Finnish Lapland

The northern-most region of Finland, Lapland is home to Santa Claus, birch and pine forests, the polar night and midnight sun, aurora borealis and miles of stunning, Arctic wilderness.

Flights run direct between London and Ivalo airport during the winter months, and there are several flights a day between Ivalo and Helsinki. In winter an airport shuttle bus drops off and picks up passengers to and from the most popular resorts and hotels. Arrange this service directly through your resort.

Winter is magical in Lapland and the best time to see the northern lights, but temperatures regularly reach as low or lower than -35 degrees Celcius. While most hotels supply an outer layer and waterproof boots, do pack several base layers and hats, gloves and scarves.

Lapland is home to the Sami, the only indigenous people of Northern Europe. The National Museum of the Finnish Sami, located in Inari, is a tribute to the history and culture of the Sami people, and their Arctic home.


EAT

Be sure to try these traditional Finnish foods:

Blueberries, cloudberries and lingonberries Finnish forests are full of berries and free for the picking.

Munki This doughnut is sugary, pillowy goodness.

Reindeer Native to Finland, reindeer are semi-nomadic and forage through the Lapland forests for their food. Try this lean meat sautéed or in stew.


DRINK

Lapin Kulta A light, local lager popular on draft.

Lapin Panimo A craft beer microbrewery in Rovaniemi. Try the dark Aihki beer which goes down smooth but warms the fingers and toes.

Laplandia Aureus vodka Try the cloudberry flavor.

PLAY

Aurora hunt and camp on the Russian border An aurora hunt by van to and from the Russian border, with a stopover at a cozy campsite at the border. Wilderness Hotels can help book this trip through a partnership with Northern Lights Village.

Frozen Lake Husky An incredible, seven kilometer husky sled safari through the forest. Organize this half-day excursion directly through Wilderness Hotels. The dogs were friendly, gentle and well cared for.

Sauna A Finnish pastime. There is no greater way to warm up after a few hours outside!

Show-shoeing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, etc. Try it all! Book directly through your resort.


STAY

We stayed at Wilderness Hotel Muotka, about 30-45 minutes south of Ivalo airport, and loved it. The resort was remote and surrounded by taiga forests, the accommodations cozy (get a room with a sauna!), the food healthy and the staff excellent. We booked all excursions directly through the resort.

Wilderness Hotels and Safaris have three other sister resorts in Lapland.

Bergen

Located on Norway’s southwest coast, Bergen is the second largest Norwegian city but feels more like a large town. Surrounded by seven mountains, pine forests and beautiful fjords, a weekend here will vastly exceed the wishes of any outdoor enthusiast. The fresh seafood is also fantastic.

While Bergen Airport is 18 kilometers from the city center, public transportation is excellent and cabs are expensive. Take the Flybussen (20 minutes and $13 a ticket) or light rail (45 minutes and about $4 a ticket) directly into Bergen’s city center. Both the bus stop and light rail are directly outside the airport entrance. Book Flybussen tickets in advance to save money.

Norwegian Airlines and SAS run many daily, direct flights to Bergen from across Europe.

While Bergen would be magical any time of year, if you want to hike and fully experience the magic of the fjords (without being inhibited by ice or snow), we suggest planning a trip between April and October.

EAT

Don’t miss the local specialty, fiskesuppe, the Bergen take on fish soup.

Bryggeloftet & Stuene The local speciality is Klippfisk, a North Atlantic cod dried on cliffs for three months, with an intense and salty flavor. Choose the upper floor for the best view.

Fisketorget A fish market has stood on this site since the thirteenth century. Today it has both local vendors and restaurants.

Godt Brød This bakery chain has multiple locations around the city and is great for a quick bite or sandwich on the go.

Hoggorm A hip pizza place just west of the city center that seems to always be buzzing. The pizzas are thin crust, topped with local ingredients and divine.

Naboen This pub and restaurant is a friendly place to drink and eat.

Pingvinen The coziest pub serving up excellent, western Norwegian cooking made with ingredients sourced from local producers. Don’t miss this one.

DRINK

Bryggeriet This classy restaurant overlooking the harbor is also a microbrewery. Go for a beer flight in the afternoon.

Det Lille Kaffekompaniet Cute and comfortable cafe.

Dyvekes This quintessentially Norwegian pub near the harbor has an extensive wine and spirit list and, with its cozy nooks and candle lit tabletops, epitomizes hygge.

Kaffemisjonen Independent coffee shop with great coffee and nibbles.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl This turn of the century, training ship has a place of pride in the Bergen harbor. While it’s possible to take a cruise aboard the ship, we felt the small reception-cum-pub-cum-members-club was a hidden gem. Stop by on a Saturday afternoon for a friendly pint and live music.

PLAY

In the summer, Bergen’s seven surrounding mountains are a paradise for mountain biking, hiking and kayaking.

Bergen Cathedral Pop into this religious medieval vestige to admire its 12th century splendor and stained glass.

Bergen’s neighborhoods Make time to walk around the residential areas surrounding the harbor. The neighborhood just behind Bryggen, Eidemarken, clings to the slope of Floyen mountain and is a labyrinth of old, wooden houses and winding, brick-lane streets.

Bryggen One of Bergen's and Norway's main attractions, Bryggen was built after the 1702 great fire and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is known for its medieval, wooden architecture and boutique shops. Check out hip home goods store Røst Bergen.

Bergenhus Fortress This medieval fortress at the top of the harbor entrance is worth an exploration.

Fjord cruise to Mostraumen One of the best ways to experience Norway’s magical fjords is by water. We recommend this three-hour, return trip that takes in wildlife, waterfalls, and gorgeous fjord views. It runs year round but in winter may be more difficult to access the fresh water areas due to ice.

Fløibanen Funicular Take this cable car to the top of Floyen mountain for views of the city and surrounding fjords. A myriad of hiking trails start from here. We also recommend a visit to the lake, which is a short hike from the funicular station at the top.

STAY

Bergen‘s city center is small and most tourist accommodations will be near the main attractions. Check out Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz in Bryggen, or, for a clean and comfortable budget option, we recommend Citybox near the city center.

Tromsø

A visit to the Arctic Circle, why not? Tromsø has become an increasingly popular tourist destination for its legendary northern lights. While it is not necessarily a playground for shoppers or foodies, it is definitely an amazing trip for those who want to explore all the Arctic Circle has to offer.  

The best time to see the northern lights is in winter between October and early April.

Tromsø is a two hour flight from Oslo and the local airport is about 7 kilometers from the city center. The Flybussen takes approximately 15 minutes to the city center. Alternatively, take a taxi given the short distance.

EAT

Emmas Drømmekjøkken Traditional, Norwegian cuisine

Rå Sushi & Bar Central location for fresh sushi.

DRINK

Huken Pub Cozy, Nordic bar with a vintage vibe. The perfect escape from chilly, Nordic temps. Also has delicious bar food!

Ølhallen Brewing at 69° North since 1877, the oldest pub in Tromsø is a chill, local spot. Over 70 beers on tap.

PLAY

Chasing Lights Northern Lights Tour Our experience with this company was excellent. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and made several stops for potential northern lights photo opps. The company provided the necessary winter gear, tips on camera settings and afterwards emailed photos taken with their professional cameras. We chose the mini-bus tour to be with a smaller group of people. Book in advance.

Fjellheisen Cable car which offers scenic views over the city. Also a local viewing spot for northern lights if the sky is clear.

The Polar Museum This museum showcases expeditions and snippets of daily life in the Arctic Circle. Not a must-do but something to fill time if you need a break between outdoor excursions.

Villmarkssenter Dog Sledding Highly recommended! The day-long dog sledding excursion allows for 1+ hour of self-drive on the dog sleds, winter gear, lunch and puppy play time. We enjoyed this and wished we had booked a longer excursion.  

STAY

Tromsø is very small and anything near the city center, Tromsoya, will be convenient. We enjoyed Scandic Ishavshotel, a nice hotel overlooking the harbor with an amazing breakfast.