After a winter of unrelenting darkness, the sun is slowly starting to reappear over the horizon in the furthest reaches of Northern Europe. This means visitors to Finnish Lapland can once again enjoy the thrill of winter sports in daylight.
The region endures the longest winter in Europe, with consistent dumps of snow between October and May, which make it the perfect destination for active travellers keen to explore one of the continent’s last wildernesses. Leave the expensive Jagerbombs, lift passes and inconsistent snowfall to France and Austria – the return of the Arctic sun means that winter in Finnish Lapland is really only just beginning for adrenalin junkies. But wrap up warm, as temperatures can still plummet to as low as minus 50C.
Exhilarating but energy sapping, this is a workout for lower legs, forearms and shoulders, with the emphasis on correct technique, rather than pure strength. The 25-metre ice wall in Phya is just a 300-metre walk from the small town’s ski slopes and breathtaking views from the summit stretch all the way to the Russian border. Bliss Adventure (00358 040 530 2206; blissadventure.fi) offers afternoon courses for €77 including safety equipment, crampons and ice axes.
These are the quad bikes of the Arctic and make light work of cutting through the deep snow. They’re loud and boisterous but provide lots of excitement. Make sure you wrap up warm to combat the wind chill. This is the best way to explore hard-to-reach corners of the region. Pro Safaris (00358 166 687 06; prosafaris.fi) offers a four-hour trip including snowshoeing and ice fishing for €135.
As if go-karting wasn’t exciting enough already, ice karting takes things to a whole new level. Specially adapted studded tyres help racers drift around corners without spinning off and regular breaks for hot juice and barbecued reindeer sausages keep drivers’ internal engines burning. Lap times are recorded by a computer and prizes are awarded on a specially constructed snow podium. Phya Safaris (00358 407 789 106; pyhasafaris.com) offers one-hour karting races for €60 including helmets, fuel, protective footwear and overalls.
Brave the Arctic chill with a night in a quinzee – a North American survival shelter adopted by both the Finnish Scouts and Army, made entirely from snow. This experience is for people who like to test themselves against the great outdoors and it doesn’t get any greater or indeed colder than the Finnish Arctic. Bliss Adventure (003 580 405 302 206; blissadventure.fi) offers overnight expeditions into the Pyha-Luosto National Park for €290 including all food, specialist equipment and a guiding from a member of the Finnish Survival Guild.
Explore the 55 square mile Pyha-Luosto National Park – Finland’s oldest and most northerly national park – on two wheels. Extra wide tyres create a large surface area from which to glide over deep snow like a rotating snowshoe. This is the easiest and least labour-intensive way to experience the Arctic wilderness – and in contrast to snowshoeing it’s easy on your hips and knees. Bliss Adventure (00 358 040 530 2206; blissadventure.fi) offers half-day bike rental with all equipment for €40; a guided tour of the area costs €77.
Manage a team of five energetic huskies through tracks in the metre-deep snow, twisting through forests of ice-cloaked pine trees. The dogs might be doing most of the work but it’s certainly no easy ride – keep your knees bent and your body position low. Your hands and cheeks will feel ice-cold but the rest of your body will soon warm up once the adrenalin starts pumping. Husky Co (00 358 447 290 007; huskyco.fi) offers three-hour husky safaris for €120 including snacks, hot drinks and protective clothing.
Ice fishing is one of Finnish Lapland’s oldest traditions. Snowshoe your way out onto a frozen lake with a local guide and drop lures through drilled holes into the chilly abyss below. Arctic char are plentiful in the region’s waterways and the close cousin of the salmon tastes every bit as succulent. Pro Safaris (00 358 166 687 06; prosafaris.fi) will provide all equipment and a local guide, followed by a fishy feast in a nearby hunter’s cabin for €135.
Finnair (00358 981 808 00; finnair.com) flies from Heathrow and Manchester to Rovaniemi via Helsinki from £225 return.
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