A few years ago we visited Finnish Lapland for the first time and from the time we set foot in the icy woodlands at the Arctic Circle, we were smitten. This winter we decided to re-visit Lapland, with a rental car in tow. Over the past few years, areas such as Levi and Ivalo have become increasingly popular, which has led to increased prices and reduced availability. On this winter road trip in Finland, we tried to go offbeat and ended up discovering some real gems along the way.
Renting a car in Finnish Lapland
Lapland is easy to explore using public transport and on our first visit we did exactly that. However we would highly recommend renting a car if you are comfortable driving in Europe. This will give you the flexibility of exploring little-known areas and offbeat nooks and crannies of Finnish Lapland. It is easy to rent a car at the airport or the city centre in Rovaniemi. Make sure you look up price comparison websites to find the most affordable deals on car rentals in the area. We use EconomyBookings. Rental cars come equipped with snow tyres and heated seats, but we would still recommend checking before booking your car.
Budgeting for your roadtrip in Finnish Lapland
Lapland is a relatively expensive destination and it’s almost impossible to do it on a budget. You can easily cut costs by choosing AirBnB accommodation over hotels and shopping in supermarkets instead of dining out at every meal. However do beware that due to the it being in Scandinavia, Lapland’s remote location, and extreme weather conditions, other things like day trips, car rentals etc tend to be on the expensive side. As a rule of thumb, you should put aside €150-€300 per person per day of stay while budgeting for your roadtrip in Lapland – this includes the cost of car rentals, hotels, safaris, and dining.
10 things to do on your road trip in Lapland, Finland
1)Start in Roveniemi
Rovaniemi is the most central and accessible part of Finnish Lapland. It is a short flight away from Helsinki.
In fact, if you have just 4 days in Finnish Lapland, we would suggest booking a hotel in Rovaniemi only. From here you can go for reindeer & husky-dog safaris, visit Santa Claus village (famous for being Santa’s hometown on the Arctic Circle), book a Northern Lights tour, and even visit a hotel carved entirely out of ice (more later).
However if you are in Lapland for more than a week, we would suggest spending 2 days in Rovaniemi. Arctic Light Hotel is a luxurious and distinctively Scandinavian hotel with a gorgeous breakfast buffet. It is located in the centre of Rovaniemi with easy access to public transport, restaurants, and the car rental office in case you decide to rent from the city centre. Alternatively you could rent an AirBnB apartment in the countryside around Rovaniemi. There are some incredibly scenic and cheap apartments in the area.
2) Book yourself a photography session
This is a truly unique addition to your road trip in Finnish Lapland. You will be going on plenty of adventures on this road trip but first how about capturing some memories for a lifetime. Beyond Arctic offer short 2-4 hour photoshoots for couples and families. Their talented photographers will take you to some of the most scenic locations around Rovaniemi and shoot several photographs for you. You can use them to make your friends jealous on social media or simply for photo frames back home.
3) Stay in an igloo hotel
A few years ago igloo hotels were somewhat of a novelty in Finnish Lapland. In fact I wrote an entire article about our surreal stay at Kakslautten Arctic Resort, the hotel that started the craze! However over the past few years Kakslautten has become too expensive for what it is and is mostly sold out. But don’t worry. There are dozens of other igloo hotels that have come up in the area. However don’t be fooled by the name ‘igloo’ in the title as some of these hotels don’t have great views or good facilities.
We tried a few igloo hotels on our recent road trip in Lapland, and did not like most of them. However we found one gem – Arctic Fox Igloos – located in the wilderness near Ranua. Each igloo is heated and comes with its own little kitchenette. Igloos offer gorgeous views, and if you’re lucky enough, you can even see the Northern Lights while lying down in your bed. The breakfast buffet at Arctic Fox Igloos is pretty decent but we’d suggest picking up a few groceries on the way so you can whip up lunch and dinner for yourself in your kitchenette as there aren’t any supermarkets or restaurants around here.
Here’s a short video from our time at Arctic Fox Igloos:
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That igloo life 💙💙 The feeling of sleeping to the Northern Lights and thousands of stars over your head, from the comfort of a heated igloo, is second to NONE 🌟🌟 Would highly recommend doing this for a couple of nights when you’re in Lapland 😊 ✨ ✨ Till then, join us as we sip on our morning coffee in paradise 😊 That’s a frozen lake you see and it’s -20°C out but we’re super warm in our little igloo home – mmm ☕️💙💙 ✨ ✨ #bruisedpassports #visitfinland #ranua #igloo #hotel
4) Visit Pyha Luosto National Park
Now comes the fun part. Renting a car in Lapland is the perfect excuse to go off-the-beaten path. Not many tourists visit Pyha (pronounced Poo-ha) but we definitely suggest spending a day or two in the area. Book yourself a couple of nights at Hotel Pyhatunturi. Spend a day driving through the stunning Phyha Luosto National Park and taking a ski lesson. Spend the next day going on a little Arctic hike or horse ride with a local company called Kairankutsu (translating to “Call of Wilderness”). We really enjoyed our time with them because their guides are so passionate about the Pyha area and know it just so well.
Another activity we’d highly recommend here is Ice Climbing. We booked our Ice Climbing Tour with Bliss Adventures and had a great afternoon trying to scale a wee mountain of ice ideal for beginners. This was followed by warm drinks and a snack 🙂
5) Visit Yllas
Another area you should consider visiting is Yllas. Much like Pyha, it is a ski resort that boasts of stunning views, but is located further North in Lapland giving you better chances of spotting the Northern Lights. Spend a couple of nights at Lapland Hotel Saaga and enjoy their extensive breakfast buffet. Book yourself a Snowmobile Safari – it will take you through Finnish woodlands on snowmobiles.
This is also a great area to hunt for the Northern Lights. You could book a night snowmobile tour but you don’t have to book a tour to spot the Northern Lights. You could just drive away from the city lights if the aurora forecast is good and you’ll see the Northern Lights literally everywhere in the wilderness.
6) Sleep or dine in an Ice Hotel
Sleeping on a bed of ice is literally as unique an experience as it gets. Don’t worry, you won’t feel cold as ice beds have mattresses or thick rugs and guests are given Arctic sleeping bags each night. Still we would recommend it just for a night! If the idea of sleeping in a room carved entirely out of ice doesn’t appeal to you, you could also drop by the Ice Hotel for a meal.
Two of our favourite ice hotels are located in Rovaniemi and Yllas. You could pick any one of them. Arctic Snowhotel in Rovaniemi is accessible and offers a whole host of activities for families, especially those travelling with kids. Here beds, tables, chairs, and even glasses are made out of ice.
Lapland Hotels Snowvillage in Yllas is another option. This is a unique Ice Hotel because it has a theme each year. When we visited, the hotel was made keeping in mind a Game of Thrones theme. However this changes every year. Take a look at our time at the Snowvillage Yllas:
7) Go for a Northern Lights Safari
No road trip in Lapland would be complete without a Northern Lights safari. Safari providers such as Lapland Safaris offer a variety of Northern Lights tours in most towns. You could choose a tour where tourists go hunting for Northern Lights on snowmobiles, in a car, or even on horseback. We would suggest picking any one tour on your road trip in Finnish Lapland. Don’t waste too much money on Northern Lights safaris as you can always drive your car to a quiet area, away from the light and spot them yourself too. We have an entire article with tips for hunting for the Northern Lights here.
8) Visit a reindeer farm
Rumour has it that there are more reindeer than humans in Lapland. Chances are you will see plenty of reindeer on your road trip in Lapland. But do try and visit a reindeer farm too! Here you could go on a reindeer safari through the snow-covered woodlands or even try your hand at feeding baby reindeer. Reindeer herders treat the animals as their family – nowhere else in the world have we witnessed such deep bonds between animals and humans as we did in Lapland. On this trip we spent a fair few hours at one such farm besides SnowVillage hotel in Yllas.
9) Go on a husky safari or try your hand at horse riding
This has been a pretty active road trip, considering you’ve been on Arctic hikes, gone ice-climbing, and perhaps even skiing. Now it’s time to let someone else do the work for you. You could try booking yourself a husky-dog safari or a horse-riding session in Rovaniemi, Yllas, or even Pyha. It is easy to book a safari wherever you have a free afternoon. Pick a place and time that suits your road trip itinerary and go marvel at snow covered trees, Finnish forests, and frozen lakes. On this particular trip we spent an afternoon with the huskies at Arctic Husky Farm in Pyha.
10) A short stopover in Helsinki
In all probability, you will return your rental car at Rovaniemi Airport and fly to Helsinki before flying back home. Make sure you spend a couple of days in the capital of Finland before you fly out of the country. Helsinki is a truly unique Scandinavian capital and you will relish its urban vibe after spending a week in the Finnish wilderness. We have a great guide to a city break in Helsinki here. Make sure you read it before planning your visit.
Visiting Lapland? Don’t forget to read our 4 Part Guide To Finnish Lapland that we wrote after our first trip to the area