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.
Disclaimer: Content created from a press trip with Santas Hotels
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.
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.
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 clear 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
This is because you Lapland northern lights tour will include things like a professional guide, help with photography and pick-up and drop off at your hotel.
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
Stay in a Glass Igloo in Rovaniemi
These luxurious igloos are the perfect place to enjoy the northern lights and the famous midnight sun in the arctic circle. It’s definitely one of the best places to stay in Rovaniemi.
Even if you don’t see the elusive Northern Lights, you can still enjoy a gorgeous starscape as you drift off to sleep.
Staying in a glass igloo in Rovaniemi was one of my favourite things to do in Finnish Lapland.
It really was such a special experience to snuggle up in a cosy igloo with a hot chocolate and enjoy the serenity of the arctic circle wilderness.
If you want to spoil yourself on your trip, then definitely consider booking a stay here.
Go on a Husky ride in Rovaniemi
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.
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.
Ice Floating in Rovaniemi
I imagine that ice floating in Finland came about because of a conversation like this.
“Say now Sven, how about we pop tourists in unflattering rescue suits, stick them in a frozen lake?
We’ll it ‘ice floating’ and tell them it’s ‘what the locals do’. We’ll have a right old laugh.”
Ice floating Rovaniemi
When you arrive in the remote lake setting you will be outfitted with a special dry suit that will keep you warm when floating in the freezing lake water.
With the help of your buoyant dry suit, lie back and relax as you let your mind drift in the peaceful surroundings.
Go on a Snowmobile Safari in Rovaniemi
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 in Rovaniemi
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.
Meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi
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.
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
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 photo shoot 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.
Explore 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 Rovaniemi
There are lots of fantastic places to stay in Rovaniemi and the surrounding area. Lapland’s capital has modern hotels, festive-themed cabins, glass igloos and budget places to stay.
Looking for where to stay in Rovaniemi? Check out my article on the best places to stay in Rovaniemi for inspiration.
Some of the best hotels in Rovaniemi include:
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.
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 online.
Rovaniemi Airport transfer
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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