Lapland or Sápmi, is an ethno-cultural region which stretches over northern Fenno-Scandinavia (northern regions of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia). We are visiting the Lapland region across Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Thinking about Lapland, the word itself may cast some images of colourful Laplanders, known as the Sámi peoples, roaming reindeer, the home of Santa Claus, the aurora borealis (Northern Lights), and the midnight sun. But, there is a lot more to Lapland than you ever imagined.
Also known as Sápmi, Lapland includes the nordic regions of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia. It has traditionally been inhabited by the Sami people, known in English as “Lapps” or “Laplanders”.
In the north, Lapland is bounded by the Barents Sea, to the west by the Norwegian Sea and on the east by the White Sea. The latter is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the far northwestern coast of Russia.
Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, located midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, is technically not part of Lapland, but it makes perfect sense to include Svalbard within the same travel itinerary.
Once you are this far north in the world, you might just as well hop on a plane in Tromsø, in northern Norway, for the ninety minute flight up to Longyearbyen, the largest settlement and administrative centre of the Svalbard Islands.
Sadly, Lapland is not what it used to be. Nowadays, the traditional Sámi people constitute only a small minority of about 5% of the total Lapland population. Russians and Norwegians are the most dominant ethnic group.
Even though the Sámi people are in the minority so there are generally no political calls advocating secession, several groups desire an increase in territorial autonomy and even self-rule. The visionary “Kingdom of Lapland” has its own flag, and describes itself as a “gargantuan, pleasant nation” with “hard-nosed, hard-working Lapps” with a strong economy driven by the “trout farming industry, with major contributions from pizza delivery, and soda sales”. The Kingdom’s national animal is, unmistakably, the woolly polar bear. We can only imagine what the national bird would be! Unmistakably: the mosquito. Let this be a tip to bring along industrial-strength insect repellent if you visit during late spring and early summer.
Let’s head up north, far north, to the incredible Kingdom of Lapland! Norway, Sweden, Finland, and a bit of the Svalbard Islands.