The official hometown of the big-bellied Santa Claus is nested behind the thick snow-capped mountains and surrounded by dense forests of Rovaniemi. Perched on the edge of the Arctic circle, the capital of Lapland in northern Finland makes for a perfect Christmas getaway with a breath-taking view of the Northern Lights and the reindeer sleigh rides.
How to get to Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is the largest city in Finnish Lapland, a region that crosses much of northern Europe. Four miles south of the Arctic Circle, flights from within Europe can fly directly to the Rovaniemi airport. Whilst those flying from outside Continental Europe will need to transfer in Helsinki. A train from the Central Train Station in Helsinki to Rovaniemi is a 12-hour journey made comfortable with sleeper cabins and private bathrooms.
Where to stay
For those wanting to cocoon in the snow-blanketed forests to enjoy the Northern Lights, getting away from the city is the best option. Santa Claus Holiday Village is one of the biggest accommodation areas outside the city- it’s around two miles from the airport and about six miles from Rovaniemi city centre.The city centre also offers a luxurious range of hotels and holiday rentals. Nestled amidst local antique stores and Finnish restaurants, this is the perfect spot for kids to tinker around with Christmas bells during evening walks.
Things to do, meeting the Jolly Old Elf
It isn't Christmas without turkey, fairy lights and Santa Claus. Some of the Lapland Christmas attractions in Santa Claus Village include reindeer sleigh rides, children’s snowmobiling (ages four and up), as well as northern lights flights, Aurora hunting tours, and snowmobiling safaris. The village itself has an enigmatic atmosphere transporting you to the fairytale land of Cinderella.A must-have experience is speeding through the snowy forest behind a team of Siberian Huskies. There are various lengths of the route that you can take, from a short 500 meters to the one with six miles. You can also visit the Husky Park where you can meet and stroke some of the park’s gorgeous dogs. If you want to see the scenery, a reindeer sleigh ride is a lot more sedate and relaxed, and a chance to get up close to these amazing creatures. Like the husky sledding, there are various lengths of the circuit available so you can decide how far you want to go.Meeting the Jolly Old Elf himself is an experience like none other. Don't be amused if Santa will go on to ask you direct questions that can make you feel like he truly is watching. The Northern Lights – or Aurora Borealis – is the primary reason for people to visit Lapland. But there is no guarantee if you will be fortunate in experiencing nature's miracle. You need the right atmospheric conditions, which happen around 150 days a year on average in Rovaniemi. You will also want to visit Arktikum, a museum and science center overlooking the river Ounasjoki.
What to pack for Lapland in winter
Layering with thermals, jumpers, leggings/long johns, a fleece, a pair of waterproof ski trousers, a warm coat, a scarf, hat, and gloves. Add ski socks and snow boots or other warm waterproof boots. Hand warmers are a really good idea. Keep your phone and camera close to your body as the cold will drain the battery fast. And take tissues, lip balm, and a good moisturiser as the air’s very dry.