Finally I can say that a few months ago I was able to tick off from my bucket list one of the places that I always wanted to visit: Rovaniemi and Lapland.
I still remember that it was back in 2008 when I worked for a while as a travel agent when I first heard about «Rovaniemi». Rova.. What? I discovered that it was the place where Santa lives and where you can visit his post office, his house and even you can meet him in real life.. I thought it was funny only for kids but I discovered that we all have a child inside and that it something that I wanted to do too.
Also, despite living in Moscow surrounded by snow and traveling as much as I can, I have to say that Lapland has been one of the places with one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen: white slopes covered with snow everywhere, pristine, a white landscape dotted with green pines, sleigh pulled by 6 husky dogs, everything was like in a Christmas postcard, or to be inside a Christmas movie or a travel book. Only that, this time the protagonist was me. It was me who was on that sled, I was the one who was living all of that.
Even today, I can not believe that I lived this amazing experience. What a pity that happened so quickly. Thank God and the new technologies that we have hundreds of photos and videos to be able to relive our experiences again and again.
How to get to Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is the administrative capital of the province of Lapland, in Finland and has about 60.000 inhabitants and is close to the Arctic circle. This population maintains its highest social level in the winter season, when you can enjoy snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, safaris through natural parks, dog sledding, ice fishing, skating.
In the city there is the Santa Claus Village, the official residence of Santa Claus, where you can enjoy a walk, meet Santa Claus personally, or send a letter to someone from his post office. In addition, admission is free. Also by this park passes the line of the Arctic Circle that we already crossed by when arriving at the city by plane the airport, because the airport is only about 9 km from the center of the city, is within the Arctic Circle.
The truth is that Rovaniemi was destroyed almost completely during World War II. In 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, visited Rovaniemi to witness the reconstruction process. She wanted to visit the Arctic circle, so Rovaniemi’s rulers built a her a cabin eight kilometers to the North of the city.
The cabin provided for Eleanor Roosevelt soon became too small to cope with the number of visitors, so they began to build a new cabin within the Arctic circle. In 1984, this was further expanded to create a set of Santa Claus Village with shops, coffee shops and a post office. The cabin means the birth of the village of Santa Claus and is still preserved on foot next to its Central Post Office.
From abroad, it is easier to get to the city by plane via Helsinki. From within Finland, you can reach Rovaniemi by plane, train, bus or car. There are daily flights between Rovaniemi and Helsinki operated by Finnair and Norwegian.
The Matkahuolto coaches are not only a good alternative to get to Rovaniemi from the south. They are the only means of public transport that connects the city with the northernmost parts of Lapland.
You can get to Rovaniemi as well as by plane, also by train from Helsinki.
Husky Sleding in Lapland
Have you ever tried to ride a sleigh pulled by husky dogs? This is one of those things you have to do if you go to Lapland and more specifically to Rovaniemi. Due to the cold climate of Rovaniemi, it is something you can do from October to April. Who has never dreamed of being in a Christmas postcard landscape while sitting on a sled pulled by Huskies enjoying the fun of the activity? I think many of us raise our hands here. At least I do.
It was such an amazing experience!!
If you want to try it, the truth is that there are hundreds of companies that sale these kind of tours in Rovaniemi. We booked the tour with Sunny Safari. They have several tours but we booked the Huskies Safari in Nature. We pay €159 per person for this 4 hour tour. If you click on the link you can see more info.
They pick you up at the hotel in Rovaniemi and first of all they take you to an office where they have more appropriate clothes for the cold. I think it is great that they can give you all the equipment so that way you don’t have to carry all those thick winter clothes in your suitcase. They gave us trousers, coats, gloves and appropriate footwear.
It was the month of April and the temperatures weren’t as low as in winter, but even with that, you could started to notice the cold after a couple of hours outside.
After driving for about 45 minutes , we arrived to the middle of nowhere, literally, in the middle of the woods and there, the huskies were waiting for us. You could hear them howl from the moment the guide was parking the car.
He told us that they are willing to run although it is being more complicated in the last days since the snow is not so soft because it hadn’t snowed in the last few days. That is why they have a harder foot when running. He told us that these dogs reach a normal speed of about 50 km/h.
After explaining how to ride the sled, because yes, the dogs run but you are the one who has to guide them, we went towards the sledges. I have to say that it is not as easy as it seems and we laughed when we dump hehe, but after the first 5 minutes of experienced it was incredible. We spent about an hour enjoying the Huskies and the snowy landscape.
After the sleigh, we could play with the dogs for a while. They are amazing and super friendly! These dogs have their reputation for being one of the friendliest and most people-oriented breeds. They have a great resemblance to the wolf, in fact as I said before, these dogs do not bark but howl.
They are animals that have a thick coat that isolates them from the low temperatures that they have to endure during their movements, of great sociability with other dogs since they are accustomed to work and live in packs, with a marked hierarchy.
TIP: If you go with young children there is no problem in making the sled with Huskies.
We did it with our 2-year-old daughter.
TIP: If You go with small children there is no problem in sledding with Huskies.
We did it with our 2 year old daughter.
Meeting Santa Claus
Who has not dreamed of meeting Santa Claus when you were little? I think we all had that fantasy at some point. Of course it was a super funny experience.
The original Santa Claus´home is located in the mysterious town of Korvatuntur, in Finnish Lapland. Given that the exact location is a secret known only to a select few, he decided to establish an office in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in 1985. Rovaniemi obtained the status of official hometown of Santa Claus in 2010.
It is in Santa Claus Village where Santa Claus House and his post office are located, where hundreds of letters from children all over the world arrived every day asking Santa for a lot of wishes. When you arrive at Santa Claus Village you see several buildings around a large central. In the building right in the middle is where his Majesty Santa Claus lives and where he works 365 days a year.
Entering his home is like entering Disneyland and you get inside a magical world. In the middle of it there is a giant pendulum clock and a wall with photos of Santa with children from all over the world as well as several letters arrived to him printed.
Suddenly you find that you are going to meet Santa at last! You go inside and they make you a video and several photos for a closed price of about €60 all. Yes, you can literally say that Rovaniemi lives from the story, hehe, but how many children will have been immensely happy to have met him?
By the way, I was struck by the size of Santa, it’s really huge!!! And by the way, it is a pity that our little girl wasn’t able to know him because she hast fell asleep just 20 minutes before but we have some photos that we would show her in a couple of years.
Another building is the Post Office where the elves work collecting and reading all the letters of all the children who write Santa from all over the world. Since 1985, Santa Claus has received 15 million letters from 198 countries, which makes the Central Post Office of Santa Claus an obligatory stop when visiting the Santa Claus village. Cheerful Postman Elves are happy to serve visitors throughout the year at their head office, which is a real post office operated by Posti, Finland’s National Postal Service.
All letters sent from here are sealed with the special postmark of the Arctic circle that is not available anywhere else, so the congratulations you send home will certainly be unique so sit by the fireplace and write to your friends of all the world. LPD The secret behind the red mailbox; All letters sent here will be sent by Christmas.
You can send a letter to Santa Claus using this address:
Santa Claus Santa Claus
main Post office FI-96930
(Be sure to write the name of the country Finland in capital letters at the mailing address to ensure proper delivery)
The rest of the houses are different restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. In the Village you can also take a reindeer, as well as a husky sleigh or snowmobiles, you can even stay in an igloo hotel. Important Notice: Flying reindeer are reserved exclusively for Santa Claus, since they require expert driving skills that take centuries to master.
Here all year is Christmas. We were surrounded by snow and Christmas trees and carols were playing on the speakers, it was like going back in time.
Also, here, you can cross the line that marks the Arctic circle. The Polar Circle is a line that you can observe on the map; In this Arctic zone, above the Polar circle, in summer the sun does not set. In Winter, it’s just the opposite: During a certain time the sun does not rise above the horizon. In Lapland, during the mid-winter season called «Kaamos», apart from the Moon and the stars, there are only the magical aurora Borealis and a layer of white snow that illuminate the landscape.
What clothes to bring to Lapland?
This is one of the most common question when traveling to Lapland in winter time.
In my opinion, you should bring with you the basics because if you are going to hire any snow excursion or snow activity, the company will give you all the necessary equipment: clothes and thermal suits, suitable boots, ski trousers and ski jackets, hats and gloves.
Only bring some thermal T-shirts , thick sweaters, a snow boots, a hat and some waterproof gloves. The best thing is to dress in layers. Have in mind that the temperature in winter time in Lapland would be around -20 and -30 degrees Celsius.
Here I give you ideas of clothes and I leave several links:
- Waterproof Boots
- Waterproof Ski Gloves
- Thermal T-shirt
- Waterproof Ski Pants
- Waterproof Ski coat
- Wool or thermal socks
- Ski goggles
- Mountain/facemask If you are going to be several hours outside for example doing snowmobile, ice fishing, sleds etc I totally recommend it.
- If you go with children, I would recommend a ski jumpsuit for kids.
And as for Tech Gear:
- Batteries: They last very little with these extreme temperatures. It is best to bring enough extra batteries of enough loads.
- Cameras: If you use a reflex you will have the same problem of the battery and also, while you are doing some sport or winter activity you will not be able to use it, obviously, so it is better to carry a GoPro if you have one, since it will allow you to capture the action hands free.
- Memory cards: Bring some of them with you or a device where you can transfer the photos. You’re going to take a lot of pictures and videos, believe me! The scenery is so dreamy!
- Tripod: If you want to capture the Northern Lights you will have to carry a tripod because otherwise the photos can be blurred.
- Plug and charge adapters: Be sure to take the corresponding European F-type plug and carry several chargers to charge all extra batteries during the night.