A Reindeer Safari in Lapland is one of the most popular winter activities in this part of the world. But there are some things to be aware of should you choose to take part in this extraordinary experience. Thankfully, we recently returned from our winter trip to Finland, where we met some of Finland’s beloved reindeer and went out on an unforgettable reindeer safari. 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 reindeer safari should be at the top of your bucket list. Dashing through the snow in an open sleigh is a childhood dream come true. And regardless of your age, such experience has you feeling like a child once again. Unlike Lapland’s husky safaris, the reindeer move at an almost tranquilising pace, allowing you to sit back and fully enjoy your ride through the majestic wintry wilderness.
On our recent trip to Finland, Kakslauttanen Resort organised our reindeer experience. 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 reindeer safari in Lapland while addressing any ethical concerns related to this activity.
So let’s get to it. Here is everything you need to know about Reindeer Safaris in 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.
Meet Finlands’ Reindeer – Reindeer Safari in Lapland
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History of Reindeer Sleighs in Finland
With roughly the same amount of reindeer as there are people in Lapland, it’s no wonder this ethereal creature is a national icon to Finland. Just one mention of reindeer conjures up childhood tales of flying sleighs and Santa Clause. However, in Lapland, reindeer have played an integral role in Sámi culture for centuries.
Historically, before cars and snowmobiles, reindeer sleighs were a means of transport across the region. When there were no roads or the roads were covered in snow, the reindeer sleighs would help transport people or local produce between villages. Additionally, reindeer herding and reindeer farming were and still are, a major income source for many in the region.
So while the reindeer might not fly like we were told when we were kids, there’s no denying their magic. Adored by locals and tourists alike, these semi-domesticated animals are a critical component of traditional Sámi culture and livelihoods. And while today, reindeer sleighs are more of a tourism initiative rather than a local necessity, it is, in my opinion, a quintessential Lapland experience.
Ethical Reindeer Safari in Lapland
Which leads me on to my next point and the all-important question… Are Reindeer Safaris 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 that we get 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 the reindeer sleighs, as we would with any animal tourism. There is a fine line between what is considered ethical and what isn’t. So we vowed to do our research before taking part. What we discovered is that there’s no easy answer, as it comes down to several factors. For example, the reindeers living conditions, how well looked after they are, and what happens to them when they are not capable of pulling the sleigh.
Encouragingly, unlike riding an elephant, who would have endured years of mistreatment to allow you to ride them, it is in a reindeers genetics to be a powerful working animal. 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 reindeer safaris in Lapland before taking part.
How to Choose an Ethical Reindeer Safari
You can also argue that reindeer safaris are essential for the local economy as they are a convenient way for Sami reindeer herders to make money. Of course, animal tourism will never be perfect. But ethical reindeer safaris, with ethical reindeer farms, show that it is possible to combine a thriving tourism economy while still respecting the animal.
With strict animal rights laws in place, quite honestly, I think you would struggle to find a reindeer farm 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 reindeer-care standards. Any ethical reindeer farm will be all too happy to share photos and help put your mind at rest.
Otherwise, look out for customer photos and reviews on trip advisor or the like. If something doesn’t look or sound right, boycott that reindeer farm and look for another. Or if you want 100% reassurance that your experience with reindeer is ethical, you could choose only to visit the reindeer farm. This way, you get to meet and feed the reindeer, but you won’t go out on a reindeer safari.
When is Reindeer Safari 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 Reindeer Experience in Lapland
This section aims to provide any info I think you might need to help with booking your reindeer experience in Lapland.
How Long is a typical Reindeer Safari?
There is no set time for a Reindeer Safari in Finland. Most herders or farms offer varying lengths of safari with the longest being all day. If you ask me, a half-day tour is an ideal amount of time. This way, you get plenty of time riding the sleigh, but it should also include lunch and a visit to the reindeer farm. Spending time with the reindeer at the reindeer farm was one of the highlights of our trip.
That’s not all. We also had the privilege of going on a night time safari on the hunt for the northern lights. While the aurora refused to put on a show for us, riding beneath the light of the full moon was a majestic experience. Just keep in mind when booking your reindeer 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 sleigh. You can check this with the company when you book.
How Much Does a Reindeer Safari Cost?
Prices for a Reindeer Safari in Lapland will vary throughout the region; however, here is a guideline based on our experience:
- 1-3 hours: €120-170 per person
- 3-6 hours: €170-300 per person
- 6-8 hours: €300-400€ 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 Sleigh?
Reindeer Sleighs are limited to 2 people. 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 Reindeer Sleigh?
Yes! And younger children are usually charged at a discounted rate.
Our Reindeer Safari Experience in Lapland
After organising our northern lights reindeer 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 walk to their onsight reindeer farm. Depending on where you are staying and who you’ve booked your experience with, the set up may be slightly different. But either way, you’ll be given clear instructions at the time of booking.
It was the night of the full moon, and naturally, we were excited for a magical evening in the Lapland wilderness. 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. Our guide, who’s also a local herder, delved into the safety instructions of riding the sleigh, as well as how to approach the animals. According to local laws, nobody is allowed to disturb or frighten the reindeer in any way, so this is very important.
Once that was over with, it was time to meet the reindeer who would be pulling our sleigh. Seeing the reindeer lined up with sleighs trailing behind, I almost imagined Santa Clause to jump out at any minute. The scene appeared unbelievable, like a page out of a storybook. Upon instruction, we gently got into our sleigh, and a herder tucked us in beneath a pile of warm blankets. We’d later be grateful for the extra layers, as we marched into the icy depths of the Lappish wilderness.
Northern Lights Reindeer Safari
After our hair-raising Husky Safari in Lapland, we were surprised by how relaxing the reindeer sleigh was. The reindeer moved at tranquil pace, allowing us to cosy up beneath the blanket and fully enjoy the experience. With the light of the full moon guiding the way, we could see for what seemed like miles across the glorious winter landscapes. It was such a romantic and idyllic experience that we had to pinch ourselves to check we weren’t dreaming.
After 45 minutes to an hour, we stopped for a 30-minute break where could take photos and grab a warm drink. We had the local fruit tea in a traditional Lappish teepee, or ‘Laavu‘ as they are known locally. A blazing fire heated the room, and we huddled around enjoying spellbinding stories about the Sami history and culture from our herders. Again, it was an experience unlike any I’ve had before, and one I’m unlikely to have again.
Once the 30-minutes were up, we got back in our sleighs and made our way back to the farm. While there was no sign of the northern lights, we all agreed we could make out a green glow in the sky. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but either way, it was a beautiful experience and one we are unlikely ever to forget.
Visiting the Reindeer Farm in Lapland
On a separate occasion, we organised a visit to the reindeer farm at Kakslauttanen Resort. We were curious to learn more about the reindeer and also the local Sami culture.
The Sami are the last remaining indigenous people in the European Union. They possess a rich cultural heritage and are known for their close connection to the land and nature. Trust me when I say that time spent exploring and learning about this fascinating culture, is time well spent.
Visiting the reindeer farm also allowed us to get up close and personal with the reindeer. We were able to pet them, feed them, and get some great photos that were not possible on our northern lights experience.
But however you choose to interact with these amazing animals, you are sure to create some enchanting memories to last a lifetime.
What to Wear for a Reindeer Safari in Lapland
As I mentioned, the tour company you book your reindeer safari with will provide some winter gear, such as waterproof overalls and boots. However, you’ll want to have some warm layers on underneath all that. Winter in Lapland sees temperatures as low as -30 C, so having the right gear is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. After surviving our reindeer safari in sub-zero climates, here’s a short list of items I suggest to take with you. Or you can check out our full winter packing list for Lapland here.
- 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
Reindeer Safari in Finland Conclusion
All things considered, our reindeer experience with Kaklauttanen Resort turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. Our ethical concerns regarding the activity were eradicated as soon as we met the reindeer and their herders. While I’m sure some will disagree with any kind of animal tourism, from what we experienced, it was only a joy to see these beautiful fabled creatures in their natural habitat. And for this reason, I have no problem recommending this activity to all families, couples, and friends seeking a magical experience in the Lappish wonderland.
Thank you for Reading
Did you Enjoy our guide to Reindeer Safaris in Lapland? Let us know. We truly hope our article will help with your trip planning. But, if you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please reach out to us in the comment section below, or through our contact us page.
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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.