Lapland | Christmas Things to Do

16 August 2017


Experiencing a white Christmas in Lapland to meet the Santa Claus had always been my dream. This year, I was very fortunate to be able to fly all the way to the Arctic Circle to spend Christmas with the big cheerful bearded man in a red suit with the boyfriend. As usual (lol) everything was planned at the last minute, which was especially a bad choice during this occasion. People from all around the world travel to Lapland just to spend Christmas meeting Santa Claus. Naturally, 99% of accommodations in Lapland were already booked out and flight tickets were CRAZY expensive. I had only 5 days off which made the planning more difficult. I was so close to cancelling the idea of going because it was just ridiculously expensive to book at the last minute.

Anyway, after making compromises with the boyfriend, we agreed to make this once-in-a-lifetime dream come true even though it was just for a few days.

Travel Period: December 23 - 27, 2016
Temperature: -20 to -10 °C

Day 1
  • Flight: Dubai - Helsinki
  • 8-hour Train: Helsinki Airport - Rovaniemi (2 stops in between: Tikkurila - Oulu)
Day 2
  • Strolling around the city
  • Christmas' Eve Dinner at home
Day 3
  • Jätkänkynttilä Bridge
  • Santa Claus Village
Day 4
  • Husky Dog Sleigh Ride
  • Reindeer Sleigh Ride
  • Night bus: Rovaniemi - Helsinki
Day 5
  • Helsinki - Dubai



1. Exploring Rovaniemi in the snow

Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland. It's a relatively small town with short distances. In the city centre, everything is close to everything else and walking is the way to get around. It wasn't easy for us to talk in the cold snow though. However it looked so beautiful with white snow everywhere.

Above the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets during the summer nights, and does not rise at least one day a year during the winter months. When we were there, we couldn't see much sunlight especially in Lapland. Sun rose just above the horizon and then started setting again. The maximum we could get was just twilight that lasted for less than 2 hours. Most of the time it was cold and dark.

Sightseeing spots include Jätkänkynttilä Bridge, the northern-most McDonald's in the world, Rovaniemi Church, and a few museums in the city.

Jätkänkynttilä Bridge
The Kemijoki river was literally frozen and filled with snow!

The world's northern-most McDonald's

2. Santa Claus Village

Santa Claus Village is usually the main reason why tourists want to come to Lapland. It's situated 8km to the north of Rovaniemi and you can take a local bus to reach here. Bus timetable is available here.

3. Meeting Santa Claus

Of course, if you are in Lapland, you have to meet Santa Claus! Santa's official office is open to everyone all year round. When we were there during Christmas, it was a VERY long queue and we  could only see him for around 5 minutes. However it was still nice to see him on Christmas, exchange Christmas greetings, enjoy a little private chat with him and revel in the enchanted atmosphere.

You are not obliged to purchase anything. However if you want high resolution pictures and a video of you meeting Santa, you have to get them for a fee. 

4. Crossing the Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle is a circle of latitude that runs 66°33′45.9″ north of the Equator. In Rovaniemi, the Arctic Circle runs through Santa Claus Village. You can even get a certificate confirming the feat.

5. Witnessing Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are said to be visible on roughly 200 nights a year in Finnish Lapland. I'm sure you have seen pictures of people watching the Aurora Borealis from all the famous glass igloos in Finland - what a dream! We were not lucky enough to be able to book a glass igloo due to the peak season. However, we were extremely lucky to witness Northern Lights while strolling on the street of Rovaniemi one night on the way to the supermarket. 

As I have experienced the VERY INTENSE Northern Lights before in Iceland, I knew by instinct that the faint white lines were Aurora Borealis, but my boyfriend who is a dumbass thought they were clouds.

6. Husky Dog Sleigh Ride

This is a great way to experience the traditional Nordic way to travel. The sled dogs, which are used to the arctic outdoors, are doing what they most love to do - going out on a mushing trip and usually making a lot of noise before they get going. These friendly Siberian Husky dogs are always so excited waiting to glide with you through the beautiful wilderness of Scandinavia. Be aware it can get really cold during the ride as the dogs run quite fast.

They are so excited to run they would keep barking

7. Reindeer Sleigh Ride

How can you miss this if you are in Lapland especially during Christmas? When you think of Christmas, you think of Santa and his reindeers! You´ll take a step back in time as you sit in a wooden sleigh gently pulled by a reindeer surrounded by silence. This exotic trip will give you a fairytale experience. Unlike the husky ride, reindeer sleigh ride is slow and steady. You definitely need those blankets to keep yourself warm while gliding through the snowy wilderness.

8. Reindeer & Husky Farm

There are many farms in Lapland. The one we went to is Raitola, which is located only 4 km away from the Santa Claus Village. You will get to visit husky dogs and reindeers and learn about the herders. This farm is also where we experienced both reindeer and husky sleigh rides. Both Reindeer and Husky farms are open in the winter time but during summer the husky farm is closed to the public. However, the reindeer farm can be visited in summer as well. 

Baby Husky 

Much needed during the intensely cold weather 

Food prepared by the little cosy restaurant after our farm visit

9. Cosy Christmas' Eve in the Comfort of Home

Nothing beats spending Christmas' Eve in the comfort of your own home (or the Airbnb you rent which you can call a temporary home lol). We went to the supermarket, bought groceries, cooked a simple dinner, and later had a few glasses of wine while snuggling up on the couch and listening to Christmas carols. It was a heavenly cosy night. 

Oh, don't forget to exchange your Christmas gifts too. ;)

10. Seeing Lapland by Train

Lapland is one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe. For many, this northern extreme is a mystery. You can sit back, relax, and watch the scenic Finnish landscape pass you by as you are making your way to your exotic new destination. What more could you ask for?

Photo credit: Scandi Classics 

There are little food cars on the train to feed your tummy when you are hungry! 
Rovaniemi station

Lapland offers a lot more adventures and fun things to do if you have more time. What would be the things you want to do most if you were there?

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