The Magical World of Santa Claus in Lapland at Artic Circle
There are several activities that can be booked in advance or can be booked when you land in Lapland, dear reader, from which I have chosen two "famous" ones: visit a husky farm (which includes the ride in the sleigh) and a visit to the reindeer farm also accompanied by the sleigh ride.
In the first part of the day, I visited a husky farm for a memorable experience alongside these beautiful dogs. Husky sleigh rides will reveal Lapland's fascinating landscapes and offer you an unlikely state of freedom. Husky are extremely friendly and very eager to run on the 3 km long path as soon as the adventurous race lasts. You can also book a longer 5 or 10 km, but I wanted to experiment other adventures in Lapland and didn’t want to impose on the doggies’ efforts. After the safari experience, you will get more information regarding this interesting breed of dogs while enjoying a delicious berry tea (a traditional Lappish drink).
Then we were driven to the reindeer farm not far away and we understood one significant difference between the 2 farms; Breeding reindeer is an important way of living in Lapland. The reindeers are semi-wild animals, they live freely in the woods and are gathered for the famous reindeer trips. At the farm, their owner has a carefully selected group of reindeers that have been trained for sledding and for reindeer racing. The actual sleigh ride was 3 km, took around 20 minutes but you also get to spend some time at the farm to pet them or any other animals that are around; in our case squirrels and rabbits. After all this, we watched a movie about reindeers ’ significance in Lapland while enjoying a similarly delicious berry tea made from locally harvested fruits.
Snowmobile Safari ride under the Aurora Borealis
Whoever wishes to enjoy the frozen views of the area can go to the snowmobile safari. The arctic night will reveal all its miracles, and the end of the adventure will end with a campfire. This is really great experience, especially for the ones which love extreme sports.
Ski and Snowboard
For ski or snowboard enthusiasts Pyha Resort is the heaven of earth. Although no mountains are available in the area, but rather somewhat higher hills, the infrastructure is impeccable. I had an extra day of skiing in Pyha Resort, which showed me the most impressive landscape I have ever seen while snowboarding. A multitude of slopes in perfect condition, varying degrees of difficulty, not at all crowded, reasonable prices for equipment rental and ski pass. Please bear in mind that if you are looking to only snowboard or ski, Lapland might not be the ideal location as due to the lack of mountains, resorts tend to have some distance between one another which makes it hard if you want to change ski resorts mid-trip. Renting equipment between 30 and 50 EUR. The lift pass: between 38 EUR (for a half day) to 42 a full day.
In the North part of Finland, winter is a season during which the dark is almost uninterrupted. During the darkest period of the year, called by the locals "kaamos", the sun does not rise above the horizon, and the diffuse light that is still visible takes only a few hours. But just because the sun is not shining, it does not mean it is dark. Being close to the North Pole, the village is enlightened by Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern lights, which has been extremely intense in recent weeks due to the peak of the solar cycle. We have hunted the northern lights during almost all the nights of our stay and after a couple of failed attempts due to either limited activity or cloudy sky, we have managed to catch it. It is definitely something worth doing at least once in your lifetime.
Despite it not being on our list but rather close to the city we stayed in we went for a visit to Santa Claus's village which does not require the purchase of tickets. However, when you do meet Santa the two minutes of shooting with him and the three related printed pictures, cost around 40 EUR depending on how many you wish to take. Although the house of the Santa is a little ... “oldish” (let’s put it in a nice way), the village itself deserves the visit. Not for arrangements that are quite minimal, but for the atmosphere. I was lucky enough to get a lot of snow, so the atmosphere was like in the fairytale stories I used to hear when I was a little girl. The fairytale house is on the edge of the snowy forest, near the Santa Village, at the limit of the Polar Circle.
Next to Santa Village is Santa Park. It's a theme park dug underground where obviously everything gravitates around Santa Claus. There is an entrance fee (the rate is ...) and you benefit from all the facilities. There are not many, but everything is created in such a way that children feel like they stepped into a story; Elves all around, Snow Fairy, Mrs. Claus, and many other magical characters. If you are traveling with children I would encourage you to pay it a visit if not you can easily skip it.
Restaurant prices seemed a bit too pricey for me. There are also some local fast food restaurants, but not even those have low prices, still, I did not test them, so I cannot give more details. On another note, supermarkets are reasonably priced, the only problem being that the labels are written exclusively in Suomi and needless to say, that I don’t speak such an exotic language, so I had to check the pictures.
In terms of foodie spots in Rovaniemi you either have Santa’s Village or the city center. I would encourage you to try both the salmon and the mushroom soup at the Kotahovi restaurant in Santa’s village. Probably you can find similarly tasteful soups at other restaurants, but here you can combine the food with a cozy ambiance in a Lappish setting.
For restaurants, one of which is built on ice and snow, open only during the winter, offer a mix of traditional and international food, are part of the complex, and for visitors who prefer a classic experience, several wooden cottages are available for accommodation.
Alcohol is semi-prohibited, similar to other Nordic countries, so beer is nearly the only alcoholic beverage found in the supermarkets. Other alcoholic beverages are only found in specialized stores (state monopoly) and are at extraordinarily high prices. A bottle of whiskey that is normally at 15 EUR, in Finland you would buy it for 40 EUR ... I noticed on the plane that a lot of the passengers brought some bottles of alcohol, probably they already knew this and since there are no restrictions on the introduction of alcohol provided it is for your own consumption. Taking into account the 15-20 degrees difference between the Netherlands and Finland it is safe to say that they most likely finished those bottles quite fast.