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Experiential travel is uber-popular and I found a place that epitomizes cool, fun, and happy travel experiences! Whether you want to check off a major travel dream list—aka travel wish list or even the dreaded B list—destination or immerse yourself in an amazing culture and environment, visit Finnish Lapland and try some of these super duper cool things to do in Rovaniemi Finland.
Our trip was lovingly designed, arranged and managed by local travel expert and travel marketing maven Mia Niemelä (@TOUCHSE on Twitter) and hosted by Santa Claus Holiday Village, Visit Rovaniemi, and various local partners. We visited Finnish Lapland and the Rovaniemi area with our daughter, on spring break from her study abroad session in Sweden. Please be certain that my message is carefully crafted for my awesome audience so that you can make informed decisions in order to Travel Happy on future trips.
Cool Things to Do in Rovaniemi Finland
How long have you been in your current job? 5 years? 40 years? Or do you work in your family business and how long has that been around?
Well, the friendly Laplanders who operate the reindeer sleigh ride near Rovaniemi Finland do so as part of their family business and lifestyle—which has been traced back over 1,000 years. The Reindeer Safari experience includes a 45 minute reindeer sleigh ride, time to feed the reindeer, and a hot drink while you learn about reindeer husbandry, the herder’s main year-round job.
Reindeer rides are available only in winter, about November through April. Rekka (our reindeer herder host: follow him on Instagram) told us that new reindeer babies are born mid May. While other herders use helicopter, ATV, and motorbike vehicles, Rekka and his brother manage their herd of 1000 by walking up to 20 km.
When I asked our herder guide about any memorable visitors, he said one NBA player visited and barely fit in the largest snowsuit.
Book your Reindeer Safari through Santa Claus Holiday Village.
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Want a super cool, fun, and happy experience? Do a reindeer sleigh ride in @visitrovaniemi, arranged through #ChristmasHouseSafaris at @santaclausholidayvillage. This dude is rocking the one antler look because it is actually spring, he dropped one antler, and is growing new ones. Epic punk rock reindeer herder @velirekka not only guided my sleigh (not Rudolph) but told us all about reindeer husbandry (herding), his family business for, sit down for this, over 1000 years.
Husky dog ride
Bearhill Husky is a short walk from the Santa Claus Holiday Village. We had the first ride on Easter Sunday, which happened to be the final day the attraction was open for the season. Although snow was everywhere, the locals said it was spring. The dogs barked loudly as we approached and the trainer said they are excited to do their work. Our guided 5 km ride took about 25 minutes and our driver said it takes about twice as long when there is more snow.
Meet Santa Claus
Rovaniemi sits on the Arctic Circle and designates itself the Official Home of Santa Claus. Embedded deep in the Santa Claus Holiday Village gift shop, Santa greets fans and visitors throughout the year. Well, except for a few days when he travels around the world at hypersonic speed. We visited the big guy on Easter Sunday (McCool holiday confusion) and Santa even gave us each a small gift.
Our Northern Lights tour was arranged through the Santa Claus Holiday Village desk. The tour included 2-3 hours in remote Finnish Lapland to maximize the opportunity to witness the northern lights. Luck was not on our side as we only saw extremely faint traces of the famous lights and only in high powered filtered photo equipment.
If you are lucky to have northern lights during your visit to Rovaniemi, here are two other options to consider:
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) April 1, 2018
Apukka Resort, about 9 km/5.5 miles from Santa Claus Holiday Village, offers the above and below options for watching northern lights. The above cabins allow you to stay at the resort, lie in bed, and watch the mesmerizing show. The below Aurora Wagons can be transported onto the adjacent frozen lake or into the Lapland wilderness, to enhance your northern lights experience.
Why not try both Apukka Resort options during your Rovaniemi visit? Make sure you mention McCool Travel sent you for special consideration. Check Apukka rates and reviews on their TripAdvisor page.
McCool Travel tip: To receive text and/or email alerts about real-time northern lights status, sign up for AuroraAlert (a free resource).
Lapland Restaurants: Where to Eat in Rovaniemi
We had some really great meals in Rovaniemi. Salmon and reindeer dishes are common but we also had plenty of fruits and vegetables, even though there is snow as far as your eyes can see.
Three Elves Restaurant at Santa Claus Holiday Village incorporates local Lappish ingredients whenever possible. We loved their local fish and meat, berries, craft beer, and produce. McCool Travel tip: for breakfast, put in your custom omelette order as soon as you can and then peruse the breakfast buffet.
For the ultimate traditional Lapland cuisine experience, visit Ravintola Nili in downtown Rovaniemi Finland. We sampled a variety of amazing Lapland dishes but not the black bear (let me know if you try it). “Nili” is an old Lapland word for a building used to store food.
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) April 3, 2018
At Scandic Rovaniemi Restaurant we had really good fish and chips and delectable blueberry ice cream.
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) April 4, 2018
Fun Snow Activities
Driving a snowmobile through the forest paths was a blast. Our snowmobiling adventure with Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park included equipment, gear, lessons, and a guide. It was safe, exhilarating, and fun.
Growing up in South Florida, I did not try many snow sports. Even as a adult I cleverly avoid cold adventures. But in Finland, surrounded by snow and ice, I had to try some unfamiliar (to me) but locally popular activities, like cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
@CharlesMcCool @FunInFairfax & @kmccoolio family pose after a proper skiing session here in #SantaClausHolidayVillage #Rovaniemi #Lapland #Finland#spring #snow #outdoors
Photo: @Touchse pic.twitter.com/ssUqSkAo6V
— Santa Claus Holiday Village (@SCHV_cottages) April 1, 2018
Rovaniemi’s two rivers, Kemijoki and Ounasjoki, freeze for several months of the year. Cross country skiing and snowmobiling on the frozen rivers can be faster than driving.
Outdoor Sauna and Jacuzzi
After a day of snowy fun in Rovaniemi Finland, treat yourself to a sauna and jacuzzi evening. Our sauna and jacuzzi funness at Apukka Resort included a bottle of champagne, some snacks, and the fire and ice experience of jumping between the sauna and jacuzzi and a snow pile (brrrrr). Apukka also has an Ice Sauna experience.
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) April 2, 2018
Our two hotel rooms in Rovaniemi also had personal saunas.
Ranua Wildlife Park
You likely have seen arctic animals in other zoos around the world but probably not in their native environment. Over four dozen arctic species at Ranua Zoo are highlighted by the polar bears. The spacious habitats in Lapland are designed to be as natural as possible for most of the animals.
Rovaniemi is the 5th largest city in Finland so there are many churches, cultural activities, historic sites, events, and other things to explore there. During a day walking around downtown Rovaniemi, we visited the fascinating Arktikum Museum and Pilke Science Centre.
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) April 4, 2018
Lapland Lodging: Where to Stay in Rovaniemi
Santa Claus Holiday Village served as our Lapland home for three nights. They offer several types of accommodations, including apartments, suites, and cottages. The village serves as the hub for surrounding adventures and activities, including Santa Claus post office and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus. SCHV guests receive free transport to and from the local Rovaniemi airport (official airport of Santa Claus).
For Santa Claus Holiday Village rates and reviews, check their TripAdvisor page.
Snowman World is located on the grounds of the Santa Claus Holiday Village.and operates the seasonal Winter Zone, a winter playground along with an ice restaurant and ice bar. The Glass Resort at Snowman World, opened Dec 2017, are luxury apartments with magnificent glass windows to optimize your northern lights experience.
For Snowman World Glass Resort rates and reviews, check their TripAdvisor page.
For our final two nights in Finnish Lapland we stayed at Scandic Rovaniemi. We scored a Superior Sauna room and it is really amazing to have a sauna in your hotel room. For a splurge, stay in their Master Suite, which sleeps up to five persons and has a large skylight ceiling to watch those northern lights.
For Scandic Rovaniemi rates and reviews, check their TripAdvisor page.
Another lodging option is vacation rental homes, apartments, or condos. >>> To receive $40 off your first Airbnb rental, click here.
Wherever you stay and visit in Rovaniemi Finland and Lapland (or anywhere in the world), please mention (if true) that you heard about them or were inspired to contact them from McCool Travel. McCool Travel tip: hotels, restaurants, attractions, activities, etc., will often give consideration (better rates, amenities, or service) for personal referrals. Thank you and travel happy!
For more information about Rovaniemi Finland, please see:
- Visit Rovaniemi (official tourism website)
- Ultimate Guide to Lapland (from Pip and the City)
- Rovaniemi, the Northern Star of Finland’s Lapland (from Touchse by Mia)
Can you suggest other cool things to do in Rovaniemi Finland and Lapland? Leave a comment below.