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  • Writer's pictureeleonorevanout

Winter Wonderland: Exploring Rovaniemi, Lapland in 4 Days

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Imagine a place where winter casts its enchanting spell, captivating your heart with its icy embrace and a constant Christmas feeling. Rovaniemi, Lapland, holds a special place in my heart, as I had the privilege of calling it home during my unforgettable four-month Erasmus exchange in 2019. Nestled in the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi transformed into a magical winter wonderland, leaving an indelible mark on my soul. This is the one place I will always mention when people ask me where they should go next.


Definitely have a look at the pictures at the end, they really show the beauty of this place! 🤍


Timing Your Visit to Rovaniemi


For the ultimate winter wonderland experience, plan your trip to Rovaniemi between mid-October and February. If you don't necessarily want to go during the Christmas months, but rather when you have the most snow, I recommend going in January or February. During these months, Lapland is submerged by thick and glistening snow and offers a variety of winter activities to do.


Must-do Activities in Rovaniemi


In just four days, you can make so many memories and enjoy the most unforgettable experiences of your life.


Santa Claus Village


Start your holiday with a visit to Santa Claus Village, where you can meet the jolly man himself and cross the magical Arctic Circle. If you want to take a picture with him, go to the Santa Claus Office. You will have to wait a little in line, but even the line is worth the wait. Where Santa Claus goes, so do the elves. The elves are Santa’s close helpers, assisting with all the Christmas preparations. Watch how they prepare all the gifts for people all around the world.

family picture with santa claus at santa claus village in rovaniemi, lapland in finland


After you met Santa Claus, go to the Post Office. Either buy some souvenirs or write a letter. There are many options: write a letter to Santa Claus, write a postcard that they will send for you or even write a postcard for Christmas that they will post in time so it will arrive on Christmas day. I love this idea and people really were the friendliest.


After all this, stroll around the Village where you also get to pet the cutest reindeers and huskies. If you're lucky, there will even be puppies. You can also book a husky sledding or reindeer sleigh ride, but honestly, I recommend doing this outside of the Village as these rides are very short and might turn out very expensive.


Feeling hungry? Go try the best grilled salmon in Santa’s Salmon Place. They serve fresh salmon, grilled in a traditional Lappish teepee with open fire. Not only is it absolutely delicious, probably the best salmon I've ever tasted, but it's super cosy with the open fire in a round space. 100% recommend!


Hiking Trails


If you like hiking, then definitely go to Ounasvaara and walk the Winter Trail. From the city center it's a 5 to 10-minute car ride or 20 to 30-minute walk as you should start from the top.


On this trail you get to see beautiful landscapes, small rivers and an amazing view over Rovaniemi. I loved the peace and quiet while walking this trail. If you're very lucky, you will also see some reindeers.

Don't forget to pass by the observation tower at sunset. You won't regret it.


For other activities in Ounasvaara, such as skiing or others, go to the website from the Ounasvaara Outdoor Resort.


Another amazing hiking area is the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, just outside Rovaniemi. You get many different hiking trail options: different distances, different landscapes from the frozen waterfalls of Vaattunkiköngäs and Vikaköngäs to open fields covered in snow. Also 100% recommend.


You can either spend a couple of hours on these trails or even a full day.


Husky Safari, Reindeer Sled Ride and Snowscooter Ride


Be sure to plan a husky safari along the forests and hills. This is an absolute must when visiting Lapland. Each sled is pulled by about 6 huskies, which are smaller than I thought they would be, but still so cute.


First you will be explained how to drive the sled and then the adventure can begin. One person sits in the sled all covered up while the other steers. Along the way you can change drivers. The husky ride itself takes about 1h30 and afterwards everyone can warm up over a sweet cup of hot berry juice.


reindeer trek at a reindeer farm in rovaniemie, lapland in finland

Another must-do activity is visiting a reindeer farm.


At the farm, a Sámi herder will welcome you and tell you about Sámi culture and reindeer farm life. This visit can also include a long reindeer trek and you will enjoy a comforting hot drink and snack along the way in the forest. This activity takes about 4h.




A third must do activity is a snowmobile safari (possibly with ice fishing and lunch if you have enough time). You will depart in pairs by snowmobile for a trip through snowy forests and hills.


During the ride, you can admire the beautiful landscapes of Lapland. Follow the driving path along the white, snowy fields until you arrive at a frozen lake (if you chose to also go ice fishing). Here you can try to catch a fish yourself and then fry it over an open campfire. You will be very lucky if you manage to catch a fish. I was not. ;-)


All activities and lunch included will take about 4h30. If you only do the snowmobile ride, it usually takes up to 1h30.


Northern Lights

snow and northern lights in rovaniemi, lapland in finland

If you're feeling lucky, don't hesitate to go chase the elusive Northern Lights, as Rovaniemi offers excellent opportunities to witness this celestial spectacle. If you have a rental car, go find a spot where there's no light (from the city or road). Go to secluded locations outside of the center near a forest or near a lake or even go to the top of Ounasvaara.


I recommend you try to spot them every night, as the chance of seeing them are often small, even if the sky seems clear. However, when you see them it will be one of the most mesmerizing experiences of your life.



Which Hotel Should You Stay At?


If you're staying in Rovaniemi center (which I would do if you're only here for 4 days), I recommend you stay at the Arctic City Hotel. Granted, it's a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it. It's located at the city square, where there's a supermarket, a tourist information point, a cute coffee house where they have delicious hot chocolates and coffees and a shopping mall.


From the hotel you can easily get to other destinations, either by bus, by bike, by car or by walking.


If you don't want to stay in the city center (and are staying a bit longer than 4 days), I definitely recommend Lapland Hotels Bear's Lodge. This is a great family-friendly wilderness hotel.


Other than the usual activities, you can enjoy its beautiful surroundings. You can rent snowshoes and go hiking on your own or get some sleds from the hotel and go sled on the hill next to the hotel.


If you have a free evening, go visit the Arctic SnowHotel, which is a 10-minute drive from Bear's Lodge. This is one of the biggest snowhotels in the world and offers a variety of experiences. During the visit, you’ll have the chance to see breathtaking snow and ice structures, ice sculptures and beautifully crafted rooms, the Ice Bar, the Ice Restaurant, and the Snow Sauna, which apparently is the only one of its kind in the world.


Daylight Hours in Rovaniemi


While visiting Rovaniemi in winter, be prepared for shorter daylight hours. The sun rises late and sets early, creating a mystical atmosphere but also providing more opportunities to witness the Northern Lights. This takes some getting used to, but I personally loved this. You also never feel unsafe, even alone in the woods.


What To Pack To Face The Cold


Rovaniemi can get quite cold during winter, so make sure to dress in layers and pack warm clothing, including thermal wear, hats, gloves, and sturdy boots. I've only experienced -23°C, but it can go down to -40°C so be prepared. Also include undergloves, hand warmers, warm socks and even a neckwarmer.


Another tip: take a (big) thermos bottle with you and fill it with hot water so you can make a tasty soup or pasta on the go. You can buy little packs of soup or pasta in the nearby shops called Sale.


Check out my Rovaniemi Suitcase Essentials-checklist, so you don't forget anything important!


Warm Hospitality


One of the most lovely aspects of Rovaniemi is the warmth and friendliness of the locals. The people of Lapland take pride in sharing their culture and traditions, making your visit truly memorable. Embrace the genuine hospitality, engage in conversations, and soak in the warm atmosphere created by the locals.


Conclusion


Rovaniemi, Lapland, is an absolute bucket list destination that will leave you breathless. From amazing Arctic adventures to catching the Northern Lights, this destination offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and warm hospitality. Plan your visit during the winter months, embrace the cold, and let Rovaniemi captivate you with its magical charm.


I lost my heart in Rovaniemi. This will forever be my magical place.


Definitely have a look at the pictures below, they really show the beauty of this place! 🤍



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