We have visited bunches of destinations for Christmas, but I promise you this one will let you speechless!
This is the experience I wholeheartedly recommend at least once in a lifetime.
I know there are so many destinations for Christmas, but being in this magical Rovaniemi you will fully feel the winter holiday vibes.
Grab yourself some snacks and prepare for this amazing journey you will never forget!
When we have first thought to visit Lapland for Christmas, we were in doubt what to choose between Dubai or Tanzania. I was pretty upset we did not plan this vacation earlier like every normal human on this planet. Hence, we have decided to plan this trip with less than a month before Christmas when all prices have literally exploded .
We've decided Dubai was not worth the extra money due to our laziness, in fact we could plan this trip way cheaper next time (with at least 3 - 4 months before). Same with Tanzania.
Howerver, I was almost sure we're going to spend our holiday home, which would have not been such a bad ideea.
The next day, whilst scrolling I randomly come across what I could call "The best place to spend Christmas".
I remember it was a capture taken somewhere in Lapland with snow everywhere and a cute reindeer pulling his tiny red sledge after him. In the background I could see the little houses with their unique scandinavian pattern. It was so dreamy that I knew this will be our next destination.
I was nervous to see the northen lights, Arctic Circle, Santa Claus and his village, his reindeer, their food, their traditions and beautiful landscapes.
When I came back to reality I was hit by a train and found out the cheapest plane ticket has a price that ranged between 2600 - 2800€ (from Bucharest to Rovaniemi), and I didn't even look for the hotel, tours and food... WHAT IN THE WORLD WILL WE DO?
One hour later and I found an awesome alternative which was way cheaper. I called my husband the next second and told him we will take the plane to Helsinki with about 160€ and then take the train to Rovaniemi for 140€. With a quick calculation you'll notice we have saved almost 2300€.
Note: I will add my personal tips before/after each section I feel it requres to.
Your journey may take you from Finland's capital to Rovaniemi by train for 7 hours and 42 minutes (fastest time). We were "lucky" to book a last minute 12hours train ride without couchette. Honestly it wasn't that bad as I fell asleep in a vagon with all dogs in the world.
I instantly felt bad we didn't take Ralph with us. He would have loved everything in there!
Therefore, the best tip is to plan your whole trip in time (with 3-4months before). We were barely able to book the latest tours in Santa's Village as everyone booked them in advance.
Also, take in consideration the alternative to take the plane from your city to Helsinki, then the train from here to Rovaniemi for some serious money saving and (of course) if you would affort to miss a day or a night.
So, let me share with you just a few things you should try in this astonishing and most christmasy place in this entire world:
1. Book a cottage
Even if you book a luxurious igloo made out of glass so you could track the northern lights, the forest or the stars, or a cottage which could satisfy you enough, please remember the real joy is everywhere no matter what. The pure feeling of winter holidays is ubiquitous!
We have booked such an impressive cottage from an old farm turned into traveller’s base in 1972 situated along the beautiful river Kemijoki.
Saarituvat Cottages was the best choice we could have ever made, so cozy, with a huge bed right in the middle of the tiny warm room, its own kitchen and a fireplace where we used to roast some super delicious marshmallows.
Just imagine waking up in this super cozy cottage, with the smell of the coffee and with "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" in background.
Not to mention the beautiful view of the frozen river ahead and the snow everywhere, just like in the stories. We could go for some woods in the barn (we had warm in the house from an electrical source), but just for fun or for our precious fireplace.
2. Northern Lights
- best time to see Northern Lights
Best time to see Northern Lights is from October to March, but notice this is not set in stones as you may take in consideration the cloudiness, or your hotel being too far to see them (I'll approach this subject later on). In Finland they are visible only 10 - 20 times a year.
Even so, if you get the chance to see them, statistically the best hour to see these spectacular lights is around 8PM and could last until 3AM.
We spend more than a week in Lapland during late December and early January. Saddly, there was no sign of light...
- best place to see Northern Lights
The best place to see Northern Lights from is in the wilderness. Book a Rovaniemi Aurora Borealis Wilderness Tour and she the lights right from the forest.
You could see them right from the Saarituvat Cottages.
Something that needs to be mentioned is the daytime which is really short. We were in December and got the chance to see the Sun only 4 hours within a day, from 11am to 3pm which could get a little annoying if you're eager to visit the place all day long. In the nortern part of Lapland, the Sun does not rise at all during whole December.
Arctic Circle has "nightless nights" during the summer (end of May to end-July) where the Sun does not sink beneath the horizon at all.
Tips & Tricks
You should check with some forecasts as:
- A northern light alert app to see the probability of these light to show up, therefore you won't pay the tour for nothing anymore (no one will tell you that so be cautious).
- The Finnish Meteorological Institute
- Aurora Service
- You could double check by yourself in the dark outside.
3. Santa's Claus Village
What could be more magical than meeting Santa Claus in person and cross the magical Arctic Circle every day at the Santa Claus Village?
You could visit Santa's Gift House and his lovable animals in Elf's Farm Yard and find many programme service companies, souvenir shops as well as Santa's Main Post Office, cafes and restaurants.
This is the first selfie I took in Santa's Farm with my new furry friend.
I was so excited to see reindeers in their natural habitat. We have also driven the reindeer sledge and hence we’ve received a driving licence. Woohooo!
This experience could be easly combined with the below tours.
4. Reindeer tour
The reindeer is an icon for whole Finland, hence reindeer sleigh rides are so popular. They last from 10 minutes to a few hours with a moderate speed and a wooden christmasy sleigh. That's a magical experience!
They are semi-domesticated, hence each animal belongs to its owner being a serious source of income for money.
Book a Reindeer Tour, Farm visit and hike with lunch included starting with 85,00 EUR/pers and I promise you'll love it. Notice there are lots of options you could choose from, with Santa's Village tour, Husky or zoo included.
5. Husky tour
There is a variety of Husky tours that range from daily short dogsledding trips to longer husky trips, from sit back and relaxing dogsledding trips to adventurous husky tours.
You could also combine these safari trips with Northern Lights tour, or book a tour which includes all the above: Husky and Reindeer tour, Farm visit, hike and lunch.
Also, you could go for a 2h scenic drive with the snowmobile through the wilderness and snowy landscapes of the Lapland. You could also combine the tour with ice fishing, arctic animals or Santa's Village. The prices range between 99EUR to 250EUR.
Trust me, this is the experience you will rememeber!
6. Ski Resorts
I am pretty sure you know the notorious reels from all the Internet with infinite perfect slopes at Sunset, with so many frozen trees you'd believe they are little snowmen. So dreamy and yet, so real!
Damn! The best is yet to come because right from Helsinki we thought it would be interesting to find best restaurant in town and try something we’ve never eaten before!
We immediately googled and found Lappi Restaurant, a traditional scandinavian restaurant.
Being in such glamorous and traditional place, we were instantly under its spell and ordered something to fit the atmosphere
So, v o i l a! Here is our first reindeer&elk dish (and some fish).
Fancy and delectable! I enjoyed every bite, and after I felt a bit guilty because was going to meet Santa! What was I suppose to tell him?!
They have like a traditional cheese named Leipäjuusto (bread cheese) or juustoleipä, which is also known in the United States as Finnish squeaky cheese, is a fresh cheese traditionally made from cow's beestings, rich milk from a cow that has recently calved.
It was really interesting to try it in all its flavors and all possible ways (dessert, pizza, main course and so on).
And of course, for my husband some pancakes with icecream which were reaaaally good!
Hope you've enjoyed this journey with me and see you in the next one!