Starting the first of a three-part winter destination series, Cat Ekkelboom-White, a destination wedding photographer and blogger explores Levi in Finnish Lapland and provides reasons why Lapland should be on every travel wish list.

It is a running joke between my friends and family that my husband and I like to pick rather unusual destinations for our holidays. And despite living in the centre of the Austrian Alps, last winter we decided that we needed more snow and more cold in our lives and so, we decided to book ourselves a trip up to Levi in Finnish Lapland.

 

Above the Arctic Circle

Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

The area known as Lapland in English is most commonly associated with areas of northern Finland and Sweden, but it’s actually a much larger region than that, one which also spans across northern Norway and Russia.

Lapland’s indigenous Sami people are best known for their semi-nomadic lifestyles, herding reindeer across what looks like an unforgiving landscape during winter. Lying above the arctic circle, Lapland experiences polar night in the winter and midnight sun in the summer.

 

What about the cold?

Reindeer | Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

Now, I know that most people like to head to warmer climates in the wintertime and that the idea of arctic temperatures isn’t many people’s idea of a holiday. I would go as far as saying that the cold doesn’t bother me, but perhaps that’s because I’ve adjusted to it a bit more since I moved to Austria 10 years ago.

However, I’ll be completely honest, nothing could prepare me for the cold I experienced in Lapland.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, my fingers, my toes and my nose all started tingling, and I realised that the cold of the Alps had nothing on Lapland. But I also didn’t care, because I’d fallen completely under its spell. And if you’re ready to give it a chance, I think you might too.

 

Lapland, a frozen wonderland

For me, travel is all about new experiences. Everything about Lapland was an experience that I’ll never forget.

Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

There’s something just magical about this white world in the north. Snow crystals cover trees turning them into intricate works of art and the cold, damp air glitters as it’s frozen particles dance around before your eyes.

We visited in February when the days were starting to get longer. With sunrise around 10am and sunset around 4pm, it felt like the sun had set before it had ever really arisen, lighting up the landscape in a warm, golden glow.

 

Bucket list experiences

Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

From ice fishing to snowmobiling to visiting the home of Santa Claus, Lapland has so many unique experiences to offer.

If seeing the northern lights is on your bucket list, then Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see them. During our 7-night stay, we saw them twice, but we know from other travellers that they were visible on other nights too.

There are plenty of tours that will take you out into the night to search for them, either by husky, snowmobile or for those not wanting to spend too much time in the cold, inside a large snowcat.

Northern Lights | Finland | Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

If you’re looking to really treat yourselves, resorts such as Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort have glass igloos where you can sleep under the arctic sky looking up at the aurora borealis.

 

Husky Sledding

Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

Something that had been on my bucket list for many years was husky sledding. With so many years of building up the experience in my mind, part of me was slightly worried it might not live up to expectations. But I was so wrong. It was everything I ever hoped it would be, and so much more.

We arrived at the husky farm just outside the resort of Levi where we were staying. After putting on thermal suits on top of our winter clothing, we were given a very brief introduction on how to drive a sled. This consisted mainly of instructions of how to stop and warnings to not fall off and never let go!

We climbed onto our sled, which was anchored down with ropes as the dogs barked and pulled, desperate to get going. As I took the driving position, the anchor was released and we were off!

As we sped away from the farm and out into the frozen world, everything fell silent around us. The dogs slowed down their pace and trotted along happily with us in tow. We crossed frozen lakes and watched the golden sunlight light beam through the frozen trees. My loud and noisy mind that is usually so full of thoughts felt at peace.

Levi, Finland from Menno Ekkelboom on Vimeo.

 

How to get there

Finnair | Kittilä Airport | Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

Despite feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere (even though you sort of are), getting to Lapland is pretty easy. Lapland has a few airports, and in the winter there are weekly direct flights from major airports in the UK. But even if you can’t find a direct flight, with a short stopover in Helsinki you can fly onwards to Lapland without too much waiting around.

 

Where to stay

Airbnb in Finnish Lapland | Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

Scandinavia is known for being on the more expensive end when it comes to travel in Europe, and Lapland is no exception. But there is accommodation to suit most budgets, from luxury 5* resorts to self-catering cabins on Airbnb.

On our visit to Levi, we chose to stay in a self-catering apartment with its own private sauna near the centre of the town, which cost us around €450 for 7 nights.

 

What about the food?

Being a coeliac vegetarian, travelling to a new destination can make me quite nervous, which is why we often book accommodation that allows us to cook for ourselves. The supermarkets in Levi had a great selection of gluten-free options, which put my mind at ease for the week.

Cafe Soma | Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

However, we also ventured out into the town to eat out a few times. Most restaurants were aware and prepared to deal with allergies and almost all of the ones that we visited were able to offer me something vegetarian and gluten-free.

Our best find however, was definitely Café SomaWith its deliciously indulgent hot chocolate and selection of gluten-free cakes, it was perfect for warming up in the afternoon after a morning out in the cold.

 

What to pack

Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

Whilst nothing can really prepare you for the cold in Lapland, smart packing can definitely make you much more comfortable when you’re ready to venture outside.

Start with some good thermal base layers, such as merino wool or fleece leggings and layer up on top. For a winter jacket, go for something that is reasonably long in the body and insulated. If like me you’re not a fan of down jackets for ethical reasons, many outdoor companies offer fabulous synthetic alternatives, such as Primaloft, which are just as effective at keeping you warm.

Winter accessories such as a hat and scarf are also must-pack items. But instead of gloves, consider a pair of mittens. The ones aimed at skiers and snowboarders are the best sort to get, as they are both insulated and waterproof. And if it’s really cold, you can usually fit a pair of thinner fleece gloves underneath them for extra warmth.

For footwear, you’re probably going to want to leave your stilettos at home and go with a pair of boots with some tread on them, as literally everything is covered in a layer of snow and can sometimes get a bit slippery

One final thing that we were so glad we packed were disposable hand warmers. We purchased ours from Amazon and easily went through a few each day during out outdoor activities.

 

A Promise to Return

As our time in Lapland drew to an end, I found myself feeling very reluctant to leave. There was something about this frozen world that I found so enchanting, something I wasn’t quite ready to leave behind. 

Why Lapland Should Be On Every Travel Bucket List

 

About Cat Ekkelboom-White

Cat Ekkelboom-White

Cat is a destination wedding photographer and blogger with a love of all things wild and adventurous. A British expat, her love of the mountains led her to the Austrian Alps where she lives with her husband. Whilst living in Austria, she started Wild Connections for couples looking for an alternative to traditional wedding photography, and in 2017 she started the adventure wedding and travel blog, We are the Wanderers.

 

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Cat is a destination wedding photographer and blogger with a love of all things wild and adventurous. A British expat, her love of the mountains led her to the Austrian Alps where she lives with her husband. Whilst living in Austria she started Wild Connections Photography for couples looking for an alternative to traditional wedding photography, and in 2017 she started the adventure wedding and travel blog We Are The Wanderers.