Finnish Lapland in autumn: Everything you need to know

A mystical setting with a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, Finnish Lapland’s changing landscapes are best enjoyed during during autumn – or as the Finns call it, 'ruska'...

4 mins

Why visit Lapland in autumn?

Finnish Lapland stuns in autumn (Shutterstock)

Finnish Lapland stuns in autumn (Shutterstock)

Before the silver lakes frost over and snow dusts the forests and fells of Finnish Lapland, the short-lived season of ruska takes hold of the land. Fall colours set the arboreal landscape ablaze, with the leaves of birches and mountain ash trees rusting into amber, gold and scarlet.

This, however, won’t be the only spectacle to catch your eye this season, as the northern lights make a comeback, swinging a curtain of pale green light over a sleepy land settling down for a long peaceful snooze.

It’s a time of year that attracts all sorts of visitors to the region, all in the hope of capturing both experiences.

Nature in Rovaniemi, Finland during auutmn (Shutterstock)

Nature in Rovaniemi, Finland during auutmn (Shutterstock)

The hiking trails at Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park offer a fitting introduction to the changing colours, before winter makes the routes treacherous by around mid-October.

Trek the 55km-long Hetta-Pallas Hiking Trail and you’ll find fells, ravines and panoramic views across the park. On your way, you’ll discover open wilderness huts, where you can rest up for a night and take advantage of the Finn’s ‘right to roam’ law.

Heading south, not far from Lapland’s capital Rovaniemi – aka Santa’s HQ – you can hang out with blue-eyed huskies on therapeutic retreats, join them on bumpy cart rides as they train for the upcoming winter season, or canoe your way up to a (non- flying) reindeer farm.

A traditional Sami loghouse in Lapland, Finland (Shutterstock)

A traditional Sami loghouse in Lapland, Finland (Shutterstock)

Continue north to Lake Inari however, and you’ll come across the Sámi – indigenous semi- nomads who herd vast numbers of reindeer through Scandinavian forests.

Guided tours at the Siida museum offer an insight into their culture, while boating trips along the River Lemmenjoki lead you into their ancient homelands. Inari is also where you’re likely to have your best encounter with the Aurora Borealis, known here as ‘fox fire’.

Tales of an Arctic fox sparking snow with his tail may be popular folklore, but if you gaze upwards, you can almost hear the real story, the whisper of distant solar storms happening well beyond our reach.

How to get to Finnish Lapland

Finnair flies from London Heathrow to Rovaniemi via Helsinki Vantaa airport (pictured), from around £216 return.

The shortest journeys take approximately five hours.

3 autumn things you can't miss in Lapland

1. Wander through Oranki Art Park

Originally designed as a secret outdoor exhibition, Oranki Art park is full of sculptures and faces carved into trees.

They may evoke a Game Of Thrones episode, but with the art at the mercy of the wilds, you never know what you’ll see.

2. Visit the wildlife wonderland of Ranua Wildlife Park

Get acquainted with all sorts of Arctic animals at Ranua Wildlife Park.

Arctic foxes, wolverines and lynx all roam here – and the only polar bears living in Finland, too.

Bring a torch – the park stays dark for the wellbeing of the wildlife.

3. Forage for mushrooms and berries

Until October, keen foragers can find juicy berries and mushrooms studding golden Lappish forest floors.

Join a guided walk to make sure you’re picking the right ones, then eat or cook them. Get your basket ready! 

How to photograph the Northern Lights in autumn

The Northern Lights over a Finnish forest (Shutterstock)

The Northern Lights over a Finnish forest (Shutterstock)

Taking a great shot of the Northern Lights is high on any traveller’s to-do list. But how do you get it?

Escape the light pollution of the cities, equip yourself with a camera and tripod and head north to mountainous Saaris Elkä or Lake Inari, where you’ll find great vantage points and opportunities to snap the colourful reflection of the shifting lights on the water.

Hunt them down by signing up to the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s Auroras Now! website for emails on when the magnetic conditions of the Finnish skies are at their best.

But if you’re still not sure about heading out solo, book yourself on to a photo expedition with professional aurora hunters and learn their secrets to capturing the green lights – and hopefully get the shots of a lifetime.

P.S. Did you know?

There are over 200,000 reindeer in Lapland – they vastly outnumber the human population (180,000).

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that reindeer dominates the Finnish menu...

Roughly 500,000 letters are sent to Rovaniemi’s post office (located near to a log cabin whose first guest was former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) for the attention of Santa.

Elves work around the clock to sort these out...

Finnish architect Alvar Aalto started to reconstruct Rovaniemi in 1945 after it was destroyed during the Second World War.

Look at a street grid and see how a reindeer’s head starts to take form!

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