Far north in the Arctic Circle lies the town of Inari. It’s one of the best places in Finland to spot the Northern Lights – best seen from a husky ride – as well as visit a reindeer farm, go ice fishing and try snowshoeing.
The small town of Inari is the spiritual home of the Sámi reindeer herders of northern Lapland. Its remote location on the banks of Lapland’s largest lake, Inarijärvi, is the perfect place to discover the ancient culture of the only indigenous people in Europe. It’s still Finland, but being 1,287km (800mi) north of the heady delights of Helsinki, the attractions of Inari are far more low key and embedded within nature.
If there’s one place you want to be in Inari in winter, it’s a glass-roofed igloo during the Northern Lights season. There’s no better observation point from which to encounter the swirling, magical lights, than from inside one of these cosy private pods. Situated almost 322km (200mi) inside the Arctic Circle, you’ve got a pretty good chance of seeing one of nature’s most spectacular displays.
As the ancestral home of the Sámi people, a trip to Inari wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Siida, the state-of-the-art museum of the Sámi. The museum offers a captivating insight into the culture, folklore and history of this ancient community. It comprises both permanent and temporary exhibitions, a splendid craft shop and a good café in which to stop for lunch.
There are few things more exhilarating than flying along on a sled pulled by huskies. Make sure you’ve got hold of the reins tightly, because when they go, they really go! There’s not a lot of time to sit back and enjoy the scenery, as you’ll probably be holding on for dear life for most of the ride. But as far as modes of transport go, this has got to be one of our top three.
Although reindeer herding is no longer the primary income for the Sámi people, these graceful creatures are still in plentiful supply. Visiting a reindeer farm will bring you closer to the ancient culture and traditions of the region, as well as allow you to learn more about the year-long work reindeers require – from calving and ear marking, to summertime grazing and autumnal rounding up.
The Sámi Cultural Centre Sajos was created to preserve and develop the language, culture and business activities of the Sámi in Finland. The impressive wood-and-glass structure also houses the Sámi Parliament, as well as a library, music archive, a restaurant and superb craft shop. You can take a guided tour of the building and even sit in on one of Parliament’s plenum sessions.
Drilling a hole in thick ice isn’t the easiest task for a beginner. Follow that by trying to catch a fish on the end of a long line, and you’ll start to wonder how anyone could survive in the remote reaches of Inari. But once you catch a fish, you’ll be hooked! Ice-fishing isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s as authentic as it gets.
The beauty of Lapland lies in the deep tranquillity of its snow-bound forests and lakes. To really appreciate the serenity of the wilderness, strap on your snowshoes and traverse across terrain that’s inaccessible by foot or ski. Joining a guided excursion will take you out to some of the most pristine locations in the Inari region, including the stunning Urho Kekkoken National Park.
Cross-country skiing is not the easiest of sports to enjoy. It’s really hard work, you fall down a lot and there aren’t even the thrills of downhill skiing to compensate. But, there’s something incredibly peaceful about gliding through the snow-laden landscapes of Inari. Happily, there are no queues, no ski-pass is required and there’s none of the “ski-set attitude”, but you still get to drink mulled wine, or glögi, afterwards.
Speeding across Lake Inari on a snowmobile is the very definition of fun. Your snowmobile safari guide will teach you the basics of driving this essential bit of Arctic kit, before letting you loose on the vast frozen lake. In bad weather, you may prefer the shelter of the forest, but either way, you’ll have a blast.
These recommendations were updated on August 31, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh. This article is an updated version of a story created by Celia Topping