I wanted to go to Lapland in winter, because I never had. I thought I might as well take a few friends from France with me, and add a few Northern Lights in the mix. Here is a wrap-up, with some detailed info about the planning and activities of this 1-week dream trip (all prices are for 4 people unless stated otherwise).
Winter is long in the north (7 months): how does one choose when to go?
My idea was that I wanted both day and night. We needed night to see the Northern Lights, but if we had been there in January, with only a couple of hours of daylight each day but clouds all the time, we would have got bored very quickly. In the end, I chose March, which was also my choice last year for Varanger. We had approximately 12 hours of night and 12 hours of light (and excellent weather 😉 ).
I loved my visit to Ivalo/Inari in September, so I wanted to go back there. I knew I could visit friends in Ivalo to take some bird photographs, and my parents had recommended a great place to stay north of Inari. In hindsight, it was awesome for birds, but not so much in terms of scenery. Next time, I think I’d like to see Syöte and Riisitunturi, further south.
We were a bit too late to book accommodation, and it seemed the AirBnB selection was a bit restrained, while too expensive. All of the following were booked with Booking.com.
Näverniemi Holiday Center (Ivalo) – small apartments with a tiny kitchen. Not overly welcoming, but it did the job. The kitchens clearly lacked equipment. 340€ for two nights.
Giellajohka – was this paradise? Welcoming staff, numerous activities available for free (ski, snowshoeing), a peaceful location in the middle of pristine nature. We had an awesome time there, we felt very welcome and well taken care of. We had two double rooms in a shared building made of wood, with a common kitchen (well equiped, this time). Super cosy, super comfortable. Thank you! 354€ for three nights.
Neljän Tuulen Tupa – a roadside inn on the way to Utsjoki, but don’t be scared: there’s so little traffic, your sleep won’t be disturbed by anything. No kitchen available to us there, so we ate a solid meal at their restaurant. 170€ for one night.
All things considered (except dinner on the last day), it cost us 36€ per night, which sounds reasonable for someone used to travel alone like me (in Finland at least).
A station wagon rented from Avis via Norwegian (I use Norwegian for flights but also car rental; since I fly a lot with them, I can gain points and save some money rather quickly. Their flights are often much cheaper than other airlines, also). We ended up with a Skoda Octavia, a bigger car than what I had booked. 396€ for 7 days, insurance included.
Fun fact: the first car we got was an automatic car… and I couldn’t find how to switch on the engine! I went back to the car rental desk, and asked. I also asked for advice regarding driving this automatic monster, since I never had. A couple minutes later, back to the car, I had managed to turn on the engine, when the guy from Avis came and asked whether we wanted to switch to a good old manual car. After pondering this, we said YES! We had never driven on ice, with studded tyres, so it sounded like a good idea to be at least somewhat familiar with the car. Benjamin helped me with the driving 🙂
In the end, I was happy with that choice, and all went well.
Like in September, I visited my friends in Ivalo; this was on our first morning there. I knew we would see birds in Neljän Tuulen Tupa as well, since that’s what this place is known for. However, what I didn’t know was that there would be a feeder in Giellajohka as well! In the end, I saw lots of birds every day, and had many opportunities for pictures, as you can see in the article I’ve already published.
We essentially saw taiga birds, including Pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), Siberian tit (Poecile cinctus), Siberian jay (Perisoreus infaustus), Bohemian waxwing (Bombicylla garrulus), redpolls (Acanthis flammea/hornemanni)…
When you read about Lapland in winter, you discover lots of possible activities: husky and reindeer safaris, snowmobile excursions… Then you see the prices, between 100 and 150€ for one person and 2-4 hours of activity.
I was not very interested to start with, but the prices were the “icing on the cake”. I passed, and went to watch birds instead.
My friends got to enjoy these activities, though: organized with Näverniemi Holiday Center, they went on husky or reindeer safari on the first day. In Giellajohka, they did some ice fishing (it was 50€ I believe).
Overall, 1 week in the region in this period is more than enough, and we were a bit bored on our last day (we had a late flight). To stay longer, we could have moved further, to the fjords of Norway for instance.
That’s it! I hope you found some useful info in this article. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions if something remains unanswered 😉