Dog Sledding in Finnish Lapland is the number 1 winter activity in this part of the world. But there are some things to be aware of should you choose to take part in this one of a kind experience. Thankfully, we recently returned from our winter trip to Finland, where we experienced what is possibly the best husky safari in Lapland. And in this guide, we’ll share everything you need to know to help you prepare for your own.
When planning a trip to Lapland in winter, a husky safari should be at the top of your bucket list. Skimming through the majestic winter landscapes led by a pack of energetic mountain dogs is a feeling unlike no other. The dogs move at a nailbiting pace, occasionally looking back at you to check you’re enjoying the ride. Nothing can prepare you for the exhilarating sensation until you experience it for yourself. But all I can say is hold on tight.
On our recent trip to Finland, Kakslauttanen Resort organised our Lapland husky safari. Naturally, we were excited, but I can’t deny that we had some concerns over just how ethical such activity is. I assume some of you guys will share the same concerns, so that’s ultimately the aim of this blog. We want to help you organise your own dog sledding experience in Finland while addressing any ethical concerns related to this activity.
So let’s get to it. Here is our guide to Dog Sledding in Finnish Lapland.
Planning a trip to Lapland in Winter? Check out our complete guide to spending winter in Lapland, complete with all the best winter activities, the best Lapland resorts, and how to prepare for this once in a lifetime trip.
Dog Sledding in Finland – The Best Husky Safari in Lapland
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History of Dog Sledding in Finland
Dog Sledding has played an integral role in Finnish culture for centuries. Historically, before cars and snowmobiles, dog sleds were a critical means of transport across the arctic circle. Led by a pack of 4 or 5 mountain dogs, the sleds would help transport people or local produce between villages.
Very few breeds of dog are suitable for such strenuous work. Typically, you’ll find sledding dogs to be Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies, and Alaskan malamutes. Each breed is renowned for its size, strength, speed, and stamina, as well as their ability to withstand the cold and hunger for long periods of time.
Naturally, these qualities and genetics make them excellent sledding dogs. And not only are they good at it, but they genuinely love to do it. While today, dog sledding is more of a tourism initiative rather than a local necessity, it makes little difference to the dogs. All they know is that they are wild at heart and born to run. And boy, do they run.
Ethical Dog Sledding in Finnish Lapland
Which leads me on to my next point and the all-important question… Is dog sledding ethical? As long term travellers, responsible travel is very important to us. We understand that our travel lifestyle might not be entirely perfect for the environment, but we do try our best to offset that in other ways. Particularly in the way we travel and the activities we choose to be involved in.
A critical part of being a responsible traveller means questioning your actions. We always ask ourselves, what effect will this activity have on our surroundings? Will it harm the environment or its inhabitants in any way? If the answer is yes, we will not knowingly participate. Which is why we’ll never ride an elephant, visit a zoo, or support poverty tourism.
I’ll be honest; we had our doubts about dog sledding. So we vowed to do our research before taking part. What we discovered is that there’s a bit of a grey area that this activity falls in to. As ultimately it comes down to how well looked after the dogs are.
Unlike riding an elephant, who would have endured years of mistreatment to allow you to ride them, sleddogs are born to run. But that doesn’t mean some tour companies won’t exploit them for financial gain. This is why it’s so important to research ethical husky safaris in Lapland before taking part.
How to Choose an Ethical Husky Safari in Lapland
With strict animal rights laws in place, quite honestly, I think you would struggle to find a dog sledding company in Lapland that isn’t ethical. But it doesn’t harm to do a few checks to give you added peace of mind.
The best way to do this is to contact the company directly and ask them about their general safety and dog-care standards. You may also ask them if they follow the P.R.I.D.E. principles.
Mush With Pride is an organisation of mushers (dog sled drivers) who were concerned about the care and treatment of dogs in the industry. Together they’ve come up with various guidelines that represent a standard of care deemed fair and humane.
Any reputable kennel or tour company will be familiar with the P.R.I.D.E principles and should adhere to them. Some may even subject themselves for voluntary kennel inspections, to showcase the high standard of their establishment.
Otherwise, you may ask for photos of the kennels where the dogs are kept when they aren’t running. Or what happens to the ‘retired’ sleddogs. Any ethical company will have a no-kill policy, and any that don’t I would deem questionable.
When is Husky Sledding Season in Finland
Winter in Lapland can span across six months of the year. Snow starts to fall as early as October and can stay around as late as April. Although, if you want to make the very most of Lapland’s winter activities, you’ll want to visit from December to March.
December and January tend to be the peak months in Lapland, especially among families with little ones. Naturally, with this comes inflated hotel and travel prices. Considering there are also very few daylight hours during this time, and temperatures drop as low as -40C, you wouldn’t be missing much by pushing your trip into February or March instead.
Booking a Husky Safari in Lapland
If you still have your heart set on doing a husky safari in Lapland, the next step is booking one. This section aims to provide any info I think you might need to help with the process.
How Long is a Husky Safari?
There is no set time for a Husky Safari in Finland. Excursions can range anywhere between 1-hour to a multi-day trip. In our experience, a half-day tour is a perfect amount of time. This way, you get plenty of time sledding, but it will also include lunch and a visit to the husky farm. Spending time with the husky puppies at the end of our sledding adventure was one of our favourite parts of the day.
Keep in mind when booking your husky safari, that any length of time stated may include transportation, breaks and time for debriefing. For example, a 2-hour tour may only equate to 1 hour on the sled. You can check this with the company when you book.
How Much Does a Husky Safari Cost?
Prices for a Husky Safari in Lapland will vary throughout the region; however, here is a guideline based on our experience:
- 1-3 hours: €150-200 per person
- 3-6 hours: €200-300 per person
- 6-8 hours: €300-400€ per person
- 8 hours +: €400-800 per person
Do I Need to Book in Advance?
Booking in advance is recommended, particularly during the peak months (December & January).
How Many People per Sled?
Dogsleds are limited to 2 people. The first person is the musher (driver), and the other sits in the sled and enjoys the ride. (Don’t worry; there will be a break where you can switch driver if you wanted to). For this reason, it’s better if you can book in groups of 2, 4, 6 etc. Otherwise, you may find it’s more expensive to book as a solo rider.
Can Children Ride the Dog Sled?
So long as an adult accompanies them, Children under 14 are permitted to ride in the dog sled. They won’t be able to drive, however, only ride in the sled itself. If your child is 14 or over, they can drive the sled with your permission.
Our Experience Dog Sledding in Finland
After organising our half-day husky safari with Kakslauttanen Resort, we didn’t have far to go to meet our guide. We were already staying at the resort, so we met in reception and took a short minibus ride to their onsight husky farm. Depending on where you are staying and who you’ve booked your experience with, the set up may be slightly different. But you’ll be given clear instructions from the tour company at your time of booking.
As we arrived at the husky farm, we could hear dozens of playful howls coming from the dogs. Our guide explained that the dogs get super excited when they are anticipating to run. They told us that the dogs are full of energy and that sledding is their favourite activity. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to stretch their legs and satisfy their wild souls.
We were excited to meet the dogs at this point, but first, we had to get dressed in the appropriate gear. Most companies will provide winter gear for you to wear, such as overalls, boots, and a ski mask. But it pays to have some warm items of your own. I’ve included a packing list further down the article so you can reference that should you need to.
Dressed and ready to go, it was time for a short safety debriefing. Although we were eager to get going at this point, it was a crucial part of the experience. Not only did our guide talk about the driving instructions and safety aspects of the dog sledding ride, but they also went into detail about the dog’s welfare and level of care. While we had done our research, it was nice to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Again, it may be different with your tour company, but it was a nice touch from Kakslauttanen Resort.
Finally, the time had come. It was time to meet the dogs who would be pulling our sled. As we approached, they jumped around in excitement. If it hadn’t been for the chain that kept them grounded, they would have taken off a long time ago. Their energy was infectious; I could feel my adrenaline peak before we’d even moved. Natalie took the driving seat, and I got in the sled. Now, all we could do was wait to be released. The way the dogs were jerking forwards, I already knew it was going to be one hell of a ride.
The Best Husky Safari in Lapland
As soon as the chain released, our energetic pack lurched forwards, gathering speed at an alarming pace. I screamed at Natalie to break, but it didn’t seem to deter the dogs at all. Carefully sculpted runways keep the dogs from deterring off track, but at times they had the sled entirely on its side. How we didn’t fall off, I will never know. This is nothing like last nights reindeer safari I thought. But soon enough we relaxed into the pace of it.
It takes quite a lot of skill and confidence to drive the sled. More so than we had imagined. I was grateful for Natalie driving as she can keep a cool head in stressful situations. When it seemed like we might fall, she quickly got control and saved us from disaster. A couple of the dogs kept looking back at us with big grins on their faces. It was like they were laughing at us as we cheered and screamed and giggled.
We darted through majestic winter landscapes, under cover of sweeping forests and into open white plains. The dogs continued to speed ahead with no sign of tiring. The only time they slowed was on an uphill stretch when Natalie would jump off and run behind to support them. It was surreal, exciting, and magical all at the same time. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
After 45 minutes to an hour, we stopped for a 20-minute break. We had the option to go inside the teepee for a hot drink, or spend time with the dogs taking photos. Of course, we chose the latter. We couldn’t believe how energetic the dogs still were. They rolled around in the snow, play fighting with each other and jumping at us for cuddles. I think ours must have liked us, as one even peed on Natalie’s leg!
The break allowed us to switch drivers had we wanted to, but Natalie did such a great job that I let her continue. I felt far more confident filming and taking photos than I would do being the musher. So off we went again for another nailbiting hour of exhilarating fun. Again, there was no indication of tiredness from the dogs, only pure joy and energy. Any concerns about the welfare of the animals had dissipated by this point. These dogs are doing what they were born to do… and that’s run.
Visiting the Husky Farm
Once the tour was over, we went back to the farm where we got to play with some husky puppies. Some were almost as small as my hand, and they playfully nibbled at our hands and clothes. A white one with striking blue eyes stole our hearts, and we seriously contemplated taking him home with us. In all honestly, meeting the pups was one of our favourite parts of the Husky Safari experience.
It was a bit of a struggle to get the group away from the pups, but finally, we could gather for lunch in a traditional Lappish teepee. The heat from the central fire cloaked us immediately, and we realised how little we’d felt the cold during the tour. We gathered it was the adrenaline, as suddenly hunger & thirst succumbed us as well. We feasted on sandwiches and hot soup, before the arrival of our minibus indicated it was time to end the tour.
What to Wear for a Husky Safari in Lapland
As I mentioned, the tour company you book your Husky Safari with will provide some winter gear, such as waterproof overalls and boots. However, you’ll want to have some warm layers underneath all that. Winter in Lapland sees temperatures as low as -30 C, so having the right winter packing list is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. After surviving our husky safari in sub-zero temperatures, here’s a short list of items I suggest to take with you.
- Thermal Underwear – Leggings, Vests, Socks
- Skiing Trousers or Thick Joggers
- Warm Hooded Jumper or Winter Coat
- Thick Scarf and Gloves
- Ski Mask
- A Good Moisturiser for Lips & Face
Dog Sledding in Finland Conclusion
All things considered, our Lapland Husky Safari with Kaklauttanen Resort turned out to be the highlight of our trip. Our ethical concerns regarding the activity were eradicated as soon as we met the dogs and their carers. Honestly, it was a joy to see such a happy, healthy and energetic bunch of dogs. While I’m sure some will disagree with any kind of animal tourism, from what we experienced, this unique breed is out there in the Lappish wonderland living their best lives. And for this reason, I have no problem recommending this activity to all families, couples, and friends seeking a wild and magical experience.
More on Finland
Travelling to Finland soon? Perhaps these other articles from our Finland series will be of some interest to you.
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Lapland in Winter
- A Guide to Reindeer Safaris in Lapland
- The Ultimate Winter Lapland Packing List
- Helsinki on a Budget – The Best Free Things to do in Helsinki
- 1 Day in Helsinki – The Best 1 Day Helsinki Itinerary
Did you Enjoy our guide to Dog Sledding in Finland?
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Stay adventurous and Happy travels.
Charlotte & Natalie x
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**Our trip to Lapland was sponsored by Kakslauttanen Resort. However, as always, all thoughts and opinions are our own.