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Exploring Äkäslompolo: guide to the best things to do in Lapland in Finland, including excursions and activities.
Have you finally decided to go to Lapland but you have no idea where to go?
Good news: you are on the right page. In this article I will tell you about a little-known destination in Lapland that I truly loved. The beautiful town of Äkäslompolo.
And how did you end up in this place in the middle of nowhere?
I will answer both questions. ÄKÄ-SLO-MPO-LO.
And I ended up there thanks to my friend Francesco who invited me to this small remote village where he works during wintertime.
Let me be straight, Lapland is not easy. It’s cold. Duh? You have to pull it together. Getting dressed with the appropriate clothing (which you can rent on site) takes time. Besides, Lapland is very expensive, especially during Christmas.
So when I got to Äkäslompolo I felt kind of lost and I must confess that Francesco was more of a caregiver than a guide.
And now I will try to be your “caregiver” and transfer to you the knowable knowledge that Francesco provided me.
But first let’s see where Äkäslompolo is and dive into the fun things you can do in this beautiful place in Lapland in Finland.
WHERE IS ÄKÄSLOMPOLO: A SMALL VILLAGE IN LAPLAND IN FINLAND.
Äkäslompolo is a small village in Lapland in Finland, about 150 km north of the Arctic Circle, almost on the border with Swedish Lapland.
The closest airport is Kittilä, while the closest train station is Kolari. Rovaniemi is about 175 km further south.
If you arrive by plane, you need to book a flight from Helsinki to Kittilä, and get a bus that takes you to Äkäslompolo in about 45 minutes.
The area around Äkäslompolo is the Ylläs area which is famous for its ski resorts (in Finland they practice cross-country skiing). Ylläs Hill with its 718 meters is the highest point in Finland.
Äkäslompolo is part of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, the third largest national park in Finland.
THINGS TO DO IN LAPLAND IN FINLAND.
Now let’s talk about the must do activities in Lapland in Finland.
Äkäslompolo is the starting point of super exciting activities that will make your trip to Finnish Lapland unique and unforgettable. We booked everything through Lapland Safaris.
Let’s find out!
1. HUSKY SAFARI.
Going on a husky sled ride is one of the most popular things on most people’s ‘”bucket list”.
If this is also on your list, you can get your pen ready because you will finally tick it off.
I was excited like a child!
Huskies are great animals! They are sweet, friendly and full of energy.
To be honest, I’m not a great fan of activities with animals. Like, I wonder all the time if they actually enjoy what they do, or if they are just used as a tourist attraction. So I usually just avoid them.
But with huskies it’s different because they actually need to be physically active and you can see a mile away that they are having a lot of fun.
So you can get on that sled with peace of mind. Huskies will have just as much fun as you do, and maybe even a little more.
One person controls the sled while the other sits as a passenger. My friend Erika and I took turns. Before leaving, they give you specific instructions on how to control a sled.
You can choose between a 10km and a 5km trip. We have chosen the 10.
2. REINDEER SAFARI.
Another animal that is immediately associated with Lapland is certainly the reindeer.
This activity includes a 4 km reindeer sleigh ride where you learn about these animals and what their herders do.
I learnt a super cool fact about their antlers! So the males drop their antlers after the mating season because basically they don’t need them anymore to fight with other competitors for mating. Like, I got my lady, I don’t care anymore! The antlers will then grow back for the next mating season. Crazy right?
During the reindeer safari, you can also feed your friend who kindly pulled your sled through the magical snowy forest. The sweetest thing ever!
3. HIKING ON SNOWSHOES.
A must-do activity in Lapland is for sure hiking on snowshoes in the snowy forest of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.
We hiked to Kuer hill, and the view from up there is truly beautiful!
I was totally amazed by the shapes of the snow-covered trees. They look like strange creatures from a fantasy world!
No, I didn’t take funny mushrooms I swear!
We hiked without snowshoes because the snow conditions were quite good. But always ask your guide. You don’t want to sink into the snow.
And never go off the beaten path obviously. Or you might really dive into the snow!
What seems to be the simplest activity ever was actually the one I liked the most. I just love hiking, and for me this was an absolutely new landscape where I felt in total connection with nature.
Another hike I did a couple of years later is the hike to Kesänkitunturi. This time we had to wear snowshoes and the hike was way harder and colder because we hiked during an Arctic storm! Crazy fun extreme experience!
4. E-BIKING EXPERIENCE.
If hiking was my favorite activity, the e-bike ride was for sure the most fun!
You can either rent it and move freely in the National Park, or participate in a guided excursion.
My friends and I rode freely, but obviously we wouldn’t have gone too far without our guide Francesco.
We biked at night, lit a nice little fire, toasted a couple of sausages, drank some red wine. A wonderful experience.
And of course we fell off the bike a thousand times. But don’t worry! Falling in the snow doesn’t hurt at all. It’s actually quite funny (especially when it’s the others who fall)!
5. SNOWMOBILE SAFARI.
Another very popular excursion to do in Finnish Lapland is the snowmobile safari.
There are the most varied options you can choose from. The excursions range from 2 to 6 hours and include different activities that you can combine, such as a visit to a reindeer or husky farm, and a sleigh ride with them.
6. NORTHERN LIGHTS SIGHTING IN LAPLAND, FINLAND.
Here it is. The Northern Lights. The reason why most people go to Lapland. Source of joy and pain.
Well, let’s talk about it.
Many people think that going to Lapland means spotting the Northern Lights.
It’s not like that.
I mean, spotting the aurora depends on a lot of things. First of all the KP, which is a sort of coefficient that indicates how high the possibility of seeing the aurora at that time in a given position is. You can download different Apps on the KP index, such as My Aurora Forecast.
Then the weather. There may be a magnificent aurora, but if the sky is cloudy, well that magnificent aurora is right above you but you can’t see it. What a bummer right?
And the moon. The light of the full moon is just like a beacon in the sky, so if there is light, you can’t see the aurora.
So, if you are quite flexible on the dates, try to go when these conditions are good, meaning, when the KP is high, the sky is clear, and there is no full moon.
A little complicated right? I know, unfortunately it is.
Obviously the more days you stay, the more chances you have. But of course we have also the super lucky one who arrives, stays one night, and spots the most beautiful aurora in the world, without even considering all these factors. Well! Life is unfair sometimes.
Then, one more thing I would like to add. The beauty of Äkäslompolo is that you don’t need to go hiking to spot the Northern Lights. Since it’s a remote village without lights, it has the enormous advantage that you just need to pop your head out the window to spot the aurora.
On the other hand, if you stay in a village that is a little more of a “city” let’s say, like Rovaniemi, you have to take part in guided excursions to try to spot it. Excursions which are usually very expensive, and absolutely do not guarantee that you will spot the Northern Lights. They usually offer you a second day of sighting (free or discounted) if you can’t see the aurora the first time. Or they cancel the excursion directly if they think there is absolutely no chance.
So if you decide to participate in a sighting excursion, don’t be miserable if you don’t see it.
Last thing. The igloo accommodation. You have probably seen these crazy igloo hotels with the greatest aurora above the glass roof. Very beautiful. Shocking. Life changing. But once again, there is no guarantee at all that you’ll see it. And these types of accommodation are very very expensive.
Again, if you choose to spend a lot of money for a night in a glass igloo as an experience in itself, regardless of the aurora, great. But if you do it only for that, you might want to rethink that.
From what I’m writing, do you think I’ve seen it? Yes, right. But, I’m confident!
I absolutely want to go back to Lapland, when I have more days available, and analyze KP, thermal currents, aerospace chemistry and nuclear engineering to get the right time! I won’t leave Lapland until I see it, and then of course I’ll let you know!
Update March 2021: I finally got to see it! At my third desperate try, here it is! The magnificent Aurora! Maybe sometimes, all you need is just a little bit of luck. And a friend that invites you over last minute because “get over here, tonight we have high chances to catch it!”.
PS: don’t forget to follow me also on Instagram where you find other photos of Lapland and my best shots around the world!