Lapland facts can be difficult to unravel from the myth and legend that comes with being Santa’s hometown. But away from the Christmas-themed – and very festive, fun, Lapland has some rather intriguing spots to track down. The gold in the region’s rivers might grab your attention, but that’s not the only treasure you can stumble across on a hike. Bet that’s got your curiosity piqued. Happily, we’ve drawn up a list of our ten favourite Lapland facts for you. And, yes, we did have to include just one that mentions St Nick. It IS Lapland, after all.
Lapland is a pretty big deal
To the uninitiated, Lapland sounds like a quaint, snow-filled place where Santa likes to chill out with his reindeer. In reality, Lapland covers a lot of ground. Peer at a map of Finland, and you’ll see roughly one third of it is classed as Lapland. Great news for explorers and adventurers that like their ski resorts, ranging wilderness and enough hiking to keep you busy for at least a month or two.
All of Santa’s post really does get delivered to Lapland
With children from all over the world writing to Santa, it makes sense that he’d have his very own Post Office. You’ll find it in Lapland – where else? More specifically, it’s in the heart of Santa’s village in Rovaniemi. At the last count, over 20 million letters from 200 countries have found their way to this charming post office. The Finnish Postal service gives Santa a helping hand to sort the mail, along with some elves. Open year round, you can pop in for a souvenir or send your own letters to – and from – this unique post office.
The national dress hides some useful intel
The gákti, or national dress, is worn by Lapland’s Sámi people and contains clues about all aspects of their lives. Going into a little bit more detail than say, the Scottish tartans, gákti colours and patterns can clue you into everything from where the wearer is from, to whether they’re married or not. Today’s clothes are a little more colourful that the original clothing which was made from reindeer hide.
There’s gold in Lapland’s hills
Of all the Lapland facts, this is the one that could, possibly, make you a little richer. Drop by the Golden Village or the Golden Trail and you’ll see that the gold rush is still very much in full flow. It all began in the late 1800s when nuggets cropped up in Lapland’s Ivalojoki river. It’s where the largest pieces have been found – though gold crops up in the Lemmenjoki river too. Pop your pan in your suitcase if you fancy your chances of sieving out a nugget or two from the river silt. Or, if you’re keen to take a look back through the European gold rush, the Golden Village serves as a kind of open-air museum.
Lapland has 8 seasons, not 4
It would be easy to think Lapland really only has one long, cold season of snow. In reality, the local Sámi people felt 8 seasons was more appropriate to describe the changing conditions through the year. As well as the expected spring, summer, autumn and winter, the Sámi break the year down to include the transitional periods such as winter moving into spring and summer moving into autumn. Crucial for describing when best to go berry picking or narrowing down the endless summer days where there’s no night. Which really is a Lapland fact all on its own.
Reindeer outnumber the people
Lapland might be vast, but its population is a little thin on the ground. Numbers are so low, the reindeer outnumber the people. If we’re looking at the stats, humans clock up a respectable 178000, but the reindeer clinch the title with a whopping 200,000. Which does make your chances of spotting an antler or two in the wild a little easier.
Lapland is home to the EU’s only indigenous people
To really get to know what life in Lapland is like, have a chat with the Sámi. The EU’s only indigenous people live in parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway, with just over 10,000 calling Lapland home. Many have now moved to urban areas, though there are still some living the traditional lifestyle which includes reindeer herding and ice fishing. The Sámi Museum and Nature Centre in Siida can get you up to speed on all things Sámi, if you don’t manage to meet any in Inari.
Gifts turn up in unusual places
It’s not just Santa that likes to dole out gifts in Lapland. When you’re hiking and biking through the wilderness, you may spot anything from coins and trinkets to antlers and even fish heads stuffed into the most unexpected spots. Though, these gifts are for the gods – rather than any keen-eyed visitors. Lapland’s indigenous Sami worship nature’s wonders. Known as Seidas – or holy places – landmarks such as trees, or impressive, coloured boulders and handcrafted carvings are often bestowed with trinkets for good luck.
Finland has its own squeaky cheese
We’ve all embraced the slightly off-putting squeaky nature of halloumi to experience the salty goodness of the world’s most rubbery cheese. And, for the most part, probably thought it was a bit of a weird one off. Not so. Finland has its own cheese that’ll test your tooth enamel and ability to plough through a slice or two without grimacing. Leipäjuusto pops up often in Finnish cuisine and can be a part of your breakfast in Lapland, if you’re game? Sweet and salty, it goes rather nicely with bread and cloudberry jam.
There’s an ever-growing art collection, deep in the woods
20 years ago, a Finnish art collective decided to organise an annual, secret, pop up art event in the woods. All went to plan – apart from the secret bit. Word got out and attracted a fair bit of attention. Fuelled by the success, each year, more and more sculptures are dotted between the pines near Pello. Open to visit through the summer, visitors can see the works created for the Oranki art exhibit. Many use the materials found in the surrounding woodland, ensuring the art work ages and decays as time passes.