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Finnish Lapland & Northern Norway

Scandinavian spring birding in the land of the midnight sun.

2025 Dates
  • 16 May - 21 May 2025
Duration6 Days
2025 Price
£3195 pp
£240 single supplement. Deposit £500

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

2027 Dates
  • 14 May - 19 May 2027
Duration6 Days
2027 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size12

Life within the Arctic Circle will always be of interest to explorers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. On this exciting six day tour to the land of the midnight sun we divide our time between Finnish Lapland and the Varanger Peninsula, the latter situated some 400km inside the Arctic Circle. The holiday is land-based, beginning at Ivalo, and driving north towards the Finnish/Norwegian border and beyond overnighting at the fishing town of Batsfjord before continuing to the wildlife rich Varanger Fjord. The weather and key sightings will help dictate our exact itinerary, featuring plans to explore the Lappish forests and bogs, the snowy highlands and a memorable boat trip to see large seabird colonies on Hornøya Island.

Speciality northern birds such as Gyrfalcon, White-billed Diver, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Pine Grosbeak and any available owls will be prime targets. The abundance of breeding waders will be a highlight with Dotterel, Ruff, Temminck's Stint, Wood, Purple and Broad-billed Sandpiper likely, and in stunning summer plumage. Other key birds should include Long-tailed Skua, Golden Eagle, Rock Ptarmigan, Bluethroat, Lapland Bunting and many more. Breath-taking birding in a magical northern landscape!

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Fri 16 May 2025 - Arrival to Ivalo, Finland
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly to Ivalo airport, where we’ll be met by our Finnish guide and relocate to our comfortable hotel in Ivalo. With favourable flight times we may enjoy some birding in the local forests where early targets may include Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay, Brambling, Pine Grosbeak and Little Bunting. Overnight at Hotel Ivalo.

Day 2: Sat 17 May - North to Varanger Peninsula
After breakfast we start our journey south and then east, working our way past vast Lake Inarijarvi searching for birds in the enchanting Lappish bogs and forests. Waders such as Broad-billed Sandpiper, Golden Plover, Snipe, Whimbrel, Wood Sandpiper and stunning summer-plumaged Ruff may be seen while deeper pools are home to breeding Red-throated and Black-throated Diver and Goldeneye. As we travel it is worth keeping our eyes open and we may pause for roadside raptors perhaps including White-tailed Eagle. We’ll break for lunch on the Norwegian border then follow the River Tana out onto the Varanager Peninsula and into the highlands. Area specialities include Willow Grouse, Bluethroat, Shore Lark, Arctic Redpoll, Lapland and Snow Bunting and with luck we’ll see all these and more. By the end of the day we’ll have reached the coast and the small fishing town of Batsfjord where long daylight hours may give us our first eiders or coastal waders. Overnight at Batsfjord.

Day 3: Sun 18 May - The Varanger Fjord
We may have been lucky enough to have already seen Dotterel, Ptarmigan and Long-tailed Skua, species which favour the high tops. Dotterel arrival depends on spring weather, and if it is very snowy and cold, they will not yet have reached Varanger Peninsula, though we have opportunities to see them on Finnish side hilltops along the way, or even in Kuusamo or Oulu in fields (see Finland spring birding itinerary). If not, we will spend some time looking for them before favouring the coast and the areas around Vardo for the next two days. Harbours and suitable looking bays will be checked for roosting Purple Sandpiper or any late Glaucous and Iceland Gull. Migrant shorebirds such as Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Knot and Sanderling may be encountered as they head north while roadside lakes and pools will likely hold a few breeding Greater Scaup and Long-tailed Duck and perhaps Temminck’s Stint. Seawatching from a prominent coastal viewpoint may give us passing White-billed and Great Northern Diver, plus Gannet, Fulmar, skuas, auks while there is an outside chance of a Steller's and King Eider among the seaduck. Cetaceans are possible, Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whale the most likely, and all the while keeping an eye out for any patrolling Gyrfalcon, Peregrine, Merlin or White-tailed Eagle. Overnight for two nights at Vardo.   

Day 4: Mon 19 May - Varanger Fjord and Hornøya Island
If the weather permits, we take a half day excursion by boat to see the seabirds on Hornøya Island. Thousands upon thousands of Common and Brünnich’s Guillemot occupy the cliffs in large breeding colonies. Many Razorbill, Puffin, European Shag and Kittiwake are present too and ‘volume’ is most definitely the key-word here, both in number and the sheer noise of so many birds, and then there is the smell too! An opportunity for the photographers among us and to enjoy the day to day comings and goings of these special birds. The rest of the day will be spent continuing to explore the Fjord on dry land perhaps searching offshore habitats for Red-breasted Merganser, Common and Velvet Scoter may be found while farmland in the area can support feeding goose flocks within which Taiga and Tundra Bean and White-fronted Goose are possible.      

Day 5: Tue 20 May - Leaving Arctic Norway to return south to Ivalo
Today we must begin the journey south leaving the Varanger Peninsula and returning to northern Finland. We will of course birdwatch on the way with a series of planned stops (and likely some unscheduled ones too) hoping to ‘mop up’ on species, particularly specialities we might have not yet seen. There will perhaps be more of a focus on passerines as summer migrants begin to return to the far north. Redwing and Fieldfare are likely but the first few visitors from Africa will be concluding their migration in the weeks ahead and settling down to breed in the area, Pied Flycatcher and Redstart being typical examples. Efforts may be made to try and see Short-eared Owl or exceptionally Northern Hawk Owl if any individuals of this nomadic wanderer are known to be holding territory, and as we near Ivalo, forest clearings may give us a Great Grey Shrike. Either way we’ll have enjoyed a great time in the far north! Overnight at Ivalo.

Day 6: Wed 21 May - Join our Finland - Late Spring Birding tour 
There may be time for some local birding, and if so we’ll head for the forests and bogs again in the hope of adding to our triplist. However our trip ends today, and we catch the return flight to Helsinki and onwards. Alternatively, we recommend the option to transfer by minibus to Kuusamo, and join our Finland 'late spring birding' tour, one of the most exciting tours in Europe, as we target breeding northern owls, woodpeckers, scarce passerines and more.

See here for details; Finland - late spring birding

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • scheduled return flights between London Heathrow and Ivalo (via Helsinki), including all airport taxes.
  • ground transportation as outlined including all transportation in Finland in a modern air-conditioned vehicle.
  • accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • the services of your leader/s.
  • entrance fees to parks and reserves, and tips to hotels and restaurants.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more..

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, most alcoholic drinks and other personal expenses, optional tips to the driver and local guide, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information:

Accommodation is in comfortable hotels or guest houses with all rooms en suite.
Food Breakfast is continental style. Fruit juice and tea or coffee is usually available. Picnic lunches will be provided by your guide, and will include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks. Evening meals are generally local dishes; Scandinavian ingredients match that of food just about anywhere else. Meat dishes may include beef, chicken and pork and both lamb and fish feature prominently on Finnish and Norwegian menus - highly delicious! The bounty of the area's seemingly endless forests are also vital elements while vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There will be some uphill track and road walking, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather The weather can be quite cold when in the Arctic. Come prepared with warm clothes - layers and a warm, water-proof jacket. The weather can change quickly and it most likely will be windy in the highlands and by the sea. Please bring enough clothes! It can be quite warm and summery, but chilly mornings and nights are possible. It should be mainly dry but rain showers are possible. Average daily temperature range at this time of year is 5 – 15°C but it may be colder or warmer!
Insects There are no mosquitoes in the Varangar area, and unlikely to be anywhere in other regions at this time.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Heathrow.
Photography There may be excellent opportunities to photograph birds, though these are incidental and not guaranteed. Wildlife in this part of the world can be fearless and show at close range. If photography holds a special interest then perhaps our Finland Winter Photo Tour may be more suitable.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Finland

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248