Lapland itinerary: the ultimate travel itinerary through Finnish Lapland in winter!

A tour through Finnish Lapland: the ultimate winter experience! In this blog, you will find an itinerary for a five-day trip through the north of Finland: one of the most beautiful parts of Lapland. During this itinerary, you will have the chance to see the northern lights several times or to enjoy the other magical things that Lapland has to offer. We also give you tips on other highlights of Finland. This gives you a good idea of what there is to see in Finland and which destinations you want to include on your Finland itinerary.

Have fun preparing your trip to Lapland!packing list Lapland

Lapland itinerary

A trip to Lapland: the number one thing on Ries’s bucket list before he turned 30. Especially because of the northern lights that you can see well above Lapland in the winter months. But there are many more reasons to take a tour of Finnish Lapland. For instance to visit Santa Claus Village (together with your kids). You can also take a husky ride through the thick snow, or drive a snowmobile. All in all, a winter trip to Finnish Lapland is magical!

Round trip in Finnish Lapland

This blog tells you everything about our itinerary for the Finnish part of Lapland. Lapland is an area that is spread over Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. We decided to visit Finnish Lapland. There are several reasons for this, but the main one was that travelling through Lapland in Finland is a lot more budget-friendly. Affordable flights also go to the northernmost part of Finnish Lapland (Ivalo airport), an area where the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are even greater.Drone shot Lapland - Finland

The northernmost part of Finnish Lapland

In this blog, we focus on the northernmost part of Finnish Lapland, the region around Ivalo. A little further south are the cities of Rovaniemi, Levi & Kiitala. Here too you have the real Lapland feeling in winter. With snow-covered lakes and igloos to sleep in. However, here you are in a more southern part of the polar circle, which reduces the chance of seeing the northern lights. These areas are also more touristy.

Ivalo or Rovaniemi / Levi?

Not sure whether you should visit Ivalo (northernmost region of Finnish Lapland) or Rovanimie / Levi (southern region of Lapland)? Then consider what kind of a holiday you would like to have. If you go with small children, and you want to visit Santa’s village (Santa Clause Village), to sleep in an igloo or ice hotel, and you don’t mind if the region is touristy, visit Rovanimie or Levi. Also nice, in the surroundings of Levi you can ski and from here you can take a day trip to go out to sea with an icebreaker.

If you’re coming for the northern lights, if you want a less touristic area and an experience that is more authentic, consider visiting Ivalo! Also nice, from Ivalo you can easily reach Saariselkä, where you can ski.Northern Lights

How expensive is a trip to Lapland Finland? Read all about prices and a realistic Lapland budget during your trip in this blog!

5-day itinerary for Lapland

The Lapland itinerary below is based on our own experience in the area around Ivalo (the northernmost tip of Finnish Lapland). And those experiences were great, so we would like to share this Finnish Lapland itinerary with you.

You start your journey (after a short stopover in Helsinki) in the city of Ivalo. Here you will pick up your rental car and then drive to the village of Inari. Inari is located on the beautiful Lake Inari which you can walk on in winter. After two days you drive on to Kaamanen, an even more northern area. Here you are close to the border with Norway. You will stay here for two days.

On the way back to Ivalo, it is nice to make a stopover in Saariselkä! This is a large tourist village with a Christmas atmosphere, an ice bar and shops. Nice to have seen to complete your trip through Lapland.

The 5-day route through Finnish Lapland is as follows:

Helsinki – Ival0 – Inari – Kaamanen (Kielajoka) – Ivalo (possibly Saariselkä) – HelsinkiItinerary Finnish Lapland in 5 days

Ivalo (arrival & departure)

Your itinerary through the north of Lapland starts in Ivalo. This small village with an airport is located 300 kilometres above the Arctic Circle. If you have rented a car, this village is the place to do some shopping. We cooked in our lodges almost every day, and the supermarket in Finland is not much more expensive than the one in the Netherlands.

An activity that you should definitely not miss here is a snowmobile safari! The lakes in Finnish Lapland are frozen over from mid-October to mid-April and therefore ideal to drive over with your snowmobile! So special how fast these snowmobiles go! Our snowmobile tour departed from Ivalo. For this, we drove up and down from Inari, the place where we slept. The distance Ivalo – Inari is only 35 km, you are already there in half an hour.

Are you also planning a snowmobile trip? Read everything you need to know about a snowmobile trip in Lapland in this blog!Snowmobiling LaplandSnowmobiling Lapland Finland

Inari (2 nights)

The snowy lake Inari: really a picture-perfect! We stayed in Inari for 2 nights, and highly recommend this to you too! This is the least populated municipality of Finnish Lapland and therefore perfect for star photography and for photographing the aurora (northern lights). We stayed in a lodge that was on the lake on which we created some snow angels! In the morning when we came out of the lodge, we saw fresh traces of reindeer everywhere. We also saw these beautiful animals in the wild several times around the lake.

From Inari you can do a cool activity: visiting a husky farm and then taking a husky sledge tour! Seeing these beautiful dogs with their bright blue eyes was truly a highlight of our Lapland trip. Curious about what you can expect from this? Read our tips in the blog about a husky tour in Lapland!

Hotel tip: Wilderness Hotel Inari & Igloos

Travel time from Ivalo to Inari: 30 minutes by car

Drone shot Lapland

Itinerary Lapland, Northern Lights

Husky sledding in Finnish lapland

Kaamanen / Kielajoki (2 nights)

Kaamanen is a small village, even further north in Finnish Lapland. The village lies on a swamp and is surrounded by rivers and lakes. It’s a peaceful destination, really off the beaten path! A stay near Kaamanen guarantees an authentic experience. No tour buses here full of tourists, but peace and a lot of space! We stayed near Kaamanen in the village of Kielajoki and the Giellajohka hotel of the same name.

Activities you can do here include enjoying a Finnish sauna, ice fishing, hiking on the frozen lakes and cross-country skiing. In addition, you are so northern and with little light pollution that the chance of spotting the northern lights is even bigger here!

Kaamanen will always have a special place in our hearts. Here, in the snow on a frozen lake, Ries got on his knees to ask me to marry him! It was amazing! And as icing on the cake, it was so bright that same evening that we saw the northern lights dance from our bedroom while we were warm in bed.

Hotel tip: Giellajohka
Travel time Inari to Kaamanen: 30 minutes by car

Read our blog about Giellajohka here!Lapland FinlandProposal LaplandGiellajohka

Back to Ivalo via Saariselkä

If your journey is almost over but you still have some time to spare, consider heading back from Kaamanen to Ivalo, passing the village of Saariselkä. This nice and touristic village is about 30 minutes drive from Ivalo. Surrounded by mountains, Saariselkä is a good base for activities such as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and hiking. We made a beautiful aurora night walk in Saariselkä where we saw the northern lights dance beautifully above the snow.

Hotel tip: Top Star Saariselkä

Travel time Kaamanen to Ivalo Airport: 1-hour drive.

Curious about what we packed and wore to stay warm in Lapland? Then read our Lapland packing list tips!

Northern Lights in Finland, Saariselka - Lapland

What are the most special & unique hotels to sleep in Finnish Lapland? Read this blog with the best hotels in Lapland!

Tips itinerary Finnish Lapland

Now that you’ve read the Lapland itinerary above, we have a few more tips to help you create your ultimate Lapland trip!

The Northern Lights in Lapland

It was a big dream of Ries to have seen the northern lights for its 30th year. Unfortunately, he did not succeed, he was 30 years and 3 months. But don’t feel sorry, because, during the 4 nights in Lapland, he was able to see the northern lights not once, but four times. Every night it was spot on! This is not normal, it can just as easily happen that there are clouds every day and unfortunately you do not see the northern lights once. You do have some influence on your chance of seeing the Northern Lights! How? You can read that in our blog about the northern lights in Lapland!

Flying on Ivalo:

Keep in mind that when you fly to Ivalo (with Finnair) you always have a stopover in Helsinki. There is one exception: if you travel with tour operators such as Tui and Corendon, there are direct flights. These airline tickets are generally a lot more expensive than when you fly with Finnair.Finnish Lapland

Driving a car in Lapland

Although buses run between the villages in Finland, we recommend that you rent a car. We picked up this car immediately upon arrival at Ivalo airport. A rental car gives you all the freedom you want. In the evening, for example, we went for a drive by car to a place where there were no clouds. Because of this we also saw the northern lights that evening. We recommend renting a car through Sunny Cars. We are a big fan of Sunny Cars ourselves because it saves a lot of hassle, as you are always fully insured, and you can easily (and often free of charge) change or cancel your booking.

Driving a car in Lapland is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Cars have good winter tires and the roads are kept free of snow. In the evening there is good street lighting and everyone drives quietly and obeys the traffic rules.

For more tips and travel information about Lapland, read our blog about a winter trip to Lapland!Reindeer

Other destinations in Finland

Finland is not only a nice destination in the winter but also a great destination during summertime. An additional advantage: you are in the north, so you have very long summer days and you will find beautiful nature parks in Finland. A trip to Finland is a great adventure! You can do outdoor activities here such as canoe trips, multi-day treks and (wild) camping. See below a map of Finland with the best destinations.

Tip: in summer we recommend that you explore Finland by train, travel from sunny Helsinki through the beautiful nature parks and lakes to the north.Map with highlights of Finland things to see and do

Read more about Finnish Lapland here! 

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  1. by Kirsten on 18 October 2023  13:48 Reply

    Thanks for the great blogposts about visiting Lapland! We are currently planning our trip for March, and we probably only want to stay in the most Northern part (Inari/Saariselka) because we want the least touristy area and highest chances for seeing the Northern lights. In your experience, how different is the Inari area from the Saariselka area? We are debating whether it is worth the hassle to stay in two different places, or just book one hotel and do all activities from there.

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 18 October 2023  15:13 Reply

      Hi Kirsten,
      Oooo nice!! Well Saariselka is more touristic (with a whole village focused on tourisme) then Ivalo. So I would recommend Inari or even more north, Kaamanen. It isn't far from Saariselka so you can still do activities there. Northern light chances are highest in the most Northern and less light polluted area so that would also be Inari.


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