1. GO FOR A NORTHERN LIGHT EXPERIENCE
Attending the beautiful show of the Northern Lights (also called Aurora Borealis) is definitely one of the top reasons to travel as far as Lapland.
Rovaniemi is geographically well located for a successful Northern lights hunt. Its lattitude is located in the so-called “Aurora zone” where Northern Lights are most often visible. But it is also located south enough to enjoy a dark sky from September to mid-April. And its inland position, away from the Norwegian coasts, also offers a better climate with clear skies.
Northern Lights are an unexpectable natural phenomenon, they may appear and suddenly fade away any time. So be ready to stay out all night long if you are willing to hunt them!
Unfortunately, it is difficult to spot the Northern lights from the heart of Rovaniemi, mostly due to the light pollution emitted by city lights. Your chance are admitedly limited if you stay within 10-15 km around the town, especially if you don’t exactly know what to look for…
That’s the reason why we recommend to book the services of a professional aurora guide, who will take you away from the city to the most promising places based on the weather. But make sure to chose the correct Northern lights tour! Many tour operators offer “cheaper” tours that only transfer you to one place outside the town, no matter of the actual weather and space conditions.
WE RECOMMEND: avoid any tour like “Aurora picnics” or “Lappish barbecues”. Instead go for a proper Northern lights photography hunt (link here)!
2. MEET SANTA CLAUS AND CROSS THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
Rovaniemi is worldwide known as the official home of Santa Claus. His most-famous resident receives visitors all year round in his office, located 8 km away from the city centre, right on the Arctic Circle line.
The village of Santa Claus is worth a half-day visit. Besides meeting Santa Claus, you can cross the Arctic Circle, send letters with a special Arctic Circle postmark from the Post Office of Santa Claus, find many restaurants, souvenir shops, and some activity providers. The village maintains a Christmas atmosphere all year round, with the busiest period being naturally December.
WE RECOMMEND: don’t book a crazily-expensive guided tour to Santa Claus Village! The entrance to the village is free of charge and city buses (bus n°8) regularly departs from/to city centre.
3. VISIT A REAL REINDEER FARM
Did you know that they are more reindeer than people spread across Lapland? Reindeer are indeed the most iconic animal in the very North, and you may easily spot some on the sides of the road when travelling out from Rovaniemi.
Visiting an authentic reindeer farm is another worthful experience during your stay in Rovaniemi. The local reindeer herders will gladly share with you their inherited reindeer husbandry lifestyles while you feed the reindeers. Some herders also train the reindeer to offer sleigh safaris: remember that reindeer are semi-wild animals and shorter sleigh safaris are usually a better experience for everyone.
WE RECOMMEND: Make sure to chose an authentic reindeer farm, as some tour operators would take you to some made-up tourist attractions. Santa’s Reindeers in Santa Claus village is not a reindeer farm for example, and the sleigh ride safaris they offer may easily clash with your ethical principles. If you don’t know where to go, why don’t you try the Morning Visit in this authentic farm (link here)?
4. FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH LAPLAND CULTURE
Whether you like or not museums, the Arktikum is a must-do experience when visiting Rovaniemi. Located in the remarkable building designed by the world-famous architect Aalto, the museum covers a wide range of topics about life in the Arctic: local history, Sàmi culture, wildlife, climate change effects, Northern lights, local lifestyle and so on.
Other cultural options include the Korundi contemporary art museum, the Science Centre Pilke with its exhibition about the northern forests and resource management, or the Rovaniemi Heritage Museum (only open in Summer).
WE RECOMMEND: visit the Arktikum museum (2-3 hours) as soon as you arrive in Rovaniemi, you will understand better the local culture for the rest of your stay. Or keep it for a snowy day…
5. FEEL THE PEACE OF ARCTIC NATURE
What would be winter holidays in Lapland without venturing into arctic nature? Whether you are looking for some snow fun, some extreme adventure, some relaxing experience, or something completely different, Lapland offers endless opportunities to connect with its beautiful nature.
Imagine yourself standing on a frozen lake and try ice fishing to catch your lunch. Or walking on deep snow with snowshoes or skis while exploring white-cotton forests. Or grilling some local sausages around an open fire, surrounded by nothing but silence… Lapland is THE place to disconnect with your reality!
WE RECOMMEND: Enjoy a convenient combo experience in Lapland nature with the Full Arctic Adventure (link here). The tour includes snowshoeing, ice-fishing, learning from nature, fire making and barbecue, and is accessible to all levels.
6. EXPERIENCE THE FROZEN WATERFALLS IN KOROUOMA CAYON
Rovaniemi offers many day-trip possibilities such as the Ranua Wildlife Park (1h away), Levi ski resort (2h away), or the Luosto amethyst mine (1h30 away). If you are willing to enjoy some gentle hikes into breathtaking scenery, then Korouoma Canyon should be on top of your to-do list.
In wintertime, its many waterfalls get frozen and create spectacular ice formations that attract visitors and ice-climbers from all around the world.
WE RECOMMEND: Book the services of an outdoor guide for a complete and easy trip to the Korouoma Canyon from Rovaniemi (link here). They will teach you about local nature, wildlife and basics how to survive in harsh arctic conditions.
7. VISIT THE SNOW HOTEL & ICE RESTAURANT
Have you ever dreamed of sleeping in a hotel made entirely of ice and snow? Located 30 km away from Rovaniemi, in the little village of Sinettä, the Arctic Snow Hotel is definitely worth a visit, if not an overnight stay.
The hotel offers around fifteen different rooms, an ice chapel, stylish ice restaurant and ice bar, all of it every year adorned with unique ice art and scultpures.
WE RECOMMEND: treat yourself! Enjoy a three-course dinner in the ice restaurant or relax yourself in the hot steams of the ice sauna…
8. TAKE A THRILLING SNOWMOBILE RIDE
You need your dose of adrenaline? You want to explore some remote areas of Lapland in a memorable way? Either way, snowmobiling is your best option!
Many tour operators in Rovaniemi offer a convenient range of guided snowmobile excursions, from beginner’s rides to long distance safaris. Note that these all-day trips are a bit challenging, but naturally provides a more authentic experiences in smaller groups.
If you are unsure about your driving skills and just want a little taste, go for a short trip (less than 1h long): you may end up in bigger groups, but at least you won’t drive too fast.
WE RECOMMEND: electronic snowmobile safaris, for a silent and more environmental-friendly experience.
9. EXPERIENCE HUSKY SLEDDING
Husky sledding is one of the most popular activities in Lapland. There’s indeed something magical about leading your own team of enthusiastic dogs through the white arctic landscapes.
Make sure to opt for a family-sized and ethical kennel, to optimize your experience in a small groups. They usually have limited availability so you would probably have to book in advance, especially for peak seasons.
WE RECOMMEND self-driven sled safaris of 30min-1h (6-10 kms). Safaris of 2-3 kms are usually too short and you will not even be driving yourself. In safaris of over 15 kms, you may end up getting cold especially if you are sitting as a passenger in the sled.
10. RELAX IN FINNISH SAUNA
There is nothing more Finnish than a Finnish sauna! Sauna is part of the local culture in many aspects, and therefore a must-do experience when coming to Lapland. Steamy, traditional, wooden-smoked, lakeside or luxury, Rovaniemi offers plenty of options when it comes to sauna.
Check with your hotel, they usually offer public sauna hours or you may book a private session just for you.
WE RECOMMEND: if you are brave enough, take a dip into an avanto, an opening in the ice of a frozen lake or river! You don’t know where to go? Check this traditional Finnish sauna experience for example, it’s located just outside Rovaniemi next to the Ounasjoki river (transportation is arranged)…
That’s it! We hope you enjoyed reading this blogpost.
If you have any question, feel free to contact us!
We will be super glad to help you plan your trip to Rovaniemi!
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