January is mid-winter in Finland. The temperatures vary throughout the country, with the south (which includes capital Helsinki) comparatively warmer than the north, some of which fall in the Arctic Circle. As parts of Finland are on the coast, it benefits from the Gulf Stream of (relatively!) warmer waters, which stop it from being as cold as some other places at similar latitudes, such as inland areas of neighboring Russia. You should expect snow everywhere, however. The average temperature across Finland in January is 19°F (-7°C).
As well as the temperature, another consideration when traveling to Finland in winter (or at any other time of year!) is the daylight hours. While you may be used to shorter days in winter and longer days in summer, Finland takes this concept to extremes. January nights in Helsinki last around 19 hours, while those in Rovaniemi in the north, just below the Arctic Circle, last around 20 hours. Short days can affect what you can reasonably see and do in Finland in January.
Crowds & Costs
January in Finland isn't as busy as December when people flock to Lapland to see Santa Claus. Finland is never a low-budget destination, but if you want to visit in the winter and need to cut costs where you can, accommodation is generally cheaper in January than in December. Northern areas of Finland are busiest with tourists in the winter, who come for the winter activities and to see the Aurora borealis (Northern Lights), although the latter can be seen throughout the country.
While Finns are used to dealing with cold winters, and you shouldn't encounter any problems with infrastructure, some places do close down for winter or go into hibernation. Outside of the main cities and northern areas most popular with tourists, you may not find January a lively time to visit.
Where to Go
If you travel to Finland in January, you may as well go all out and visit the far north, particularly Lapland. Rovaniemi and Levi, even further north than Rovaniemi, are the most popular ski destinations in Finland. Saariselkä, in northeastern Lapland and not far from the Russian border, is a small resort town that's a great base for seeing the Northern Lights.
If you don't have much time or need to stay closer to the capital, head to Finnish Lakeland, a large area northeast of Helsinki. The thousands of lakes here freeze in winter, so it's a great place to go ice skating. There are also great cross-country skiing trails throughout the countryside.
If you wanted to see Santa's village in December but couldn't make it in this month, kids (and adults) might be charmed by the seasonal SnowCastle in Kemi, a coastal city in Lapland.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
What to Do
Winter in Finland is all about embracing the elements. As well as "regular" downhill skiing, you can participate in cross-country skiing and snowshoe hiking, ice skating, snowmobiling, reindeer sleigh rides, dog-sledding, and ice swimming if you're feeling brave. After these outdoor activities, you can warm up with an unmissable Finnish pastime: a sauna.
Another major attraction of the winter is seeing the Northern Lights. It's possible to see them throughout the country between August and April, but conditions are often best in more remote places, away from the light pollution of the towns and cities.
Events in January
Aurora borealis. You can see the flickering colorful lights of the Northern Lights throughout Finland in January (and potentially any time between August and April).
Skábmagovat Indigenous Peoples’ Film Festival, Inari. Held in January, at the end of the Polar night, in the far-northern Lapland town of Inari. It features films by Sami and other indigenous filmmakers.
Traveling to Finland in January? Check out these great itineraries
Rovaniemi and Kemi - 6 Days. Catch the Northern Lights, sled with huskies through a silent forest, and visit the icy wonderland of Kemi.
Lapland Winter Activities - 5 Days. Spend five days on snowshoes and skis, making your way across a winter wonderland that spans both Finland and Norway.
Multi-Day Dogsledding Adventure from Tromsø - 7 Days. This arctic itinerary starts in Tromsø before five days of adventure in Northern Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Get to know your team of huskies by name, drive your sled, and enjoy traditional meals around the campfire.