THE GREAT AMERICAN VACATION
Eager to explore the U.S.? Our trip finder will help you find the perfect destination.More
Lapland is often called Europe's last wilderness, a region of endless forests, fells, and great silences. Settlers in Finnish Lapland walked gently and left the landscape almost unspoiled. Now easily accessible by plane, train, or bus, this arctic outpost offers comfortable hotels and modern amenities, yet you won't have to go very far to find yourself in an almost primordial setting.
about 4,000 native Sami (also sometimes known as Lapps) still live in Lapland; the remainder of the province's population of 203,000 is Finnish. Though modern influences have changed many aspects of their traditional way of life, there is still a thriving Sami culture. Sami crafts make use of natural resources, reflected in skilled woodwork, bonework, and items made of reindeer pelts. In March, on Maria's Day, a traditional church festival takes place in Hetta, a village near Enontekiö. It is particularly colorful, attended by many Sami in their most brilliant dress, and usually has reindeer racing or lassoing competitions. Contact the Enontekiö tourist office for details.
Although the cities have fine facilities and cultural events, it is the lonely moors with the occasional profile of a reindeer herd crossing, the clear forest streams, and the bright trail of the midnight sun reflected on a lake's blackest waters that leave the most indelible impressions. Summer in Lapland has the blessing of round-the-clock daylight, and beautiful weather typically accompanies the nightless days. In early fall the colors are so fabulous that the Finns have a special word for it: ruskaa. If you can take the intense but dry cold, winter in Lapland is full of fascinating experiences, from the northern lights to reindeer roundups. Depending on how far north of the Arctic Circle you travel, the sun might not rise for several weeks around midwinter. But it is never pitch-black; light reflects from the invisible sun below the horizon even in the middle of the night, and there is luminosity from the ever-present snow.
While you're here sample such local foods as cloudberries; lingonberries; fresh salmon; and reindeer, served smoked and sautéed, roasted, and as steaks. Restaurants serve hearty soups, crusty rye bread, delicious baked Lappish cheese, and dark brewed coffee in wooden cups with meals—you won't leave hungry.