If you’re looking for a winter long weekend break that ticks all the boxes – snow, Santa, saunas and sleigh rides included – then a trip inside the Arctic Circle to Lapland is just what you need. This part of the world is a Christmas card come to life. But Scandinavia has a reputation for being one of the most expensive places to travel, so how much does it really cost to visit Lapland? Here’s my budget breakdown for four nights in Rovaniemi, Finland.
Note: these costs are based on my travel style – mid-range with a touch of affordable luxury – keeping costs down where I can to can splash out on special experiences. My trip took place in January 2019 but prices have been updated where possible to costs at December 2020.
Accommodation in Lapland is really mixed – on one end of the spectrum there are inexpensive hotel rooms in Rovaniemi for around €110 a night. Or there’s an array of bucket-list-worthy places to stay like forest cabins and glass igloos where you won’t get much change from €500 a night. Prices vary through the winter too – the period before Christmas is peak season so you pay a premium versus visiting between January and March.
We visited Lapland as a group of eight so it made sense to rent a house so we had a lounge to hang out in and could cook some of our meals. We booked a five-bedroom house* through AirBnB which sleeps up to 11 people and cost €1789/£1620/$2169 for four nights in January (including fees). The location was perfect – quiet but only 10-minutes’ walk to Santa Claus Village where there are lots of activities, a few restaurants and a bus into town.
Total accommodation cost: €224/£203/$272 per person – €56/£51/$68 a day each on average.
There are direct flights from London to Rovaniemi with Norwegian and easyJet, as well as indirect Finnair flights via Helsinki. We paid £100 return for easyJet flights from London Gatwick, booked three months in advance. But that was a new route and prices rose to over £300 a month before, so it’s good to book as early as you can as flights are limited.
Rovaniemi airport is only around 9km outside of town and 3km from Santa Claus Holiday Village. There’s a bus service which connects all three and an airport shuttle, but we pre-booked a minibus taxi for eight to take us to our rental house, costing €23 each way.
To travel into central Rovaniemi from Santa Claus Holiday Village you can either catch the Santas Express or number 8 buses or take a taxi. We did each once, with bus tickets costing €3.50 each way per person and a taxi costing €25 each way for four people.
Total transport cost (excluding flights): €25/£23/$30 per person – €6/£6/$8 a day on average.
I don’t usually spend a lot on activities when I travel, but Lapland is one of those places where there are a ton of cool things to do to tempt you – snowmobiling, husky or reindeer sledding, Northern Lights tours, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
None of them are cheap though (think €109 per person for a half-day excursion or €55 for a 30-minute snowmobile safari) and prices can really add up if you want to try everything. So we picked a couple of things we really wanted to do – a visit to the Husky Park (€10) with a short 500m ride on a husky sled (€30) and a 15-minute reindeer sleigh ride (€29).
We also visited the Moomin Snowcastle ice sculpture park (€30) and the Arktikum culture and environment museum in Rovaniemi (€15). Unfortunately we missed out on seeing the Northern Lights because of the weather, but a tour would’ve cost €109 per person.
There are lots of free things to do in Lapland too – cross the Arctic Circle, meet Santa Claus and visit the Christmas Museum, go for a walk through the forest, warm up in a sauna, sit by the campfire, watch one of the gorgeous pink sunrises or sunsets, go sledging (a lot of accommodation has a sled you can borrow), build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
Total activities cost: €114/£103/$138 per person – €29/£26/$35 a day each on average.
Food and drink
Our original plan was to mix self-catering and eating out in the evenings, but we didn’t take into account how hard it would be to drag ourselves back out in the cold after it’d been dark since 3pm and we had a roaring fire going! So instead we mainly self-catered.
We did a big shop at the large K-Citymarket superstore in Rovaniemi at the start of the week. This cost €456/£416/$552 for supplies for eight people and gave us enough food to make four breakfasts and four dinners as well as a few snacks.
Our house came with an amazing BBQ hut in the garden, so we cooked a side of salmon over the fire out there one night. We did eat out for lunch and warmed up with a hot chocolate a few times when we were out and about (total €34/£31/$41 per person).
If you want to eat out more, an average main course at one of the restaurants in Santa Claus Holiday Village will set you back €25–€35 in the evenings. It’s usually cheaper to eat out lunchtime when there are often special offers, with simple dishes like burgers around €15.
This wasn’t my first trip to Scandinavia, so I already knew that alcohol was going to be pricey, so I stocked up on a couple of bottles of wine in duty free on the way out (€18/£16/$22). Finland sells alcohol through state-run Alko shops, which are the only place you can buy spirits, wine and beer over 5.5%. Or a bottle of wine in a restaurant costs around €30.
Total food/drink cost: €109/£99/$132 per person – €27/£25/$33 a day each on average.
The grand total
The overall cost for our four days in Lapland in January came in at €472/£428/$572 per person. This works out at around €118/£107/$143 a night each, not including flights.
Being a group of eight helped make it more affordable as we could split costs, but even with a group of four it should’ve been possible to do a similar trip for £500. It was a really magical holiday with some of the most beautiful scenery I’d ever seen, so was well worth it.
Lower budget? Lapland’s not easy to visit on a low budget. There’s a hostel in Rovaniemi but a dorm bunk costs €50 a night, so unless you’re travelling solo, apartment rentals are likely to be the cheapest option. You could save by cooking all your own food and avoiding alcohol.
Higher budget? If you’ve got cash to splash Lapland is a great place to do it. You can sleep under the stars (and the Northern Lights if you’re lucky) in a glass-roofed igloo*, spend a day on the ski slopes at Ounasvaara Ski Resort or take a private aurora hunting or husky tour.
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