Finland is the perfect spot for a snowy spring break escape. While most trips begin and end in Helsinki, Lapland is worth a visit. It’s vast, and it’s wild. Here are ten facts to know about the iconic region.
10. It’s huge.
Lapland is to Finland what the Great White North is to Canada: an enormous, wintry, sparsely populated Arctic region. It makes up one-third of the country, but only 3.6% of the population calls it home.
9. You might catch crabs.
A highlight of any Lapland expedition is a king crab safari. Board a boat, explore a ‘fabulous’ fjord and look out for birds, seals and whales. Then trap some tasty crustaceans for lunch. Food doesn’t get any more local — or fresh — than this!
8. The cheese is squeaky.
Lapland’s iconic coagulated milk is called Leipäjuusto, but is simply known as Finnish Squeaky Cheese in North America. It can be likened to halloumi from Cyprus. The name comes from the squeaking noises it makes against your teeth as you chew. Finnish people often enjoy it with coffee.
7. The name is rather racist.
‘Lapp’ is the Scandinavian name used to describe the Sami people that have lived here for several thousand years. However, this term is also considered offensive and derogatory. Some trace it back to an old German word for ‘simpleton’. Others think it’s an old Nordic word for ‘patch’, as in patchwork clothing, which they often wore. Today, if you wish to honour the Sami people, they refer to their region as Sápmi.
6. It’s full of saunas.
To be fair, saunas aren’t just popular in Lapland. More than in any other country on Earth, the sauna is an intrinsic part of life in Finland. There are an estimated two million saunas in the country or one for every 2.65 people. From urban apartments to country houses, people love these hot wooden rooms. While we won’t visit it on our trip, there is even a sauna gondola – the only one in the world – at the Yllas ski resort.
5. It’s the place to indulge your Santaphilia.
Anybody with a Santa fetish (yes, that’s a thing) will enjoy our stop in Rovaniemi. It’s the official hometown of Santa Claus, and even home to Santa Claus village. Famous Finnish architect Alvar Aalto played a major role in helping to develop this town, and even designed it to look like a reindeer head. The sports stadium is the reindeer’s ‘eye’, while arterial roads form the antlers.
4. It’s not *that* cold.
Despite literally being home to Santa Claus, and its renown for wintry vibes, Lapland isn’t very chilly. In March for example, the average temperature is a balmy 21°F/-6°C. You won’t be breaking out the flip-flops, but you might consider sunglasses and sunscreen for all that sun reflecting off the snow (fun fact: the sun’s reflection is called albedo, alas snow is said to have a high albedo).
3. There are more reindeer than people.
Lapland has slightly more reindeer than people, although none of them roam wild. All belong to herds kept by the aforementioned Sami people. If you have kids that still believe in Santa Claus, just don’t tell them that reindeer burgers are delicious.
2. You might see the Northern Lights.
Winter nights this far north can be filled with Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. Since they come alive when you’d usually be sleeping, and are not to be missed, you should spend a night in glass-roofed cabins that double as observatories. Lie back and let the light show inspire some colourful dreams.
1. It’s sportier than Sporty Spice.
It can feel like winter last for three seasons in Lapland, but that’s what makes it such a great place to indulge your passion for wintersports. You must enjoy a Husky dogsled ride, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, an ice swim, and a couple of saunas to warm our frigid bones after all that gallivanting.
Photo credits: Cover image by João Monteiro on Unsplash. Lapland map, sauna, and cheese images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. Crab, cabin with Northern Lights, Santa, sunset, reindeer, cheese, husky safari, and images courtesy of Time Travel. Rovaniemi map c/o visitrovaniemi.fi.
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