A Solo Traveller's Guide to Finnish Lapland

Photo of Joel Rabinowitz
28 January 2022
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Lapland is Finland’s northernmost region, home to some of Europe’s dreamiest scenery. It’s blanketed in snow for half the year, providing ideal conditions for husky sledding, ski trekking and snowmobiling. Despite its remote location, excellent transport links make it a highly accessible destination for an exhilarating solo trip. Without further ado, here’s our solo traveller’s guide to Lapland. Enjoy.

What’s the vibe?

Think vast swathes of coniferous forests, lakes and tundra-like plains in rural Lapland – while a vibrant bar and restaurant scene thrives in the capital of Rovaniemi. Lapland is illuminated by 24-hour sunlight during summer, while the Northern Lights are visible between late August and early April.

Safety in Lapland

Travelling solo in Finland is generally very safe. It has ranked among the top 15 countries measured by the Global Peace Index every year since 2018 – an indicator that factors in domestic crime rates, political stability, social security and militarisation. The UN’s World Happiness Report has also named Finland the world’s happiest country for the last four years.

The most important things to consider in Lapland are packing suitable clothing to stay warm in bitterly cold temperatures and taking extra care when driving on icy roads if you hire your own vehicle – especially during the dark winter months. Although you’re highly unlikely to encounter any problems, it’s worth sticking to well-lit areas when walking outside in Rovaniemi late at night.

Where to stay in Lapland

Fell Centre Kiilopää, Hotel Niilanpää, Saariselkä

A double room at Fell Centre Kiilopää, Hotel Niilanpää features cosy furnishings and a modern wall headboard
Courtesy of Fell Centre Kiilopää, Hotel Niilanpää / Expedia
If you’re looking to visit Finnish Lapland on a budget, this cosy wilderness retreat is a fabulous option – 15 minutes’ drive from Saariselkä, Europe’s northernmost ski resort. Dormitory beds, hotel rooms, fully furnished apartments and private log cabins are all available here. There are also two restaurants, steam and electric saunas and a library lounge area with an open fire.

Hotel Vartiosaari, Rovaniemi

Serviced Apartment, Cottages
Enjoy hearty Finnish cuisine by an open fire in a traditional Lapp hut at this tranquil private island retreat, accessible via a wooden suspension bridge over the Kemijoki River. All rooms feature Scandi-chic decor, underfloor heating, complimentary toiletries and idyllic river and forest views. At the sauna, treat yourself to a soothing wild herb therapy session.

You’ll spend three nights at Hotel Vartiosaari on Culture Trip’s specially curated five-day Finnish Lapland trip.

Apukka Resort, Rovaniemi

A chalet at the Apukka Resort is covered in snow at sunrise
Courtesy of Apukka Resort / Expedia
Fancy watching the Northern Lights from the comfort of a luxury glass igloo? Do so at Apukka, a 15 minutes’ drive from Rovaniemi. Self-catered Lappish suites and cabins made entirely from ice are also available. The restaurant specialises in modern Nordic cuisine using seasonal ingredients from the region – while husky sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing can be arranged on-site.

Where to eat and drink in Lapland

Ravintola Roka, Rovaniemi

Bistro, Finnish, $$$
This laid-back, industrial-style bistro serves up an eclectic combination of reasonably priced street food plates and traditional Finnish dishes with an international twist. Highlights include the grilled halloumi sandwich, vegetable rosti and salmon soup with rye bread – if you can’t decide between them, opt for the “Flavours from the North” tasting platter, which features reindeer sausages with dijon-lingonberry mayo.

Nili Restaurant, Rovaniemi

Restaurant, Finnish, $$$
People near traditional restaurant in Rovaniemi, Finland
© Roman Babakin / Alamy Stock Photo
For an authentic taste of Lappish cuisine, consider booking a table at this family-run restaurant in central Rovaniemi. The rustic timber interior and atmospheric lighting give it a warm, homely feel – while the menu features a variety of locally sourced fish, game and vegetarian dishes accompanied by foraged herbs. It’s best to book if you’re going on a weekend.

Cafe & Bar 21, Rovaniemi

Bar, Cafe, Finnish, $$$
In the daytime, Cafe & Bar 21 is the go-to place for sweet and savoury waffles, artisan ice cream and milkshakes, freshly baked cakes and pastries and generously-sized salad bowls. Come nightfall, it morphs into a trendy cocktail and wine bar serving all the classics – plus a range of experimental specials including dangerously moreish cloudberry syrup mojitos.

What to do in Lapland

Go snowmobiling or husky sledging through the wilderness

Snowmobiling across frozen lakes, icy fells and through taiga forests is the most thrilling way to experience Finnish Lapland’s pristine wilderness. It allows you to discover remote areas that would be impossible to access by other modes of transport. For a slower-paced, more traditional alternative, let a pack of Siberian huskies lead the way on a sled ride.

Try your hand at ice fishing

Ice fishing has long been an essential part of Finnish culture – particularly in Lapland where lakes are typically frozen from late November until May. Drilling a hole and patiently waiting for a catch is not only a popular competitive sport and social pastime – but it’s also a form of meditation. Join a local and allow them to show you the ropes.

Hunt for the Northern Lights

If seeing the Northern Lights are on your bucket list, Finnish Lapland is one of your best bets. In these northerly latitudes, the phenomenon is visible on roughly 200 nights per year, painting the sky with luminous green swirls. A specialist aurora tour to an area with minimal light pollution will maximise your chances of success.

Getting around Lapland

For maximum freedom and flexibility in Finnish Lapland, you’re best off hiring a car while you’re here. The road networks are extensive and well-tarmacked – although you’ll need to be wary of icy conditions between late autumn and spring. Public buses are cheap and reliable in Rovaniemi, while OnniBus and Matkhahuolto operate regular bus services between the main towns and villages. Rovaniemi, Kemijärvi, Kemi and Kolari are accessible by train, too.

Enrich your solo travel experience by sharing it with a small group of culturally curious travellers on Culture Trip’s five-day Finnish Lapland adventure. Accompanied by our Local Insider, you’ll gain an authentic insight into the region’s culture, cuisine and nature.

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