It’s true: no matter how you look at it Inari is way up North, much more than you really think, and yet despite being in the land of the Aurora Borealis, the Sami people, the continuous sub-zero temperatures and the days with no light Inari in the Finnish Lapland is a unique place not only in Finland, but in the world. I’ve been here twice, and after this second trip I feel confident and comfortable enough to call Inari and the surrounding areas my favorite frozen playground in the world because of it’s beauty, wealth of things to do, and the magical atmosphere.
Getting to Inari- Saariselka
Despite being so far up North it is fairly easy to get here. There are non stop flights from Helsinki to nearby Ivalo and a few other airports in Northern Europe which during the peak season can be quite cheap because of the thriving competition. The two main carriers are Norway’s new low cost airline Norwegian and Finland’s Finnair, with it’s low cost partner Blue1. The flight from Helsinki takes about one hour, and the views from the sky are second to none, specially if there’s some light which happens 6 months of the year regardless of what time during the day it is.
Road transportation is very good too, and the 11 hour drive from Helsinki will take you through beautiful forests and lakes, worth a stop in too many occasions. You may want to take a bus from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (Lapland’s largest city) and then another to Inari from here. Should you want to avoid both air and road travel, you can also take an overnight train from Finland’s capital city.
A Winter Playground: Things to Do in Inari- Saariselka
Inari’s high season is the summer, when the Finnish, Russians and Swedish come to the lake to enjoy fishing and outdoor activities during the mild and brief summer months, but it’s during the winter that the area really becomes a unique and magical place where you can actually enjoy the freezing weather and snow covered white landscape.
Learn About the Sami People and the Finnish Lapland
The best way of doing so is by visiting the SIIDA museum, a museum that focuses on explaining about the once nomadic Sami culture and way of life learning not only about them but about life in this part of the world too. Without it being too big I found it very entertaining the two times I have visited it, and is probably one of my favorite museums in the world. If you have the time yu can also visit a Sami reindeer farm or eat a meal in a Sami Luuvo, a traditional teepee.
Observe the Northern Lights
I know, there are no northern lights in the picture below. I was last in this part of the world during early May, a time of the year when the sky no longer gets completely dark, and therefor for the Northern Lights to be visible they magnetic activity of the Earth has to be at one of its high peaks, which did not happen. In fact, it was at some of its lowest in the past few weeks. Yet while I did not see them this time I did see them when I visited Inari the previous time, early in October a few years before, and it is one of the best things to do in Inari as it is one of the best places in the world where to see them.
Try Ice Fishing
I never thought I would try ice fishing. I mean, what’s the point? Sitting in the middle of a frozen lake, cold wind blowing in your face, staring at a hole through which you can’t see anything waiting for a dumb fish to bite the bait, right? Wrong! As I learned on this trip ice fishing is not all about catching a fish, but about enjoying the outdoors, observing the snow covered treed, breathing fresh air and commenting with other ice fishing aficionados whatever suits your fancy. I never expected to say this, but I really did enjoy my ice fishing experience in Lapland and am sure you will too. By the way, forget about cold weather: today’s clothes are so good that experiencing cold is a thing of the past.
Go Dog Sledding
There are many dog sledding safari opportunities in Inari and the Finnish Lapland in general, just make sure you plan your trip well, namely October through late April. Despite there being plenty of snow and temperatures not as cold during early May this time of the year also marks the end of the winter season, and most of the safari operators close. I was surprised about this, as the conditions are still quite good, yet for some reason tourists stop coming at this time of the year and only return a few months later during the summer months. Seeing that remaining open is not profitable for the operators, all they can do is close. At least I was able to see the huskies…
Same thing applies. The winter season begins in October and lasts until the end of April, and once again I learned that the snowmobiling safari operators had closed for the season though there were many people using them privately. There are many tour options available, ranging from a few hours long to more than a week, and is one of those things to do in Inari during the winter season. As this wasn’t an option for me when there, I chose to ski instead.
Ski Downhill or Cross Country
You can pretty much ski cross country anywhere in Lapland, but the area around Saariselka has over one hundred km of marked tracks as well as a downhill ski resort. I had never tried cross country skiing and wanted to see how challenging it actually is, allowing myself one hour to skit around 3.6 km to a nearby village and back in one hour. After getting a few pointers from a local lady who saw me making a fool of myself trying to get on track I made it (barley) and was able to take some pictures along the way as the scenery was superb. From there I walked to the downhill slopes (around 20 minutes) , got the gear and was enjoying the ski resort which I had pretty much for myself, speeding down the hill with perfect snow conditions.
Savor Traditional Lappish Food
Lappish people are proud of their food and tend to think that visitors might find it a bit dull because they don’t add sauces and spices to it, arguing that they like the fresh flavor the food already has. I have a similar approach to food, and was pleased to see that the natural unpolluted surroundings produced excellent ingredients resulting in mouthwatering dishes. From grilled arctic char, to reindeer stews and soups the food in Lapland has a character of its own that should not be missed by anyone. In case you want to know, my favorite dish was Reindeer Stew with Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberries.
Visit Finland www.visitfinland.com
Lapland Tourism www.lapland.fi
Ski Saariselka http://www.skisaariselka.fi
Hotel Ivalo www.hotelivalo.fi
Make sure you check the official website VisitFinland before visiting the area. It has tons of info and the team is very helpful!