Rovaniemi, Finland

This is heaven! I am so relaxed right now, life couldn’t possibly get any better. Wearing my favourite oversize jumper and my knee high winter socks, I’m sitting here on the hotel bed wrapped in the softest blanket with pillows all around me. To top it off, I have the most delicious hot chocolate beside me that Luca just made from our rooms very own coffee machine. I couldn’t be happier!

It’s day three of our Rovaniemi adventure, which sadly is also our last. So before we head out one last time to try our luck at seeing the northern lights, we’re both enjoying some chill time in this amazing room of ours.

We’re staying at the Arctic Light Hotel and the minute I stepped into our room, it was like stepping into a modern artistic fairy tale. Wooden flooring and warm tones gave me a sense of Lappish nature, whilst the control settings and flat screen TV gave me a sense of luxury. What immediately caught my eye though, was the bed. Covered in winter comforts with the most magical feature wall behind it, all lit up with stars. I knew without a doubt that I was going to have an incredible night’s sleep.

Luca’s favourite part of the room is the bathroom. Whilst I was unpacking, he walked out, still wet from the shower, just to tell me that it was one of the best showers he’s had all year. A rain shower with the perfect amount of pressure and heat. He was right, it’s incredible. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that when I stepped out of the shower, I was stepping onto a heated floor. That was the icing on the cake for me.

Luca and I have stayed in some great hotels during our travels but I can 100% say that this hotel is by far the best. It even has a fun indoor chair swing by reception!

After three days in Rovaniemi, I can say with confidence that I have fallen in love with winter. Not the grey, rainy days, but the incredible whites and golden light of a true winter landscape. Snow falling from the sky, crisp clean air, it’s my very own winter wonderland. I’m already sad thinking about getting on a plane tomorrow morning and heading back to London.

Like many others, we have hopes of seeing the northern lights, but as there are multiple factors that need to align for one to see it, we have planned a trip that will be satisfying with or without the aurora.

There are so many activities you can choose from including reindeer sleigh rides, husky and snowmobile safari’s, ice fishing, forest walks, skiing, snowboarding, the list goes on. Doing multiple activities can become quite pricey though, so what Luca and I decided to do was pick one activity each. We wanted to visit Ranua Wildlife Park on top of our chosen activities, however when we arrived in Rovaniemi and tried to book the bus that goes there, all the spots were full.

So, what was my choice of activity? A reindeer sleigh ride and a visit to Santa Claus Village of course! At Santa’s Village you’ll find something to fulfill just about everyone’s Christmas dreams. There was an ice bar and ice sculpture viewings, snowmobiling safaris, snow sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and of course a visit with Santa. There were markets selling souvenirs and traditional Lappish items and a multiple food outlets. For those of you who are unaware, reindeer meat is commonly eaten by Finnish people, so expect to see it on your menu! I couldn’t bring myself to eat it though, especially after going on a sleigh ride.

The ride itself went extremely quick and for the price, well, if I were to do it again, I wouldn’t do it at Santa Claus Village. Instead I’d look into visiting a reindeer farm where you get to see them in their natural habitat. However, in saying this, it was still an incredible experience to be able to see one up close.

Luca is in love with huskies. He wants one so bad, but obviously travelling so much, we can’t own one. So a trip to the Husky Park at Santa Claus Village was the next best thing. For ten euros you can enter the park, pat the dogs and take as many photos as you like. As an FYI, the dogs are all in caged areas opposed to running around the park. At first I felt bad for them, but then saw that they all looked happy, healthy and full of energy. We chose not to do a husky ride here as it looked similar to the reindeer ride, being a short distance for a high price. I’d recommend looking into your options when it comes to the husky safaris to get the best value for your money.

During winter, the hours of daylight in Rovaniemi are generally between 9-3pm, so Santa Claus Village can easily be done in a day. We didn’t realise until we got there that you can have your passport stamped for a small fee. We would have loved to have done that, being that it’s located at the center of the Arctic Circle, but with our passports back at the hotel, we settled for a photo instead.

Since checking in at the Artic Light Hotel, our daily routine has consisted of the following. Waking up to snow falling outside our window. Indulging in the most delicious breakfast, created by TV chef Sara La Fountain (mango chia pudding was my absolute favourite!). Getting rugged up and exploring Rovaniemi and then returning to the hotel and relaxing in the sauna before enjoying a delicious cocktail at the hotel bar.

For me, besides the beautiful decor and warm atmosphere of the hotel, what has really stood out, is the staff. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has been extremely friendly, helpful and just full of local knowledge. Last night one of the bar tenders spoke to us about alcohol specific to Rovaniemi and also the native berries that grow locally. He even gave us a little taste testing session. Luca loved the sea buckthorn berries and I took a liking to the blueberry vodka.

Tonight at dinner, it was no different. Juha the Duty Manager for the Arctic Boulevard Restaurant & Lounge, told us that all the produce is grown locally and those few ingredients that aren’t, they make sure they are sourced from within the Arctic Circle. And let me tell you that the food was incredible! I honestly could have eaten two of everything.

We were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of Matti the Head Chef creating some of his masterpieces and we left the restaurant with just the best feeling.  To quote Juha “its fun dining not fine dining”. I love that! The restaurant seats 60 people, so booking ahead is a must!

My favourite part of our trip so far has been the Ounasvaara winter trail walk. Easily accessible from Rovaniemi city center, it’s incredibly beautiful. Walking through the snow covered forest, we saw snow bunnies and even got to watch skiers and snowboarders on the nearby slopes. There’s also an observation tower about halfway along the trail which overlooks the city and Kemi River. I recommend making a pit stop here to take in the incredible views.

Overall, this trip has been amazing and fingers crossed when we go out in a few hours’ time, we’ll see the northern lights. I’m really hoping!

UPDATE…. 6 HOURS LATER

Ok, it’s one in the morning and we just got back from the northern lights lookout point. All I have to say is, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! After five hours of waiting in -6 degree temperature, we finally saw the northern lights!! It definitely wasn’t as bright as it can get and we only managed to see a glimpse of it between the clouds for a short time, but it was enough to be truly amazed.

The best app we found for tracking the northern lights is called ‘Aurora: My Aurora Forecast & Alerts’ and we found it to be extremely accurate.

 

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12 thoughts on “Rovaniemi, Finland

  1. Chloe Eggleston says:

    Gorgeous photos-especially the ones through the snowy forest. Swoon! Lapland is a major bucket list item. How did you find the prices of lodging and food? We are expecting it to be an expensive splurgy vacation 🙂 -Chloe P

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    • Nerissa Templin says:

      It was an amazing trip! In terms of accommodation the Arctic Light Hotel in Rovaniemi where we stayed, was absolutely value for money!! I can’t stress this enough, if they had this hotel in every country, I’d be there! We ended up staying at a different hotel for one night just before we left Lapland and it was more expensive, however when we got there we were so disappointed. Old interior, small room. So the more expensive a hotel is, doesn’t mean it will be better! Food was quite expensive, but we knew this before going. Normally I’d pay $3 for a coffee, but here it was more like $6, so I’d save a bit before going. Activities are also quite expensive, so we picked a few to do, rather than taking out a loan to do everything 🙂

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  2. AmyEA says:

    Wow, I can tell you guys put a lot of effort into your photos. They are fantastic! I’ve hear Lapland is excellent for the Northern Lights, and that’s #1 on my bucket list!

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