Safaris in Finnish Lapland

16th January 2017, by Dave Watts

Snowmobiling – just one of the many activities you can try in Finnish Lapland

Snowmobiling – just one of the many activities you can try in Finnish Lapland

On my five-day visit to Finnish Lapland arranged by Crystal Ski, I was struck by the high proportion of people who do not go there for the skiing (neither downhill nor cross-country). They go for an all round winter holiday which includes a wide variety of possible organized excursions.

On my visit I tried four of them and enjoyed them all. I’ve already described the visit to the Ice Village (see Yllas ) and the skiing and villages of Yllas and Levi

Dave (third from right) and his group waiting for dinner in the Ice Village

Next up was a trip to a reindeer farm. All reindeer in Finland are privately owned. They are kept on farms during the winter and fed on lichen, which they love. In summer they are free roam. But next autumn they find their own way back to the farm because they know they’ll be fed without having to forage all winter through snow and ice.

We had a lovely 20 minute sleigh ride being pulled by Jarry, a 10-year-old who started off at a rapid canter but soon slowed to a more sedate pace, following the sleigh driven by the owner and his little granddaughter. We went through woods and round a clearing, giving a good variety of terrain and scenery.

Dave (on left in sleigh) waiting for Jarry to start moving

After the ride we warmed up with the help of hot berry juice, cake and biscuits in an ancient hut with a roaring log fire. Then we got to feed the young reindeer who came galloping over as soon as they saw us entering their paddock.

Kids especially would love the whole experience.

Next day it was a husky safari. Greeted by the barking and howling of getting on for 200 dogs on our arrival, those already tethered to sleds in teams were eager to get going.

After a quick briefing of how to drive (stand on the sleigh skids and pull the ropes to encourage turning or stopping), we set off with me driving the second of four sleighs behind the dog handler (musher).

You stand on the sleigh skids while driving the huskies (or trying to…)

All went well for the first 30 seconds but then our dogs stopped to pee and poo and didn’t seem keen to get going again. 

The lead musher walked back to sort them out and we got going again for a few seconds before a trainee dog at the front decided to turn back and hump the female behind him.

The musher returned and switched the dogs around to get a more reliable pair up front. After that it was plain sailing and we enjoyed a 30-minute ride through varied snowy countryside, stopping halfway to allow my passenger to take over the driving reins.

As with the reindeer ride we retired to a cosy hut with roaring fire and hot drinks to warm up. Then we went into the kennels, where the puppies (up to 9 months) were let out to play and be stroked.

Another great experience.

On our final evening, after dinner we set out on a snowmobile safari in search of the Northern Lights. I’d been on several snowmobile trips before in North America and Europe. But this was one of the best thanks to a thorough safety briefing and great care for safety throughout the trip by Mark, the organiser and modern 4-stroke machines that generated much less noise and smelly pollution than the 2-strokes I’d ridden before.

The snowmobling safari was one of the best Dave has experienced

We headed off from near our hotel along designated snowmobile tracks that crossed roads and footpaths before hitting fields and woods, where we were allowed it open up the throttle a bit and reach speeds of up to 60kph – great fun.

After about 45 minutes we reached our destination – you guessed it, another small hut with a roaring fire. But this time we enjoyed sausages and pancakes heated over the fire as well as delicious hot chocolate – all prepared by Mark.

We needed the warmth because as we arrived at the hut we were greeted by a fabulous display of the Northern Lights. So we stayed out in the cold clear night watching them ebb and flow for a good half hour. Another wonderful experience.

We were lucky enough to see a fabulous display of the Northern Lights

All these safaris were organised by Lapland Safaris and can be booked through Crystal Ski, who organised my trip and are featuring the resorts of Levi and Yllas for the first time this season. A week’s half board with Crystal at the Lapland Hotel Saaga in Yllas costs from £807 per person, including flights from Gatwick and transfers. A week’s half board at the Lapland Hotel Sirkantähti in Levi starts from £553 per person, including flights from Gatwick and transfers.  The excursions I tried cost between €100 and €126 per adult.

Because of the cold temperatures Lapland Safaris provide very warm one-piece insulated overalls to wear over normal ski clothes, along with specially warm boots, socks and gloves for all their safaris, plus balaclavas and helmets for the snowmobiling.  They also run ice fishing and snowshoe safaris.

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