Finland - Roadtrip to Lapland
Chasing the northern lights on a budget

finland map

Traveling to Finland on a budget during winter can seem tricky, as sleeping in a tent or in the back of a car will most likely not be an option given the extreme temperatures. 

But if you don’t mind skipping the touristic attractions and Santa Claus village, then a wee road trip across the country will allow you to chase the northern lights, cross amazing landscapes, meet wild reindeers while keeping a relatively tight budget.

The best period to see the northern lights is between the end of September and the end of March, so winter is definitely a good time to visit Finnish Lapland. 

Accommodation - Where to stay in Finnish Lapland

You can find a lot of cottages to rent on Airbnb or Booking for a very reasonable price, outside the main touristic cities. We decided to go as far up as possible in Finland, to maximise our chances of seeing Northern Lights and ended up staying in the village of Sevettijärvi, 776 miles (1200km) north from Helsinki.

It is perfectly located by a frozen lake, in the middle of nature, no tourist and very few neighbors. 

There is a small bar and restaurant, Sevetin Bar, with a grocery shop section but no supermarket within miles, so pack enough food for the time you’ll be staying. The restaurant was not serving food when we were there (just after Christmas), but the place is nice and cosy, even to just have a cup of coffee. 

There was no bar or restaurant opened at night in the area and it appeared that heading to Norway was the closest option. 

Where to eat: Neiden hotel and guesthouse, we were warmly welcomed, even if we arrived way past the local supper time, and the chef prepared delicious reindeer steaks. 

Where to have a drink: the town of Kirkenes, one hour drive from Sevettijärvi has a few bars and restaurants. 

sevettijärvi, finland

How to get to Sevettijärvi, north of Finnish Lapland

Landing in Helsinki usually is the cheapest option. You can then take another flight to Lapland, or rent a car and cross the country. 

If you choose the second option, be sure you have at least a week ahead, as there is more than 770 miles (1200km) one way, approximately 15h drive (without the stops). You will be driving on snowy/icy roads for most of the trip, so keep that in mind when renting a car, a small city car will not get you safely all the way up to Lapland, prefer a 4×4 with good winter tires.

If you want to fly to Sevettijärvi, you will still have to rent a car as there is no airport in the area and no public transportation. 

The closest airports are:

  • Kirkenes (in Norway): 1h drive
  • Ivalo airport : 2h drive
  • Kittilä : 4h drive
  • Rovaniemi: +5h drive

What to expect when visiting Lapland in winter ?

Daylight: being in the arctic circle, the sun barely rises during winter. In December, you can only expect 1 to 3 hours of light, but you will spend most of the day in the dark. It can be quite unusual, especially for your body to get used to it and you might feel a little sleepy at times. 

Temperatures: Sevettijärvi is located at the extreme north of Finland, way beyond the arctic circle. During winter months, temperatures can drop to minus 40, but the coldest I experienced was -26. If you dress accordingly, it is totally bearable, as the air is dry, even when you’re dog sledding or ice fishing (so standing still for a few hours).

Roads: roads are in very good condition and if you have a car with good winter tires and respect speed limits you will have no issue driving around in Finland, even in Lapland. Just keep an eye out for wild reindeers on the road. 

How to see Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland

Staying in Sevettijärvi gives you an extra chance to witness the Aurora Borealis, as it is located in the Arctic Circle, far away from city lights. Northern lights can be seen when the sky is clear, during dark hours. 

The free app Aurora Now gives the probability of auroral activity at your location, which is quite useful if you don’t want to spend the night out waiting for the show to begin. Northern light activity usually lasts about 30 minutes, and witnessing these lights dancing in the silence of the night is an experience like no other.

Northern lights Finland
northern lights lapland

Budget - cost of a road trip to Finnish Lapland

 Flights from Paris to Helsinki: from 150 € return

Car rental for 6 days: 328€

Fuel: 200€

Cottage: 42€ per night

Ice fishing: 70€/pax

Dog sledding: 190€/pax – 2,5h

wild reindeer in lapland

Where to stay at Sevettijärvi

Cottage with a sauna, by the Sevettijärvi lake, snowshoes available

Ice fishing in Sevettijärvi

Atte offers different options to practice ice fishing, from a few hours to a few days. It is possible to fish on the Sevettijärvi lake.

From 70€ per person

Dog sledding

Husky dog sledding experience in Inari, 1h30 from Sevettijärvi 

190€ per person for 3h, transfers included

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