There was no question in my mind that I would make a stop in the arctic while in Finland, but I struggled to decide what the best place to visit in Lapland in winter would be for me. After much debate and research, I decided to visit both Levi and Rovaniemi. 

Rovaniemi is a bustling city nestled at the confluence of the Ounasjoki and Kemijoki rivers. There is no shortage of winter activities in Rovaniemi, but there are a few that make this city an incredibly unique winter destination.

// Read all about how I finally fell in love with winter in Norway!

Bright red and black snowmobiles lined up in the middle of a snowy arctic forest near Rovaniemi Finland. Text: Rovaniemi in Winter: Adventure Guide

Where is Rovaniemi?

About 500 miles (or 800km) north of Helsinki, situated on the line that demarcates the Arctic Circle, is the city of Rovaniemi. While you can take an 8+ hour train ride or drive the 9 hours, I recommend taking an affordable 90 minute flight. There are numerous daily flights to Rovaniemi from Helsinki and several European cities.

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What’s the Best Place to Stay in Rovaniemi?

I was blown away by the number of high quality, affordable places to stay there are in Rovaniemi for all types of travelers. Here are some of the best places to stay in Rovaniemi!

Crystal Suites 1 Apartment

Crystal Suites Apartment 1 is one of the best places to stay in Rovaniemi. Left: Mostly white living room with crystal chandelier and white Christmas tree year-around. Top Right: Mostly white bedroom with double bed, nightstand and window. Bottom Right: Wood lined in-room sauna that looks brand new!
Left: Living room with patio access, Top Right: Master bedroom with double bed, Bottom Right: In-room sauna

Seriously, I felt like this was too good to be true when I booked the 2-bedroom apartment with in-room sauna and laundry. The apartment is every bit as cute, comfy and clean as the photos make it look. For just 60€ per night I felt like a queen! It’s located a short walk to the restaurants and tour companies in the city centre and a grocery is just across the street. 

Pro Tip: Parking is available. Ask at the front desk for advice on how to use the parking wheel to avoid getting a parking ticket.

Apartment Skylights

Located right in the city centre, Apartment Skylights are steps away from great restaurants and shopping. At around 60€ per night, these apartments are clean, comfy, and affordable. Free public parking is available nearby.

// Check availability at Apartment Skylights now!

Scandic Rovaniemi City

If you’re looking for more of a hotel feel, Scandic Rovaniemi City Hotel is located right in the city centre and offers modern rooms. As an added bonus, you get free access to a gym, sauna, and wifi as well as bicycles and walking sticks to borrow!

Breakfast is included with the room rate. Single rooms starting at around 80€ per night.

// Check availability at Scandic Rovaniemi City now!

Wherever Boutique Hostel

This might be the fanciest hostel I’ve ever seen. Book a bed in a dorm style room with shared bathroom for under 30€. Located right in the city centre steps away from the action, enjoy free wifi and a shared kitchen.  

// Check availability at Wherever Boutique Hostel now!

Booking.com

Most Unique Winter Activities in Rovaniemi

1 | Sharpen your skills on a photography expedition.

A photography expedition is one of the winter activities in Rovaniemi. Top: The sun peeks through the tall skinny trees as seen from a hiking trail covered in snow, Bottom Left: Me in a big long puffy jacket, hat and gloves with a mirrorless camera on a leather strap hiking through the forest on the photography expedition (Photo by Beyond Arctic), Bottom Right: Up close shot of green growth on a tree in the forest covered in snow.
Top: Practicing shooting into the sun, Bottom Left: Hiking through the forest on the photography expedition (Photo Credit: Beyond Arctic), Bottom Right: Up close shot of growth on a tree in the forest.

Do you love the outdoors and want to take your photography to the next level? Beyond Arctic has you covered! Join a professional photographer in a small group (maximum 8 people) to explore one of the many incredible outdoor wonders surrounding Rovaniemi. Choose from the frozen waterfalls of Korouoma Canyon, the Arctic Woodlands, a wildlife park, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more all with hands-on photography advice from a pro. 

By the end of the hike, I finally felt comfortable shooting into the light and capturing a bright white winter landscape. This is a skill that comes in handy when you live in Minnesota!

Beyond Arctic provides cold weather gear and a tripod for each person to use during the expedition, which is super helpful if you don’t have yours with you.

Pro Tip: A photography expedition is NOT a photo shoot with a pro photographer. Bring your camera and be prepared to grow your photography skills. 

// Book a winter photography expedition with Beyond Arctic now!

2 | Go ice floating.

Float like an iceberg in one of the nearby lakes on an ice floating tour. Don’t worry, you’re covered head to toe in a rescue suit that keeps your body nice and dry. All you have to do is enjoy the sensation of floating in arctic water!

Want an experience that’s a little extra? Try ice floating underneath the Aurora on a nighttime tour!

Pro Tip: You can stay fully clothed underneath the rescue suit!

// Book an ice floating tour in Rovaniemi now!

3 | Hike (or ice climb) frozen waterfalls in Korouoma Canyon.

Korouoma Canyon near Rovaniemi is know for its frozen waterfalls. Top: An ice climber scales the massive frozen waterfall in Korouoma Canyon, Bottom Left: Delicious cheese sandwich grilled over a campfire on the tour, Bottom Right: Clean cold weather gear including warm boots are lined up on shelves in the Beyond Arctic tour office.
Top: An ice climber scales the frozen waterfalls in Korouoma Canyon, Bottom Left: Delicious cheese sandwich over a campfire on the tour, Bottom Right: Clean cold weather gear provided by Beyond Arctic.

Just 90 minutes from Rovaniemi is Korouoma Canyon with its frozen waterfalls and breathtaking views. It also happens to be one of the top ice climbing destinations in the world if you wanna try your hand at that! 

There are tons of tour options to choose from. Many of the tours are on large buses and they take a short route straight to the frozen waterfalls. Some companies, like Beyond Arctic, will take you on a longer (approximately 5km) and less crowded route so you can truly enjoy the beauty of the canyon. 

Be sure to bring microspikes or crampons as some sections are steep and icy.

Pro Tip: Ask if your tour company provides cold weather gear for you to use. Beyond Arctic suited me up so I stayed warm the entire time!

Did you know that some of the most pure air in the inhabited world (according to the World Health Organization) is found in this region of Finland? Because of this unique species of lichen and other plants can be seen along the trails in this area. 

Pro Tip: Go early so you can capture the sun as it hits the canyon walls and peeks through the trees during the morning golden hour.

// Book a tour to Korouoma frozen waterfalls now!

4 | Take a Ride on an Icebreaker Boat. 

Feel the incredible power of an icebreaker boat as it powers through the Bothnian Sea. Not only do you get the unique experience of riding on an icebreaker boat, you also have the option to get off the boat and take a walk on the frozen sea ice.

This experience includes a guided tour of the boat, a short film about icebreaker boats around the world, and of course space to relax and enjoy the 3 hour cruise. 

Pro Tip: The boat departs from just over the border in Sweden. There is no border control but it’s recommended to bring your passport. You can easily take a shuttle from Rovaniemi or hire a car and drive on your own (approximately 2 hours).

// Book an icebreaker boat tour now!

5 | Meet Santa Claus.

Did I mention that Rovaniemi is the official hometown of Santa Claus? Whether you’re a believer or not, a visit to Santa Claus Village is a memorable one. 

The village is open every day of the year and is a short 10 minute drive from the city centre of Rovaniemi. There are also shuttles available if you don’t have access to a vehicle. 

The Arctic Circle runs right through Santa Claus Village. You can cross the well-marked line into the Arctic Circle and even get a certificate proving you did! 

Pro Tip: Stop by the Post Office in the Santa Claus Village and ask Santa himself to send a letter to anyone you’d like (8.90€).

Other Winter Activities in Rovaniemi

Finnish Lapland, also called Sapmi, offers so many incredible outdoor adventures in the winter. These are other winter activities in Rovaniemi that are also available elsewhere in Lapland, such as Levi. 

Chase the Northern Lights.

A faint view of the Aurora Borealis in the sky outside of Rovaniemi as seen from a frozen lake.
A brief glimpse of the Northern Lights just outside of Rovaniemi, before the clouds came in.

If you plan to visit Rovaniemi, or anywhere in Finnish Lapland, between September and April chasing the Northern Lights should be towards the top of your itinerary.

Choosing a Northern Lights tour company can be overwhelming, there’s so many to choose from. Key differentiators are group size, price, and add-on experiences. Examples of add-on experiences include photography instruction, snowmobiling, or cross-country skiing. I chose to go with Beyond Arctic again so I could work on my nighttime photography skills with their expert photographer guides. 

Anytime you go on a Northern Lights tour, there’s a chance they won’t be visible. There are so many factors that contribute to whether or not they will be visible, including cloud cover, solar winds, kp Index, and light pollution to name a few. 

Standing on a frozen lake in the dark with a cloudy sky behind me. I'm wearing a lit headlamp as I look up at the sky.
Searching for the Aurora Borealis and making the best of the cloudy night by playing with night photography. Photo Credit: Beyond Arctic

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck the night I went out to see the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi. We got a brief glimpse of them right at the beginning of the night and then the clouds came in. 

Pro tip: Whether or not the Aurora Borealis is visible to you, it’s still a great chance to practice your night photography skills

Most northern lights tours offer warm jumpsuits, boots, gloves, and tripods as well as sausages (vegan options available) and warm drinks around a fire. This was a delicious way to pass the time between photography sessions.

// Book a Northern Lights tour with Beyond Arctic now!

Shred Some Trails on a Snowmobile Safari.

Left: A long row of bright red snowmobiles perfectly lined up with snow covered trees behind them and a building int he distance. Right: Me in head-to-toe bright red and black snowmobile gear including a black helmet, head covering, jumpsuit and boots.
Left: Snowmobiles lined up before a tour. Right: Me in head-to-toe cold weather gear before snowmobiling.

If you’re looking for a bit of a thrill, hop on a snowmobile and head out to explore the Arctic countryside surrounding Rovaniemi. Personally, I love to go fast so this is right up my alley. Most tours have an option to drive alone or pair up on a snowmobile.

Worried you’ll be cold while snowmobiling? Not to worry. Tour companies like Lapland Safaris include all the cold weather gear, freshly cleaned just for you. This included a head cover, helmet, jumpsuit, mittens, wool socks, and boots! Also, the handlebars on the snowmobiles are heated to keep your hands warm.

Pro Tip: Snowmobiling is a risky activity so I strongly recommend reading the reviews of any tour company prior to booking and to inquire about the insurance options. Damage to the snowmobile may not be covered on your personal travel insurance policy but you may be able to add coverage when you book the tour.

// Book a snowmobile safari in Rovaniemi now!

Drive or Ride a Husky Sled.

Huskies barking while on a break during a husky sled through the arctic forest near Rovaniemi Finland. Photo credit: Robert Tjalondo on Unsplash
Husky dogs barking while on a break during a husky sled tour near Rovaniemi. Photo Credit: Robert Tjalondo on Unsplash

There is something absolutely magical about seeing sled dogs in action. When I was in Tromso Norway, I went husky sledding for the first time. Prior to that I was worried that the sled dogs might be overworked or mistreated. What I learned is that these dogs love to run. 

If you choose to drive the sled (as opposed to ride along), be prepared to put in some work. It’s certainly not as easy as it looks! 

Pro Tip: Always do you research on tour companies to ensure the animals are treated well. Pay close attention to the reviews. 

// Book an incredible husky safari in Rovaniemi now!

Go on a Reindeer Safari

Reindeer pulling a sleigh through the forest in the arctic. Photo credit: Norman Tsui on Unsplash
Reindeer pulling a sleigh through the forest. Photo credit: Norman Tsui on Unsplash

The official hometown of Santa Claus wouldn’t be complete without reindeer, right? If you want a more relaxing way to experience Lapland, try a reindeer safari or farm visit.

Hop in a comfortable sleigh and enjoy a smooth ride as reindeer take you through the arctic forest. Whether or not you want to take a sleigh ride, visiting a reindeer farm offers the unique opportunity to learn about the importance of reindeer herding for the indigenous Sami people and Finnish culture

// Book a reindeer farm visit and sleigh ride now!

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Why not try all of the winter activities in Rovaniemi?

Seriously, theres’ no right or wrong choice. Rovaniemi has endless choices for winter activities in the outdoors. Which do you most want to try?!

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Beyond Arctic as a guest. My opinions, however, are my own. I am under no obligation to write a positive review.

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Bright blue skies behind a canyon wall covered in snow and frozen waterfalls near Rovaniemi Finland. Text: Unique & wonderful winter activities in Rovaniemi Finland
Bright red and black snowmobiles perfectly lined up in a snowy arctic forest near Rovaniemi. Text: Rovaniemi in Winter Adventure Guide

14 Comments

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Yes, you do! I can’t say enough how much I loved it, especially up in the arctic in Rovaniemi and Levi.

  1. This is the epitome of a winter wonderland! It’s so cool that you can take a winter photography tour there. I would love to do that!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      The photography tour was so fun and educational! I would definitely do one again 🙂 Hope you get to visit this winter wonderland someday.

  2. Squeeee I am loving your posts about this trip Susan!!

    But wait, you can go floating in the arctic waters under the Aurora!? That is totally loopy and I sort of want to give it a go now! I also looove that photo of the dog sleigh! They look so ready to run!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Aw, thanks so much Josy! Yesssss – doesn’t floating under the Aurora sound like a dream come true?!

  3. I’ve never been to Finland but it’d be awesome to visit someday! The photography expedition sounds right up my alley–I’d love to develop/improve my skills there. Ice climbing sounds like a lot of fun too! I was going to do that in New York last year but it kept getting postponed due to the weather being too warm (for once)–never ended up getting to go! :[ I’d love to see the Northern Lights someday! <3

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Awesome! That’s too bad you couldn’t go ice climbing, but maybe the universe was conspiring to get you to go and do it in Finland 😉

  4. What an adventure you had on your trip. I have to admit that I’ve never really wanted to travel to somewhere cold in the winter. It’s cold and snowy enough where I live, but some of these ideas are so unique, I may not be able to resist – notably floating in the Arctic Sea, hanging out with reindeer, and viewing the northern lights. Sounds awesome!

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Yay! It makes me happy to hear that a winter adventure here at least got your interest. It’s truly a magical place and there are so many fun ways to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Plus, you can always warm up in a sauna afterward 😉

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      There’s something about that beautiful coating of white that makes it so pretty! I agree – I couldn’t get enough of the reindeer either 🙂

  5. All the activities sound amazing— I would love to do them all. I particularly would love ice floating and jumping from ice floe to ice floe like a polar bear.

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Ha ha yes! What an incredible feeling to float like an iceberg and wander like a polar bear 🙂 This area of the world absolutely blew me away.

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