Planning a trip to Finland and want to add reindeer sledding to your itinerary? You are in the right place. You are about to find out all you need to know when you visit a traditional reindeer farm in Rovaniemi (Lapland), and how to choose the best reindeer tour for you.
Reindeer sledding is an experience that often figures quite highly on anyone’s bucket list who is visiting the Arctic Circle. You will be able to experience something magical when you go reindeer sledding in Lapland. Immerse yourself in authentic Lapish culture, while you connect with the gentle reindeer, and experience the tranquility of the local forests as you travel along the glittering magical, and snowy trail.
Reindeer have been an essential part of the culture in this part of Lapland for a long time. The Sami people, the original inhabitants of Northern Finland, have been herding reindeer for centuries. And as of today, the local reindeer farms continue this tradition following it for centuries.
I am here to share with you all you need to know about reindeer farms in Rovaniemi, the sustainable tradition, and how to choose the best reindeer sledding tour for your trip. Also, if you are like me and wondering if reindeer sledding is ethical, I will also explain what I have learned in this article. So, without any further ado, let’s dive into this very informative article.
Reindeer Farm Rovaniemi Overview
When you choose to go on a reindeer sledding in Lapland, you will not only enjoy this magical activity, but you will also learn a lot about the animals, the history of Lapland, and reindeer farms and the relationship between the reindeer and the herders.
During my trip to Lapland, I visited this farm and I was fascinated to learn that the farm belong to the same family for the past 400 years. This farm is an authentic and original Lappish reindeer farm, and the family has been practicing reindeer herding in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland since at least 1800.
The farm has several hundred reindeer, and traditionally, reindeer farms receive income from reindeer meat and other reindeer products. When you visit a reindeer farm in Rovaniemi, you will participate in memorable reindeer sledding and learn more about the work of reindeer herders.
The Sustainable Reindeer Farm Business in Finland:
The reindeer business is very sustainable. I was very intrigued to learn during my visit, that there are no deer without owners, they are all owned by farmers. In spring they open the gates for the animals to go back to the forest, but at the beginning of the winter, the reindeer come back to the farms because they have easy food. Norway, Sweden, and Finland have this model (limit to the number of reindeer permitted) controlled by the government for sustainability reasons.
As per the website Finnish Reindeer Herding Association: Reindeer herding is the oldest and still a vital source of livelihood in the North. It is a significant employer in small villages and keeps them populated. The direct and indirect economical impacts of reindeer husbandry are significant – around one billion euros annually. From the perspective of the culture and traditions, reindeer is invaluable to Finland, but mainly to the North. No wonder reindeer has been named the regional animal of Lapland. The Reindeer husbandry area is demarcated for reindeer herding (Reindeer Husbandry Act 848/1990). The site covers 122,936 sq. kilometers, 36 % of Finland’s total area. The reindeer husbandry area covers the Lapland region and northern parts of the Northern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu regions. (Source)
The reindeer culture in Lapland, Finland:
June is the start of the year for Reindeer. It is when new babies are born. Farmers go find the reindeer groups in the forest, herd them into a pen and determine which babies belong to which female. The female’s ears are marked for the farmer who owns them, and the baby is then marked the same. The reindeer are then released back into the wild. The farmers then count how many reindeer they have and report to the government. When they bring the reindeer back to the farms, they separate the reindeer which will be sold for meat, which prevents the overpopulation of reindeer.
In the summer there are a lot of mosquitos in Lapland. The mothers and babies gather in groups to protect against the mosquitos. This makes it easier for the farmers to go out to the groups to check on their herds since the reindeer are grouped together. Reindeer can travel up to 50km foraging for food. The lead males and lead females have GPS trackers on their necks which help the farmers to know where they are.
Lapland Reindeer Interesting Facts
- The male reindeer drop their antlers after the rutting season ends and the female, after calving in the spring
- Reindeer lose antlers each year after mating season (Sept/Oct). The reason they lose their antlers is to conserve energy in the winter.
- Male antlers are much larger, female antlers are smaller.
- Reindeer who pull sleighs have been castrated and keep their antlers longer.
- Antlers are the fastest-growing bone and can grow 2 cm per day – and they drop and re-grow every year
- Adult reindeer are 90 cm to 110 cm tall on average.
- A male weighs 200-400 lbs (90-180 kg) and a female 132-220 (60-100 kg).
- Reindeer are well adapted to the arctic climate. Their hair is hollow and helps preserve body heat.
- The first reindeer races in Finland were held in 1932. Racing reindeer are all males.
- Finnish Lapland has a reindeer population of about 220,000, while the people population is about 180,000. WOW! More reindeer than people!
- Reindeer is a semi-wild domestic animal living in the north and grazing on the fells and in the forests
- In Sweden and Norway, reindeer herding is an exclusive right for the Sami people. In Finland, reindeer herding is practiced by both Sami and Finns
- Babies grow fast. Within 2 minutes after birth they are walking, and within 2 hours they are running faster than a human.
- Mothers normally have 1 baby but can be up to 2. Gestation is 9 months.
- They have a super sense of smell. They can smell food under the snow.
- When winter sets in, the reindeer will stay in the forest until the snow gets too deep (0.5 meters to 1 meter) and then they will go to the farm for easy food.
- Reindeer always have babies in the same place each year.
- Reindeer Predators: wolverines, wolves, bears, eagles.
Best Overall Reindeer Sledding Tours in Rovaniemi
These tours are the ones I recommend for reindeer sledding rides in Rovaniemi, as they offer the best experiences for the visitors, and most importantly, their work is sustainable for the animals. With these tours, you will be able to choose what fits best your expectations, by going on a reindeer sledding, or combine the reindeer with a dog sledding or why not, or doing a night reindeer sledding to be able to catch the Northern Lights.
All these tours can be booked online, and the positive side is that you have the opportunity to research the best tour for you without taking the risk of the tours getting sold out.
Also, they offer a free cancelation policy of 24 hours and excellent customer service. I recommend booking your reindeer sledding tour a few weeks in advance to guarantee your spot, using any of the reliable options I have listed below. So, let’s start with my top pick…
PRO-TIP: During the reindeer sleigh rides, make sure to wear layers of warm clothes and shoes as it gets really cold in the woods, but some tours also offer warm clothes. Don’t forget your gloves and hat.
Best Overall Reindeer Farm in Rovaniemi Tour: Forest Trail Reindeer Safari
After my research on ethical reindeer farms in Rovaniemi, I decided to go on this tour. As always, I chose this tour to be able to see and learn for myself, so I could evaluate and write from my experiences and make the determination of whether I would recommend this tour to others.
The tour starts at the tour agency in downtown Rovaniemi, where they will give you a snowsuit to put over your clothes and shoes (if you need them). You also have the option to schedule hotel pick-up. After you get all bundled up with your warm gear, the guide will drive along a beautiful road that will lead to the reindeer farm, located about 9 miles (15 km) from downtown Rovaniemi.
After a brief orientation on being near reindeer at the farm, they brought the majestic reindeer pulling the sled. The fun starts when you get to sit comfortably on your sled and they cover you with a blanket.
This is a 1-hour reindeer sled tour on a storybook wooden sled, wrapped up in warm blankets while you admire the frozen forest at a slow pace. It really helped me to slow down my mind! The views are absolutely out of this world! I couldn’t believe all the natural beauty around me, and I really felt like I was inside a movie set or a magic snow globe. I know that reindeer sledding in the frozen forest in Lapland will be in my mind forever!
The sled moves very slowly, at the comfortable pace of the reindeer, but without giving you the opportunity to get bored. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment and the views. Plus, the animals are allowed to take breaks for water, food, and rest – which makes me happy they are not pushed too hard in their work, and the guide showed so much patience and respect for the animals all the way (I say that with a big smile on my face).
If you do not want to do a full hour of reindeer sledding, you can choose a shorter sledding tour, and have the opportunity to spend more time at the farm enjoying, feeding, and photographing the animals.
The second part of the reindeer tour is when we get the chance to learn more about the reindeer and reindeer husbandry. After completing my 1-hour reindeer sledding, the group went to get warm in a lavvu (a traditional Sami Tent in Lapland) and sit around the fire enjoying a hot drink and our freshly baked cookies, while our guide shared his stories with us.
Our guide works on the farm, and you can see he is not only very knowledgeable but also, passionate about sharing the history of the farm, the animals, and the relationship between the farmers and the reindeer. I found it extremely informative. I also received a reindeer sleigh driving license at the end.
The reindeer sledding was the highlight of my trip to Lapland, and I loved everything about it. It is completely magical to be in the middle of a frozen forest, with tall trees covered in snow, and absolutely connected with nature and the silence. The reindeer sled moves really slowly and at a smooth pace, while you can appreciate the beauty of these animals, combined with the breathtaking views everywhere you look.
While many people choose dog sledding for being more active and exciting, the reason I choose to do reindeer sledding is that I was really looking for some mind-nature connection and relaxing time. And it surpassed all my expectations!
Afterward, you have the chance to visit the reindeer and I was surprised at how they are curious about us and got so close to me. I have to say that the chance to get close to the reindeer is very amazing! I absolutely loved my reindeer farm tour in Rovaniemi, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to have a similar experience to appreciate the peace and quiet of the magical Lapland forests.
Most Magical Reindeer Tour in Rovaniemi: Reindeer Safari Northern Lights Chase
This is the same tour company I chose, but you will be able to go at night, to have the chance to see the Northern Lights, while you go sledding. But be aware that seeing the lights, even so far North like in Lapland is not guaranteed. I spend about 9 hours driving one night chasing the lights by car, as they kept changing visibility because of the clouds.
This tour is more about going through the mystical forests of Lapland while looking for the Northern Lights, and if you are on your lucky day you may see it! If it is not your lucky day, you will still enjoy peaceful reindeer sledding, and appreciate how nature expresses its silent beauty. After the reindeer ride, hot drinks and a traditional Finnish pastry are waiting for you in a cozy and warm lavvu (cottage). By the fire, your guide will talk about the Lappish way of life and reindeer husbandry in Lapland.
Best Budget Tour: Reindeer Farm Visit with Sleigh Ride
This reindeer tour is perfect if you are short on time and still want to experience the magic of the animal. This tour is also with the same tour company I did, but the reindeer sledding is shorter and you will have the chance to interact with the animals and feed them.
You will have the chance to see an authentic Lappish reindeer farm with more than 200 reindeer. You will also learn about the everyday life of reindeer herders and how the life of the reindeer goes during the year. You will also have an opportunity to experience the most traditional way of transportation here in Lapland: the reindeer sleigh.
Best Combo Reindeer + Husky Sledding: Lapland Reindeer and Husky Safari from Rovaniemi
This combo tour is a great opportunity if you are short on time, and you can do the combo with reindeer sledding plus a husky sled in only 3-hours and one ticket. This is the same farm I visited and did my reindeer sledding, and guaranteed you will have a wonderful experience, as they offer the best tours and great treatment to the animals here.
After being picked up from your hotel, the tour starts early, around 9 AM. You will be taken to the home of the wonderful huskies where you will learn all about them, hug and pet them. After a safety briefing and instructions, enjoy the excitement of riding a husky-pulled sled.
After visiting the huskies, you will visit a reindeer farm for a sled. You will have the opportunity to pass an exam on handling a reindeer sled and even receive a special “driving license”. Take a seat in the sled and you are off! After the safari, you will have a talk with a hereditary reindeer herder.
Best Combo Snowmobile + Reindeer + Husky: Rovaniemi snowmobile, reindeer, and husky farm
This is the best tour to experience the most popular activities in Lapland. The reviews are excellent, rated 4.6 stars with almost 400 reviews, and the activity is one of the most complete and well-organized.
They will pick you up at the hotel and take you to the agency offices where they give you warm clothes (complete overalls and snow boots). From there you go by van with a group to the husky and reindeer farm and you can see the reindeer and feed them. The husky ride is a closed route that lasts a short time, it will be about 1 or 2 km and lasts a couple of minutes but with the cold, it is appreciated that it doesn’t last long.
The reindeer ride is also short but the reindeer go slowly so more time is needed to enjoy the activity. Finally, you are taken back by van to the snowmobile pickup area, where they offer you cookies and hot cranberry juice (very good). Snowmobiles are the highest adrenaline activity, they explain how to drive them and you can pick up a lot of speed. The tour lasts about 1 hour and a bit, stopping in different areas to take photos. This activity is also great for kids.
Top Family Friendly Tour: Rovaniemi family-friendly snowmobile & artic animals tour
Now, if you are looking for the best reindeer farm in Rovaniemi that is kid-friendly, this is the best tour for you! This is a 6 hours tour combo, where you can experience the best of Lapland with this organized tour, and you will get the best value for your money.
With this tour, you will be able to enjoy the magical views of the Arctic Forest while riding your snowmobile and then experience riding with reindeer and huskies to make the fun for the whole family. You will also be visiting the Santa Claus Village at the Arctic Circle, getting to meet Santa Claus, and exploring this magical village. A delicious salmon soup will be served for lunch. So if a full day of intense and fun activities, with very little planning sounds appealing to you, this tour should be your top pick!
Is Reindeer Sledding Ethical?
This is the first question I asked myself, and I understand and respect if you also are questioning if reindeer sledding is an ethical activity. Being a big animal lover, and a strong supporter of responsible travel, I have skipped the opportunity to do reindeer sledding during my trip to Alaska, as I still had my doubts.
The more I travel, the more I learn about ethical activities that I should consider anytime I visit a new place. After some research, and learning more about the animals and the owner’s relationship, plus to be able to answer the main question: Are the animals domesticated, and is this activity harmful to them? I will do my best to answer this question below, based on my research, and also, participating in the activity myself. Plus, I have added some helpful information sources to help your research too.
Are the reindeer in Lapland domesticated animals?
Reindeer are semi-wild domestic animals living in the north and grazing on the fells and in the forests. The lifestyle and body structure of a reindeer resembles a deer. There is no accurate historical record of the reindeer’s domestication, but it may have occurred in the late Middle Ages.
In Sweden and Norway, reindeer herding is an exclusive right for the Sami people. In Finland, reindeer herding is practiced by both Sami and Finns. In southern Lapland, most reindeer owners are ethnic Finns.
Is reindeer sledding harmful to the reindeer?
Reindeers are very strong animals, with the males weighing up to 400 lbs. Reindeers have been used for a century of years by the semi-nomadic Sami herders for the transport of goods across the Arctic region. When you choose to go on a reindeer sledding tour, it is no different than the way these animals are traditionally used for transportation.
Actually, when I asked the herder about the reindeer conditions, he explained that the animals used for sleigh rides are well treated and they do not abuse the animals or mistreat them.
The reindeer only work a few hours a day and the lead reindeer sled is guided by a herder, at a very slow speed, sliding in the snow, and each reindeer pulls up to 2 people. They are allowed to stop for rest and have water (snow).
The reindeer that work usually do 2-3 rides a day; if they do, they get to rest for one day. After they work, they get fed musk (like chocolate for reindeer) and they are provided extra food to give them more energy.
But that is the important reason why I say you need to do your research to find out if the activity you choose to go to treats the animals with respect. After doing this activity myself, plus seeing how they are treated, and asking all the questions I had in the back of my mind, my conclusion is that this reindeer farm fits my ethical tour guidelines.
Reindeer Farm in Rovaniemi Conclusion
I hope you have found this article helpful and that you have the chance to go visit a reindeer farm in Rovaniemi.
While I love to do adventurous things while I am traveling, I found that my experience at the reindeer farm in Rovaniemi was nothing but amazing! The opportunity to slow down and enjoy the beauty of Lapland was the highlight of my trip.
I would say that reindeer sledding in Lapland is a great fit for anyone; kids, adults, couples, or if you travel solo. I truly recommend anyone to have this experience, and most importantly, by doing your research and choosing a tour that offers an ethical experience by treating the animals with respect.
If you have any further questions, please leave me a comment below and I will be happy to answer. Be safe and keep traveling!
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