10 things to do in Finland in the winter
Winter is a magical season in Finland and when it comes to finding fun experiences, you won’t be disappointed.
Here are 10 must-do activities to experience in Finland during the winter months. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a summary from Avanti on how these types of activity are covered with travel insurance.
1. Cross-country skiing
It might look easy but cross-country skiing is totally different from alpine skiing. The skis are narrow and your foot is attached with your heel free. You move forward using a peculiar walking gait aided by two poles.
Forward motion in a straight line is relatively easy to master; turning a corner or even a gentle curve is not. A good instructor or a patient friend is essential but once mastered it’s a great way to get around.
There are two options for dog-sledding. The easy option involves sitting on a sledge with a team of dogs pulling you along. For the adrenaline inducing option you harness a team of huskies to a much smaller sledge and mush them yourself.
You can read my experience of controlling, or more accurately trying to control, my own team of dogs in Finland: Paws in the Snow.
Those with a need for speed can exchange dog power for horsepower by taking charge of a snowmobile. For many Finns this is a necessary form of transport in the long winter months and there are many signposted tracks through the forests.
The fun really starts when you get out on the frozen lakes, of which Finland has many, and open up the throttle.
4. Reindeer sledding
Do not think this where you get to play at being Santa.
Not even close.
This activity involves just a single reindeer harnessed to a larger version of a dog sledge. This is the favoured mode of transport for the Sami people in northern Finland. Like dog-sledging you can take control or have one of the reindeer herders do it for you.
You can read in more detail about some of the above in Dashing Through the Snow in Finland on this blog where Valery Collins relates some of her experiences.
This involves walking out onto one of Finland’s many frozen lakes and chipping or drilling a small hole in the ice. Through this you then drop a baited fishing line. It entails a modicum of patience but you could soon be grilling your catch on the shore.
It is best to go with someone who knows where the fish are likely to be biting.
Where you would normally hike in summer, the ground is covered with deep snow in winter. That doesn’t have to stop you hiking though.
Simply strap a pair of snow shoes to your boots and you are ready to walk on top of the snow rather than through it.
Snow shoes look like a pair of short-handled tennis rackets and take a few minutes practice to adapt your walking style but then you are ready to go.
There is nothing quite like hiking in the stillness of a Finnish forest or beside a lake in winter.
7. River rafting without a raft
It is said Finnish people are slightly mad.
This is based on the post-sauna activity of jumping into ice cold water or rolling, stark naked in the snow.
Although fully clothed you are wearing a full survival dry suit.
This gives you a little more buoyancy along with the life vest so that you become the “raft”. Shooting the rapids either solo or teamed up with others is truly invigorating and adrenaline-inducing experience. You can read about my experience in Finland Winter Madness.
8. Aurora hunting
With much of Finland close to, or within the Arctic Circle it is the ideal place to watch the Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights).
These streamers of reddish or greenish lights flickering in the night sky are a spectacular sight and are caused by charged particles from the sun hitting atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere.
It is best to take a trip into the wilderness, of which Finland has plenty, away from the light of towns or hotels to see them at their best
This activity is not a winter only activity.
You cannot visit Finland and not experience a sauna. Saunas can be communal or private.
You will often find them ensuite in up-market hotels. The smoke sauna, heated by a log fire, is the traditional form of sauna but has been superseded by the far more efficient and cleaner electric version.
Contrary to popular belief you do not have to roll in the snow or plunge in to an ice-covered lake. A cool shower or a dip in a swimming pool will do.
10. And finally…
Something to do with the children or grandchildren… visit Santa.
Gordon Lethbridge is a travel writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on the Travel Unpacked blog at www.travelunpacked.co.uk
Be covered for winter activities
If you’re taking part in winter activities, it’s best to make sure that you’re covered properly.
Start out by checking your insurance policy to find out if the activities you’re planning on are covered as standard, or whether you’ll need to take out additional cover.
From the suggested activities above, here’s a breakdown of how you can cover them with an Avanti Travel Insurance policy:
|Activity||Avanti Insurance policy to choose|
|Cross-country skiing||Winter Sports|
|Dog-sledding||All policies – Only when being driven by an experienced driver provided by the organiser excluding personal accident and liability.|
|Snowmobiling||Winter Sports – not including personal accident or liability.|
|Reindeer sledding||Winter Sports – not including personal accident or liability.|
|Ice fishing||All policies – not including personal accident and liability.|
|Snow shoeing||Winter Sports|
|River rafting without a raft||Not covered, would need additional cover (cover is available as standard for canoeing and kayaking on non-white water when wearing a helmet and lifejacket)|
|Aurora hunting||You’re covered – It’s not deemed as an activity.|
|Sauna||You’re covered – It’s not deemed as an activity.|
|Visiting Santa||You’re covered – It’s not deemed as an activity.|
*Information accurate as of September 2018.