Our 10 favourite things to do during a Scandinavian winter holiday
There is still time to book your winter holiday in the Nordics for the upcoming snow season, but you better hurry! Imagine having a white Christmas and / or New Year, full of hearty food and amazing winter activities... And if you're worrying that you'd be cold and house-bound due to the weather... Think again!
When talking with people from warmer countries, such as Australia, we often hear comments like 'I don't think I could handle the cold' during a winter visit to the Nordics. People also often seem to wonder what on earth anyone can do in sub-zero temperatures, surely not much. Good news is that we are here to bust those myths!
The thing that people from warmer countries rarely realise is that Nordic people have extremely well insulated houses, and they like to keep the indoor temperature at a constant, warm (often hot) level at all times - therefore the cold never follows you in from the outside (for some, such as many of our beloved Aussies, this may seem highly unusual!). And we also make sure that when outside, you are dressed in a sufficient number of layers! We guarantee that you will feel nice and toasty for most of your trip!
As to how to spend your days in cold weather, our Scandinavian winter tour itineraries include countless activities - it is up to you to decide what tickles your fancy. Every option will include making sure you are dressed to feel comfortable (granted in some instances much like the Michelin Man) and ready for the adventure. Or you may prefer relaxing indoors with a friend / a book / hot or cold beverages / exotic local food. Whatever you decide, we are happy to help! Below are some of the most common activities included in our itineraries - you can pick an existing package (see the sample list of tours at the end of the article) or pick and choose as you wish.
As you read through these suggestions, enjoy real photos from fellow 50DN travellers on our Scandinavian Winter tours!!
A reindeer safari is a lovely, relaxing way to enjoy the winter scenery all around you. These are usually hosted by local reindeer herders and will give you an unparalleled opportunity to chat with the locals and learn more about indigenous Sami people.
If you don't wish to sled, you can also visit a reindeer farm and feed lichen to the reindeers. Lassoing reindeer antlers sitting on A frames, walking amongst the reindeers and enjoying the local Sami hospitality are also enjoyable ways to learn about these Northern traditions.
Dogsledding is a more action-packed way to explore the frozen wilderness, whether it is for just 15 minutes or several hours. Being led by eager and friendly huskies through the breathtaking snowy landscape is a truly thrilling experience!
The dogsledding comes in a few different versions, so we recommend thinking carefully about what you would like. At a minimum, we recommend having half an hour at least sledding so you can fully enjoy the peace and quiet of this activity. You can either sit on a sled with a guide or push your own sled, single or with a partner, swapping half way. This is quite tiring but a lot of fun. It isn't hard to learn how to do 'mush' your huskies and the guide will be watching the group very carefully to make sure it is safe and in control.
By far the fastest and most adrenalin-infused way to get around in the snow is by snowmobiles. Usually lasting for two hours with a coffee break or four hours with a lunch break over an open fire, this is another unique way to see some of the best scenery the region has to offer.
Again, you can either ride together with a guide, partner up with a friend or pay a little extra to have your own snowmobile. As you are travelling quite quickly, we recommend bringing a thin merino wool neck protector or balaclava. Typically, this is included but it is nice to have your own.
Although you are likely to see the Northern Lights from the vicinity of your cottage, there is something very magical about a specially designed trip - by horse, reindeer, huskies, or snowmobile - out into the wilderness to chase the green glow of the aurora borealis.
Any keen fishermen and women will no doubt enjoy the experience of trying their luck with catching fresh fish through a hole drilled into a frozen lake. Sitting on a chair in silence, on top of a lake, fully wrapped up to keep you warm, has a surreal quality to it. It is peaceful and relaxing - until it is time to hop on a snowmobile and journey back to your cottage.
Let your creative juices flow with an ice sculpting class. After being taught the basics and how to use the tools, you will be free to have some fun with a block of ice straight from a nearby water source. Working with the pristine natural ice is something many artists only get to dream of!
Both downhill skiing and cross-country skiing are available for anyone fit and willing to have a go. However, ski instruction is often essential for any first timers!
In most of our Nordic winter destinations, having a sauna is certainly an essential part of the experience. You can stay in for as long or as little as you like - it is best to listen to your body and let it relax with the heat. And by far the best way to finish off your sauna experience is by dipping into a frozen lake with a hole cut into the ice. It sounds intense, even scary perhaps, but it is one of the greatest feelings you can experience! If you can resist the temptation to run back into the sauna, your body will very quickly heat you up on its own and will keep you feeling tingly and warm for a long time after.
Indoor and outdoor spas/ hottubs also feature widely in Scandinavia - this one is in Ranua, Finland. Looks fun, doesn't it!
Many of our accommodation options include unique ice rooms where the temperature is kept at approximately -5 to -8 degrees Celsius. We usually recommend spending one night in an ice room, sleeping in a thermal sleeping bag. You will gain a unique understanding of the Finnish tradition of putting babies down for their naps outside (in very similar temperatures during wintertime!). The crispy fresh air combined with your toasty warm body inside the sleeping bag usually translates to the best sleep ever!
Most of our Christmas itineraries to Finland (Santa's real home) include a visit to/from Santa Claus! Santa himself will greet you, wish you Merry Christmas and, of course, give everyone a nice present - a memento to take home and remind you of your trip to snowy Lapland.
Some other winter activities that we enjoy doing in winter season are ice rally driving, ice go-carting, horse riding, laser tag in the snow, ice skating, deep sea fishing and fat biking. Watching an ice hockey match, celebrating New Year's Eve with your own fireworks and dancing around Christmas trees with locals are all 'once in a life time' experiences that make your trip to our region even more special.