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.

Big Sur

The mystical California coastline between Santa Barbara and Carmel-by-the-Sea is a blend of dreamy mountains, jagged clliffs, stunning vistas and zero cell phone service. Connected by Route 1, this is the road-trip of a lifetime.

Big Sur is book-ended by Santa Barbara and Carmel-by-the-Sea, both worth stopovers on their own. Santa Barbara has incredible wine bars and Carmel-by-the Sea is an adorable storybook town.

EAT

Brass Bear Brewing and Bistro Craft beers at a casual eatery in downtown Santa Barbara.

Deetjens Restaurant

Nepenthe Enjoy dramatic views over lunch.

DRINK

Dawn’s Dream Winery Family-owned winery in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Area 5.1 Cool winery in Santa Barbara.

PLAY

Bixby Bridge The emblem of Big Sur.

Elephant Seal Vista Point Just outside San Simeon, park and get out at this view point to observe elephant seals sleeping on the beach.

Esalen Institute Hot Springs This healing center offers public bathing in its hot springs between 1am and 3am every night. Reservations must be made day-of, and are released each morning on their website at 9am.

Hearst Castle Located in San Simeon, book a tour or admire from afar.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Home to redwood trees and good for hiking.

Pismo Beach Spend a morning here and admire the beautiful, monarch butterflies.

Point Lobos State National Reserve Spend a morning or afternoon at this wild reserve.

McWay Falls An 80-foot-tall waterfall flowing year-round into the Pacific Ocean.

Solveng This Danish-style town is a delightful stop along the way from Santa Barbara to Pismo Beach. Visit any local pastry shop.

STAY

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn Rustic, country-style inn and cabins. Recommended by a friend.

Ragged Point Inn Absolutely amazing views.

Treebones Restort Yurt-style glamping. Book way in advance. Recommended by a friend.

LOCATIONS NEARBY