Within moments of arrival, you’ll hear the excitement of the dogs, each one barking wildly with excitement, eagerly waiting to race through Finland’s rugged, snow-covered forests. Once they break free and hit the trails with a sled in tow, you get an overwhelming sense that these magnificent animals are in the zone; on a mission. Each dog is following the leader and determined to keep up with the pack while racing across the snow. For the record, we’re not describing a scene from popular movies like Eight Below, Balto, or even Frozen. This is a real-life touring experience found in the northern parts of Finland, and we’ve rounded up our list of what to know before your husky safari in Finland.
What is a husky safari?
Finland is known for its raw and natural beauty, where forests are blanketed in snow, creating the ultimate winter wonderland. Rovaniemi is the gateway to Finnish Lapland, and is known as a hub for husky safari adventures run by local families and mostly small, independent tour companies. A husky safari is one of the many exhilarating experiences available here, and a magical way to enjoy the region.
Varying in length and distance, some safari experiences will be as short as one hour, and others will last up to a full day, depending on the tour operator and the background. Most tours you will enjoy a sledding experience as a passenger, and some trips you might even have the chance to steer the sled.
How to choose a husky safari in Finland
All of the usual suspects come into play when selecting a tour: price, reviews, availability, and what’s included in the experience. Spend time before you book completing your research, ask around to see if any friends or family have enjoyed a similar experience, and read as much as you can to ensure the experience you pay for is the experience that you dreamed of.
Make sure you carefully weigh up your options and remember the lowest price isn’t always the best option.
What to wear on a husky safari in Finland
Some tour operators will allow you to rent gear, and others will expect you to have your equipment and this will vary between each tour. As always, it’s best to be prepared with as much of your gear as possible, as frostbite can occur in temperatures as high as -2 degrees celsius, so you’ll want to be ready to go with as many thermal layers as possible, along with waterproof gear to keep you safe and warm.
If you have snow boots, it’s recommended you wear them, or a similar pair of waterproof shoes to keep your feet warm. Another hot tip: ski goggles aren’t necessary, but they’ll help to stop snow flicking into your eyes during your sled experience.
How do I find an ethical husky safari in Finland?
With a little research, you can triple check to ensure your tour operator is treating their animals well, and that your tour is totally legitimate. Similar to the above suggestion to reading reviews, make sure you have a clear image of whether the operator is a family-run business (or just a money-grabbing tourist scheme), and if the animals are treated right or if they’re housed in suitable conditions.
As for the history of using dogs to pull a sled, the origins of using dog power dates back hundreds of years. As early as the 10th-century, dogs were utilised to help people traverse vast distances across challenging terrain to hunt for food – as snowmobiles didn’t exist, making use of dog power and sledding was a form of survival. Today, it has emerged as a continued tradition in the region and is an authentic experience for travellers to enjoy along with long-distance races like the Iditarod hosted across the world.
What happens on a husky safari in Finland
As a generalisation, most husky experiences will include transfers to and from your hotel to the starting point. Then, when you arrive, you’ll be briefed by a team of experts about how to travel safely, learn everything you need to know about the huskies, and most importantly; the team will triple check to make sure you’re wearing the correct weather-appropriate gear to ride in the sled.
Depending on the group size, then you’ll be assigned a sled and meet your team of dogs before getting settled into the sled. If you’re wondering what the participation levels are or how much experience you need, all that is required is for you to sit back as you glide across the snow – all while being wrapped in a warm blanket. The dogs know what they’re doing; so you need to trust them. The lead dog is the smartest, and also the most powerful, but each dog has its ranking, and most sleds will have between 6-10 dogs. Some sleds will even have two lead dogs at the helm.
Once the dogs are all harnessed in and ready to go, they’ll race out the gate before settling into a comfortable speed at about 10 km/h. During the exhilarating adventure, you can expect a few stops along the way to give the dogs a rest, but also to allow for photo opportunities and further explanation from your local guide about the history of the area. Conditions will vary, as it may be icy, or you might enjoy some light snowfall during your experience.
Once the ride comes to an end, most tours end with a traditional meal and another chance to learn more about the training, the origins of the animals, and why this experience is still so relevant today.
Feeling inspired to join a husky Safari in Finland? Book your next adventure to Finland here.