Whenever one travels, one has the feeling of being away from home, -it is part of the attraction-. But when you go to a place where the climate changes to 20 degrees less , the sun sets at 2 pm and where you live by and for nature, what you directly feel is being in another world. And in the case of Lapland, this is somewhat true, because it is the northernmost region of several European countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland) and some of Russia.
Rovaniemi is the administrative capital of Finnish Lapland, one step away from the Arctic Polar Circle , and one of its most famous towns for hosting the Santa Claus Theme Park , which lives its high season on these dates. Although it is true that it is still the gateway for almost 70% of tourism, the most authentic Lapland , if Santa Claus is no longer the center of your life, he is in other regions where you can discover the natural treasures of Lapland. this northern corner of the world. And among them, that of Inari-Saariselk is the most authentic , and where there is still something of the Sami culture.
There is a summer Lapland and there is a winter Lapland. Absolutely different, they are the same forests, but they are two films. And although it might be thought that the natives live waiting for spring and the thaw to arrive – let’s remember that in winter there is a layer with an average thickness of 80 cm. and barely 4 hours of light- the truth is that its population loves snow , is used to living with it and it is life. The white of this layer that covers the region gives a unique light , perhaps one of the most indescribable things in Lapland, and it has also become a way of life for this region where tourism plays every time a more important role being one of the paradises for fans of cross-country skiing.
In addition, the large number of lakes, the good care of nature, the quality of lake and river waters, make Finland a paradise for those who enjoy fishing, the national sport along with hiking and skiing. nordic.
2. SNOW SPORTS
In Kittil there are the ski slopes of Levi. , one of the largest alpine ski resorts in Finland. Most of the alpine ski runs in Finland are not very long, ideal for beginners, although there are of course red and black runs. However, they have a great advantage: few queues, no crowds and a good level of services.
But the hallmark of Finland is cross-country skiing or Nordic skiing . The Finns practice it since childhood, for them in the past it was a way to move through the woods and on the way to work or school. Every municipality in Finland, from Helsinki to Lapland, has its own network of cross-country ski trails, many of them illuminated. Throughout the route you will find open shelters on the road (“laavu”) or cabins (“Kota”) where you can stop to gather around the fire, gather strength, cook something and meet other skiers. The most complete network of Nordic ski trails in Finland is that of Ylls, with 330 kilometres.
3. THE SILENCE
It is what struck me the most after a week there. It is a sparsely populated area and very far from our Mediterranean concept of “living on the streets”. Leaving the tourist center of Rovaniemi, in any of its other locations: Saariselk, Ivalo, Inari, kslompolo, Pyh-Luosto, Muonio… you can spend half an hour on the street and just watch the passing to two people. Despite this lifestyle, the second best thing is that the people are close and convey a great sense of serenity.
Despite the fact that tourism is one of the main sources of income in Lapland, except for the Santa Claus center in Rovaniemi, you never have the feeling of being a tourist. Accommodation resorts have been growing organically, based on need, there has been no ‘real estate exploitation’ and they always play with the concept of single-family construction, which is seen in all Finnish residences. These hotel complexes are conceived as a group of churches or small bungalows , which always reserve a panoramic wall or roof (heated, to allow visibility) that are a window always open to the spectacle that is the sky. crashed on a clear night. And of course, to the northern lights.
5. The Sami world
The Sami (also known as the Lapland or Saami people) are an indigenous population found not only in Finland but throughout Lapland, which is actually a region that spans northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula, northwest of Russia. At present there are approximately 82,000 people who currently live in an integrated way (with some exceptions) in the population centers. There are no official statistics of its population, because there is no census or ‘identity card’ but it is estimated that about 50,000 live in Norway, 20,000 in Sweden, 10,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia. Within the Sami world there are several languages and dialects.
The descendants of the Sami live in an integrated way in the different population centers, and although they dress in a modern way, they do take care of their traditions and crafts with pride. Like Tula, a woman from Inari who herds reindeer, weaves, and makes traditional Sami shoes out of reindeer skin.
The Lapps resisted for more than a century the attempts of assimilation of the non-Lappish society, and although at present it is considered a cultural wealth that is protected, this was not always the case and for many years some reneged on it. your condition. In Finnish Lapland, the most powerful Sami nucleus is in Inari, where there is also the Siida Museum, placed with impressive taste and where you can learn more about this culture in a relaxed and enjoyable way.
6. The Northern Lights
The phenomenon of the aurora borealis (also known as northern lights or aurora borealis), is one of the most spectacular produced by nature. In theory, the best months to see them in Finland are from September to March, but the reality is that there are locations where they are seen up to 200 nights a year . By localities in Lapland, the most prone are Rovaniemi, Kemi, Saariselk and Yllas. But I saw them in Inari, a charming town, with a wonderful lake and they were a spectacle.
7. The reindeer
If it is possible for you to leave Lapland without seeing the Northern Lights, it is impossible for you to do so without seeing reindeer. Reindeer are part of nature and life in Lapland, and when it comes to their use they are like our pigs , absolutely everything is used. They are semi-wild animals but not aggressive towards humans, they usually live in semi-freedom, but each and every one of them belongs to a shepherd, they are controlled by marking (like our cows) and they are rounded up two or three times a year. . The reindeer have absolute priority to pass, even if they do it through the road, something very frequent:
The growing seasons are dictated by the cold, which means that many local products are only available for a limited time. For this reason, in winter it is a preservation cuisine, with fresh fish (perch and salmon with the head) but also a lot of smoked fish garnished with lemon and fresh dill. The vegetables are cooked in the European and Nordic style, aldentes and crunchy. In the fruit part, the queens are the dried and ground or preserved berries, which are collected throughout the summer and are used in practically everything.
Social life in Finland takes place around a sauna or a kota, a cabin with a fire in the middle where you can warm up, cook, or simply stay hypnotized. In the image the kota of arcticskylapland.com, where meals are also served.
And of course, the reindeer… if you have arrived in Finland with the idealized image of Christmas reindeer, it may be difficult for you to enjoy it. But there it is like eating cow or pork in Spain, something of the most everyday. The most typical form of it is in a dish called Poronkristys, which is stewed reindeer accompanied by mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. But it is also common to serve it on roast loin, in this case accompanied by some sauce based on butter and milk. Through the mashed potatoes or the sauces, the flavor of the reindeer is softened, which is somewhat strong if you are not used to it.
9. The saunas
It is estimated that there are about three million saunas in Finland , so it is practically impossible to go there without stepping on one. You will find them in all types of accommodation, collective but above all individual. They are a basic of any hotel, as can be the shower.
The hot and cold contrast of the saunas to the outdoor swimming pools is part of Finnish leisure. In the image, Kiilop Sauna World, in Saariselk.
But the sauna , in addition to being a place of well-being , is above all in Finland a social meeting area. It is very common to meet friends, family, or spend some time before dinner in the sauna. In family saunas or among friends, people are usually naked, or somewhat covered with a towel. In public saunas too, but there are different saunas or schedules for men and women. And when it comes to a mixed public sauna, usually people wear swimsuits.
Among the historical ones, the one in Rajaportti stands out, it is the oldest public sauna in Finland that is still in use today. Located in the old neighborhood of Pispala, in Tampere (the world capital of the sauna) it is still heated with wood according to the traditional way, it provides a soft and pleasant steam and has the power to transport its visitors to the past.
10. And yes, it had to arrive… the tenth reason: SANTA CLAUS . But at this point in the article maybe, like me, you are no longer interested in knowing him, or you have stopped believing…
NOTAS PARA IR A LAPLAND
How to get to Northern Lapland: Plane to Helsinki, and from there plane to Ivalo airport: the northernmost airport in Finland. Ivalo is the administrative center of the municipality of Inari, and where the largest population is concentrated, making it the place where there is the greatest variety of services in northern Lapland.
ACTIVITIES : Outdoors and snow: Lapland Safaris Sami Museum (SIIDA) in Inari: www.siida.fi Sami artisan farm with reindeer: Run by Tuula, a very special woman. More information.