Where does Santa live? Correct, in Rovaniemi winter wonderland, in Finland! So that’s where we are your next Lapland holidays will be! These were my thoughts while packing for the next adventure. We didn’t have much time on our hands, just 3 wonderful nights in this remote, but such an attractive destination for Lapland holidays. To tell you the truth, my wallet wouldn’t allow me to stay any longer, anyway.
Why? Because Finland in general, as well as Rovaniemi are really expensive winter destination for Lapland holidays! While you can find good deals on hotels, other activities will drain your savings. But how can you resist, when there is so much to do and see?
Getting to your Lapland holidays destination
Our flight from Helsinki Vantaa Airport was scheduled to leave early in the morning, so we booked the best (in my opinion) and cheapest hostel – Eurohostel. You can easily book it on Booking.com and for the price it’s really not that bad! Since that trip, we stayed there again this summer and didn’t regret it. Location is pretty central and you can still have quiet nights.
Next morning, we packed our bags and headed straight for the airport. At the time there was no train connection yet, so a long, boring 45 minute ride by bus until we reached the destination. Helsinki Airport is relatively small and easy to navigate. It has become almost like a home airport for us, since we discovered Norwegian Air with it’s super cheap deals! Just a couple more hours of waiting to board and off we went towards amazing Rovaniemi – our destination for Lapland holidays!
Flight to Rovaniemi takes 1,5 hours. Upon arrival we easily found a transfer bus which took us to our hotel (yes, there is a hotel transfer service for around 7€/person). We stayed at Borealis Hotel – a family owned, small and cozy little hotel, ideal for Lapland holidays, that is about 30 minutes walk from the city center. The hosts were great and helped with advice and recommendations. There is even a sauna that guests can use (nothing special in Finland, almost all hotels offer sauna).
Snowmobile and husky sledge safari
For the next day we had booked an organized trip with Safartica – snowmobile ride of the frozen river and husky sledge ride. These are among the most popular Rovaniemi winter activities, as well as Northern Finland! It’s a must for your Lapland holidays! The guides picked us up from the hotel and took us to the safari center for instructions.
I have never driven snowmobile before, so it was exciting to try it. One should have valid driver’s license. It was a quiet morning, we were the only ones on the safari! The guides took us to the river (which wasn’t all covered with ice by the way) and it was time to test our skills and courage. I was the first one to drive and didn’t really go faster than 30-40km/h. When my friend took over the steering, we accelerated to 60km/h. It was a bit scary then!
After freezing ourselves on this swift snowmobile ride it was time to head to the husky camp for a proper dog sledding experience. The husky camp is located in the forest just outside of Rovaniemi winter capital, near Santa Village. The dogs live here year round and happily run with almost any temperatures. In fact, the colder it is – the better! As it was still morning time, we were the first ones to board the sledge and dogs were eager to keep going. Although they normally listen to their (human)leader, this time they didn’t turn in the right place and went for a larger round. We were lucky to get an extended route for the same price.
Dogsledding ride – a must for your Lapland holidays!
The ride itself is quite bumpy, but really fun. Even though it’s not as fast as the snowmobile, there is still a huge fun factor – the animals are amazing, their strength and teamwork is incredible. Funny moment – the poo on the run, without stopping 🙂 After finishing the ride we were invited to play with the puppies of age 2 months, have a hot drink and few snacks while our guide told us about the history of using sledge dogs and how they are bred and kept. it was so wonderful to learn about these amazing dogs firsthand, from the people who take care of them.
The whole Safari took lasted for 3 hours and cost us 120€/person. I highly recommend anyone visiting North of Finland (not just Rovaniemi winter wonderland) to take part in dog or reindeer sledding experience. You will get tons of positive emotions as well as support local business. Many travelers come all the way up here precisely for these trips.
Other activities in Rovaniemi winter period
If you are planning to come in winter, you should at least try to see the Northern Lights. Spotting this Nature’s phenomena is certainly never guaranteed, as it depends a lot on the weather conditions and Sun activity. However, in winter months (late October-late March), assuming the sky is clear, there is a good chance to become part of this stunning light show. Some sources reveal that the best shows start around 10pm – 02am. To have a better chance, you should leave the city (minimize light pollution as much as possible). Locals in Rovaniemi say that lights can sometimes be seen in the city as well. Hunting the Lights is surely one of the most popular Rovaniemi winter activities!
Local companies offer Aurora safaris – they will drive you (by car, bus, snowmobile or reindeer sledge) out to the wilderness , build a fire with hot drinks and snacks and wait for you to take amazing greenish pictures. If you don’t mind a bit of walking, you can cross the bridge in Rovaniemi and walk to the Koivusaari island. Some locals have written that they have made good photos of the northern Lights there. Just make sure to wear warm, layered clothes and have a good camera with charged batteries.
Popular attraction for the families with small children – the home of Santa Claus. Nowadays this has become a commercial place with many souvenir shops, cafes and Santa’s post office. You can combine the visit with reindeer or husky safari.
Rovaniemi city center
It’s a small town with a nice pedestrian street full of little shops and places to have a quick bite. In case you need some winter gear – there is no shortage in gear shops for any wallet. It seems like locals have prepared themselves for visitors who have no idea what “winter” means. During our evening walks we found a small merchant with souvenirs made of reindeer horns – cutlery, key holders, screw caps etc. If you purchase a souvenir, you can ask to engrave a name on it for free.