Did you know that Rovaniemi is the largest municipality in Europe? Covering a surface area of 8016km², the region is home to 61,000 people, 14,000 reindeer and one Santa Claus!
There are certainly many reasons why over 500,000 tourists visit the area each year, with the town being famous for its magical atmosphere, adrenaline-inducing activities, unique accommodation and opportunities for spotting the wondrous phenomena of the Northern Lights.
I have put together a list of my top 9 favourite experiences that I believe should be on your list for when you visit Rovaniemi – known as the gateway to the Arctic Circle.
Get paired with a team of six gorgeous huskies for a sled ride through the Finnish wilderness! It was snowing on the day I visited which made for an even more magical adventure. You can tell that these dogs were born to run, and loved to run fast – they would turn and give you a dirty look if you put your foot on the brake 😉
We ventured along a 10km trail, guided by a team of ‘chasers’ on snowmobiles which was almost show in itself – they would zoom through the back trails and pop out at different points along the journey.
After our 10km journey through the snowy trails, we got to meet our huskies. Just like humans, each dog had their own unique characteristics and personality. Some of them had ice-blue eyes, while some had brown and others even had a mix! All in all, this was an awesome day out in the snow!
Read more about my experience here.
(Sunnies by SunGod)
Set off on an arctic adventure on a snowmobile! Drive along frozen rivers and along trails surrounded by glistening forests, occasionally passing through underground tunnels or over wooden bridges. This scene just felt so surreal, especially with the golden sun beaming through the trees.
We followed the trail to an end-point where we found an open tee-pee made of timber which had a toasty fire roaring and seats covered in reindeer hides – the perfect spot for lunch.
The snowmobiles were very easy and comfortable to drive, almost like a quad bike. The handles and accelerator were heated which was a very nice addition.
Escape the brightness of the city lights and venture out into the Finnish darkness in search of the phenomena of the Northern Lights. We headed out to an old reindeer farm with Lapland Safaris and cozied up by the open fire, cooking sausages and sipping hot berry juice.
While the northern lights occur once every 3 nights on average throughout winter in Rovaniemi, it all depends on the weather and solar conditions on the night as to whether you will see them or not. Joining a tour allows you to combine an authentic experience like learning about the Finnish culture, so you still feel like you are getting a lot of value, even if you miss out on spotting the aurora.
Aurora guides explain how this natural wonder occurs and give an insight into the history on what myths and stories have been associated with the northern lights.
The Lapland region has some of the clearest air in Europe and this was the perfect option for those who are wanting a guided experience when discovering the natural light display of the aurora borealis.
Drill a hole in a frozen lake and try your hand at ice fishing. We hooked up some live bait and within a minute I had caught my first rainbow trout! Cooking it up fresh on the open fire made for the perfect lunch – it was delicious!
(Sunnies by SunGod)
Strap on some snow shoes and set out along a tree-lined trail in the Finnish wilderness. There’s no particular skill involved in this, you simply had to walk (with a slightly wider step) so it’s a great choice for beginners!
If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, why not travel to Pyhätunturi ski resort to climb the Tajukangas Icefall. Gear up with crampons and ice axes and take to the icefall all while under the careful supervision of an experienced guide. We also got to enjoy hot berry juice by the open fire in between each climb which was the perfect way to warm up the fingers and toes!
It wouldn’t be a true visit to Lapland without a reindeer sleigh ride through the snow in the peace of the Finnish wilderness. Rovaniemi is the official home town of Santa Claus so it was only appropriate to visit the locals that own the reindeer husbandry and meet these iconic animals of the north. We rode in a sleigh through a snowy forest trail as the snow was so delicately falling from the sky.
I had a very friendly reindeer that liked to walk beside me which was awesome! Afterwards we warmed up by the fire and learnt about the history of reindeer farming.
Santa Claus Village
Rovaniemi has a magical spirit that lies in the air and this was even more heightened when visiting Santa Claus Village. This hub is home to the official post office of Santa, Snowman World, Reindeer sleigh rides, restaurants and souvenir shops.
It is a childhood dream of many to meet Santa Claus and the elves so it was important to include a visit to Santa Claus Office. He was super friendly and even gave some tips on local places to visit that most of the tourists don’t know about. This is the only place in the world where you can meet Santa Claus every day of the year!
Snowman World is one of the awesome attractions at Santa Claus Village. Start by walking through hallways made of ice, with impressive sculptures carved in each of the walls. Each arm leads to a new and exciting ice feature, from outdoor tubing, ice skating, an ice bar, dining room and even an ice hotel!
The restaurant experience is not just a unique and fun way to dine, but they serve meals made from fresh local ingredients and it is the only ice restaurant located exactly on the Arctic Circle.
Here you can also spend a night in an incredibly unique setting, in a room build entirely of ice and snow. Sleep on cosy reindeer hide and keep warm in sleeping bags designed for extreme conditions. This is an unforgettable experience to try while visiting the Arctic.
Which of these experiences would you try?
Thank you Visit Rovaniemi and Lapland Safaris for welcoming me on your experiences. For more information on their tours, visit their website www.laplandsafaris.com