Have you ever dreamed of visiting Finnish Lapland? With sweeping arctic wilderness, dreamy snowscapes, colourful northern lights and herds of reindeer. It’s surely the ultimate travel bucket list destination?
If you want to experience the best of Finnish Lapland, you need to head to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in northern Finland.
There are so many incredible things to do in Rovaniemi and the surrounding Finnish Lapland area that it’s hard to know where to begin?
Incredible things to do in Rovaniemi
It’s a super cool city that is best known for being the “official” home town of Santa Claus himself.
I personally think the best time to visit Finnish Lapland is in the winter and as close to Christmas as possible, for maximum festive feels. It’s the ideal Christmas destination in Europe.
Read my Finnish Lapland guide and start planning your dream holiday to Lapland today!
Things to do in Finnish Lapland
In this stunning part of the arctic circle, you can experience so many fun things to do.
You can go on a reindeer ride, meet huskies, stay in an ‘Aurora cabin’, chase the northern lights, go hot tubbing under the stars and feast upon Lappish cuisine.
There is so much to do in Rovaniemi and I hope my guide inspires you.There is so much to do in #Lapland You can go on a reindeer ride, meet huskies, stay in an 'Aurora cabin', chase the northern lights & go hot tubbing under the stars! @VisitRovaniemi
Lapland Reindeer ride
One does not go to Finnish Lapland and not experience a reindeer ride. There’s nothing quite like being pulled along in a reindeer sleigh in -15°C conditions, with the sun setting in a glorious pastel shade haze.
A reindeer ride in Rovaniemi is a bucket list Lapland experience you don’t want to miss.
There is something incredibly romantic about the calm serenity and the sheer isolation of the frozen landscape when it is just you, your beloved, the reindeers and guide.
I turned to husband Luke to eloquently express this sentiment, only to find my face was frozen shut. Needless to say, wrap up warm kids.
Lapland Reindeer tour
I would book a Reindeer Farm Visit with Sleigh Ride in advance to make sure you have a Rovaniemi reindeer ride on your preferred days.
By booking a reputable Lapland reindeer tour in advance, you will have a Lapland reindeer ride with a professional guide and have extras like hotel pick up and drop off.
On our Lapland Reindeer tour, we were picked up from our hotel, driven to the middle of an arctic forest.
We then had an incredible, wintery reindeer ride through the forest and even got to meet and feed some of the reindeer afterwards.
Whilst it was absolutely freezing in the forest, we were treated to hot juice and a roaring fire in a snug tipi after the ride. After many hot juices, I was thankfully able to talk and have facial expressions.
Some of the best Reindeer tours in Rovaniemi include:
- Traditional Reindeer Farm Visit with Sledge Ride
- Husky and Reindeer Ride with Santa Village Visit
- Snowmobile Safari to Reindeer Farm
- Reindeer, Huskies, and Santa Claus Experience
Lapland Northern Lights
One of the best places to see the northern lights is in Finish Lapland. Seeing the Northern lights have long been an ultimate travel goal of mine.
I have longed to see the dancing aurora borealis in the night sky. The Northern Lights in Finnish Lapland are famously elusive and it can be down to sheer luck if you actually manage to see them.
If you are basing your trip around seeing the Northern lights in Finland, I recommend you check the northern lights Finland forecast to increase your chances of experiencing them.
Lapland Finland Northern Lights Tour
It’s really worth booking a Lapland northern lights hunting trip in advance online.
This is because you Lapland northern lights tour will include things like a professional guide and pick-up and drop off at your hotel.
Many Finland northern lights excursions will also include extras such as a Lappish BBQ, hot drinks in a cabin and warm Winter clothes to wear.
Northern lights tour Rovaniemi
On our Northern lights trip, we were picked up from our accommodation, given warm overalls and taken to a quiet forest clearing.
Within minutes of arriving the Northern Lights started to appear and everyone fell silent.
It’s hard to put into words the feeling you have when you see them, especially when you are in a remote and snowy location. It almost feels like you have a quiet and profound, connection with nature.
The silence was broken by me shrieking, “Shit, get the camera, we HAVE to get photos, think of the INSTAGRAMS!” Aren’t I a treat?
Some of the best Rovaniemi Northern lights tours include:
- Rovaniemi: Discover the Northern Lights Photography Tour
- Rovaniemi: Northern Lights Photography Tour & BBQ
- From Rovaniemi: Northern Lights Photo Tour with Campfire
- Rovaniemi: Northern Lights Snowmobile Hunt
Lapland Husky ride
There is something thrilling about racing through an artic forest being pulled along on a sledge by excitable Huskies. A husky ride in Finnish Lapland is one of the must-do things in Finnish Lapland.
Make sure to book a Lapland husky ride excursion in advance to secure your husky ride in Rovaniemi today.
By booking your Rovaniemi husky ride in advance you will have added extras such as a local guide and pick-up and drop off from your hotel.
Finnish Lapland husky tour
There’s a definite feel of ‘days gone by’ when you find yourself whizzing through the forest listening to your guide command the Huskies in Finnish.
I was amazed at the speed we were going along at. These huskies freaking LOVE to run. It was a real challenge to get some snaps as they bounded through the snow mind.
We were also able to meet the trainers after our ride, ask lots of questions and play with the Huskies.
It was an amazing experience and I do hope you have more luck getting a ‘Huskie selfie’ than I did. We did miraculously manage a ‘Sledge selfie’ whilst flying through the snow.
Having a husky ride in Rovaniemi is definitely a bucket list activity in Lapland.
Hot tubbing Lapland
When you stay at the Apukka Resort you can book a private, open-air hot tub under the stars and your own personal sauna.
We had a ridiculously romantic night sipping champagne in a lovely, bubbly hot tub as tiny snowflakes fell upon us. It’s an amazing place for an open-air hot tub in Lapland.
Hot tub Apukka Resort Lapland
We had brought over a lovely bottle of champagne that had been gifted to us for our wedding.
Popping the cork whilst soaking in a Lapland hot tub seemed like the ideal place to enjoy a glass of fizz.
Especially when it came ‘Snow chilled’. It’s a magical experience to be both warm in the hot tub whilst snow falls gently upon you at the same time.
High on champagne and love, we returned to our cabin to discover we had locked ourselves out.
This meant that I had to run barefoot through the snow, in a bathing costume to reception to get a spare key.
Kudos to the reception staff for not howling with laughter at the sight of a frozen Welsh girl in swimwear pleading for a key, stuttering with the cold.
You can also book an Arctic Sauna and Hot Tub with Northern Lights experience in the Arctic forest, which is about 20 kilometres from the city centre.
Experience hot-tubbing under the stars and also try a traditional Finnish sauna. It’s such a fun activity!
Meet Santa Claus in Lapland
No visit to Lapland is complete without a meeting with Santa Claus, even if you are a married couple in your mid-thirties!
Meeting Santa in Rovaniemi is a wonderful family activity in Finnish Lapland and something the kids will never forget.
We were actually lucky enough to have a private audience with Santa at the festive Santa Claus Holiday Village.
There was some initial confusion whereby I thought we were meeting Santa at his Festive residence.
However, 5 minutes before meeting Santa, it transpired Santa was, in fact, coming to visit us at our holiday cottage.
Meeting Santa in Rovaniemi
“Quick, run back, tidy for SANTA”, I started shrieking at Luke in a panic. “Santa can’t see my underwear on the floor!” Perhaps being married to me isn’t quite the delight I think it is?
After a frantic tidy, with everything shoved into cupboards, Santa arrived with a helper elf and instantly I was a little girl, in awe of Santa again.
During our time with Santa, he sang to us in Finnish, gave us a gift and asked what I would like for next Christmas? “A basket of kittens please”, was my optimistic response.
Santa and husband exchanged nervous glances as I promised to be “extra good”. I am still waiting for my Kittens. You move Klaus, your move.
There’s nothing more thrilling than riding your own snowmobile around the Arctic Circle on a Lapland snowmobile safari.
Enjoy the beautiful wintry forest scenery and take lots of snowy photos during your exiting ride.
Many tours will also offer you the chance to hunt down the northern lights on a snowmobile with a professional guide.
If you don’t fancy driving a snowmobile why not kick back and be driven around on a snowmobile or snow train? Let a guide take you the best Northern lights spots whilst you relax under warm blankets.
Some of the best Lapland snowmobile tours include:
- Rovaniemi Snowmobile Safari
- Snowmobile Safari & Campfire Evening Escape
- Rovaniemi: Snowmobile Safari Adventure
Ski across the arctic circle
Explore the winter forest with just you and your guide on a Rovaniemi cross-country ski adventure through the artic Finnish wilderness. Discover magical scenery and frozen lakes as you keep your eyes peeled for reindeers.
You can book a private trip with a guide who will show you how to cross ski. Your guide will also tell you about the surrounding area, as well as a bit of history on Lapland and the Sami people.
“Now we’re going to ski across the frozen lake” beamed our guide. Needless to say, anxious husband, Luke, looked like he was having a mini-stroke at the suggestion and needed to be coaxed onto the lake.
Cross-country skiing Rovaniemi
Cross-country skiing is a great way to get through the snow and explore the frozen landscape, without sinking into the snow.
After some initial hesitation, Luke decided he was the lead ‘explorer’ and excitedly charged through the snow.
It was wonderfully peaceful skiing across the lake, there was no one else around and all we could see ahead was miles of serene snowscapes.
Crossing the arctic circle in Lapland is an incredible experience and one of the best things to do in Rovaniemi.
Hiking in Rovaniemi
There are lots of fabulous walks in and around Rovaniemi. We walked through the snow following the popular ‘two bridges walk’, that combines the old railway bridge and the ‘Lumberjack’s candle’ bridge.
Rovaniemi Trails are well-marked and are suitable for novice walkers as well as keen ramblers. For a longer Rovaniemi hike, take the open ‘aapa mire trail’ or the ‘forest trail to Sortovaara’.
More information about walks in the area can be found on the national parks website.
We also walked to the Arctic Garden, following the River Ounasjoki. Make sure to wrap up warm when hiking in Lapland, it can get super cold.
Check out my guide to winter trip packing essentials, to get an idea of what to pack for Lapland.
It was so quiet when we were exploring the forests, we didn’t see another person around us and everything was so still and so peaceful.
I have never walked through a snow-covered forest before and I was completely blown away by how beautiful it all looked.
I would really recommend strapping some snow boots on and getting outside to experience some dreamy snowscapes.
Rovaniemi City Photography Tour
If you love taking snowy snaps, why not book a Rovaniemi City Photography Tour and get some incredible photos from your Instagram grid?
This fun photography tour will take you to the best locations around Rovaniemi City and the surrounding area to photograph some of its most iconic landmarks and natural sights.
You will be guided by a professional photographer who can teach you some new tricks in photography and share information about Rovaniemi and the surrounding areas.
Your photographer and guide will also conduct a professional photoshoot during the trip and you’ll receive edited, high-quality photos of your visit to Rovaniemi.
Your friends and family back home are frankly going to die with jealousy when you post your ‘winter forest’ pics on Facebook.
Rovaniemi Town Centre
The capital of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi, has a quaint and compact centre.
Here you’ll find shops, bars, restaurants mini skating rink and Christmas stalls in winter.
The town centre is also within walking distance to attractions such as Arktikum museum and being a cutesy and convenient base for organising nearby activities.
Rovaniemi is a great place to base yourself for your Lapland holiday as it is close to lots of attractions and sites.
Christmas in Rovaniemi
It really felt like a festive town when we visited in January, with Christmas trees, sparkly Christmas lights, snow, and the sound of Christmas songs being played in shops and cafes.
There were an array of adorable wooden huts where you could buy traditional Lapland handicrafts and gifts. More modern stores and boutique shops can also be found in the centre.
Where to stay in Lapland Finland
There are lots of places to stay in and around Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, from swanky hotels to cabins, ski resorts and aurora cabins in the forest to suit all styles and budgets.
You can tick off some serious travel bucket list goals by staying in an Aurora cabin in the Apukka Resort, just north of the Arctic circle. This amazing resort looks like something out of a fairytale.
It’s one of the best places to stay in a glass igloo in Finland. There are wooden, snow-covered cabins and ice cottages surrounded by dense forests and wandering reindeer.
Apukka Resort is outside of the bright city lights and is the ideal place to see the beautiful and elusive aurora borealis, dancing in the night sky. It’s one of the best places to see the Northern lights in Finland.
There are several different types of accommodation at Apukka Resort including:
- Aurora cabins
- Aurora wagons
- Ice hotel cabins
- Lappish KOMSIO Suite
Each accommodation type at the Apukka resort has its own unique features and charm.
Aurora cabins Finland
We stayed in a luxurious Aurora cabin for a few nights during our stay in Lapland.
In your cosy cabin, you can look up at the night sky through the glass roof and see twinkling stars, falling snowflakes or even the Northern Lights if you are lucky!
The cabins are decked out in a style that I can only describe as ‘Pinterest goals’. Facilities include an ensuite bathroom, a minibar, a switch to heat the roof to melt the snow off and complimentary wifi.
I have frankly never stayed anywhere as amazing as this. It was a honestlyu dream come true to fall asleep under the stars in serene silence.
Apukka Resort activities
The resort also has a wide range of activities that you can book directly with them. They offer activities such as northern lights hunting, snowshoeing, snow train trips and ice fishing.
If you want to spoil yourself you can also book a session in private hot tub, or bathing in an ice sauna.
It’s definitely a worthwhile experience staying at Apukka Resort, there’s a sense of remoteness and wildness here, despite the fact that you aren’t that far away from the city.
You can choose to simply relax with a loved one or fill your days with activities and excursions or release your inner child and play in the snow.
Just remember, this is Finland, making snow angels may result in you sinking into 9ft of snow, you have been warned!
If you are looking for a luxury hotel in Lapland, then the Scandic Rovaniemi hotel is an incredibly chic and cosy place to stay.
We stayed in a luxurious and well equipped superior room for several nights and got to experience all the amenities the hotel has to offer.
Lapland Finland hotels
The Scandic Rovaniemi has everything you could hope for from a smart city hotel in Finland.
They have beautiful rooms, sauna facilities, lobby bar, a fabulous restaurant serving Nordic classics with a twist. There’s also an extensive breakfast buffet with over 100 items.
Santa Claus Holiday Village
It’s Christmas year-round at the Santa Claus Holiday Village, or as I like to call it, the happiest place on earth. My excitement levels reached fever pitch upon arriving at the holiday-themed wonderland!
This huge village has high-quality accommodation, activities, restaurants, shopping and lots of Christmas trees.
Santa Claus village Finland
We stayed in a luxury ‘Superior cottage’ during our magical stay in the village.
This spacious apartment had a beautiful ‘festive feel’ with handcrafted Lappish crafts and room features. They are some of the best Lapland luxury chalets around.
The best part is, there’s also a personal sauna and a gigantic bed to snuggle up in.
The attention to detail at Santa Claus Village is incredible, everything had a hue of ‘festive red’.
Touches of Christmas are everywhere you look, no matter what time of year you visit.
If you are considering spending Christmas in Finland, this is the holiday village for you.
Santa Claus village activities
At Santa Claus Holiday Village you can book an array of fun-filled activities and excursions. It is the best place to see Santa in Lapland.
That’s right, Santa is in the house and accepting visits from all the good boys and girls.
Obviously, I must be top of his list as I have been on my ‘bestest behaviour’ all year.
You can also spend some time relaxing in the restaurants and gorgeous lobby area with a cheeky hot wine or three.
Remember darlings, Klaus is watching you, so no dancing on the table after an evening on the wine. It’s such a wonderful place for a Lapland Christmas holiday.
Santa Claus Holiday Village is the ideal place to bring the kids Christmas in Lapland. That’s not to say that Santa Claus Holiday Village can’t be enjoyed by adults.
We saw plenty of adults wandering around, their faces full of Christmas wonder, with no kids in tow.
It’s hard not to love somewhere that is full of twinkling lights, decorations, mulled wine and holiday cheer. Santa Claus Holiday Village is clearly the best place to stay in Lapland at Christmas!
Lapland Hotels Sky Ounasvaara
The Sky Ounasvaara hotel is located in the Ounasvaara Winter Sports Center, surrounded by beautiful forests and nature.
We stayed for a few nights in this retro-looking hotel and experienced amazing views from our room.
There are also dreamy views from the restaurant and breakfasting area. It’s an amazing hotel for skiing in Finland and for a winter escape.
Lapland hotel sky ounasvaara
Whilst the hotel might look a little ‘old school’ on the outside, it is warm and inviting on the inside and offers some spectacular views.
The snow-covered trees outside really do make for a picture-perfect view from the hotel. The Instagram potential here is frankly off the chart.
At this hotel, we enjoyed a spacious hotel room with our own private sauna to use. How cool is that?
We spent some time hiking around the nearby forest trails and trying to photograph dreamy snowscapes and sunsets.
It really is great to stay high above the town and enjoy peaceful views as well as feasting on delicious cuisine in their stunning panoramic restaurant.
It’s definitely worthwhile escaping the town and surrounding yourself with nature for a few days. The sunsets here are totally worth it. I think it’s one of the best sunset places in Finland, you won’t be disappointed.
Getting around Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is a small town with short distances between locations. In the city centre, everything is close together including shops, restaurants and cafes.
If you are considering hiring a car in Rovaniemi, make sure you are comfortable driving in snowy and cold conditions.
Especially if you are visiting Lapland in winter. There’s a definite skill to driving in wintery conditions, that’s for sure.
If you aren’t hiring a car, buses are the only form of public transport available in Rovaniemi. Bus timetables, routes and ticket prices can be found at www.linkkari.fi.
Book you Rovaniemi Airport airport shuttle transfer in advance online and take the stress out of your arrival in Lapland.
You have a choice of clean and comfortable 3, 8 and 16-seat private vehicles and a professional, English speaking driver.
Finnish Lapland guide
What do you think of my things to do in Rovaniemi guide? Did you know that there were so many fun activities and cool things to see in Finnish Lapland?
Hopefully, my article has inspired you to come and visit Finnish Lapland this winter. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Planning your trip to Finnish Lapland
Ready to book your trip to Finnish Lapland? Use these awesome travel resources to get you started:
- Search for the best flight deals with Skyscanner
- Search for the best hotel deals on Booking.com
- Get the best travel tips with a travel guidebook
- Book an Airbnb and have £25 towards your first booking
- Get the best destination recommendations from TripAdvisor
Check out all the best travel resources on my bumper travel resources page!
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Disclaimer: Thanks to Visit Rovaniemi and destination manager Mia Niemelä, for organising and supporting our visit to Lapland. All views remain my own as usual. This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission but come at no additional cost to you. By clicking these links you are supporting Pip and the City and helping to keep the content free. Massive thanks for your ongoing support.