When is the Best Time to Visit Lapland?

You are eager to meet Santa? Can’t wait to see the Midnight Sun? You want to pet reindeer and huskies? You are afraid of the cold or the darkness? You can’t make up your mind when would be the best time to visit Lapland, in Finland? Here are some facts about the weather, so you know what will wait for you here.

The Eight Seasons of Lapland

There are many misconceptions about Lapland. Most people think that it is always dark and cold and everything is covered with snow around the year. Many people are surprised to learn, that we also go to the beach, there are heatwaves in Lapland too.

I always say that one of the best things I like about Lapland is that we still have all of the four seasons, and all of them are real. It is just that they are either longer or shorter than what you are used to if you arrive from the southern part of the world. To be exact, there are not only four seasons here, but eight.

Mid-winter

The first two months of the year is called mid-winter (sydäntalvi) or frosty winter (pakkastalvi). The temperature is most likely around -20-30 C degree. In January the days are still short, they only last for a few hours. If the sky is cloudy, there is not even daylight. It’s just dusk. In February you can literally see the light at the end of the tunnel winter. Bright sunny but freezing cold days are common.

Average temperature: -30 C to -15 C degrees

Snowy Spring

Snowy spring (kevättalvi) lasts from late February to late April. This is one of the best times here. That’s why it’s called the summer of Lapland. By March, the length of the daylight hours increases significantly. There’s a lot of sunshine and the cold begins to ease. These days are ideal for skiing, ice fishing and all kinds of outdoor activities.

Average temperature: -15 C to +5 C degrees

The Ice Breaks

It is changing from year to year. The snow usually starts to melt around late April to early May close to the Arctic Circle. That starts later in the northern part of Lapland. April is the end of the winter tourist season. We’re in a kind of transition from winter to summer. I always have mixed feelings about this time of the year. Of course, I am happy about spring to arrive.

Because of the melting snow, this period has its challenges. During the day when the temperature is above zero, the snow is melting. This often results in large, slushy puddles on the sides of the road. They are extremely difficult to cross especially while pushing a stroller. Unlike days, the nights are often cold. That’s when the wet slush freezes up. In the morning it is challenging to walk on the slippery roads, which are bumpy with ice.

Average temperature: +5 C to +15 C degrees

Summer

In Rovaniemi the midnight sun season lasts from the beginning of June till the beginning of July. That’s when the sun doesn’t set at all. Practically, from May till early August there’s no darkness here. The further up north you go, the longer the nightless night season is.

I think the summer of Finland and especially summer of Lapland is wrongly underestimated. I’ve written about it why I love summer in Lapland. I won’t repeat myself. Let me just put it in that way. Summer is like a Saturday sugar shock for kids, who are not allowed to eat candies during the weekdays.

Average temperature: +15 C to +25 C degrees

Harvesting

In August forest are crowded by berry and mushroom pickers. It reminds me of the harvesting in the vineyards in Hungary. Except that here the harvest season starts earlier. And you don’t have to get drunk while harvesting.

This time is perfect for hiking or taking long walks. It’s often sunny and the air is not cold yet. In mid-August the moon appears again on the sky. But what is even more exciting: Aurora hunting season begins!

Average temperature: +10 C to +20 C degrees

Ruska, the Colorful Autumn

September is the month of beautiful ruska. Nature puts on her colourful dress. Nights are dark again and the temperature tends to drop below zero. You can feel the cold breath of the approaching winter on the back of your neck. But days are still sunny and not too cold. People are admiring beautiful nature before it goes for a long winter sleep.

September is one of the best times of the year to see the Northern Lights. It’s also good that the nights are not too cold yet. So you don’t have to freeze to death to see the beautiful green lights dancing in the sky.

Average temperature: +5 C to +15 C degrees

The First Snow

The first snow might fall already in September in the northern areas of Lapland . Here around Rovaniemi we usually see snow for the first time during October. This is very unpredictable. Sometimes you have to wait for the first snow till December. Sometimes everything is under a white blanket by the end of October or beginning of November. Anything is possible.

If you ask me, after the slushy April November is the second ugliest month of the year. Trees are bear, the weather is cold, wet and windy. Days are getting shorter and darker. It can be quite depressing.

The official winter season opening is held on 10th of November in Rovaniemi. But if you ask me, at this point locals are more excited about the snow to arrive than Christmas.

Average temperature: +5 C to -5 C degrees

Christmas

December is the darkest time of the year. Up there in the north, people already say goodbye to the sun in November and they can’t see it again till next year. In Rovaniemi, during December the sun rises around 10:00 am and sets again around 2:00 pm. If it’s cloudy, it doesn’t feel like daylight at all. It’s mostly just dusk.

December is the peak season for tourists. Everything is about Santa, Christmas, reindeer and husky rides. The air smells like gingerbread, Christmas lights are everywhere, everyone is waiting for Christmas to arrive.

In December it can be pretty cold, -20 C degrees even. Normally it doesn’t last long though. The real cold season starts in January.

Average temperature: -15 C to -5 C degrees

Summary

When talking about the weather in Lapland you have to keep two things in mind. The first thing is, that Rovaniemi is only the gate to Lapland. The further you go up to the north the more extreme the weather can be. The darkness or the brightness lasts longer, the first snow arrives sooner and melts later.

The other thing is that if you only look at the numbers, it can be misleading. Thanks to its continental climate, cold in Lapland feels different than for example in southern Europe. Or even different than in south Finland. Cold is dry here and that’s why with proper clothing it’s much more bearable. A wet winter day with +5 C might be worse than a sunny winter day in Lapland with -10 C degrees.

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