May 24

Top Things to Do in Inari Finland: Beyond the Arctic Circle

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Just look at how far North Inari is, much more than you really think, and  yet despite being in the land of the Aurora Borealis, the Sami people, the continuous sub-zero temperatures and the days with no light, Inari in the Finnish Lapland is a unique place not only in Finland, but in the world. 

inari lapland

Ten minutes before I was in that hydroplane flying over frozen lakes and snow covered forests in Inari, Finland.

I’ve been here twice, and after this second trip I feel confident and comfortable enough to call Inari and the surrounding areas my favorite frozen playground in the world because of it’s beauty, wealth of things to do, and the magical atmosphere.

Why? In a nutshell I love the outdoor activities, the uniqueness of the area, the food, and the feeling of exploration despite all being actually rather convenient. 

But keep reading, adn I'll share with you the details...and some great tips.

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About Inari Finland

The idyllic village of Inari brings together a range of modern services and fantastic activities, and is the perfect getaway for exploring the authentic culture of Northern Sami people at Finnish Lapland. Keep reading and discover why you should plan a visit to this beautiful arctic town.

Where is Inari?

Nestled between the spacious forests of the Urho Kekkoken National Park and Lapland’s largest lake, Lake Inari, lies Finland’s largest and sparsely populated municipality: Inari-Saariselkä (Inari Sami: Aanar).

It attracts far fewer visitors than the resort towns further south, but it features a serene vibe and genuine Lapland’s hospitality that invite visitors to slow down and enjoy all the natural wonders it has to offer.

Inari Finland Weather

Inari has a chilly and humid climate, with severely cold winters and cool summers. It is also among the driest locations in Finland, especially during winter months where the average precipitation total is less than a half of the amount received by Southern Finland.

Due to the polar night, winter is usually extremely cold. Be prepared for temperatures dropping to as low as -30°C. There are not many shopping options in Inari for warm clothing, so I’d recommend you to arrive with adequate clothing and layers.

There’s midnight sun from late May to late July and the average summertime temperature is only around 17°C. However, there are some days where temperature could be well above 20°C, so expect the unexpected and have at least some warm layers if visiting in summer.

How to Get to Inari Finland

Inari is far away in the North yet very well connected to the world through flights, train and the country’s key north-south European route (E75 highway). The quickest way to get here is by plane though.

lapland Inari

Lapland in May from the sky

You can easily reach Ivalo International Airport by a domestic flight from Helsinki. During winter peak season there are also connections from most European cities, not to mention the numerous charter flights. Buses, taxis and car rental services are available upon arriving.

But if you don’t mind long trips and want to get through some of the most beautiful scenery, you should first take the train to Rovaniemi and then catch a bus to Inari Village.

You can also take a bus from Helsinki, but it’s a 15 hours trip.

Should you want to avoid both air and road travel, you can also take an overnight train from Finland’s capital city. Check the Finland Railways website

Inari Finland Map

                   

Inari Finland Northern Lights

Inari is about 265km (165mi) north of the Arctic Circle, right under the aurora oval, which makes it one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.

Actually, is not uncommon to witness these dancing lights up to 200 times in a single year.

Why Visit Lapland Inari?

While the Finnish Lapland covers a HUGE region (100,367km2 to be precise), the small arctic town of Inari is where you’ll find the authentic culture of Northern Lapland.

Here, travelers can have a firsthand introduction into the nomadic lifestyle of Finland’s Sami indigenous people, and enjoy outdoor pursuits amid Lapland’s sweeping landscapes.

There are several reasons why you shouldn’t miss Europe’s northernmost holiday town.

It is a very accessible Nordic destination:

Finland is remarkably close to other European nations. Compared to travelling the North American arctic, getting to Ivalo Airport/Inari Village is very easy, just less than one and a half hour away from the capital city, Helsinki.

Santas Village Saariselka

Sitting on Santa's very own chair at Santa Claus Village in Saariselka

There are also excellent and reliable bus connections between Inari and Rovaniemi, where the “real” Santa Claus actually lives (I took the picture above there).

It offers state-of-the-art tourism facilities:

Despite being nestled so far north and deep into the Arctic Circle, Inari offers a wide range of modern & world-class tourist amenities: comfortable hotels and cabins, excellent restaurants, wilderness safaris, aurora tours and a very informative museum about local nature and Sami's cultural heritage.

Finland Inari is much more than just aurora displays:

Inari is the best and most affordable way of exploring the arctic, even if you don’t happen to see the Northern Lights.

You can take part in everything from husky safaris and reindeer sleigh tours, to river cruises and ice-fishing trips. 

fishing in ice

Setting up the spot is not very difficult, and drilling the hole is easier than what you might think

You can also discover miles of hiking trails and spot arctic wildlife at Lemmenjoki National Park.

But if you’re not an outdoor enthusiast, you can always browse art exhibitions, wander the several artisan shops available and watch concerts at Sajos, Inari’s cultural centre and home of the Sami Parliament Hall. Whether you’re looking for culture or adventure, Inari has it all!

Inari Lapland Finland - Local Sights

SIIDA museum

The SIIDA museum in Inari, a great place where to learn about the Sami people and Lapland

  • Lake Inarijärvi: third largest and second deepest lake in Finland. It features 3,318 islands.
  • Ukonsaari Island: The 30 meters high rocky Island is an essential part of the cultural heritage and considered sacred to the Sami people, which should be respected by all visitors on the Lake Inari.
  • Pielpajärvi wilderness church: Built in 1760, it is one of the oldest buildings in Finnish Lapland. It was in use until the end of the 19th century and nowadays is one of the most visited cultural places in Inari.
  • Sajos - Sami Cultural Centre: administrative and cultural centre of the Finnish Sámi people. It is the home of Sámi parliament, and it also works as a congress center and meeting venue.
  • Siida Museum: Nature Centre of Northern Lapland and home of the permanent exhibition of Sámi culture. This museum focuses on explaining  the once nomadic Sami culture and their way of life learning not only about them but about life in this part of the world too. Without it being too big I found it very entertaining the two times I have visited it, and is probably one of my favorite museums in the world.

Savor Traditional Lappish Food

Lappish people are proud of their food and tend to think that visitors might find it a bit dull because they don’t add sauces and spices to it, arguing that they like the fresh flavor the food already has.

arctic char soup

Arctic char soup

I have a similar approach to food, and was pleased to see that the natural unpolluted surroundings produced excellent ingredients resulting in mouthwatering dishes.

From grilled arctic char, to reindeer stews and soups the food in Lapland has a character of its own that should not be missed by anyone.

In case you want to know, my favorite dish was Reindeer Stew with Mashed Potatoes and Lingonberries.

Inari Finland Things to do

Summer

Summertime gives a myriad opportunities to explore and experience Northern Sami culture.

Grab a paddle and travel around the vast wilderness of Lake Inari in your own canoe or stand on the bow of a catamaran cruiser as it carries you across the lake to the sacred Island of Ukonsaari.

kayaking inari

Cruising down the inlet

Discover miles of uncrowned nature at Lemmenjoki National Park or hike to the top of Otsamo Fell beneath the midnight sun. Understand the importance of reindeer at a Reindeer Farm.

Take the lakeside trail to Pielpajarvi Wilderness Church and extend your walk to Pielpavuono Fjord, from where you can return to Inari Village by foot or boat.

While at it, you may want to learn interesting facts of Finland too!

Winter

Of course, arctic wouldn’t be complete without winter, and that’s when Northern Lapland really comes alive. Go in search of the splashing green lights on a reindeer sleigh. Traverse the snow-capped forests on cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobile excursions. 

Observe the Northern Lights

This is what seeing auroras over Lake Inari look like. It's just beautiful. 

auroras inari finland

Auroras over Lake Inari in Finland

However, I did not see them the second time I was there. I was last in this part of the world during early May, a time of the year when the sky no longer gets completely dark, and therefor for the Northern Lights to be visible they magnetic activity of the Earth has to be at one of its high peaks, which did not happen.

In fact, it was at some of its lowest in the past few weeks.

Yet while I did not see them this time I did see them when I visited Inari the previous time, early in October a few years before, and it is one of the best things to do in Inari as it is one of the best places in the world where to see them (I also got to see the auroras in Abisko,  Sweden).

Try Ice Fishing

I never thought I would try ice fishing. I mean, what’s the point? Sitting in the middle of a frozen lake, cold wind blowing in your face, staring at a hole through which you can’t see anything waiting for a dumb fish to bite the bait, right? Wrong!

As I learned on this trip ice fishing is not all about catching a fish, but about enjoying the outdoors, observing the snow covered treed, breathing fresh air and commenting with other ice fishing aficionados whatever suits your fancy.

ice fishing lapland finland

Ice fishing in Lapland, Finland

I never expected to say this, but I really did enjoy my ice fishing experience in Lapland and am sure you will too.

By the way, forget about cold weather: today’s clothes are so good that experiencing cold is a thing of the past.

Go Dog Sledding

There are many dog sledding safari opportunities in Inari and the Finnish Lapland in general, just make sure you plan your trip well, namely October through late April.

dog sledding inari

Despite there being plenty of snow and temperatures not as cold during early May this time of the year also marks the end of the winter season, and most of the safari operators close.

I was surprised about this, as the conditions are still quite good, yet for some reason tourists stop coming at this time of the year and only return a few months later during the summer months.

Seeing that remaining open is not profitable for the operators, all they can do is close.

At least I was able to see the huskies…

Snowmobiling

Same thing applies. The winter season begins in October and lasts until the end of April, and once again I learned that the snowmobiling safari operators had closed for the season though there were many people using them privately.

inari snowmobiling

There are many tour options available, ranging from a few hours long to more than a week, and is one of those things to do in Inari during the winter season.

As this wasn’t an option for me when there, I chose to ski instead.

Ski Downhill or Cross Country

You can pretty much ski cross country anywhere in Lapland, but the area around Saariselka has over one hundred km of marked tracks as well as a downhill ski resort. In fact all Saariselka activities are of course snow related, unless you're a kid in which case the Angry Birds theme park is a must! 

I had never tried cross country skiing and wanted to see how challenging it actually is, allowing myself one hour to skit around 3.6 km to a nearby village and back in one hour.

After getting a few pointers from a local lady who saw me making a fool of myself trying to get on track I made it (barley) and was able to take some pictures along the way as the scenery was superb.

cross country skiing Saariselka

My first time cross country skiing

From there I walked to the downhill slopes (around 20 minutes) , got the gear and was enjoying the ski resort which I had pretty much for myself, speeding down the hill with perfect snow conditions.

Explore authentic arctic wilderness and cross frozen lakes via a husky-drawn dog sled. You can also march out onto the frozen waters and try your luck at ice fishing. Options are endless!

Inari Accommodation

Choosing where to stay in Inari might prove to be a little bit more difficult to what you expected. Not because of the lack of options, but because they very different and you'll only be here a few days (probably).

Do you want a unique sleeping adventure? Comfort? Views? These are our top recommendations ( I slept at Hotel Inari and in a traditional wood cabin while here).

wilderness hotel inari

Situated just five minutes’ drive from Inari Village, this hotel is the ideal starting point to immerse yourself into Sami culture. Sleep in a glass-roofed aurora cabin, a log cabin or a wilderness room with Lappish-inspired decoration.

It also offers a range of arctic activities and panoramic views onto the Lake Inari from a Lappish themed restaurant.

hotel inari

Auroras above Hotel Inari

Hotel Inari provides comfortable and clean accommodation with great restaurant and bar facilities. It is located in the heart of Inari Village, close to all services and points of interest, including the Siida Museum.

This is a fantastic place to watch the Aurora skies and explore all that Inari Finland has to offer.

Hotel Kultahovi Inari Finland

Located on the banks of the river Juutuanjoki, this family-run hotel offers a great combination of quality, comfort and location. It has been recently refurbished with historical design, honoring their long 80 years of business.

hotel kultahovi

You can choose between the traditional Kultahovi Hotel with its many stories and the modern River Hotel, where you can enjoy the luxury of your own sauna and stunning river views from a private balcony.

Both venues feature a fresh, Scandinavian style and offer a real taste of Lapland, Inari and Northern Life.

The in-house restaurant is renowned for its superb cuisine, using locally sourced ingredients to celebrate Lapland’s variety of flavors; additional dinning is available in the Juutua Lounge & Bar. This hotel is the perfect basecamp to explore Inari and its many attractions.

Holliday Village Inari (Lomakyla Inari):

Ideally situated just five minutes’ walk outside the town centre yet right on the shores of the lake, is Holliday Village Inari. It is comprised by 27 cozy cabins and 5 spacious aurora huts, which are far away from light pollution and offer a great view of the Northern sky.

holliday village inari

 If you’re luck you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights directly from your own bed.

This is not luxury accommodation but has a good price performance. It’s quite basic, but perfect for the location and feels a part of the beautiful landscape, much more than a traditional hotel.

Moreover, the staff is very friendly and can help you with almost all the activities you’d like to book.

Lake Inari Mobile Cabins:

These adapted mobile cabins offer one of the most special overnight experiences in Finnish Lapland.

lake inari mobile cabins

They’re moved every evening by snowmobile ride to the Lake Inari ice, where your comfy bed gives you great chances of seeing the mystical Northern Lights.

Back in the base camp you can join several winter activities, enjoy tasty meals or relax at the famous sauna.

What to Bring to Inari and Lapland

Your Finland packing list- or more specifically- Finland packing list will depend on what time of the year you are visiting.

During the summer months temperatures are pleasant during the day, but as soon as the sun starts to set you will need at least a sweater and maybe even a jacket. 

With this in mind I recommend you bring:

In summer:

In winter:

And if you're traveling with young kids or toddlers:

Conclusion

As you've seen my introduction about all the things that can be done this far up north in the world were not exaggerated. Inari does have many activities to be enjoyed both in winter and summer, though winter is probably the time of the year you would enjoy it most.

One thing I forgot to mention is...bring your camera! Taking pictures of the northern lights is not easy but totally worth it, and with so much outdoor time to enjoy you'll have superb memories.

Plan Your Inari Trip

Accommodation in Inari

Booking.com has 25 hotels in Inari including apartments and resorts. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. Check prices.

Don’t forget Airbnb for your home rental stays.

Flights to Inari

Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).

The DollarFlightClub.com is an airline deals service that sends you emails with ultra low/error/hack fairs to pre-selected airports of your interest or more. Set up an alert for this destination and others you may be interested in visiting.

Rental Cars in Inari

RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, and Alamo.

RV Rentals Inari:

Outdoorsy is the largest RV rental marketplace on the planet. They offer ease, flexibility and some unique and cool campervans for your Inari road trip. Find your RV rentals for Inari here. 


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    • Hi Jennifer! I don’t think Finland is particularly expensive, particularly when compared with Norway, Sweden, London or Paris. For under 12€ you can easily find a place where to have lunch, and there are hostels with decent price dorms too, as are a few hotels as well. If you want to visit a Scandinavian country but cannot spend much, I highly recommend Finland before it’s neighbors, specially if you can head up North to Lapland!

  • What an alluring account of your stay. I am hoping to visit Finland, if for nothing else than to see the reindeer and live out a childhood dream of whispering my Christmas list into his ear! He has a direct line to Santa so the message should get through!

    • Haha! Finland is a fantastic destination, particularly in winter which is when the countryside is much more special, and transportation is well prepared for the snowy conditions. Pretty soon I’ll share a post about my meet up with Mr Santa himself!

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