After two visits and spending several weeks in Finland in winter, Laurence and I decided to write a guide to things to do in Finland during winter. Most people tend to avoid Northern Europe during the winter and head to sunnier and warmer destinations, but there are so many reasons to travel to Finland in winter.
Yes, it is cold and there’s snow and the daylight hours get shorter, but there are also fewer tourists, surreal winter landscapes, and unique winter activities to be discovered throughout the country. You can go ice fishing, try dog sledding, take a traditional Finnish sauna, sleep in an ice hotel, or go hunting for those mesmerizing Northern Lights.
We’ll share our tips for visiting Finland in winter as well as share our top winter activities in Finland to help you put together your own trip to this magical winter wonderland.
Tips for Planning your Trip to Finland in Winter
If you have never lived or traveled to a place with winter snow and below freezing temperatures or driven on snowy roads, Finland can be a bit of a shock and some visitors come unprepared.
Finland was the first place that Laurence truly experienced freezing temperatures, winter driving, and lots of snow. It was a bit of a shock to him, but luckily we both did a bit of research and came prepared (well mostly anyway).
We’ll share our tips on planning, packing, driving, and even protecting your camera in preparation for your trip to Finland in winter.
When is the Best Time to Visit Finland in Winter?
If you have a choice of when to visit, the best time will depend on the sort of activities you are most interested in doing and which regions you want to visit. So if you want to ski or go dog sledding for instance, you’ll need to visit at times when you are pretty guaranteed to find snow, such as in January and February in northern Finland.
A visit around Christmas can be magical if you want to visit Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, do holiday shopping, or enjoy the holiday spirit in the capital city of Helsinki. However, the holiday season can also be the most expensive time to visit Finland since it is the most popular.
Skiing or Snowboarding
Finland enjoys a long snow season with snow beginning around November and lasting until May in northern Finland, making it a perfect place for downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. The main ski season is between December and March.
It is not as well known as other countries for skiing and doesn’t have any giant mountains, but there are plenty of opportunities in Lapland and it is not nearly as busy as ski resorts in countries better known for skiing. The main ski season is between December and March.
Riding on a snowmobile is a great way to experience the outdoors in Finland and they can be ridden by one or two people at a time. This was by far one of Laurence’s favorite activities in Finland as it was not only a fast and efficient way to get from one place to another, but it also allows you to go fast and take in gorgeous scenery along the way.
Ever dreamed of dog sledding after watching the Iditarod or the movie Balto? Finland is a perfect place to make that dream a reality.
Dog sledding does require a minimum amount of effort, but mostly we found that the dogs seemed to know what they were doing in terms of direction and so on. The main thing to do is to hold on and learn how to operate the brake to stop the sled, because the huskies like to run and they often won’t stop unless you make them!
We did a shorter husky sledding experience at Hotel Iso-Syöte. Laurence has also done a 2 day husky safari in Rovaniemi with Bear Hill Husky Safaris, which was a very hands-on experience that included an overnight cabin stay and feeding and cleaning up after the dogs.