlife is hiking under the midnight sun, you’ll be happy in Finnish Lapland.
Summer Operations at Lapland Ski Resorts
There are 14 ski resorts in Lapland, many of which run summer operations of some kind or another. Two stand out: Levi, the highest-rated resort in Finland, and Ylläs, the highest ski area in the country.
Levi operates two gondolas during the summer, one from the town of Levi and one from the Levi Activity Park. The town gondola services the summer slide, the Samiland Exhibition, and part of the Levi Bike Park. The Activity Park gondola services the Santa’s Cabin Disc Golf Course, the hike to Santa’s Cabin, the Peak Trail, a café, and the remainder of the Levi Bike Park. A day lift pass works at both bases of operations.
Ylläs operates one lift during the summer, which happens to be the longest gondola in Finland. It services the Ylläs Bike Park and a pizza café. There’s also an Instaworthy swing at the top of Ylläs Fell that’s a short hike away from the gondola.
Downhill Mountain Biking
Downhill mountain biking is a different beast than other types of mountain biking. You’ll expect to ride the lift to the top and rocket down the trails. The bikes are beefier, and you typically wear some protective gear and a full-face helmet. On the way down, you’ll expect to find banked turns and even some jumps on the advanced trails.
The Levi Bike Park and the Ylläs Bike Park are incredible places to experience the sport. The Levi Bike Park has 1066′ of vertical and trails ranging from beginner to expert. National-level riders ride the demanding World Cup DH Black trail under 60 seconds, but mere mortals can expect ten-minute rides cruising down the mountain and enjoying the view. The Ylläs Bike Park is Finland’s largest bike park. The longest trail extends for 2.5 miles with 1,516 ft of vertical, but, of course, there are faster and more challenging trails available too. Both parks offer high-quality bike rentals and rental of all the protective gear you’ll need.
Miles and Miles of Hiking Trails
It should be no surprise that hiking in Lapland is phenomenal, with extensive forests, clean air, and the ever-present chance to see reindeer. You might not expect all the diversity you’ll find on the trails in Lapland. You can take easy hikes like Levi Fell’s Huippupolku Peak Trail, which is a 1/3 of a mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk trail that begins and ends at a café with interpretive signs along the way. There are also ten long-distance hiking trails in Lapland listed on the Finland National Park Hiking Page, where you can hike under the midnight sun and stay in backcountry huts.
The six best national parks for hiking in Lapland are:
- Urho Kekkonen National Park – A vast park that extends from the resort of Saariselkä to the Russian border
- Lemmenjoki National Park – Finland’s largest national park
- Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park – Finland’s most popular national park
- Pyhä-Luosto National Park – Pyhätunturi National Park was Finland’s oldest national park until it joined with Luosto NP to form Pyhä-Luosto National Park
- Riisitunturi National Park – Home to the finest sloping bogs in Europe
- Syote National Park – A National Park through a chain of old-growth forests
Paddling the Lakes of Lapland
Minnesota is the land of ten thousand lakes, which was the namesake for their professional basketball team before they moved to Los Angeles. Finland has 187,888 lakes, many of which are located in the aptly named Lakeland. However, there is still plenty of paddling fun to be had in Lapland.
There are many paddling adventures in Lapland, but here’s a sample. Sisu Outdoors in Yllas runs a fun pack raft trip from Kesänkijärvi Lake to Äkäslompolo Lake on a narrow, grass-lined Kesänkijoki River. An easy SUP experience in Levi is launching off the private Kätkänranta Beach on Lake Immeljärvi. An ardent outdoor enthusiast might try the epic multi-day water routes on Lake Inarijärvi, where they paddle hut to hut. There’s something for every paddler on the lakes of Lapland.
Summer Saunas at the Lake
There’s more than one way to enjoy the lakes of Lapland, and none more authentic than to have a summer sauna at the lake. With more than 2 million saunas in a country of 5.5 million people, it’s safe to say that the Finns love their saunas. You know the saying, when in Rome… The ritual is simple, you shower and typically sit naked in a 175-degree wet sauna. When you feel it’s time, you jump into the lake. You repeat this as many times as you want.
Summer lake saunas are not only an authentic Finnish experience, but it’s an excellent opportunity to capture the magic light of the midnight sun glimmering off the water. The pictures in this section are from the Arctic Skylight Lodge in Ylläs.
Sunset Cruise on Sauna Boats
If you like the idea of saunas AT the lake, imagine what they are like ON the lake. That’s right; you can take a sauna boat cruise in Lapland at places like Kinos Safaris. Now, you might not want to go au naturale in the view of lake houses, but the wood-fired saunas on the boats are more traditionally Finnish than their electric-heated counterparts. Plus, you might get a midnight snack of crepes cooked over an open fire since they have it already fired up for the sauna.
Dining in Lapland is a culinary experience not to be missed with its iconic dishes, high-quality ingredients, and creative cooking. A few iconic dishes from Lapland include poronkaristys (sauteed reindeer), or mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie). You can find them in traditional restaurants like Restaurant Pihvipirtti and Lapland Hotels Sirkantähti in Levi, or Ravintola Rouhe in Ylläs.
Some restaurants are pushing the boundaries of gastronomy by rethinking traditional favorites with a classic Finnish and Lapland twist. Lost Tacos in Levi does this with Mexican food and street tacos, including their signature lingonberry margarita. Jolie Lounge & Café in Ylläs serves a pasta bowl with smoked reindeer and lingonberry in white wine-cream sauce that’s as delicious as it is exotic. Even Ravintola Rouhe gets in on the act with a smoked reindeer pizza.
You will not get bored eating in Lapland, whether on a quest to try every traditional meal or discover innovative twists on old favorites.
Lapland has a wide variety of hotels with two highly desirable lodging categories. There are 50-100 room boutique hotels that offer charming accommodations, Finnish breakfasts, and sometimes, saunas. Two examples are the Levi Design Hotel and Lapland Hotels Saaga. The Design Hotel is a work of art inside and out with a graying pinewood exterior and artistic touches in the interior, including prints from a premier Lapland nature photographer, Kaisa Sirén. The Saaga is a ski resort accommodation ideally located at the base of the Ylläs gondola.
Another choice is micro cottages, like the Arctic Skylight Lodge, adjacent to lakes or forests with glass walls and ceilings. In the winters, you can watch the northern lights from the comfort of your bed, while in the summer, you are immersed in nature and bathed in the midnight sun.
Winter Stars on Summer Holiday
The beauty of Lapland isn’t just nature but the people you’ll meet, both real and fictitious. Laplanders are a special breed with a unique relationship to the outdoors and seasons. They’re a warm and welcoming group with a demure demeanor who happily welcome guests to their unique corner of the world. They care for a host of animals, from reindeer to wolf dogs, that are adapted for life north of the Arctic Circle.
Lapland is also home to mystical creatures, like elves, including the official home of the most famous elf – Santa Claus. You can visit the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi or the Tonttula – Elves Village in Köngäs for an immersive experience. You’ll also see the mythology weaved throughout Lapland, like Santa Claus’ Cabin on the Levi Fell and elf statues and houses hiding where you least expect them.
Lapland is known for its summertime’ white nights,’ and Midsummer is the whitest of them all. It is Finland’s main national holiday and the official start of warm weather. Historically, Midsummer was a popular time for weddings, casting fertility spells, and lighting bonfires to ward off evil spirits and ensure a good harvest. Kind of like the rites of spring, wedding season, and a harvest festival rolled into one. After all, you must make the most of summer in the Arctic since it’s the most fleeting of seasons.
Midnight Sun mythology is a huge part of Finnish folklore, like placing seven types of flowers under your pillow at Midsummer to ensure you’ll dream about your future spouse. It’s also a time for festivals, bonfires, saunas, and jumping in the lake under the midnight sun. While Helsinki might be more deserted than Echo Park during Coachella, Lapland will be rocking.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Lapland in the Summer
There’s no ‘one reason’ to visit Lapland during the summer, but rather, a collection of people, places, and nature adapted to this unique landscape. There’s an indelible spirit that celebrates the endless summer nights with a passion. You’ll see time defined in fleeting moments stretched beyond the horizon and infinite nature displayed in a dazzling luminescence, creating memories that can last a lifetime.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Levi Finland and Levi Ski Resort and Ylläs for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out Levi’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts; Levi Ski Resort’s Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts; and Ylläs’ Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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