Arctic Europe, a region that traverses northern Norway, Finland, and Sweden, is an epic destination for adventure travelers all year round. Whether you like to play in the snow during the winter, or explore a vast wilderness under the midnight sun during the summer, there is plenty to see and do in this part of the world. When visiting, you'll find breathtaking landscapes, incredibly friendly people, and some of the best outdoor excursions on the planet. Here are things you shouldn't miss when venturing above the Arctic Circle.
Witness the Northern Lights
Arctic Europe is one of the best places on the planet to witness the Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the Northern Lights. Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to go during the winter to see this amazing natural phenomenon in all of its glory. In fact, the lights can be spotted at just about any time of the year, with the exception of mid-June to mid-August when the midnight sun is in full effect.
The Auroras are visible all across the entire region and Northern Lights tours are common pretty much everywhere. But one of the best places to see them on a regular basis is in Tromsø, Norway where Tromsø Safari organizes expeditions into the wild on most nights. The company uses weather and aurora reports to determine which of its numerous wilderness camps will offer the best viewing experience, making it far more likely that guests will be successful in their quest to see this celestial light show.
Take a Cruise on an Icebreaker
In the frigid climate of the Arctic, icebreaking ships are often used to travel across the frozen sea during the middle of winter. Typically, those boats are off limits to civilians, but in the town of Kemi, Finland, the Icebreaker Sampo caters to visitors looking for an extremely unique adventure.
First commissioned into service with the Finnish government back in 1961, the Sampo has been taking travelers out onto the frozen Gulf of Bothnia since 1988. The four-hour cruise travels through the thick pack ice, allowing passengers to witness the wide-open expanse of the Arctic in all of its glory. Inside the ship, lunch, snacks, and refreshments are available in the Sampo's comfortably warm restaurant and lounge, while outside, the chill in the air and the cracking of the thick ice are a reminder of the harsh, yet strikingly beautiful landscape that makes up the region.
Whale Watch on an Inflatable Boat
Arctic Europe is an amazing destination for spotting whales in the wild, particularly from about mid-April through September. The region is home to migrating humpbacks, orcas, minke, fin, and even blue whales, and options for taking a whale safari are common. During the summer, travelers can even take advantage of the midnight sun to go whale watching at just about any time of day.
Many of the excursions take place aboard a rigid inflatable boat that allows visitors to get very close to the giant mammals. It's not uncommon for the creatures to surface within just a few yards of the boat, making this a whale-watching experience unlike any other.
With its wide-open expanses and scenic vistas, Arctic Europe has plenty of great trails for mountain bikers to explore. There are cycling hotspots located across the entire region, but one of the best is found in Skibotn near Lyngenfjord in Norway.
During the warmer months, travelers can start their ride at sea level and climb well above 3,000 feet, where they'll find exceptional views of the surrounding countryside. With hundreds of miles of trails to explore, and plenty of daylight, summer is a perfect time to ride, especially with a husky as your guide. But winter is no less exhilarating with fat biking growing in popularity, too.
Snowmobile Across a Frozen Sea
A snowmobile is a fun way to explore the Arctic, giving travelers the opportunity to ride through lush forests, over open meadows, and even on frozen seas. These vehicles are perfect for the wintery landscapes of Arctic Europe because they allow access to places that might otherwise be inaccessible during the long winter months.
Brändön Lodge near Luleå, Sweden is the perfect place to take such a ride. The company offers guided tours that take travelers out onto the frozen sea, weaving their way through Luleå Archipelago and its dozens of tiny islands. Along the way, the knowledgeable guides will provide insights into life in this northerly region and give travelers a chance to try ice fishing too.
Hike or Snowshoe a Scenic Trail
Arctic Europe has hundreds of miles of trails to wander. During the midnight sun, those trails can be explored at all hours of the day or night, revealing scenic vistas around nearly every corner.
Swim in the Arctic Sea
During the summer months, the Arctic waters warm up just enough to offer a refreshing dip in the sea. But in the winter, those same waters can be quite cold. The truly adventurous can warm up in a sauna first, then cool off with a polar plunge, a popular activity with the locals in Arctic Europe. The cold water can be quite a shock to the system, but the heat of the sauna will soon remove the chill.
Many lodges and towns throughout the region offer these cold water plunges. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely a brag-worthy bucket list item!
Dog sled Through Nature
Dog sledding is another popular form of transportation in the Arctic, and visitors will find plenty of opportunities to experience a husky safari. Explore with a team of dogs who are eager to join you on your snowy adventure and pull the sled through breathtaking landscapes.
Go for a Reindeer Sled Ride
One of the more traditional modes of transportation in Lapland is traveling in a sled pulled by a reindeer. This makes for a surprisingly simple and tranquil way to explore the countryside, as you silently glide along the snow-covered trail.
Reindeer sled rides are common throughout all of Arctic Europe, and this experience isn't found in many other parts of the world, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity while you can.