Here at Best Served we love Finnish Lapland. And having just come back from a recent trip, I was inspired, as always, to share what we love about this place. But when you've visited a place as often as our team has, it can be easy to forget that not everyone knows it as well as we do! For the first-time traveller, there are plenty of things you'll want to keep in mind for a holiday to Finland's northern reaches.
Bring boots that are a little bit big
We've said it before, and we'll say it again – winter snow boots that are a size too big are exactly what you'll want when the temperatures dip. Larger shoes allow you to wear thick, cosy socks (or even two pairs) with enough room to keep a layer of warm air near your toes. Leave space to wiggle them and get your blood moving when it's really cold. Similarly, mittens will generally keep your fingers warmer than gloves, trapping body heat by keeping your fingers together. Consider adding an extra layer with a thin pair of gloves underneath – ideal for when you whip off your mitts when taking a photo.
Try your footwear before you leave
Whether you've just purchased snow boots or hiking boots, do not even think of getting on the plane without having broken in your new shoes for a few days at home. For many people, it's already an adjustment to do the amount of walking that we all do on holiday – don't make it harder by bringing painful shoes, too.
Hand warmers are your friends...
These little indulgences become true necessities when you're standing in the far-below-freezing Finnish winter climate, so we recommend bringing a couple sets with you to tuck into mittens or pockets. Single-use ones can run as low as £1 per pair, while reusable ones are just a couple of quid more and are much better for the environment. Our toppest-most tip? Bring an extra couple to pop in your boots if you suffer from cold feet.
...even on snowmobiles
If you haven't driven a snowmobile before, you might not know that they generally have hand warmers in the handles, and toe warmers in the foot bay. Even if it doesn't seem cold before you start driving, it will once the wind kicks up – and you'll want to be sure to turn these on.
Don't wing it when it comes to your camera
Especially if you want to photograph the Northern Lights, be sure to pack a tripod – though this far north, you'll want one for many other shots too. Be sure to practice with your camera before you depart – the regular point-and-shoot settings won't be enough for the sorts of photos you'll want to take, and there's nothing worse than missing a great photograph because you didn't know how your equipment worked. Or worse – missing a moment entirely because you were searching through the manual!
Bring spare batteries
The cold in Finnish Lapland will drain camera batteries quickly, so if you're out and about for a day of excursions, bring a spare and keep it tucked somewhere warm, like an inner pocket close to your body heat. The same is true of mobile phones, so you'll want to be judicious about how much you use your devices. Consider bringing a portable power pack.
Layers, layers and more layers!
Outside can be negative 30, but inside you'll be kept warm by roaring fires. The ability to whip off layers to suit is perfect. And, when outside, it will help trap pockets of air to keep you nice and insulated. It's the same logic behind a wetsuit! For me, thermals are an absolute must – both long sleeved and long legged. Remember, winter in Lapland is a delightfully casual affair. There's very rarely the need to dress up, so pack your slippers and wooly jumpers!
Try the warm room
Don't forget, if you are staying in an ice hotel, each also has a warm room, so if you do find that you're too chilly at night, you can move to a heated space. Bring a night bag with you, not least so the rest of year gear can be kept in a warm place for the next day. That said, with reindeer skins, sleeping bags and the right packing, most people are just fine.
Write a letter to Santa before you go
Finnish Lapland is the home of Santa Claus, and people here are serious about making sure children's wishes get to the right place. Even if you're not planning to visit, write a letter to Father Christmas and address it to:
Santa Claus Main Post Office
Arctic Circle, Finland
It will arrive in Santa's hands, and you may even get a reply. If you're lucky enough to be visiting Santa on your trip, I also highly recommend picking up a personalised little something for him to give out to your children, adding to his all-knowing mystery!
Photo credit: Visit Rovaniemi
With an abundance of snow and the chance to build up a sweat with all the winter excursions, there's a good chance that your clothes will experience some moisture. And, not only will cotton be unable to wick water away from the skin when it's wet, but it will lose its insulating properties. Instead, wool – or an appropriate synthetic material – is the way to go; it retains a proportion of its insulation even when damp. Remember, jeans are made of cotton!
We've talked about batteries before, but don't also forget a head torch. It's invaluable for finding your way around when you've popped out to try and catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, leaving your hands free to fiddle with your camera settings or keep a grip on a nice warm cup of tea! Then, during spring, replace your head torch with sunglasses during the day, avoiding the glare from the sun's reflection on the snow. While not essential, I also highly recommend picking up a pair of ice grippers. They're a small set of cleats that strap on right over your normal shoes.
Inspired? Get in touch with one of our Finnish Lapland experts today to start designing your ideal trip: