In our latest destination of the month piece, we wanted to shine a spotlight on autumn holidays in Scandinavia. Although often overlooked, this is actually when the Northern Lights are their most active – something coupled with delightfully temperate weather. That’s not to mention the range of unique activities that open up, along with the dazzling array of fall colours that erupt over the hills and fells. But, where to go to experience all this? Our top recommendation is Levi; easily reached from the UK via Helsinki, it’s the perfect gateway into the remotes of Finnish Lapland. So, without further ado, here’s our top-ten list of things to do in Levi over autumn.
Ever in tune with nature, this is perhaps the quintessential autumnal adventure in Scandinavia. Each year, whole families head out into the forests to uncover the fruits of the forest, picking nutrient-rich berries, mushrooms and herbs all grown in summer’s long days and fresh air. In Finland, and next-door Sweden, the right to forage is even protected by law. And, this is your chance to follow in your host’s footsteps, with your expert guide showing you what to look for and, crucially, what to avoid.
Picking wild berries
2) Northern Lights cruise
Heading out onto a lake in the depths of Finnish Lapland is an utterly relaxing way of taking in the earth’s greatest visual phenomenon. You’ll drift through the Arctic wilderness, admiring the starry sky and, hopefully, the aurora reflecting and refracting in the glassy waters. You’ll also be kept delightfully cosy by an open camp fire on the deck, where you’ll be able to bake sausages, sip on hot drinks and indulge with sweet crepes. This being Finland, there’s even an onboard sauna. Alternatively, if the lake is frozen, you have the option of a late-night picnic under the aurora.
Northern Lights over Levi
3) Wild food cooking workshop
This is the perfect complement to a foraging expedition. Like the Arctic explorers before you and the indigenous Sami peoples, you’ll prepare a hearty meal from seasonally foraged ingredients, many of which simply can’t be found in supermarkets. Expect everything from nettles and lingonberries to countless varieties of mushrooms. Creating three courses over the fire in a traditional Lapland hut, you might just be surprised with how well it all turns out.
A fisherman cooks up his catch
4) Horse riding
Finnish and Icelandic horses are delightfully cute, but their floppy fringes and charming demeanour belie how tough and sure-footed they really are. And, considering their gentle aspect, they’re perfect for beginners and older children alike, with Levi’s trails bringing you through grassy fells and dense, forest routes. There’s also plenty for the more advanced, including the chance to try out tölt – the unique gait where the rider sits as if in an armchair. There’s even the opportunity to head out in search of the Northern Lights on horseback.
Finnish horse in Levi
5) Photography workshop
With so much natural beauty on offer in Finnish Lapland, it’s worth getting some expert tutelage to make the most of it all. Whether you’re after something for Instagram or to hang up on your wall, you’ll be under the guidance of the internationally acclaimed landscape photographer Dr Juha Tolonen. He’ll bring you out into one of Finland’s most famous national parks to capture the autumnal magnificence of the Arctic’s fells, lakes and forests. The delicious lunch of locally sourced favourites doesn’t hurt, either. Then, come the evening, be sure to point your camera skywards to capture the technicolour Northern Lights.
Long exposure of a river in Levi
When looking at parts of Finland on a map, you would be forgiven for thinking that there are more waterways than land. Levi is no exception, dotted with lakes and shorn by winding rivers. So, one of the best ways to explore it all is by canoe, paddling out among the Arctic forests and stunning autumn scenery. There’s even the opportunity to head out at night, paddling far away from artificial light to take in the spectacle of the Northern Lights. You’ll also be able to stop off to warm up in a Lappish hut, enjoying local delicacies and stories by the fire.
Kayaking under the Northern Lights
Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that are the most enjoyable. Walking out among the pristine Arctic remotes, you’ll be able to enjoy the region’s autumnal brilliance at your own pace, whether you’re after a hill stroll or a six-hour yomp. Indeed, there’s a full range of routes available out of Levi, with scenic highlights including rocky river rapids, the panoramas of steep Keimiö, and the views of the Pallastunturi chain of fells. Guided is the way to go, with transfers bringing you out into wilderness and summits capped off with hot drinks and snacks.
Hiking near Levi
8) Fat bike
They may look better suited for riding on the moon, but the wonderfully named “fat bikes” are ideal for making the most of the Arctic terrain. And, with a network of boardwalks and peaceful trails, it’s a simple task to explore the forests and fells of Levi. An accompanying guide will be on hand to make sure you don’t get too lost, while bringing the region’s nature and culture to life with a range of local stories.
Biking near Levi
9) Disc golf
For something a bit different, consider playing around of disc golf – a cross between frisbee and, well, golf. The aim is to get your disc round a course of chain “buckets” in as few shots, or throws, as possible. Don’t worry, you’ll be taught the techniques by a guide, and provided with three discs – each one suitable for different distances and throws. It’s a great opportunity to try something new with friends, backdropped by views over the surrounding fells.
Playing a "hole" of frisbee golf
10) Aurora floating
For something truly unique, look into an “aurora floating” experience. Donning a floatation dry suit, you’ll be brought out to one of the region’s prettiest lakes to lie back in the water and admire the sky overhead. Luck permitting, the moon and stars will be joined by a special appearance of the Northern Lights. Although you’ll be covered head to toe and kept completely dry, it’s always nice to enjoy a hot drink by the local fire at the end of it all.
The backdrop to aurora floating
Inspired? Pair it all with a stay in a glass igloo or contact one of our Finnish Lapland specialists on 020 7838 5956.