(Lonelyplanet) – Most of Finland is blanketed in a dense, wild forest, providing habitats for Europe’s most diverse and magnificent species.
The country has even been named the world’s best destination for wildlife travel by the Global Wildlife Travel Index. Finnish woodland is also home to several endangered species, though, so choosing an ethical, sustainable tour is important. These experiences are our picks of the pack.
A dog sled zooms across an idyllic snowy landscape, with the sun sparkling behind a snow-covered tree.
Dog sledding has been a way of life in Finland for centuries. These days, it’s no longer mainly a way to get from point A to B, but an industry supported almost entirely by travellers keen on getting whisked away on sled rides. Finland has some of the world’s toughest animal welfare legislation, and husky farms are visited and assessed annually by authorities. While husky dogs do enjoy the structure and training of mushing, it’s important for travellers to also get a feel for the dogs’ quality of life during downtime.
Bear Hill Husky is a family-owned-and-operated husky kennel in Rovaniemi, in Finland’s Lapland region, offering dog-sledding rides, but they choose to take the focus off of them. Instead, visitors take a short ride through the lush surrounding forest, and spend the rest of their time getting to know the real life of a sled-dog: going for forest walks with the dogs, playing with pups and retired pooches, and observing training methods and techniques. Every dog has a name and a story, and staff happily share all. The kennel also operates with a “no hidden corners” policy, meaning all areas – as well as the dogs and how they’re treated – are openly visible at all times.
Three reindeer are visible on a snowy forest floor, surrounding by young evergreen trees.
Reindeer herding is the traditional practice of the indigenous Sami people of Lapland. In times gone by, taking care of reindeer was crucial to survival, as they provided food and transport.
Times have changed, but reindeer herders like the Orbas family still exist. The family, who live about 70km from Rovaniemi, have been involved in the profession for decades. Some things are still the same as years before – for example, the family does its best to live off the land without electricity. But a modern-day approach involves snowmobiling to reach the reindeer to feed them. Visitors can help build fencing for the reindeer, join them on forest walks and eat meals of reindeer soup and sausage, with long conversations with the family revealing the fascinatingly complex, cyclical relationship between the animals and their handlers.