Indigenous Culture And Sustainable Travel In Nordic Lapland
Cultural Experience,  Europe

Indigenous Culture and
Sustainable Travel
In Nordic Lapland

Lapland is a region of Northern Europe in the Arctic circle, stretching across Norway, Finland and Sweden. This beautiful region is home to untamed wilderness, snowy tundras and indigenous culture that is unlike any found anywhere else in the world. As more travellers make the push for sustainable tourism in Nordic country, it’s important to understand just how to undertake sustainable tourism during your trip to Lapland. 

Sámi Culture in Lapland

The Sámi people are indigenous to Lapland, and are the only indigenous people in the European Union. Sámi have lived in the area for over 3,500 years. With an estimated population of around 105,000, Sámi culture is concentrated to the region, and focuses on sustainable hunting, animal husbandry and living off the land in their daily practices. 

In recent years, the decline of the Sámi language and customs has caused concern amongst government officials who have sought to allocate rights and privileges to this indigenous people. Many young Sámi are unable to speak their native tongue, and practices like reindeer herding are only used by around 5-10 percent of modern Sámi people. 

Struggles Of Sustainable Tourism In Lapland 

Sustainability is an important cultural cornerstone of Lapland, so many governmental policies reflect the need for ethical tourism within the region. The Finnish Sámi parliament adopted the Principles For Responsible And Ethical Sustainable Sámi Tourism in 2018, and have clearly outlined ethical guidelines for respecting and preserving the rich Sámi culture.

However, mining, logging and construction companies have heavily impacted the traditional territory of the indigenous people, and have caused severe damage to the natural environment of Lapland in the pursuit of profit. 

The tourism industry in Finland and Sweden have also been criticized for turning Sámi culture into a marketing tool to attract travellers, by offering authentic Sámi experiences like ceremonies and souvenirs. To combat this cultural compromise, governments across the region have introduced regulations protecting the traditional practices of this indigenous people. While this is a work-in-progress, the establishment of Sámi councils and political representation shows the policy-driven dedication to respecting and preserving the ancient philosophies of indigenous culture. 

Sustainable Options For Your Trip To Lapland 

When visiting Lapland, there are many sustainable tourism options that allow you to experience Sámi culture in a respectful and positive way. Here are some of the wonderful ways you can incorporate local and indigenous culture into your trip to Lapland. 

Sleep Amongst Nature At Sápmi Nature Camp

One of the most important principles of Sámi culture is to leave no trace of yourself after you leave an area. At Sápmi Nature Camp, visitors can sleep in Northern Sámi-style huts, designed to be picked up and carried with a tribe as they move. Travellers can experience Sámi cooking, listen to traditional stories and learn about indigenous culture in a respectful manner during their stay. 

Located in the heart of Sjávnja nature reserve, this Green Key-certified company focuses on connecting visitors with the land, and was awarded the Grand Travel Award for Best Swedish Ecotourism in 2019. 

Learn About Reindeer Herding At Salla Wildlife Park 

Lapland is home to over 500,000 reindeer, and their herding and agriculture is key to Sámi culture. At Salla Wildlife Park in Finland, travellers can get up close and personal with these beautiful animals without disturbing their natural habitat. Experienced Sámi guides provide a variety of tours like husky-sledding, fishing and Northern Lights photography escapes, whilst teaching visitors about the history of the region and the importance of reindeer to Sámi people. 

To minimise tourism impact, the park is largely pedestrianised, and visitors have options like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter, or canoeing and hiking during summer.  Salla Wildlife Park is Green Key-certified, and continues to work diligently with the local people to preserve indigenous culture. 

Ski under the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi

One of the most popular bucket-list items for travellers, the Northern Lights are a magnificent phenomenon that dazzles Arctic skies as darkness falls. With Beyond Arctic, you can take a cross-country skiing adventure to marvel at the unsung beauty of Lapland under a dancing night sky. Visitors can experience the untouched serenity of the area using only skis, headlamps and their cameras, and knowledgeable guides from local communities navigate and explain the environment during every stage of the tour. 

Due to the delicate ecosystems and fauna in the area, Beyond Arctic’s tours minimise light and noise pollution, and allow travellers to be at one with the snowy tundras and untouched forests typical to Lapland. Their commitment to sustainable tourism in Lapland was recognised by the Green Activities Environmental Award in 2021, and they are an active member of Finland’s Sustainable Travel Program since 2016. 

Take Part In Sustainable Tourism In Lapland

These are only some of the options available for green travel in Nordic country. While Lapland may be one of the most beautiful places in the world, it is also a paradise for those looking for sustainable tourism. With gorgeous landscapes and rich indigenous culture, your trip to Lapland can be immeasurably enriched by education and participation in local traditions and practices. 

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