Honestly, I never had any desire to go to Finland before, let alone to the very north in Lapland. But as usual, I was enticed by some awesome snowy pics of this beautiful country and I knew I had to experience it for myself. Plus, I really wanted to see Santa! Can you blame me?
I had no idea there were so many awesome and unique things to do in Lapland, Finland. I was overwhelmed by all the choices as I was deciding which ones to choose! My wish list included seeing the northern lights, doing an animal safari (aka sleigh rides), and something super traditional and completely out of my comfort zone (you’ll see).
So if you’re heading that way and need help deciding, let me highlight all the kick-ass things to do in Lapland, Finland below:
Most Unique Things to Do in Lapland, Finland
Go On a Photo Expedition
Take an all day photo expedition that includes some trekking through the nature and photographing some epic views over the land. This is a must do for photography lovers. No professional experience is needed! They basically take you to all the best photo spots in a winter wonderland and help you take some awesome photos. It was really better than I expected.
I wrote a separate post on this so I won’t get into too much detail here. But honestly, this was one of my favorite things I did in Finland! You can read about my tour in more detail here.
Santa Claus Village
If you’re in Rovaniemi you kinda have to go see Santa! Ok honestly, the village won’t wow you or anything but it’s one of those things that’s cool to say you did. Where else can you visit the city Santa is from?
In Santa’s Village, you can send a postcard postmarked from Santa’s Village and get an official stamp on your passport. They also offer shorter reindeer and husky rides. Although it’s more commercial here, it’s still an option of you don’t want to fork out a huge lump of cash for the longer animal safaris.
Cross the Arctic Circle
While at Santa’s Village you can actually cross the arctic circle! How cool is that? This is one of the few places in the world where you can actually stand with one foot on each sides of the arctic circle. If you want, you can even get an official certificate proving you actually did it!
I couldn’t go to Lapland and NOT ride a reindeer! I mean, how many other places can you do that? Not many. The ride was very slow and kinda “kiddie” so definitely something for small children to enjoy, but still kinda cool to do as an adult.
The ride itself is about 25-30 minutes through the snowy forest. It’s a great opportunity for photos. We then visited the reindeer farm and got to see all the cared for reindeer, even some cute baby ones! To get warm, we huddled by the fire and roasted sausages and sipped on berry juice.
It was a nice and quick tour and the company was great, but honestly for the price I don’t think it was worth it. I say this because they off reindeer rides at Santa’s Village for a small fraction of the price. Unless you really love reindeers and want to spend a little extra time with them, I would do the ride at Santa’s Village instead!
(Disclaimer: I received a small media discount for this tour. While I greatly appreciate this, I need to be completely honest with my readers and tell it like it is).
Snowmobile to the Northern Lights
I’ts always a smart idea to book a northern lights tour that also combines another activity, just in case you don’t get to see them. Seeing the northern lights is never guaranteed and they are very unpredictable.
The perfect example of this is the Snowmobile Safari/Northern lights tour I did with Wild Nordic. The snowmobiling really got my adrenaline pumping riding out to a frozen lake to chase the lights. The ride was a bit bumpy with all the ice, so you probably shouldn’t do this is you have any spine issues or recent injuries.
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After about 45 minutes of zipping through the snow, we ended up on a frozen lake far from the city lights. Our awesome guide Raivis made a small fire and cooked us Finnish sausages and poured us the most amazing hot berry juice.
Unfortunately the conditions didn’t allow us to see the lights; however, bonding with the fellow travelers around the open fire is something I’ll never forget!
The snowmobiling experience was so fun we didn’t even care about seeing the lights (I had seen them a few days earlier in Tromsø so I was content). It was an awesome tour and something you shouldn’t miss!
This might have been the most crazy thing I did in Finland. However, it’s something very popular with the locals, mostly for the health benefits. Going from extreme hot to cold is good for your circulation and makes you feel refreshed (although caution is advised in those with a history of heart issues).
The setting at Immelkartano was absolutely perfect. It’s a small family run company (which you know I love) which operates 2 sauna houses set on a beautiful snowy frozen lake.
Set up my tripod and caught the Northern Lights faintly in the distance. This was not visible with the naked eye so an added bonus!
I was told by the attendant that going in the frozen lake up to your next cleanses you of your sins from the neck down. All sinners welcome 🙂
The ice dip was super invigorating to say the least! You start by heating up in a traditional Finnish smoke sauna in a private setting and then jump into an ice hole. You end the dip by drinking a shot of straight up Finnish vodka (trust me, you’ll need it!).
View the Northern Lights from Levi
Levi is an adorable little ski town that I had the pleasure of staying in for 2 days while in Lapland. Although I didn’t get to see the northern lights on my snowmobile safari, I was fortunate enough to catch them in the back of a restaurant I was walking to in Levi. I happened to have my tripod on me from before, so I ran behind the restaurant to catch this incredible display of Mother Nature. There is something special about seeing them when you’re least expecting them. It’s pure magic.
Visit a Snow Hotel
The Snow Village is located about a 30-40 minute drive from Levi but is worth the trip. I learned so much about ice hotels and the design and details blew me away. I didn’t know that they rebuild the ice hotel every year, and it never looks the same twice! I really wish I would have stayed one night. The place was amazing! We were able to go inside all the rooms and see what they were like. Every room has a different design with intricate carvings. The artwork is really incredible. There is also an ice bar, ice restaurant, and ice slide! It’s only for children, but I saw some adults breaking the rules (ahem, including me).
Every year, the hotel has a contest for the best designed room. Applicants submit their design online and the winner will have their room brought to life with their design! They even get to come stay in the hotel in their room! How cool?! If only I could draw past stick figures…
One of the most popular activists in Lapland is to go on a husky ride safari. This activity is a lot faster and more exciting than a reindeer ride. The adrenaline kick plus the frigid air smacking you in the face will really wake you up!
You will also have time to meet all the huskies and play with them afterwards. I’m a cat person honestly, but these cuddly creatures are so hyper and loveable that I fell in love with them. I’m not going to lie though, in the beginning when they get them all hyped up to ride, they were a bit scary and aggressive!
Look at those gorgeous blue eyes!
It wouldn’t be a true Finish activity without ending the day inside a hut roasting sausages over an open fire. God I love Finland!
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The company was called Tundra Huskies and it costs €75 for the tour. You get to visit husky farm and pet the dogs and then do a 25-30 minute ride. You can also visit some reindeer on the farm. The whole tour takes about 2-3 hours.
Other Awesome Things to Do in Lapland, Finland
Get a panorama view from a fell (a fell is basically an epic lookout point over the land).
Stay in a hotel with your own sauna (I’ll get to that in the next post).
Other cool things to do in Lapland that I didn’t get a chance to try:
Scenic flight to chase the northern lights
Stay in a glass igloo hotel (my dream)
*This post was in collaboration with Visit Levi & Wild Nordic; however, my opinions are my own and I had a kick-ass time in Lapland, as you can see!♥
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Have I Convinced You To Want to Visit Lapland? What Activities Would You Like to Do?
If you’re like me, as soon as I heard about the $450 annual fee with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (CSR) travel credit card, my reaction was “oh hell nah“. But then I eased up and started researching the benefits of the card and slowly realized that the fee is well worth all the perks (as you will see below).
One of the main reasons I can travel so much is because I use travel reward credit cards to build points to get free plane tickets. Any plane ticket over $600 I don’t pay for. I use points to get free flights.
I’ve been taking advantage of this for the past few years and I seriously think it’s one of the biggest secrets as to how to travel more. That and NOT spending money on dumb shit. But to each their own…
If you’re new to the whole travel reward credit card thing, don’t worry, I’ll try to break it down easily so that you can actually understand it.
Note: This post is in NO way sponsored and I have absolutely no affiliation with Chase. I’m just sharing my honest review in hopes of helping others to travel more with travel reward credit cards. It’s one of the main reasons why I can travel so much).
Update: I wrote the draft of this post a few weeks ago, and now they opened up a referral bonus for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, woohoo!!
So What is a Travel Rewards Credit Card?
A travel reward credit card is basically a credit card that is linked to a rewards program. You spend money, you get points towards travel. It’s as simple as that.
For example: you buy a plane ticket for $500, you get 3 points per dollar with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Therefore, you get 1500 points for buying that plane ticket. These points can be used to buy plane tickets, hotel rooms, and many other cool things. (I honestly don’t think it’s worth it to use points for hotels or other things, and I only use my points for flights).
Here’s an idea of what a certain amount of points will give you for flights:
For 60,000 points, you can take a roundtrip flight from the USA to Europe. For 40,000 points, you can take a roundtrip flight from the East Coast to Ecuador or Peru. For 80,000 points, you can fly from the USA to South Africa.
But let’s get to what you really want to know:
Why the Chase Sapphire Reserve is So Worth the $450 Annual Fee
Actually, the first year, it’s really only $50, and then it’s basically $150 per year thereafter. Wait, what? Let me explain by highlighting all the card’s benefits and you’ll see wtf I’m talking about. I’m not crazy, I swear.
$300 Travel Credit Per Year
Once you spend $300 worth of travel purchases, this gets reimbursed to you immediately. This brings that $450 annual fee down to $150 right off the bat.
What counts as travel? flights (not just directly from airlines but any travel search website, i.e. Skyscanner, Expedia, etc.), taxis, toll roads, parking lots, ferries, Uber, Lyft, car rental agencies, hotels, Airbnb, etc.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Chase Sapphire Reserve has NO foreign transaction fees so I can use it when I travel overseas as well to earn points. Just make sure to alert Chase of your travels beforehand so they don’t freeze your account for suspicious spending!
$100 Global Entry or TSA Pre Check Credit
(note: you must pay the application fee with your Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card)
I finally caved in and got my Global Entry (GE) and let me tell you I’m kicking myself for not getting it sooner! I avoided it for so long because I heard it’s hard to get an appointment. While this is true, I found a center near me that accepts walk-ins.
The whole appointment took 10-15 minutes and it was the easiest thing ever! They asked me if I’ve ever been convicted of a crime and if I have ever violated immigration laws…and that’s it! Oh yeah, they proceeded to tell me all about their dogs.
What I did was google “Global Entry walk-in appointments in Washington, D.C.” and I found a place. So try that in your area! I went to the Washington, DC Enrollment Center.
To make things easier, I found this great resource for the walk-in centres that allow same day appointments here.
So with the $300 cash back for the travel credit plus the $100 in Global Entry/TSA Precheck, that equals your $50 the first year charge. After that, you’l be essentially be paying $150 ($450-$300 travel credit). BAM. Not bad for ALL the awesome perks and points you get!
*Note: TSA Precheck is included with Global Entry so definitely go for the Global Entry! (unless you do not travel outside the USA at all). There is no “upgrade” option, so if you get TSA Precheck and decide later you want GE, you will have to reapply and go for the interview all over again for the GE (and pay the $100 app fee). Boo.
Priority Pass Airport Lounge Access
I must say this is the most underrated perk of this card! So basically you get free VIP access to over 1000+ airport lounges around the world. In these lounges you can find food, snacks, alcohol, wifi, TVs, comfy sleep areas, and even showers in some.
First, download the Priority Pass App to your phone, then it’s super easy to search for a lounge. It has all the info about the lounges and tells you where exactly in the airport it is.
Download the Priority Pass App to find all the lounges!
However, I’ve learned that not all lounges are created equal, I’ve noticed the international ones are way better than the domestic ones. My favorite is the Turkish Airlines lounge in Washington Dulles Airport (IAD). They serve full on gourmet food like lamb, chicken skewers, falafel, rice, and hummus. I now get to the airport an hour early so I can go to the lounge and stuff my face with yummy food before my flight. And oh yes, I definitely have a few glasses of wine as well to ease my flying jitters. #morewineplease #freewine
I just got back from South America and on my connection home, I stopped in Lima and went to the VIP Club Lounge and Business Center. There was a “quiet room” inside the lounge where they had 10 super comfy leather recline chairs. I pulled an all nighter so when I saw this I was in heaven. I had a 4 hour layover so I took a much needed nap. Then I had a quick brekkie and coffee (they even had lactose free milk!) and was on my way.
Having access to airport lounges is awesome!! If only for the free wine alone (and the good wifi)!♥
3 Points for Every Dollar Spend on Travel & Dining (& 1 point for everything else)
Every time you use your card to buy something travel related or eat out at a restaurant/fast food, you get 3 times the points!! For example, I recently spent $500 for my Peru/Bolivia plane tickets and I got 1,500 points for this purchase. Yay!
So what do all these points mean?
Well, you can either use the Chase portal to search for flights, or you can transfer these points to the participating airlines/hotel partners. These partners include: British Airways, Flying Blue Air France KLM, Korean Air Skypass, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards,United MileagePlus,Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, World of Hyatt. The points transfer at a ratio of 1:1.
For example, if you have 50,000 Chase points, you can transfer them to United Mileage Plus and have 50,000 United points. United is part of Star Alliance, as are 28 other airlines such as Lufthansa, Croatia Airlines, Air Canada, etc.
So even if you hate United (which I kinda do), I personally think they have the best point system and it’s the easiest to get free tickets. You go to United.com and search for award flights, and all the partner airlines will pop up, so most the time, I hardly ever even fly United.
Here is an example flight from Washington, DC to Split, Croatia. A one-way ticket will cost 30k points plus taxes.
If you notice, these flights are not even operated by United. There is an option to fly the first leg with United with the taxes only at $26 instead of $42. It depends on how much you hate United I guess.
To Get the 50K Point Sign-Up Bonus, You Must Meet Spending Requirements
I jumped on a debut promotion where I got 100,000 miles when I signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Now that promotion is gone and the bonus is 50,000, which is still pretty awesome though.
In order to get this bonus, you must spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of receiving your card. That equals about $1,333 per month. That’s easy to spend in the US, especially because you can use the card to purchase things you would already be buying anyway like groceries, gas, and even some bills. Most companies these days will let you pay your bills with a credit card so make sure to check with them. If you can try to pay your rent with the CSR, even better!
If you think you may have trouble meeting spending requirements, ask your friends to give you cash when you go out to eat and put the bill on your card. Or, ask you parents if they need to make a big purchase and offer to put it on your card for some cash. There are many ways around it!
Will Opening a New Card Hurt my Credit Score?
Meh. Temporarily it will drop slightly, but not by much. So unless you’re about to apply for a huge loan for a car or house, it will not affect you that much at all in the long run.
However, having a credit card open will build your credit. Just make sure you pay your card off in FULL each month to avoid the high interest rates. Making purchases and then making payments WILL build your credit. Having credit cards can be a good thing if you’re smart about it.
Other Awesome Perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve
Car rental collision damage waiver(CDW), trip delay and cancellation, baggage delay, emergency medical and dental, road side assistance. Just please note that only services purchased with the CSR will be covered (so if you rent a car on another credit card, you will not receive the car rental insurance benefits..duh).
Important note: the emergency medical and dental is only up to $2,500, which is EXTREMELY low. I would recommend you still purchasing a travel insurance that covers medical insurance at a higher rate. This $2,500 isn’t going to get you crap in some countries!
I use World Nomads and I love them (and no I don’t get paid to say that)! They have awesome coverage (especially medical) and they have been easy to work with.
Shit happens when you travel and I have already made 2 claims with them in the past year and got fully reimbursed (once for a hospital trip in Croatia and another for a stolen camera lens in Colombia). Oh, and since I have had an unlucky year, my phone was just stolen in Bolivia so I’m about to make my 3rd claim of the year.
Like I said, shit happens when you travel! Make sure to have some travel insurance before your next trip (as most US health insurance plans will NOT cover you overseas…unless you have a super badass policy with an enormous monthly premium).
If you’re interesting in coverage and prices, you can get an easy quote below. I just signed up for their affiliate program (because I think they are great), so I just need to disclose that I may receive a small commission if you purchase insurance through my link, at no extra cost to you. Yay!
Do You Pass the 5/24 Rule?
Chase abides by the 5/24 rule, which basically means that if you’ve opened up 5 new credit cards in the past 24 months, you unfortunately will not be eligible for this card.
But I Already Have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Love It
Yes, this was me too. I loved my Preferred and used it for everything. But with the Reserve, the 3 points per dollar for travel and dining purchases, (instead of 2 points with the Preferred) was the deal breaker for me!
I didn’t want to pay the annual fee for both cards, so I called Chase and downgraded my Preferred to the Chase Freedom Unlimited with no annual fee. With the Freedom Unlimited, you get 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases so if my purchase doesn’t fall in the travel or dining category, I use this card to get 1.5 points instead of 1 point.
If you can’t commit to the $450 annual fee with the CSR, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great option as there is NO annual fee! Sign up here.
How I’ve Used My Miles to Travel for Free
Like I mentioned above, any flight over $600 I get for free basically. Most my long-haul continent to continent flights are bought with miles, not money. I try to be smart and save the miles for the most expensive flights. I have yet to use miles within the USA because I don’t think it’s worth it.
Last year I transferred my Chase miles to United Mileage Plus and flew to Cape Town, South Africa from Split, Croatia for 30,000 miles each way (60k total). Even with the free flights you do have to pay taxes, which are usually less than $100 and sometimes as little as $5 one way.
I often fly from Washington, DC to Split, Croatia for 60,000 points roundtrip on Lufthansa (found through the United system).
I really want to go back to Africa and New Zealand, which are really far away, so I’m saving my miles for those trips! I have about 140,000 points saved so far (and counting).
Now You Can Get Extra Points for Referring Others (up to 50,000 points)!
So I got lucky on this one and now the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a referral bonus they just opened up in the last week! If you sign up using my link HERE. I get 10,000 points! And once you get your card, you can get the bonus too if your friends sign up! They limit it to 5 referrals so you can get up to 50,000 points just to refer a friend. Hell, I refer friends either way because I love this card and it allows for more free travel!
If you haven’t been able to tell from this post, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is so fu*king worth it. It really has been a game changer and allows me to afford to travel more.
I’ve had a few travel reward credit cards, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives the best benefits in my opinion. It’s completely worth the $450 annual fee and I think every avid traveler should have this card!
If you enjoyed this, please PIN it for later ♥
Have I convinced you to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve? Do you Have any Other Travel Reward Credit Cards You Really Love?