Well we just had our first big snow in Korea and many of you may be thinking about winter vacation spots. Well seeing the Northern Lights should definitely be on the top of your list! It’s really magical and the snowy surroundings add to the experience.
Recently we visited Lapland, Finland in search of this elusive phenomenon. There are many places in the Arctic Circle you can go, but after quite a bit of research and comparison of different locations, we opted for Rovaniemi, which is the capital of Lapland, Finland. The main reasons that we selected Rovaniemi was that it was a little less remote (however, being remote could be advantageous in the search of the Northern Lights), the available accommodations, and the flexibility of being close to a city. You should also know that Rovaniemi is famous for being the “official home” of Santa Claus (I know you’re dying to put in a good word with Santa for this Christmas!).
After our visit to Rovaniemi, we were not disappointed with our choice; the nature and scenic beauty of the area was definitely very special. We were so lucky to have gotten to experience the first snow of the season, it was amazing to see everything covered in the slightest dusting of snow, and the Northern lights weren’t to shabby either. With all the magic that surrounded us, I bet that visiting Rovaniemi in Spring when everything is teeming with green is absolutely gorgeous.
So here are some things to know before you go on your very own Lapland adventure in Rovaniemi!
Rovaniemi (RVN) is just a quick 1 hour and 20 minute hop away from Helsinki, no matter where you are coming from you will most likely stop in Helsinki. Finnair is the primary carrier with flights to Rovaniemi and there are plenty flights leaving each day.
As soon as you arrive to Helsinki, you will see a large sign stating “Transfers gates 1-60”. There you will go through security again, the line was a little long, but went fairly quickly. After security we went through immigration, there was only one gate open but surprisingly there was no line! The immigration officer did ask questions on where we were going and when we were leaving Finland but overall it was quick and simple.
After immigration, we went towards the transfers sign and then we following a small sign that said nothing to declare (that was all for customs) and then we were at the gates. I was expecting to be boarding a small plane, but was surprised to see that the plane to Rovaniemi was actually pretty large for going to such a small city.
United States citizen are authorized up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa upon landing (as Finland is a party to the Schengen Agreement).
As of 12/01/2017, $1 is equal to about 0.85 Euros.
Finland uses the Euro, which is really handy if you are visiting a lot of the other European countries. Don’t be concerned about having too much cash as you are able to use your credit card almost everywhere (restaurants, tours, souvenirs).
You should also note that it is not customary to tip in Finland.
4. Where to Stay
There are many options for lodging in Rovaniemi. We were hopeful to see the Northern lights and decided to splurge on a glass igloo from Santa‘s Igloos Arctic Circle.
If you’re wondering what exactly a glass igloo is, it’s basically a room with a glass roof so that you can gaze at the sky and possibly catch the beautiful Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed. We stayed 3 nights in the glass igloo and were not that lucky to catch a glimpse from inside our room. I personally would recommend maybe one night in the glass igloo, but to get a cabin or a room for the remainder of your time. That way you get to enjoy the fun of the glass igloo, but can use the money you save on a different room type for a fun excursion. I would however recommend splurging on a room with a sauna, this is pretty common in Finland and you will thank me when you are able to defrost in your own personal sauna!
5. Getting around
So as part of our glass igloo package, our lodging provided transfers to and from the airport. Although this was very convenient, the igloos were only about a 10 minute drive away from the airport. Although things are not far away, even short distances in a taxi are extraordinarily expensive in Rovaniemi, I mean really expensive…a 12 minute cab ride from our igloos to the city center was about 24 euros! So with prices that like, you might be interested in renting a car if you love to explore on your own and just want to drive around and take it all in.
Another option when it comes to transportation is to hire a tour company to assist in taking you to various sites, however, a car might still come in handy at times. We ended up booking a tour for a Husky ride, Reindeer Farm visit, Northern Lights viewing, and a Finnish home experience.
6. Cell Phone
Finland does not sell SIM Cards in kiosks at the airport. I was able to locate cards at the R Kioski convenience store, but I did not purchase one. Additionally, there was wifi almost everywhere we went, and it really was nice to unplug and just enjoy our surroundings.
I’m looking forward to sharing our magical time in the the Finnish Lapland! We had a great time and I can’t wait to tell you more about it next week!