Family-friendly summer in Lapland with wilderness expert Minttu Heimovirta

3 minute read

Credits: Joona Kivinen

Wilderness guide Minttu Heimovirta knows Lapland like the back of her hand. But it wasn’t always that way.

Minttu Heimovirta is a biologist, nature journalist, and mother from Ylläs who owns and operates an outdoor adventure company offering nature experiences in Finnish Lapland. 

Before moving to Ylläs, home to the famous “Seven Sisters” fells and Finland’s largest ski resort, in 2018, Helsinki-based Heimovirta says she never could have imagined life outside the big city. Then burnout struck – and her priorities changed. 

“I needed a break…and in my mind, I had this picture of Lapland and the feeling of peace that can be found here,” Minttu explains.  

A few years and one intense wilderness guide course later, Minttu and her partner Joona Kivinen decided to officially make the move north of the Arctic Circle. That’s how they ended up in Ylläs, an area of Lapland that’s nestled within the Tornio River Valley. 

Now, the mother of two toddlers and co-owner of outdoor adventure company Pihka Outdoors shares her recommendations for family-friendly summer activities in Lapland.

Credits: Samuli Rosenberg, Flatlight Films

Get an energy boost from the midnight sun

It’s no secret that summer in Lapland is special. This northernmost region of Finland is home to breathtaking natural phenomena and vast arctic landscapes, including the beloved midnight sun. That means that during the summer months, there is light 24 hours a day, creating even more time for outdoor activities. “The outdoor possibilities are amazing,” Heimovirta says.  

For example, Minttu recalls going outside one evening around 2 a.m and seeing “this bright sun shining in my face as if it were 2 p.m.” 

“You don’t get tired the same way as in the winter because it’s so bright all the time,” she explains – making Lapland perfect for all manner of outdoor adventures. 

Credits : Harri Tarvainen
Thanks to the midnight sun, you can enjoy typical daytime activities even during the wee hours of the night.
Credits: Visit Rovaniemi

Explore the countryside in a camper van

Lapland is a huge and sparsely populated region: It occupies approximately one-third of Finland’s total area, making it the largest of Finland’s four regions. So, what’s the best way to see it all with kids in tow? Heimovirta recommends renting a fully-equipped camper van and setting off on your own Lapland adventure. The freedom is what makes it enticing, she says: “You get both the accommodation and the wheels. You can go wherever and stop wherever.” 

Two of her favourite spots to roam are Pallas fells, in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, and Kilpisjärvi, a mountainous area that borders Norway and Sweden and is “always super captivating.” And no matter what your family’s into – from hiking, biking, swimming, and boating to forest bathing and relaxing in pristine nature – Lapland is the place to do it. Besides the villages around Ylläs, camper vans and caravans are available for rent in bigger destinations and cities, like Rovaniemi and Kolari. 

Credits : Markus Kumpula, Flatlight films
At the Kellostapuli peak, you can feast your eyes on the breathtaking fells of Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park.
Credits: Markus Kiili

Discover what’s within your own backyard

In Lapland, you don’t have to look beyond your own back yard for nature experiences. Heimovirta suggests grabbing the kids and some snacks and setting off for a walk or a picnic in the nearby woods. Not only does Lapland have plenty of fells to walk, hike, and climb, the area also offers spectacular wildlife-spotting and ample opportunities to forage for (and feast on!) flavourful berries and herbs. 

“People often come here and they have a list of things to do, but I’ve discovered the best thing to do is to go and sit still somewhere in the forest,” Minttu says. 

Credits: Samuli Rosenberg, Flatlight Films

Take advantage of human-made conveniences

In Lapland, nature isn’t just everywhere – it’s accessible to everyone. For starters, roadways are comprehensive, well-maintained, and largely traffic free (although you should keep an eye out for reindeer!).  

Cycling and walking paths are plentiful, especially in national parks. For example, Heimovirta endorses Särkitunturi in Muonio with its paved paths designed to accommodate strollers and wheelchairs. Finally, visitors to Lapland shouldn’t turn their noses up at the region’s many open wilderness huts. Although basic, they’re free and typically offer plenty of space for families to spread out.  

Credits : Petri Jauhiainen
Many parts of Finland’s national parks are accessible and offer everyone the possibility to embrace the wilderness.
Credits: Katri Lehtola

Don’t forget the essentials

Summertime in Lapland should be laidback and relaxing – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things to keep in mind. Although temperatures are typically warm (ranging from 10-15°C or 50-60°F), the weather can be variable and nights are chilly. Heimovirta recommends bringing a down jacket and merino wool layers for each member of the family, even in July and August. Best time to travel in Lapland with kids is either June or August-September. This is to avoid the worst mosquito time in July. She also advises travellers keep a physical map on them at all times, as internet access in the wilderness is spotty.  

Finally, Heimovirta reminds people to be respectful of nature, follow local rules and regulations, and most importantly, leave no trace. “The reason I want people to come here is to see what pure wilderness still looks like,” she explains. “We have pure nature – and we want to keep it that way.”

Credits: Tiina Törmänen

See also


Explore Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus and the...