Santa, I KNOW him! Ah yes, from everyone’s favorite Christmas movie. Or if it’s not your favorite, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Ben made the mistake of pointing out that we were within a night train ride to Rovaniemi, Finland (or perhaps he secretly wanted to go) & once I learned we could spend the day in Santa’s Village meeting the man himself there was no stopping me. Besides, what self-respecting 30-year-old wouldn’t want to spend their wedding anniversary meeting Santa?!
While we came for the opportunity to hold meeting the legendary Saint Nicholas over our future children’s heads for years to come, we ended up being utterly charmed by Rovaniemi itself. The beautiful area is alluring enough without its famous local & though we were obviously visiting during off season, not prime Santa time, the natural surroundings offers more than enough to make the trip worth it.
Santa Claus Village
Spoiler alert – if you have young kiddos, this is the time to close the blog, super-secret Santa spoilers discussed below! 😊
It’s easy to see that during the winter, this place must be magical. Covered in snow & almost constant night, it’s a Christmas storybook come to life. During summer, however, to be frank, it’s a tad weird. Or maybe just weird if you are two adults running around without kids - though we were not the only ones!
Wandering through Santa’s Post Office, the reindeer & husky parks, chatting with Santa himself just feels a little off when its 21℃+ outside & the sky is shining bright after a bus ride in from town. However, we credit the park staff who never lose character & happily chatted with us about the excitement of meeting the man himself. You are lead through the long & winding “hall of secrets” where the magic of Santa’s worldwide all-night travel is explained; aka this is a nifty decorated queue to entertain children while they probably wait for hours to meet Santa during high season. We got to walk right up. Once inside, you are granted a brief chitchat with good ol’ Chris Kringle, pose for a few pictures & off you go to buy your prints and/or the short video clip of your visit that was apparently live broadcasted over the Santa cam. In fact, Santa himself is quite remarkable, speaking an amazing amount of languages so no child is left out or disappointed when they make the journey & he’s available every day in his office up until Christmas Eve. Pretty impressive.
Besides the strictly Santa stuff, you can also visit several other places within the village including the husky park which was probably my favorite! In the winter, these guys are typically busy switching off pulling husky sleds & skids, woodland safaris & otherwise entertaining the many visitors. Even in the summer, if it’s not too hot, there is a daily summer sled trail or you can take a couple of these guys out for a midnight sun hike.
Siberian Huskies are beautiful, smart dogs who like to be pretty adventurous. Even on a slightly warm day like we had a few tried to show off for attention/food by jumping around or like the young female who preferred to climb up the fence & keep an eye on the rest of the park.
On the other side of the park you can visit Santa Claus’ Reindeer. We did learn that in Lapland there may be more reindeer than people & technically every single one of them belongs to someone, even if they are “wild” - not positive how that all works. Though the most famous reindeer of all was not home at the time, a 3-week-old baby calf, who unfortunately had been abandoned by its mother, was being looked after at the center. Highlight of my day was getting to bottle-feed her & help feed a couple of the adults wandering around!
Last but not least for us was being able to check crossing into the Arctic Circle off our list. A painted line through the park & marker designate the spot where you technically step over into the Arctic. You can even get a park certificate proving you crossed the boundary, which we plan to display alongside the ones that mark our journey to Antarctica. From one end of the world to the other!
If you are looking for something other than Santa overload, the town & surrounding area have a lot to offer. Lucky for us our hotel offered up free bikes to guests & we put them to good use peddling around the varies lakes & rivers that stretch up & around Rovaniemi. Yes, I willingly got onto another bike, but this time it was without the suffocating tourist crowds.
During our tour of the area, we were talked into exploring the outdoor Forestry Museum by the local guy running its coffee shop. I’m not sure he got a lot of visitors & I think we made his day but we learned way more about the Finnish Forest Industry than I probably ever needed to know, but Ben found it quite interesting. He was nice & the local Lapland blueberry ice cream was awesome!
Along the river & biking trails, the town provides numerous open fire pits that come fully stocked with wood & grills. Attempting to do something different & be “like the locals”, we decided to try & grill our dinner by the riverside. Technically it worked as we had food & we made due with having very little to work with; i.e. whatever we could pick up at the store without being wasteful.
Rovaniemi being so far north, we never actually saw darkness during our entire stay. The beautiful midnight sun phenomenon lasts for at least a month around the summer solstice. The light can play tricks on you, but people love to take advantage of it & you can find scores of people enjoying the beaches & parks until well past midnight. For a trip that began with visiting Santa, we found the natural wonders just as, if not more, enticing to come back again.