Welcome to Lapland – where the sun never sets!
The province of Lapland covers the most northern parts of the Nordic countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland. You may be wondering, “how can I find the best places to go in Lapland?” Don’t worry, we are here to help. These arctic countries are often associated with snowy weather and pitch-black darkness that at times are lit up by the Northern lights.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing not to love about snowy days outdoors and ending the evenings covered in fluffy blankets while the temperature below freezing outside. However, this is not all that the Laplandic places has to offer.
Lapland is very influenced by the Samis and their culture since they are the indigenous people of these countries. Today, between 80 000 to 100 000 Sami people live in these regions. In Sweden about 10 % of the Samis live in a territory called a Sameby, a financial and administrative union that is regulated by law. There are 51 Samebys in Sweden, from Idre in Dalarna to Könkäma in Norrbotten.
A Sameby is an extensive area, often stretching from the inland forest areas to the mountains on the Norwegian border. The Sameby areas consequently follow the reindeer’s (mountain reindeer’s) annual migration from the forests to mountains. You can often find resorts run by a Sami family, and opportunities to explore Sami life and culinary culture in those areas. Discover more Sami companies specializing in photography guides that takes you to amazing places.
The best way to explore Lapland is with a motorhome
Everyone can relate to the hassle travelling in a group. Let it be a family with kids, or a group of friends, we all have different perceptions about time and wishes for activities. These chaotic, yet charming, situations can make it just an ounce difficult to put together a trip that suits and satisfies everyone.
Therefore, there are few things as enjoyable as the flexibility given by a motorhome vacation; a vacation tailor-made just by you according to your preferences and your time schedule. And what would be better than to use this opportunity, by visiting one region that allows you to experience three different countries? Yes, it is possible and it is called Lapland!
Start your trip from Stockholm or Gotehnburg
We recommend you a 2 weeks motorhome road trip starting in either Stockholm or Gothenburg. From Stockholm, you can take a ferry to Finland through the port Kapellskär and go north towards Finnish Lapland. Otherwise, you can either follow the Baltic sea coastline from Stockholm towards Swedish Lapland. The Baltic sea coastline, Högakusten, is a beautiful part of Sweden, known as a cultural hotspot and for its amazing scenery.
Stop by the amazing region of Helsingland, a place full of family-friendly activities and adventures. If you want to travel more north before stopping, then we suggest you to stay and explore the region Medelpad. It is the geographical midpoint of Sweden.
If you prefer to start your motorhome holiday in Gothenburg, you can travel through Dalsland, Värmland and Dalarna to reach both Swedish and Norwegian Lapland. Dalarna is a very popular destination is Sweden, where you will find typical Swedish red cabins, traditional sports, and the famous Dalarna Horse.
Norway – The land of the fjords
Norway is the second largest country of the Nordic countries and boarders Sweden, Finland and Russia. It is famous for its incredible fjords, due to its unique geographical location and millions of years of glaciation that travelled below sea level. There are more than a hundred fjords in Norway. Its dramatical landscape is quite unique and contains, besides fjords, also glaciers, mountains, lakes, woodlands and islands.
Sea eagles by the fjords
Few things in life are as obvious as the fact that that you must see the fjords when visiting Norway. One of the most popular fjords is Trollfjorden. It is only a hundred meters by its most narrow points between the two mountainsides. A ship is usually around thirty meters wide, which does not give too much room for mistakes when passing these mountains.
With local travel agencies, you can experience all these spectacular views by boat, and you can even book in a sea eagle-safari tour. If you wish to skip the safari tour and try your luck on your own to see the sea eagles, then go ahead. These are freely flying birds, and chances are that you’re lucky enough to see them without paying extra.
Kayaking in the fjords
The Lyngenfjord is approximately 85 km long and offers deep blue waters and high mountain tops. Its highest mountain peak is Jiekkevarre standing 1 833 meters above sea level. The lakes flowing by are perfect for kayaking if you wish to be in the middle of these majestic views. While in Lyngenfjord, make sure to take the boat up to the 269-meter high Mollis Waterfall – a spectacular sight of what mother nature is capable of creating!
Lyngenfjord is also one of the sustainable marked destinations in Norway, which is a mark only given to a few places that live up to the criteria of being sustainable. The Lyngenfjords reach a point right by the so called Treriksröset, which is a very northly point where the three countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland meet!
The blue lagoon
While in Lyngenfjord, do not miss out on visiting Blåisvatnet. The contrast between the bright blue water and the peeking mountains is astonishing. This is a view that must be experienced and is somehow a combination of the dazzling blue lagoon in Iceland and the Austrian alpine views with mountain sides surrounding lakes.
As beautiful as the water is, it is cold! But with true Nordic spirit, it is never too cold for a swim. Go ahead and take a quick swim and you will feel more awakened and energized than ever.
Throughout the year there are many different types of whales to be seen in the Norwegian coast. In Andenes you can get a guided whale safari tour, and during the summer period the chances are high that you will see cachalots. But pay attention, if you’re lucky you might even spot some dolphins, humpback whales and orcas – these giants also make an appearance once in a while!
The whale safari is in no way held to lure the whales into showing themselves, a business made blindly to make money. This also means that seeing whales can never be guaranteed, and if you end up with not seeing a single whale you will normally be refunded. An experienced captain in one of the Norwegian whale safari-boats once said that the staff use all their knowledge to approach the whales without disturbing their natural habitat and ways of behaving.
Stroll through the colorful city
Henningsvaer is an old fishing village with a mixture of old and new architecture. The small, colorful houses will give you another glimpse of what northern Norway has to offer. If the beautiful nature was not enough, then these streets will absolutely bring a vibrant touch to your holiday.
The peak (literally) of Henningsvaer is a beautiful mountain called Festvågtind with a view over the entire city. People climb up to this mountain during summertime to enjoy the beautiful midnight sun and the sight it offers. You will see bridges and roads leading to each of the small islands, otherwise surrounded by the perfectly blue sea.
The most powerful tidal current is a diver’s paradise
Between the islands of Knaplundoya and Straumoya you will be able to experience the most powerful current in the world. On one side there are the fjords, and on the other side there is the sea, which together create the current in the middle. The maximum speed of it is 40 km per hour, compared to the average speed of currents being approximately 9 km per hour.
The current is very rich in different species, which is a reason to why the Saltstraumen has been named one of the best places in the world for scuba-diving. In Saltstraumen Pluscamp, which is a camping area near Saltstraumen, they rent out the equipment needed for diving. If you’re missing a diving license, the Saltstraumen is a great place to snorkel or to fish as well!
Photo by swedishcountryside.se
Take part of the Sami history
There is this amazing little village-looking museum in Nesseby. The museum was created in 1983, and here you can take part of the Sami history and culture. If you happen to be traveling in the end of August, there is also a fair, Vuonnamarkanat, held in Nesseby.
It is only held the last Saturday in August, but is absolutely worth the visit if possible. This is a fair to promote the Sami culture and a marketplace for small-scaled Sami entrepreneurs, and they offer everything from food to clothing.
The botanic garden
Welcome to the most northly botanic garden in the world! This 1,8 hectare-garden survives the chilly weather due to the midnight sun that compensates for the lack of sun during the winter months. This garden is a part of the Norwegian Arctic University Museum.
If you are visiting Tromso in June, do not miss out on the midnight sun marathon! This is a fun activity for all night owl out there, and a chance to discover nature during a completely lit up night. You will get the chance to meet people from all around the world, since participants from over 50 different countries travel to Tromso for this marathon.
Sweden – Home to the most islands in the world
The largest of the Nordic countries and for many probably known for Ikea, Abba and the Nobel prize. But there is more to this country! Sweden is rich in islands, and even though everyone is not familiar with that, that is in fact the case. With its 267 570 islands, Sweden is the island-richest country in the world. And most of these islands are indeed to be found in the northern regions of the country.
It is the largest national park in Sweden, right by the boarder of Norway. This is the Swedish wilderness at its best – home to birds, reindeers, moose and of course the arctic fox! Padjelanta national park is a part of the Laponia world heritage, which is a 9 400 cubic kilometer large area which offers old forests, glaciers and mountain ranges. So, if you wish to see more of the Swedish wilderness, then this is the place to visit!
The Sami people have been living in the Nordics even before the different Nordic countries were formed. There are between 20.000 to 40.000 Samis in Sweden today, and the Sami culture in Jokkmokk is very noticeable. The best way to learn more about the Sami history and take part of the culture is to interact with the Sami people themselves and their companies.
There is a studio called Ateljé Gaisi that sells typical Sami clothing, and Jon Utsi is a talented craftsman that creates and sells beautiful artwork. Jokkmokk has other small shops that offer Sami products, such as Sámi Duodji where they guide you through the Sami culture, language and artwork. There is also the Ájtte museum where you can take part of the culture even further.
The oldest church in Swedish Lapland
The church of Jukkasjärvi, Jukkasjärvi kyrka, is more than 400 years old and famous for its unique paintings by the altar. This isn’t your typical grandiose church, instead the Jukkasjärvi church is colorful, small and somewhat very simple in its details.
The walls, floor and interior are all wooden. The church is painted red, and the benches inside are painted blue. Shortly described, its design is what typical, old-fashioned buildings and houses would look like in Lapland.
Summer evening fishing
There are a lot of good places to fish in Arvidsjaur, and one of the best places to catch fish in is Abmoälven. The best time to go fishing is during the summer months. What is better than hopping on your fishing boat during the midnight sun and just enjoying the still evening?
Don’t worry, if you don’t have a boat to use, you can also fish standing by the shore. If you hope to catch some grayling, trout, perch, or pike you have found the right spot!
Mountain biking or horseback riding in Vindelfjällen
Are you looking for something more adventurous? Then mountain biking through Vindelfjällen might be something for you! Vindelfjällen is one of Europe’s largest protected areas, partly located in Ammarnäs, which is a small village. Although it borders other municipalities, Ammarnäs is the most common starting point.
There is a total of 500 km trails to hike and bike through, one of the is called Kungsleden, which is 78 km long. Vindelfjällen is breathtaking nature combined with some challenging paths, as well as more smooth paths to bike through. This gives you the perfect combination of a peaceful admiration and power-intensive activity.
If you are looking for more of a family-friendly activity to do, then horseback riding on Icelandic horses is an ultimate choice. Amarnäsfjällens Islandshästar is a small and sustainable company that provides horseback riding, and as early as in in 2003 they received an ecotourism friendly mark called Nature’s Best, Naturens Bästa.
Take a swim in melted glaciers
The clearest and purest lake in Sweden can be found in Kiruna, called Rissajaure or Trollsjön. The clarity of the lake makes it possible to see all the way to down the bottom, which at its deepest is 36 meters. The water in the Rissajaure lake comes from ice that has melted from glaciers nearby. This is a perfect sunbathing spot during the summers, and you can choose to lay on the grass, the sand or the cliffs around the lake.
If you are normally a bit intimated by lakes, and all the fish it usually comes with, this is the swimming spot for you! Being able to see exactly everything beneath you will soon make you realize that there is nothing there. How come? Well, the water in this lake is sterile, which means that no algae or fish can live there.
Hike through a historical path
Arkeologstigen is hiking path where ancient grave fields and labyrinths has been left behind. Some of the sites are as old as 1 200 and 3 000 years. A spectacular find that has been made here is the so called Jävre-jewellery, which is a bronze buckle from around 400 A.D. This jewellery is likely from the Volga area in Russia, which means that people across borders have been in contact; a fact that was not certain before.
The Arkeologstigen is about 7,5 km long, but includes a trail of ca. 2 km if you wish to walk a shorter route. Throughout this hike, you will find different signs that explain the surroundings and history of it. Besides the historical aspects, the hike offers some incredible nature scenery! In one of the mountains, called Högberget, you will have a view over the three different municipalities Piteå, Luleå and Skellefteå.
Haparanda (and Tornio)
Two different time zones at the same time
On one side of the Torne river, you will find Haparanda, and on the other side you will find Tornio. Even though they are close to each other they are located in different countries. The first one being in Sweden and the other in Finland, which means that they are situated in different time zones as well.
There is a shopping center right in the middle of the border, so people here are used to having one foot in each country. The three main languages spoken here are Swedish, Finnish and the minority language Mäenkieli (as well as English; although it is the second, third or even forth language to some).
Visit the archipelagos
Finally, how about visiting some of those 270 000 islands? Haparanda Sandskär, which is one of Haparanda Archipelago islands, offers beautiful sandy, beaches and small, red houses that just ooze the feeling of traditional Swedish summer!
This is also a perfect spot if you are into birdwatching. Over 240 different species have been seen here, and that makes Haparanda Sandskär one of areas with the biggest varieties of birds in Lapland. There are many islands to choose between in Lapland, but if you are in Haparanda, a visit to their archipelago is a must since they have some of the most unique islands in Lapland.
Photo by: Michael Törnkvist – Explore the north – Heartoflapland.com
Finland – The land of a thousand lakes
You can visit Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia from Finland by sea. Finland has two official languages, which are Finnish and Swedish. Although being neighbors these languages differ a lot; with Finnish being an Uralic language, it is closer to the Estonian language. Finland is rich in lakes and has the highest percentage of lakes in the world compared to the size of the country!
Swim in lake Miekojärvi
This is a beautiful lake in quiet woods. The calm water, surrounded by soft sand and pine trees all together create a perfect image of what mindfulness would look like if it had an appearance. You will see the clouds reflected on the lake due to the blank surface of the still water.
The most popular spot is Orhinselänniemi, which is a long oasis of sand that extends out to the lake. This is a true kesäunelma (summer-dream) that is not to be missed!
Experience the shivers from the cold war
As beautiful as the Finnish Lapland is, it is hard to believe that this once actually was a place marked by war. In the end of 1939, the Soviets invaded Finland which became the start of the winter war. The winter war is also known for being one of the coldest winters in Finland, with the lowest temperature reaching – 47 °C.
The Finns were heavily outnumbered by the Soviets, who had more than double their strength in soldiers and weapon. The Salpa Line was built to be used as a bunker at that time and is today a memorial spot that withholds the authenticity from back then.
Reindeers does not just exist in Christmas sagas; they are very much real all year around. Reindeers are an important part of the Laplandic culture and has through centuries given the Sami people food, warmth, and transportation. They are highly appreciated animals still until this day.
Visit Porohaka, which is a small authentic reindeer farm, and you will be introduced to the reindeers up-close and learn what wise and peaceful creatures they are. The farm offers different tours that you can book, depending on what you are interested in and what company you are visiting together with. During the tour you will learn more about the animals and how the reindeer farm works.
Photo by: Hulkoffgården – Heartoflapland.com
Cloudberry picking in Pulju wilderness area
Pulju wilderness area is the home of wolverines, bears, lynxes, wolves, and many other species. This area is known for having a unique type of moraine that was formed by the latest ice-age. Besides this, it is also a perfect place to go cloudberry picking, which are called the golden berries of Lapland.
These berries are ready to be picked in mid-July until mid-August. So, if you are travelling during this time make sure to bring a large bucket! Cloudberries can be eaten raw or used to make delicious jam, desserts or make your own drink?
The traditional Finnish sauna
Did you know that there are in between two to three million saunas in Finland? Well, the Finns love their sauna! Traditionally during wintertime, they jump in the ice-cold snow just to finish off by running into the superhot sauna. And yes, the sauna is supposed to be so hot that it even burns to breathe. However, the snow free summertime is a perfect excuse not to be that wild and crazy. Instead, why not start off by taking a relaxing swim and end the evening in the warm sauna?
Äkäslompalo Sauna is a dreamy place next to a lake where you can rent a sauna. It is located about an hour drive from Kiittilä. And if you wish to be super traditional, then you should use birch twigs in the sauna to “whip” yourself with. Even though this might sound crazy, it is good for your skin and helps to increase your blood circulation.
Inarijärvi and the holy islands
In the north of the polar circle, you will find Inarijärvi, which is the third largest lake in Finland. This lake has over 3000 islands, but the most famous ones are Ukonkivi and Hautuumaasaari (which means Funeral-island). They are rocky islands and a couple of hundred meters long. These islands have been used by the Inari-Samis as holy places for worship until the 19th century.
A fragment of a silver jewelry was found here long ago, which today is one of Laplands most valuable findings. From the harbor you can go on guided tours to these islands and learn more about their incredible history.
Photo by: Linnea Isaksson – Heartoflapland.com
Gold digging in Ivalojoki
The Finnish golden rush started by the river Ivalojoki for about 150 years ago, and large pieces of gold has been found in this area. At this time, people moved from Russia to Finland just in the hopes of finding gold. Still, until this day, people try their luck in Ivalojoki to find some treasures. In the building, Kultala, just nearby the river, you can learn more about the history of the golden rush.
Lapland, a place you can visit during any season!
Discover the arctic lands during summertime and you will find that the Northern lights has now been replaced by the midnight sun. The white treetops are now greener than ever and the flock of reindeers crossing the streets. Well, they are still there as many as always, so be sure to watch out for them when driving on the roads.
Whether you are hungry for adventure, knowledge or mindfulness, there is something for every personality. Plan your trip to Lapland and appreciate the sunny side of the arctic – because it indeed does exist!