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Reindeer sleigh rides in the snow

reindeer lapland finland

If there is one place I’ve ever been that truly feels like a winter wonderland, it’s Finnish Lapland.

I am not kidding, no exaggeration, it *actually* feels like you are at the North Pole. You can even visit Santa in his village in Rovaniemi, which I totally did because I love all things Christmas, but to be honest, felt a bit weird since I visited in March on my own with no friends. Kinda like doing karaoke alone. Not right.

Anyways, Santa aside, being in the Arctic Circle in winter is beyond amazing and so beautiful, and this trip firmly planted Finland (of all places) at the top of my list of favorite countries.

reindeer lapland finland

I love animals and I love being out in the forest in winter in the Arctic has always been the stuff of fairytales and children’s storybooks for me, so I was beyond stoked that let this fantasy come true. And the real life version was just as special!

Stretching across northern Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia is the cultural region of Lapland, an area inhabited by the native Sámi people. While in Finland itself, there is its own region of Lapland, taking up more than 30 percent of the country with only three percent of the population.

It is a vast, open and empty place, the stuff of legends and stories, obviously I was drawn there.

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

Lapland for me is like a peaceful wilderness, open skies, and a place of solitude and quiet, something I always value on my travels.

It was a still white day, not too cold and snowing on and off when I made my way out to the Jaakkola Reindeer Farm near Luosto in Finland.

An ancient Sámi way of travel, going for a reindeer sled ride is something you must do if you visit Lapland in winter. Reindeer are basically an icon in Lapland, and it’s a great way to interact with them that’s not trying them on the menu (I kid, I kid – NOT – reindeer is delicious).

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

Nowadays reindeer in Finland are free range, wandering in the wild until they are herded up twice a year. There are more than 1000 types of notches to mark their ears because each one belongs to someone.

But don’t ask a Sámi reindeer farmer how many reindeer they own – as it turns out that’s quite a personal question akin to asking a stranger how much money they earn. You live and learn.

A traditional part of the Sámi life in the far north of the world, many things have remained unchanged over the years, except now they can nerd and work with snowmobiles.

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

It was early afternoon when I arrived at the Jaakkola farm and met the family. Jani and Anu have lived here and run it for their whole lives, helping share their traditional Sámi culture with visitors and keep reindeer farming alive and strong.

After meeting some of the reindeer, I piled into the back of one of the sleds and snuggled into the hides and blankets as soft fat snowflakes began to fall. The local farm dog promptly climbed into my lap making the fairytale complete.

Totally peaceful and serene, we glided along the new snow through the forest in utter silence, with only the sound of reindeer bells twinkling. Magical.

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

As the snow softly landed on my blankets, with my camera tucked away after the first 10 minutes, I felt like I finally had the time to literally sit back and enjoy Lapland.

Passing through the forests in the snow felt like something from a book, not something in real life. I love the feeling of this and I hope I can recreate more often on my travels. The feeling of your imaginings and dreams coming true. It is possible.

After our ride I was lucky enough to visit some of the baby reindeer nearby in their pens. Holy crap can you say cute?

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

reindeer lapland finland

Normal humans like us can visit the farm for all sorts of tours and activities, sit around the warm fire in the traditional Lappish Kota (hut) and learn some stories. And if you’re super lucky, Anu, who might be my favorite person I met in Finland, might “joik” for you.

A form of Sámi cultural expression, joiking is a powerful, transformative, emotional type of song that’s not really a song, often without words, an expression of the spirit. You joik literally to express something or someone or a feeling, not about someone. Does that make sense? Here’s a powerful example.

As I cupped my warm tea and listened to Anu joik for me by the fire after our sleigh ride, I felt overcome with emotions for this part of the world, and wanting to do everything I could to help keep this place special. No doubt about it, Lapland touched my soul.

Have you ever seen reindeer in real life? Has a place ever affected you this way? Would you like to go on a sleigh ride in Lapland or heard of joiking?

reindeer lapland finland

Many thanks to Visit Finland for hosting me in Lapland, like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me. 

38 Responses to Reindeer sleigh rides in the snow

  1. Elizabeth December 24, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Wow! That looks amazing! I live in Alaska and I haven’t tried dog sledding, but reindeer sledding looks a lot more magical! The only place I’ve felt similar to that was standing in front of Green Gables on PEI. I felt like I’d literally stepped into the book.

    • Liz December 25, 2016 at 3:46 am #

      I’d love to visit there!

  2. Neni December 24, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    That was really fun. I did that as well, in Levi. A little bit more northbound.
    They are sooo cute and I loved hearing about their stories.

    • Liz December 25, 2016 at 3:46 am #

      So amazing!

  3. finja December 25, 2016 at 1:19 am #

    Wow this looks amazing! Merry Christmas to you and the reindeers.
    xx finja

    • Liz December 25, 2016 at 3:47 am #


  4. Cate December 25, 2016 at 2:38 am #

    Omg this is literally my dreeeeam! Those reindeer are so cute!! I am obsesssed with winter and Christmas, so this looks so cool. Could you do a post on how you got up there, where you stayed, etc?

    • Liz December 25, 2016 at 3:48 am #

      Sure I’ll get to it eventually, it’s pretty easy!

  5. Marilyn December 25, 2016 at 5:33 am #

    I thought you went back to Virginia for Christmas. Did you make this trip earlier in December? I’ve heard Finland is a wonderful place to visit especially around the holidays.

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      I am in Virginia, this was last March!

  6. Wildboy December 25, 2016 at 5:50 am #

    Those photos are so amazing it looks like you had such an amazing time!! Loved it! Merry Christmas from New Zealand 🇳🇿

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      thanks Brando xx

  7. Jennifer December 25, 2016 at 7:39 am #

    Wow! Looks fun. Happy Holidays! 🙂

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:23 am #

      Thanks you too!

  8. Tanja December 25, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    What a beautiful experience which is definitely on my bucket list! The photos are amazing 🙂

    Greetings from germany and merry christmas ❤

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:23 am #


  9. Edward December 26, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

    What an amazing way to spend the run-up to the holidays … need to check out Finland in the winter time sometime soon!

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:25 am #

      Lapland in winter is pretty special!

  10. Katya December 27, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    This is all absolutely thrilling and I am so envious, you know in a good way! Love your insta by the way 🙂

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:25 am #


  11. Jagabond December 28, 2016 at 6:51 am #

    It looks very cold but very beautiful…great pictures!!!

    • Liz December 28, 2016 at 11:26 am #

      Not as cold as it looks!

  12. Madi | Restless Worker December 29, 2016 at 4:14 am #

    This is the definition of a winter wonderland! What a beautiful trip this looks like. Not sure I agree with being pulled in a sleigh by reindeer but I’m sure it was a cool experience.

    • Liz December 29, 2016 at 11:55 am #

      not agree why?

  13. Em December 29, 2016 at 9:44 am #

    Wow. Well, wasn’t that a slap in the face. I’ve been complaining all day about how TIRED I am of my home country, how everything is so cold and wet and grey and colorless and how I want to move somewhere else. This country is soooo boring. So dark. Really just dull.

    Guess where I live? Yeah, that’s right. In Finland.

    Thanks for this post. I really needed it. It’s just hard to appreciate this country when it’s so freaking dark in the winter. And it’s not even proper winter where I live – just rain and snow and then rain again, and then a little bit of frost making all that water freeze so that there’s a wee bit of snow on top of ice, and you’re pretty much flat on your ass the second you step out your door. But yeah, there’s a whole lot of good here as well, and I seriously need to learn how to appreciate that. Thanks for coming all the way from across the globe to remind me of that 🙂

    • Liz December 29, 2016 at 11:56 am #

      hahahahahaha anytime!

  14. Katrin@TravelGearDepot December 29, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

    When I was a child we always went sleighriding after horses in the winter, in Dalecarlia, Sweden. Nowadays there is seldom snow enough to do that, sadly enough. I’d love to go to the more northern parts of Sweden and enjoy sleighriding again, perhaps after reindeers this time 🙂

    Thanks for sharing the winter magic!

    • Liz December 30, 2016 at 5:22 am #

      Oh cool! I want to go to Sweden!

  15. Simran Bellani January 2, 2017 at 8:42 pm #

    Such a beautiful experience! I would love to go there.

    • Liz January 3, 2017 at 5:00 am #

      it’s pretty special!

  16. Brubunce January 3, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    Amazing! Would love to go there

    • Liz January 3, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

      It’s so epic!

  17. Leigh | Campfires & Concierges January 8, 2017 at 8:33 am #

    I have a hard time deciding to travel to cold places when it’s cold at home (Chicago) so I usually opt for tropical, but Finland in winter looks well worth the trip!

    • Liz January 9, 2017 at 1:21 pm #

      it’s magical!

  18. Laura / Fall into Finland January 8, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Great Pics Liz! Thanks for this post. Though I’m a Finn myself it didn’t know you shouldn’t ask the Sámi farmer how many reindeers they own. But yeah, makes sense.

    I’m happy you enjoyed your time in Lapland! I love it a lot, too. I live in Helsinki and though we have a proper winter here at the moment I can’t wait going to Lapland in a couple of months! 🙂

    • Liz January 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

      Cool! I had the best time, and I know you will too! don’t ask about the reindeer haha

  19. Agness of a TukTuk January 13, 2017 at 2:50 am #

    Hi Liz, this reindeer sleigh ride is amazing, I bet the kids enjoyed every minute on it. I would really love to try this. Lovely pictures you have there.

    • Liz January 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

      Hope you get the chance to visit Finland then!

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