We flew over to Lapland on Monday, with a quick stopover in Helsinki and then a straight flight to Rovaniemi, followed by a short taxi trip to our hotel – The Arctic Treehouse Hotel. We stayed here for the duration of our Lapland holiday, as we were only in Lapland for three nights with a forth spent in Helsinki. Three days was great in Lapland, but probably 4/5 days would of been better, as it will really give you a chance to do a bit of everything. If it had of just been my partner and I, we would of stayed in one or two other places as well (even though the Arctic Treehouse Hotel is what dreams are made of), but as we had our seven year old girl in tow, we decided not to make it too adventurous, as there were things we would have liked to do that probably wouldn’t of been suitable for her …. like staying in an Ice Hotel for example. We done some awesome things (listed below) and I only wish we could do it every again every year.
I have done out an itinerary that some might find helpful, it’s a mixture of ours and some other things that we didn’t have time to do.
We flew from Ireland – Helsinki with a 2 hour stop here and then on to Rovaniemi. We didn’t get to our hotel, The Arctic Treehouse Hotel, until about 8pm, and by the time we checked in we just wanted to get some food and go to bed. We had a quick look around the place and were delighted to see we were in one of the nicest hotels in the middle of a FREAKIN FOREST!! The hotel only opened last year, a week or two before we arrived, so when booking I didn’t have many reviews to work off, but I m glad I booked there as their rooms are amazing, such a cool experience. After dinner, we just went to bed and unwounded.
- Quick Tip… Let your hotel know in advance of your dietary requirements. As a vegan, my diet mostly consists of fruit, veg and carbs, but while in the Finnish Lapland I wanted to try some traditional dishes from the region. I was quite limited to what was available, as the season go from one extreme to the next, the fruit and veg is stored and frozen over the Christmas period, you might find if you are staying for long in one place your meals may become slightly repetitive, as another thing to note, a vegan diet is not to common in Lapland.
After a lovely breakfast we headed over to Santa Park. The only way that I can describe Santa Park, is like an underground Christmas Dream. Anything you would have ever associated with Santa is here. We went at about 11am and we didn’t leave until about 4pm. It’s right next to our hotel, owned by the same people. There are so many things to do here; baking and decorating Christmas cookies with Mrs, Claus, doing snowmen and reindeer arts and crafts with some elves, learning to be an elf at Elf School’, watching an elf show (it is amazing) and meeting the main man himself. Some other things to see and do include getting some food at the restaurant, multiple play areas, ice bars, ice sculpture rooms and a post office where you can write and post your letters to Santa.
After this we went back to our room after having some fun in the snow and sleighing around some mini hills of course. We got ready for dinner, as afterwards we had booked in with an adventure company to do a Northern Lights Snow Mobile Tour that evening. We done the tour with Wild Nordic Tours. this was a fun tour to do as how often to you get to snow mobile around a snow covered forest at night??? It is sooooo beautiful!! I would advise to this on an evening when you have maybe been indoors or somewhere warm during the day, as had we done this on an even after being out all day too, I imagine not only would we have been quite tired but also perhaps a bit cold too.
We booked in with Wild Nordic, Family Fun Safari for a ‘Family fun Safari, a day that consisted of a snow mobile trip to two different venues, a husky farm and a reindeer farm. If you like animals this is definitely something you should look into. *See below for my advise and reflections on the ethics of this*. We really loved this as it was great to get up close and see these animals in their natural environment, as an animal lover this was definitely one of my favourite things to do. It is great for children too as we all learned so much about these animals as part of the tour is a 40 minute talk before you meet the animals so you can learn about them and have more respect for them. Half way through the day we also had some time for some sleighing down some small hills which was great fun.
We flew back to Helsinki that night, unfortunately our Lapland adventure was over. But I have listed some things below that perhaps you might like to do on your holiday.
You should try to sleep in an ice hotel (we would have bar the lovely 7 year old child). This looks like one of the coolest things you could possibly do and is definitely on my bucket list. The Arctic Snow Hotel is the closest snow/ ice hotel to Rovaniemi. I had actually hoped to do a day tour here with my family just to see it, but unfortunately the dates we had booked the hotel wouldn’t have been ready to view, as obviously they need to rebuild it every year, so every year it is different. When staying in the hotel, part of your package includes a guided tour through the hotel, a wake up call with warm drinks and the option of a wake up call for the northern lights and obviously some very warm and insulated blankets and sleeping bags – FYI though, some of the materials used are animals skins, so if this is something that bothers you, you should get in touch prior to booking to rage some other sleeping materials.
We did visit a much smaller ice bar (that was also still under construction) but it was still so cool and amazing to see (Pictured above). Also part of Santa World includes the ‘Ice Kingdom’ with includes an ice bar and drinking out of ice glasses as well as a room full of ice sculptures.
Book a night in an igloo with a glass top. These can also be booked at Arctic Snow Hotel or at the Santa Hotel, both near Rovaniemi. Apart from another item ticked off your bucket list, the main reason you might want to sleep in a glass igloo are to see the northern lights from your bed, if you are lucky you will see them before you go to sleep and if they come on again during the night normally the hotel will alert you to the northern lights activity up above. Other reasons include getting a very open sense of nature, almost like camping but warmer and more comfortable. A great bonding experience with whom ever you are staying with.
Spend a night in a log cabin, in the woods with a Finnish sauna. Arctic Circle Wilderness Lodge has wooden walls, an indoor sauna and a lake just a walk away. It has great reviews on Tripadvisor. Wild Nordic – Arctic Circle Wilderness Night do overnight return tours to Rovaniemi with a hope to see the Northern Lights. On this night, it might be advisable to leave your phones in your bag and really try to connect with yourself and nature … bar take it out to snap some photos. Get some cosy clothes and sit by the fire when you are finished exploring the woods and near by lake.
This is definitely one for the more adventurous….. but how about a trip to the Gulf Of Bothnia along with a dip in the ice covered water??? This trip doesn’t earn it’s name as ‘The Ice Breaker Cruise’ for nothing. This tour can be done in different ways, you can organise one yourself and stay over night in Kalix, where the ship docks. Kalix is in the Swedish region of Lapland. Daily return tours can be organised from Rovaniemi – Ice Breaker Tours. Apart from dipping into freezing oceans covered in ice, this tour would provide you with the sound of ice cracking beneath you, beautiful scenery of ocean, mist and sunsets (a different kind of ocean to what you are used to) and the opportunity to stand on the ice with the ocean beneath you – don’t worry it’s safe, cars will even drive over this.
Take this day to just do your own thing and just to relax with your partner/ family, to have fun in the snow building snow men or throwing snow balls, have warm picnics outside, to get lost (I say get lost, but really don’t go too far from the beaten track in freezing temperatures full of snow) in a forest, have an hour of snow sleighing, write letters to Santa – the list is endless here, but you need a day just to yourself with your partner/ family to recoup and regroup. If you are a solo traveler use this day to do you. Sit in, go out, take pictures, go to your favourite place or restaurant, stay in bed looking at the snow, I don’t know, but a few days full of adventure will require a wind down day.
Stay in Rovaniemi town. We spent a few hours in Rovaniemi walking around the city, I wish I had done slightly more research into this town.
What To Do/ Where To Eat and Stay:
- Visit –Arktikum, a sciene and history museum that helps you undersigned the Finnish Lapland history, culture and nature surroundings. It has received rave reviews on Tripadvisor and looks like it would be a very informative tour (as it is a very interesting place and culture).
- Visit Rovaniemi Church, I think every country has a church were people can come and pray and feel safe (it’s up to each individual what they believe), but I think churches can sometimes be so different in different parts of the world, out of curiosity I would like to see this church and see the lay out and architecture.
- Where To Eat – Although we didn’t eat while in Roveniemi… ok that’s a lie we had McDonald’s as once Skye saw it there was no walking past, but for those interested in dinning Ravintola Roka comes up with a few good reviews as the best place to eat for vegans in Rovaniemi. Once you give some notice to the hotel, tour operators or restaurant that you are vegan they will be able to cook accordingly. A vegan diet doesn’t seem to be that common in Rovaniemi, which I think to due to two main reasons 1. The food isn’t locally available year round, I was told that during summer plenty of fruit and veg is picked and eaten, while the rest is stored to be used over the cold Christmas months which leads into point 2. Due to the lack of locally harvested fruit and veg, down though history Reindeer and Salmon are a big Finnish delicacy and are eaten regularly throughout the colder months as they are easily accessible for the people ….. not for us vegans though, so my advise would be to give notice where you are staying so that they can make sure they are stocked on fruit and veg for your arrival.
- Where To Stay – We were very close to booking one night in Rovaniemi and we had planned on booking into The arctic treehouse’s sister hotel, The Arctic Light Hotel, which is beautifully decorated with very modern tech inside to keep everyone cosy and warm.
Bonus Night In Helsinki
We had a flight transfer in Helsinki, so we decided to spend one day/ night here and go to the Christmas markets and have a look around. We flew in at about 8pm and went straight to our hotel, The Lilla Roberts Hotel to check in and freshen up, then we headed out to get some food. We decided to get something that we all love to fill us up for the night as it had been a long day. We went to Piece n Love Pizza, that catered for us all (vegans included) with some lovely pizza and chips. It was somewhere around here I was given the sad news that the Christmas markets would not be starting until the day after we left……devastation doesn’t cover it. So we decided that we would spend the next day doing a quick sight seeing tour around Helsinki, where we saw the markets setting up their last bits and pieces and there was luckily a tiny section of the markets opened, so at least I got a little experience of it. To really see Helsinki quickly with a seven year old we decided to go on the Helsinki SkyWheel, which was where I figured out my daughter has a fear of heights. it was a short and sweet tour in Helsinki and well worth another visit as the architecture is just beautiful and it is a city full of history.
I hope this information was helpful to you and you were able to take something from it. Obviously this is just a guideline itinerary, that you can pick and choose from and do what suits you on different days depending on the length of your stay.
*** My only word of advise when booking tours where animals play a main role is to do your research on the companies. I couldn’t see any mistreatment of reindeers or huskies at the venues we went to, infact I would of said the owners had great pride, knowledge and love for their animals.
But that might not be the same for all these tours, we all know tourism and greed can bring out the worst in people worldwide and animals do suffer, as I mentioned every animal I saw looked happy and healthy with plenty of space to run around and neither the deers nor huskies seemed to be over populated.
After a quick look online I found some husky and reindeer sanctuaries that pride themselves on being cruelty free, which I always think are important to support and when I return I will definitely be visiting these companies. So just please do your research.
Hetta Huskies – Seems to be the best place to go (not located in Rovamieni) where the animals welfare is put above everything else and they will give some information on what to look out for when booking into different husky venues.