The changing of the seasons in Lapland is dramatic and distinctly noticeable. Lapland’s main seasons are spring, summer, autumn, and winter that lasts for around half a year. Wintertime also includes the twilight period that lasts a few months; a time when there is no real daylight as the sun stays below the horizon.
Lapland can also be described as the land of 8 seasons: Christmas (deep winter), Frosty Winter (late winter), Crusty Snow (spring), Departure of Ice ( early summer), Midnigt Sun (summer), Harvest Season (late summer), Colourful Autumn (autumn), First Snow (early winter). In the north we live in firm connection with the nature and also the changing seasons bring remarkable changes also into people's daily routines.
Polar Night and the Midnight Sun
Between the seasons, the amount of light swings from one extreme to the other. In summer, the sun shines 24/7, but does not rise at all for a couple of months in the winter. The polar night is like its own world, at least what comes to the colors. Reflections of the sun light behind the horizon can be seen during the day, which color the landscape with pastel hues. After a few hours of day light the day turns to a long night, but it is not completely dark. The moon shines its shallow light to bright white snow blanket that shimmers in reflection.
Winter lasts nearly 200 days and we get the most snow in Finland. Snow generally covers the ground in October and only melts at the end of May. Enontekiö has the lowest average temperatures in Finland. Apart from humans, few other species survive here. The reindeer is an arctic wonder that has oleic acid in its bone marrow which works as an anti-freeze. The willow grouse and the ptarmigan are among the mere six bird species that can survive the winter in the northernmost Enontekiö without human help.
According to an old Finnish Lapland belief, the Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, are created when a fox runs across the fells while whipping its tail against the snow, sending sparks up into the night sky. Many a myth has arisen from this fascinating spectacle of lights. For example, there is a belief in Japan and China that seeing the aurora borealis improves one’s fertility.
The scientific explanation is that the aurora borealis are created when the charged particles of a solar wind come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere. The closer you are to the polar region, the more often you can see the lights flaming in the night sky. The best way to see the Northern Lights is to move away from the lights of the city.
Spring: Departure of Ice
The rays of sunshine glisten off the snow and warm lovers of the great outdoors. Birds start the day with joyful song and catkins start to form on the willow bushes. It is spring, the transitional period from winter to summer.
This is a time when the snow gradually starts to melt and nature awakens to once more display its splendour. It may also even snow in late spring, but summer is on its way, and by Midsummer at the very latest the sun should provide some nice warmth. The temperatures in Lapland in early June can fall a few degrees below zero and it may even snow. This is a time called back winter. Back winter is very unfortunate for the flora in the region, as the total growing season only lasts around three months.
Summer: Midnigt Sun
Summer in Lapland is bright, the time of the nightless night. Night and day the midnight sun stays above the horizon. For instance, going as far north as Utsjoki, the sun stays above the horizon from mid-May to mid-July – altogether two months. Actual hot weather (>25°C) days are few and far between in Lapland, as the average temperature for the whole of Lapland varies between 10 to 16 degrees Celsius. Before Midsummer frost can occur in many places in Lapland, so July and its last weeks are the warmest times of the summer. Early summer also has very little precipitation, as rain only starts to increase around August.
During times with no snow, Lapland offers meaningful experiences in the nightless night, the rugged beauty of the fell highlands and sparkling clear waters. Nature can be experienced by trekking, cycling and horse riding the terrain, or traversing the waterways by canoeing, white water rafting and fishing. Those who yearn for a bit of culture will be glad to hear that Lapland has a variety of events throughout the summer, such as the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä and the Simerock Concert in Rovaniemi. In the summertime, visitors should be prepared for mosquitoes, especially if your trip heads for the Lappish wilderness in the heart of nature.
Autumn: Harvest Season and Colourful Leaves
As the first night time frost of autumn sets in and the days get shorter, the vegetation starts preparations for the coming winter. The leaves of trees change colour from green into vibrant shades of golden yellow and glowing crimson to crown the period of natural colour and splendour called ruska.
Ruska begins in the north where the best time to experience these remarkable colours of nature are after the first week in September. Ruska arrives in southern Lapland around a week later than in northern Lapland. Apart from admiring the countryside during ruska, the autumn is otherwise a good time to head for Lapland’s nature. The forests are full of berries and mushrooms just waiting to be picked.
Winter: First Snow, Christmas, Frosty Winter and Crusty Snow
Winter starts off as dark, bleak and cold in November, but changes into bright and sunny days during springtime at the end of April. The first snowfall may occur in Lapland as early as August – September, but permanent snow cover normally falls in November. Christmastime is the darkest time for Lapland’s twilight period, a time when the sun does not rise above the horizon and there are only a few hours of daylight.
The clean, recently fallen snow puts people in good spirits and facilitates winter activities, such as skiing. During the winter Lapland gets snow from 50 centimetres to the North Lapland snow depths of over a metre. February is statistically the coldest month of the year, and late February is the time when the twilight period ends.
The sunshine seems to appear from nowhere to once more illuminate the northern skies and spectacularly reflects off the glistening snow. The sunshine and just below zero temperatures of early spring entice people into activities throughout the springtime, as late March is the time with the most snow and the skiing conditions in Lapland are excellent through to mid-May.
During periods of snow, Lapland presents itself as sparkling clean white snowscapes with the glowing northern lights dancing through the dark skies. The silent and snowy nature can be reached in a moment on skis or snowshoes, in a sleigh pulled by huskies or reindeer, or for those after some real speed, one alternative is snowmobiling. The numerous downhill skiing centres of the Lappish fell resorts have excellent slopes for skiers and there are plenty of events throughout the season.