Drenched in Christmas vibes year-round, Lapland is characterised by Santa, elves, reindeer, festivity, terrific outdoors. Being the largest and northernmost region in Finland, Lapland holds the distinction of being hailed as the epitome of Christmas spirit, all thanks to Rovaniemi – the official hometown of Santa Claus. But there’s a lot more to Lapland than what meets the eyes. Being your local tour guide to Rovaniemi Lapland, I’d emphasise on all those aspects, and through this blog, I’d put forward all the options you could consider before settling your Lapland itinerary.

The Arctic land is enormous & is a keeper of nature’s most attractive spectacles. The wild taiga forest, exquisite wildlife & a lush snow-coated coniferous vegetation welcome you to the famed ‘Winter Wonderland’. Consider yourself to be truly the lucky one if you make it to Rovaniemi in winter.

Hike to Ounasvaara top in Rovaniemi in winter

For me, Lapland in winter will always be about the untouched outdoors wrapped in the thick winter snow & ice, roaring snowmobiles, ecstatic reindeers & huskies – welcoming you on their sledge for a wild ride, the forever festive vibes exuding from the Santa Claus Village, the pristine frozen lakes & rivers, super cosy Kota (traditional fireplace in the forest), dreamy roads, stunning ski slopes, and Auroras – nature’s greatest show on the planet. Things that make Lapland number one winter destination on the planet!

Some crucial information about Lapland

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Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

Things you might be interested in before travelling to Rovaniemi!

1. Lapland is a region and not a country. It’s the northernmost territory of Finland sharing a border with Russia, Norway, and Sweden.

2. The Arctic Circle line – one of the five major circles of latitude on earth marked by 66°33′48.0″, cuts through the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi.

3. Lapland experiences nature’s grandeur called Midnight Sun and Polar Night. The midnight sun phase is marked by uninterrupted daylight, which lasts almost 73 days a year. June experiences daylight from 21-24 hours. It is reversed by dark days in December and beginning of January when the sun barely shows up.

4. Rovaniemi is the administrative capital of Lapland. Occasionally during the summer here, you can find more reindeer on the streets than humans. Lapland is sparsely populated which makes it more of a nature space ideal for tourism.

5. Reindeer is the insignia of Rovaniemi, and when you look at the city’s map you’ll find the city centre in the shape of a reindeer head with easy to identify antlers. Try looking for it on the map.

6. Reindeer meat, salmon, trout fish, brown Lappish bread, reindeer sausage, blueberry juice, salmon soup, squeaky cheese, and cloudberry jam are some of the must-try when you are in Rovaniemi.

7. Lapland is the best region in Finland to watch the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis

8. The local indigenous population of Lapland is known as Sami, and there’s still plenty of them you can come across in Rovaniemi or other parts of Lapland.

9. Besides the usual berries – blueberries, raspberries and cranberries that you have heard of, there are some obscure yet delicious berries in the forests of Lapland. They are lingonberries, cloudberries, and crowberries, and to find them you have to go berry-picking in the Finnish forest sometime during the late summer.

10. After WWII, Rovaniemi was burnt to the ground. Alvar Aalto, the great Finnish designer, had a task cut out when he sat down to redesign the entire city.

Now that you have some idea about Lapland, let me introduce you to all the most exciting experiences that you can treat yourself to when you’re there in Santa’s Land!

Here are my top recommendations for anyone planning a trip to Rovaniemi in winter. Top 12 activities for every Lapland in winter itinerary!

1. Northern Lights Hunting

Snowmobile ride in Rovaniemi

Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

Without a second opinion, Northern Lights are the biggest & the most extraordinary nature phenomenon on earth. When in Rovaniemi in winter, Northern Lights photography tour naturally becomes everybody’s first preference. And why not? After all, who doesn’t want to have a great photo with the magical Auroras? From September, when the autumn is in full bloom in Rovaniemi, nights are darker and colder, and skies are perfectly clear, thus making way for the legion of stars and milky way, the solar winds start making an appearance.

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Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

Yes, these solar winds fuse with different gas in the atmosphere to attain certain colourful waves. More details about the occurrence of Northern Lights can be found on my other blog here! For now, I propose to you the top activities that you can plan to do under the Aurora Borealis. Some of the most popular activities under Northern Lights are Sledge Rides (husky, reindeer, snowmobile sledge), photography tour, hiking with barbecue on the frozen lake, ice floating with sauna and hot tub experience under Northern Lights, and my favourite – hunting Northern Lights on a snowmobile.

All the Northern Lights activities are carried out during nighttime when the lights appear. Ideally, 9 pm to 12 am is considered as the most appropriate time to watch the auroras, however, it varies at times throughout the night and sometimes gets stronger right before the dawn. Head to the wilderness far away from the light pollution and head to the north direction, preferably by the lakefront. Make a fire, enjoy the barbecue and wait for the lights to appear. Northern Lights require a lot of patience and the right efforts.

Protip: Make sure that you carry a professional camera or hire a professional photographer, whatever suits you!

2. Husky & Reindeer Sledge Ride & farm visit

Reindeer Sled

Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

“Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
Over the fields, we go
Laughing all the way”

While growing up, I didn’t pay much heed to the lyrics of this song which apparently was the most popular Christmas song sung during the Christmas festivities, despite the fact that India isn’t a country where Christmas is awaited with great curiosity, unlike Europe where Christmas markets function from the end of November until January first week. So, when I finally made it to Santa’s official hometown that wears the aura of an ideal winter wonderland, I experienced everything that I once fancied!

Husky Sled Ride
Nordic Unique Travels Rovaniemi Lapland Finland. Photo by All About Lapland.

Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

Every tourist visiting Rovaniemi in Christmas season definitely have sledge rides on their mind! Huskies and reindeer, who have accumulated all the fat while eating and resting during the entire summer and autumn look ready and all pumped up to hit the trails with a well-laid out snow path, skirted by thick forest cover. Once in Rovaniemi, you can certainly choose your adventure.

You can ride these lovely sledges during the day time or book one for the night as you’d go hunting the Auroras in the freezing outdoors, sitting on the sleigh, well covered in reindeer skin enjoying some of the best moments in the Arctic world. Though you can find reindeers and huskies at the Santa Claus Village too, I would certainly recommend a farm visit for the holistic experience. Some of my favourite reindeer & husky farms are Seiriporo (reindeers), Raitola (husky & reindeers), Parpalandia (reindeers).

Sleigh rides are subject to the amount of snowfall in the region, and in general cases, they are available from mid – November to mid – April unless there are major changes in the weather conditions.

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For the comprehensive experience, go on to visit the farms where the reindeer & husky farmers share with you the particulars about the everyday life of wonderful arctic wildlife and the challenges faced by them generally.

3. Snowshoeing In The Arctic Forest

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Snowshoeing is a fun activity to be tried in the places that experience a large amount of snowfall during winter months. Lapland turns into an ideal place to wear those snowshoes and walk into the thick Arctic forest full of feet-deep snow cover. It’s like a massive web that enables you to walk over snow with much ease. Snowshoeing is a must-try when you are planning your trip to Rovaniemi in the Christmas holidays!

4. Ice Fishing On A Frozen Lake

Ice fishing in Rovaniemi in winter

A unique Arctic experience that every traveller must try when in Rovaniemi! For me, ice fishing is more about staying in nature’s quietude and relishing every bit of awesomeness around. Rovaniemi is endowed with terrific outdoors. All the hundreds of lakes that form an essential part of the great nature escape in Lapland turn into a meter thick sheet of ice. The turf is rock solid and can easily sustain any weight, and even the likes of snowmobiles.

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Make a hole in the lake with a driller, put your bait in there, and wait for the fish to bite it. Ice fishing is a relaxing and fun activity which will also test your patience. If you carry some woods and sausages, then you can make a bonfire in the middle of the frozen lake and enjoy a barbecue.

5. Floating In The Frozen Lake

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Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

Protip: Book floating experience with a local tour operator as renting a suit and finding a place with adequate facilities and sauna might be difficult. For the best experience, club this experience with Northern Lights.

The local tour operators have a dedicated place for floating, also they make sure that all the arrangements are in place and you’ll be guided well. The activity requires a hole to be made in the frozen lake. Amidst the crumbled ice, you’ll enter the frozen lake wearing the special floating suit. The floating suit is good enough to keep you afloat on the water. Just lie there facing the sky, and leave yourself suspended on the water surface! Soak up the best of nature’s tranquillity and relax, this is probably the most relaxing Lappish experience you can have in Rovaniemi.

People usually club ice dips and saunas along with floating. Braving a dip in the frozen lake is not a joke at all, and besides all the courage, this activity will also test your physical strength. Try this one with the utmost care, and only when you’re a hundred per cent sure. Floating is usually a 3-4 hour activity.

6. Skiing at Ounasvaara Or Other Ski Slope

View from Ounasvaara top in Rovaniemi in winter

Like me, if you too are a sucker for views, and a perpetual adventure seeker then Ounasvaara is the place for you. To those of you who don’t know Ounasvaara, it is Rovaniemi’s highest point, and a pretty landmark that can be recognised from a distance, no matter which part of the city you are in. Ounasvaara is the highest point in Rovaniemi, and apparently the most popular spot preferred by visitors in Rovaniemi.

7. Sauna & A Dip In The Frozen Lake

Sauna in Rovaniemi in winter

Sauna and lake are such an essential part of the Finnish culture and heritage. That is why a sauna settlement can mostly be found by the lake in most of the parts of Finland. In Rovaniemi, which is a sparsely populated region, there is plenty of forest and lakes around, hence sauna. Portable saunas are also quite common in Rovaniemi and they are photogenic too.

Soak up the extreme heat inside a wood-heated sauna & dare to jump into the frozen lake once you are out. Repeat it for a few times until you get tired of it and have the urge to make some barbecue and enjoy some steaming hot blueberry juice. Sauna and dip in the frozen lake make a lethal combination with Northern Lights, all you need to do is check the forecast well, and brace your luck! 😉

8. Hiking to Ounasvaara – Skiing Sunrise/Sunset Views Complimentary

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Hiking to the Ounasvaara top is a major highlight of a winter trip to Rovaniemi. The hike, which is almost 4 km from the centre is worth your while for all the views and thrill it includes. Once completing the hike to the top, you’ll come across 2 viewing platforms that offer you the 360-degree view of the Arctic forest around. From here, you can also see the pretty Rovaniemi city bisected by Kemijoki river and a distant Ounasjoki river.

Some well-marked winter hiking trails lead you to the Ounasvaara top, even though these signboards are mostly buried under tonnes of snow, especially at the peak of the winter season. Wonderful ski launching platforms, ski trails, and some Kotas close to the viewing platform awaits you there.

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There are cable cars and sliders for those who seek more adventures. At the top, the Ounasvaara Sky Hotel is just a perfect place to grab a glass of steaming cacao after an exhausting hike or ski session. You can also book a stay there during the winter season, but make sure that you do it well in advance since a lot of people make an advance booking here. The hotel offers some incomparable sunrise and sunset views in the entire Lapland. Absolute quietude awaits you at Ounasvaara, located some 4 km from the centre, which means you are far but not too far from the hustle of the city life. Make sure that you wear the ski & hit the slopes at Ounasvaara.

9. Lappish Barbecue On A Frozen Lake Or In A Kota

Barbecue on a frozen lake in Rovaniemi in winter

Nothing tastes more delightful than a grilled reindeer sausage ladened with mustard sauce, as you crouch around the rising flames from the pinewood! Right there, in the middle of the frozen lake, with the quietude of night enveloping you from all sides, no infrastructure or settlement in sight, and temperature low enough to freeze your bones. That’s how I picture a Lappish barbecue during the peak winter in Lapland.

Barbecue in Rovaniemi in winter

Can I say that this is the most favourite experience that I relished during my stay in Lapland? Irrespective of the activities that I was involved in, the Lappish barbecue will remain a favourite, because it is one complimentary experience you get to enjoy no matter what activity you plan on!

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Be it the Northern Lights tour or a snowmobile ride in the middle of the night, berry or mushroom picking or canoeing in the lake, Lappish style barbecue acts as the perfect icing on the cake summing up your experience in the most fitting way. Warm berry juice, reindeer & pork sausage, grilled salmon, salmon soup, Lappish bread, and marshmallows are some of the essentials of a Lappish barbecue. Don’t miss this authentic Lappish experience, when you plan a trip beyond the Arctic Circle. That’s why they have hundreds of Laavus & Kotas in random places across Lapland! Finns love it, I love it! 🙂

And then you have these exceptional experiences that are just a couple of hours drive from Rovaniemi!

10. Hiking To Korouoma Canyon Frozen Waterfall

Frozen waterfalls of Korouoma near Rovaniemi in winter

If you wish to behold the ever-changing colours of Lapland, Korouoma Canyon is the place to be! The majestic canyon in Korouoma National Park, with 100-meter drop and almost 5 km nature trail is a pretty sight to behold. While summer brings with itself the exceptional flora and fauna to life, winter is nothing less than a fairytale amidst Korouoma Canyon. The entire national park region comprises as many as 14 frozen waterfalls, of which 3 are the most impressive which can be spotted during the 5-km hike across the gorge.

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Korojoki river cuts through the region and makes for a brilliant location for some wonderful touristic activities like – hiking, ice climbing, bird watching, nature photography, and recreational fishing (summer). Korouoma is hands down one of the best places in Lapland to undertake professional ice-climbing. The canyon is a 1.5-hour drive to the southeast of Rovaniemi.

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Find out more information about the national park here!

11. Visiting Amethyst Mine in Luosto National Park

Amethyst mine in Luosto near Rovaniemi in winter

Lapland is dotted with terrific landscapes & excellent viewpoints. One such place that must not be missed during your trip to Rovaniemi is Lampivaara Amethyst Mine. Located in Pyhä-Luosto in Lapland, the Amethyst Mine is a place where you walk straight into the 2000 million-year-old-history! The mine is located in the heart of ancient mountains, and treasures gems that’d last hundreds of years. Upon reaching the Amethyst Mine, you’re entitled to a welcome drink and guided tour of the entire mine complex. The landscapes of the Pyhä-Luosto National Park from the top of the mine is breathtaking. Later, you can go inside the mine, and dig an amethyst for yourself. If the amethyst fits your palm, which it mostly does, you’re allowed to carry it along as a souvenir.

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You can book your tour of Amethyst mine with various tour operators in Rovaniemi. However, if you want to go there on your own you can make a reservation straight from their website. All the information & prices can be retrieved from their website. Remember that Amethyst Mine in Luosto National Park is 1.5-hour drive from Rovaniemi city centre. Once you reach the mine parking area, an Amethyst Pendolino will take you up, which is a 10-15 min ride. There is a cafe & restroom, and a souvenir shop, up there near the mine. Don’t miss your chance to lay hands on the prized jewel of Lapland!

12. Ice Breaker Tour In The Gulf Of Bothnia In Sweden

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Photo Courtesy: Nordic Unique Travels

Winter is the time when Nordic land turns gorgeous & satiates every soul. Some seek nature, while others seek adventures, the quest for a fulfilling vacation in Lapland never ends. To further enhance your winter trip to Rovaniemi, here’s a trip called Polar Icebreaker! The Polar Icebreaker tour is quite a popular winter activity in Rovaniemi. You head to the border town of Kalix in Sweden located by the Bothnian Sea. It takes a little over 2 hours from Rovaniemi City Center to reach Kalix.

Embark on the joyride as the massive Icebreaker ship moves through the frozen sea in the Gulf of Bothnia. The crushing of ice beneath the ship and sunset views from the ship is an experience of a lifetime. The ride is also followed by floating experience in the Gulf of Bothnia.

Should you have any queries concerning a trip to Lapland/Rovaniemi please feel free to write to me in the comments below or send me an email.

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