DIY Travel Guide Itinerary (Top Tips)

Hei, Rovaniemi!

◘◘ Explore Rovaniemi’s top highlights

Photo by ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

  • Arktikum Beach: Arktikum Museum is a popular attraction in Rovaniemi — but more on this later on in the next few days. For today, I suggest that you go in front of this museum to the hidden garden that’s on this small island. Besides, this is a great place to swim in during the midnight sun, if not a great spot to just simply admire the views. It is even possible to do a long leisurely walk via a trail from this beach that goes all the way to the south of the city by the Ounasjoki River.
  • Rovaniemi City Library: Designed by one of Finland’s most famous architects, Alvar Aalto, this city library is a great place to be if you’re a book lover. But other than its large selection of books, you will surely be filled with awe at its wonderful design and expanse.
  • Pilke Science Centre: This is a fun place for visitors of all ages as it tells the story of the northern forests and our relationship with them. For sustainable travelers, you’ll even be happy to know that this center is notable for its low carbon footprint and use of sustainable wood materials in its design!
    • TIP: If you’re into culture, it’s best to get the Culture Pass which is good-for-value access that allows you to visit all of the top 3 museums in Rovaniemi (Arktikum, Korundi, and Pilke). This is valid for 7 days and you can purchase it from any of the 3 aforementioned attractions.
  • Lordi’s Square: Though not one of the striking highlights in the town, due to its central location, it’s a great place to be in if you’re looking to do some shopping (e.g. the shopping center of Sampokeskus) if not some good ol’ dining. Moreover, in the summer, this becomes a very popular place as it hosts a number of events.
    • TRIVIA: This square was renamed in tribute to the Finnish band that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006.
  • Rovaniemi Church: Completed in 1950, this church is not only picturesque from the outside but also from the inside. After all, it has a huge fresco behind the altar as well as a grand 45-key organ.
  • Angry Birds Activity Park: I bet you didn’t know that Angry Birds was made by a Finn! Due to its huge popularity worldwide, you can find an official park for it right here in Rovaniemi. No matter if you have kids or not, this is a fun place to enjoy some ropewalks, slides, swings, ball games, and more!
  • Lumberjack’s Candle Bridge: Also called Jätkänkynttilä Bridge, this 320-meter bridge connects Ounasvaara to the town center and it’s a great thing to see at Rovaniemi in summer. This iconic structure which is an easily recognizable landmark of Rovaniemi’s cityscape takes its name and shape from a type of torch log that is carved from wood by lumberjacks. The easiest way to enjoy this bridge other than driving or biking through it is to walk towards the riverside from the center. In just a few minutes, you will see the bridge easily — once there, don’t forget to take some good photos!

◘◘ Venture out to Ounasvaara

Photo by ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

This is a stunning hilltop that’s just a 15-minute walk away from the city, which you can reach by simply passing through the Lumberjack’s Candle Bridge. It might not be the biggest nor the highest, but it’s a local favorite for its extensive network of nature trails that you can run, walk or bike through.

◘◘ Experience a unique floating experience

Photo by Safartica

One of the most popular activities in Rovaniemi nowadays is ice floating wherein you simply float around a frozen lake with just a thermal wetsuit on. It becomes more of a magical thing when there are some Northern Lights up high to see.

But don’t fret, even if it’s in the summer, this is one of the great things to do in Rovaniemi! I went through this experience myself and it was so relaxing to float in the water with just the sound of Lappish nature surrounding me. Now, this might sound dangerous to you, but it isn’t! Besides, a professional guide will be with you always — not to mention that it’s quite easy to do.

If you’re looking for the best tour provider for this, I highly recommend booking with Safartica. Not only was the guide a joy to be with but the experience also ends with some warm drinks and snacks by the fire.

DINING OPTION: Restaurant Nili is an authentic Lappish restaurant in the heart of the city and you’ll be assured that everything is made from the freshest Arctic ingredients. As you enjoy these delights, you’ll also be surrounded by genuine Lappish furnishings and materials — a truly Finnish experience! Not to mention, this has been once chosen as the best ‘Taste of Finland’ restaurant as well as one of the best dining places on TripAdvisor.
SUBSTITUTE ACTIVITIES: If you have more time during Rovaniemi in summer or if you simply want some other choices, consider the following:
– With Safartica
Do some Arctic Survival: Join a special day trip to the forest where you can learn how to survive in the wild as they teach you how to build an emergency shelter, make fire without matches and so much more.
Do berry picking: Lapland’s forests are known for its rich wild berries! To find the best spots, you can go through the forest with a local and pick up some fresh superfoods that are pure from the ground.
– With Happy Fox
Do a canoe trip: Enjoy a leisurely canoe trip along the Ounasjoki river as you admire beautiful views and sights wild animals.

Enjoy the year-round Christmas Spirit

◘◘ Visit Santa Claus Village!

Are you looking to meet the real Santa? Well, you’ve come to the right place! No matter your age, Rovaniemi is the place to be given that it is the Official Hometown of Santa Claus — and as a magical latitude village that’s full of fun, below are some of the activities that you can do…

  • Meet “the man” himself: It’s FREE to meet Santa Claus and the only time you’ll shell out some money is if you want to pay for photos. Now here’s the thing: I might be a grown-up but for some reason, I felt so giddy and nervous when I was going to meet him — but all those nerves went away when I met him! He was so warm and fun to talk to, no matter the weird questions that I ask (lol). He even helped me understand some more of the Finnish culture! The best part? Visiting during the summer will surely give you more time to talk to him because the crowd is a lot lesser. Of course, visiting him in December is ideal but you will have some time to negotiate your status on his ‘naughty list’ if you’re here during low season.
  • Cross over the Arctic Circle: The Arctic Circle’s latitude (66°33′45.9′) crosses through the Santa Claus Village and this spot is properly marked at the center of the square with a giant line. With that said, make sure that you get a good commemoration photo for this!
  • Send postcards from Santa Claus’ Main Post Office: This is an official Finnish post office service station and it’s specially made for the Santa Claus Village. Aside from sending postcards to your family and friends, you can also talk to the elves here and ask more about their line of work. Through them, I learned that I can also send postcards or request a letter from Santa that will be scheduled for sending during the Christmas season; so even if you’re here in the summer, the elves have it all covered for you! Furthermore, as I went through the store examining souvenirs, I also saw some interesting statistics about the number of people who send Santa letters.
    • NOTE: It’s possible for your kids to send letters to Santa Claus and at times, he even replies! (Address: Santa Claus, Santa Claus’ Main Post Office, Tähtikuja 1, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland)

◘◘ Meet Santa’s reindeer!

Found just behind Santa Claus’ Office is a Reindeer Park and for just €5, you can pet, feed and mingle with these gentle animals for as long as you want! This opens from the early summer to the beginning of autumn so it’s best that you keep this in mind for your Rovaniemi itinerary.

If you ask me, I sure had a swell time here wherein from the moment I came through the door, a baby reindeer came over to greet me — it was so heart-warming! And yes, I took my sweet time taking photos and selfies with them.

Now, another great thing about visiting this park is the guides because other than the fact that they give out interesting info about the reindeer, they are also more than happy to entertain your questions. For instance, it is through them that I learned how reindeer basically number more than the Lappish people! I also got to know the process of how reindeer lose their antlers and so much more.

◘◘ Go river rafting

For Rovaniemi in summer, sign up with Santa’s Adventures to experience fast-falling rapids! Held in the rafting area of Vikajärvi near Rovaniemi, this is definitely one of the best ways to enjoy Finnish nature to its fullest!

Rest assured, though this is thrilling, it is an absolutely safe activity to get your adrenaline flowing. The icing on the cake? Once the adventure is done, you can sit down and have some warm drinks and grilled sausages by an open fire. So gather your family and friends for this activity — if not, doing it solo is fine too since you’re bound to meet equal-minded people who like your sort of fun!

DINING OPTION: Aside from being a wonderful accommodation place, Cafe & Bar KOTI is a great spot to dine in not only for a snack but for a meal too. They have a daily lunch special or salad buffet that you can try — otherwise, they have a la carte dishes for you to enjoy. In other times, their coffee is a must as it is made from freshly ground beans. Pair it off with some pulla (Finnish sweet bread) and you’re solved! (If pulla is not your thing, they also haver other baked pastries available).
SUBSTITUTE ACTIVITIES: If you have more time or if you simply want some other choices, consider the following:
– With Arctic Joy
Do a canyon tour: Done as a day trip, this is done in Korouoma’s 100-meter rocky walls and serpentine river, and as you do this in the summer, you’ll get to enjoy the canyon’s unique flora and nature.
– With SantaPark Arctic World
Visit another Santa Claus park: Separate from the Santa Claus Village, this is a paid park where you can enjoy various activities in any season with your family. In the summer you can do things like going through a Santa Claus’ Helper Course, riding the Magic Train, joining Elf School, visiting the Ice Princess and many others. (Yes, you can also meet Santa Claus here!)

A day for Arctic animals

◘◘ Do an ethical husky kennel visit

I am in love with dogs and I love huskies the most! Since Rovaniemi’s sled dog tours are insanely popular, I had the chance to visit a reputable husky kennel center near the city and it was called Bearhill. I can absolutely recommend them because they put the health of the dogs first and foremost while being a modern eco-friendly establishment as well.

And if you ask me, late summer is actually a great time to visit Bearhill because you can witness how the dogs are trained and prepared for the coming winter. You can even meet all the newborn husky puppies that are being taken care of.

During my visit with them at Rovaniemi in summer, I had the chance to take part in their dog team training* as I rode a husky cart myself, and it was SO much fun! Not to mention, that I also helped give several adorable puppies their daily exercise in the woods. Naturally, I was in dog heaven all throughout my experience! (And yes, I took a lot of dog selfies. Of course.)

NOTE: Since huskies cannot do strenuous activities when temperatures are higher than 15 degrees Celsius, driving a husky cart for 30 to 40 minutes is weather dependent.

◘◘ Enjoy a riverboat cruise to a reindeer farm and then do a ceremonial Arctic Circle crossing

Photo by ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

This is a unique experience that you can do with Lapland Safaris. The first thing that you do on this tour is to ride a wooden riverboat as you go through serene landscapes to experience the summer of the Arctic.

Once you reach the reindeer farm, you will participate in a traditional ceremonial crossing of the Arctic Circle which makes for a memorable experience — I won’t spoil the fun but it was quite interesting! When this is done, you will finally get to meet the majestic reindeer that they are keeping on the farm as you feed them up close.

Before doing one last river cruise (back to the city center) that marks the end of the tour, you will also get to enjoy some drinks and snacks in a traditional Finnish home. The guides that they have are also approachable and friendly, and they will share with you some great trivia about Finland and general; otherwise, don’t be afraid to ask some questions!

DINING OPTION: Cafe & Bar 21 is arguably the coolest place to dine in especially with their unique dishes and sweet waffles that you can order all day! If there’s one thing that you must try, it will be their Lapas Plate (Lappish Tapas)!
SUBSTITUTE ACTIVITIES: If you have more time during Rovaniemi in summer or if you simply want some other choices, consider the following:
SnowCastle: This is a perfect place to visit if you have a car. Located in Kemi, which is 80km south of Rovaniemi (which will take about an hour by car or bus), is SnowCastle. Basically, it is one of the biggest ice structures in the world and beyond its stunning faux-drawbridges, ramparts, and ice watchtowers is its famous SnowRestaurant. If you book online, you can sit on a fur-topped tree stump and table made of solid ice, as you indulge in an amazing 3-course dinner!
Ranua Wildlife Park: Also found in Kemi, this zoo offers its visitors the opportunity to observe Arctic animals all throughout the year in a natural environment for as much as possible.
TIP: Reserve your tickets and join a Ranua guided tour to avoid the hassle of driving here by yourself. Besides, this tour starts from Rovaniemi with a stop to Ranua Wildlife Park and lasting for only half a day.
With Arctic Nature: Do horse trail riding ~ Take part in this 2-hour horse ride through a beautiful forest, around some fields and up the hills. To mark the end of the tour, campfire lunch will also be served.
With Nortsav: Do boat fishing ~ Experience a guided boat fishing tour on the rivers of Kemijoki and Ounasjoki. If you get some catch, it’s totally possible to prepare and smoke them! (This tour already includes fishing equipment and fishing licenses).

Indulge in culture and science

◘◘ Tour Arktikum Museum and Korundi

Photo by ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

Once you’ve made your visit to Pilke, consider making a visit to these other top museums in Rovaniemi…

  • Arktikum: If you only have the time to visit one museum during your stay, then a stop by Arktikum is the best choice that you can make! After all, this world-class museum has varying exhibitions that will lead you on an adventure to discover more about the culture and history of Finnish Lapland, as well as the facts about the Arctic region.
    • Another aspect to love about Arktikum is its design in which it boasts a 172-meter long glass tuber over its main space. Due to its picturesque aesthetic, this is a favorite spot among photographers and Instagrammers. It’s also quite a sight from the outside too in which you will see the museum looking as if it’s buried in the earth — a great design that mimics the way Arctic animals hibernate during the winter time.
    • TICKETS: Book online
  • Culture House Korundi: This modern structure holds 2 art institutions, namely the…
    • Chamber Orchestra of Lapland: The multi-purpose concert hall has 340 seats and there are various events held here, from concerts to conferences.
    • Rovaniemi Art Museum: Features Finnish modern and fine art from the 1940s up to the present.
    • TICKETS: Book online

TIP: It’s best to get the Culture Pass which is a good-for-value access that allows you to visit all of the top 3 museums in Rovaniemi (Arktikum, Korundi, and Pilke). This is valid for 7 days and you can purchase it from any of the 3 aforementioned attractions.

◘◘ Do an evening photography tour (maybe spot some Northern Lights!)

Photo by ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

If you want to find the best locations around Rovaniemi to experience and photograph the unique nature of Lapland, then a photography tour with Beyond Arctic is a must!

If you are lucky you might even see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) especially if you time your visit around the end of August — after all, it is the time when they start to show. If you want to be updated on the forecasts, you can download this app.

TRIVIA: Finnish people used to think that the flick of a fox’s tail through a snowdrift caused the appearance of the Northern Lights!

MEAL OPTIONS: Go over to Frans & Cherie Restaurant, a French bistro that also serves several local Lappish dishes such as leipäjuusto or Finnish squeaky cheese which is one of my favorites! This is best eaten warm, in my opinion. (And yes, as the name suggests, it does have a special texture which makes some sort of ‘squeaky’ sound when chewed).
SUBSTITUTE ACTIVITIES: If you have more time during Rovaniemi in summer or if you simply want some other choices, consider the following:
Do other Aurora Borealis tours: For instance, Arctic Lifestyle offers this kind of tour on jet skis whereas Lapland Welcome does it with an ATV.
Do hiking or biking: Go on a day trip on a nature trail leading to the 16-meter waterfalls of Auttiköngäs that’s primarily open in the summer. This is a forested canyon that is part of the Northern Finland’s old-growth forest protection program so you’re certainly going to see some rich fauna and flora!

Immerse yourself in Rovaniemi’s nature

◘◘ Try out fatbiking!

Fat bikes are great to use in the winter — but it’s a fun ride to do in the summer too! I did fat biking with Roll Outdoors in the summer through the nearby woods of Rovaniemi and it was one of the most fun activities that I did during my stay. During our day out, I also had the chance to enjoy some views from up high as well as some berry picking.

NOTE: You can choose from either a manual or electronic fat bike. Helmets are provided and you can also strap in a GoPro on it if you want to.

◘◘ Meet a local artisan and do a workshop

Photo by ©Visit Rovaniemi (Rovaniemi Tourism & Marketing Ltd.)

Head on over to Hornwork to visit the artisan workshop and home of Mrs. Irene & Mr. Ari Kangasniemi. With them, you can get a deeper understanding of the local way of living, as well as have the chance to make your own souvenirs.

Truth be told, there are long traditions of arts and handicrafts from local materials like wood and reindeer antlers in Lapland and this is the best way to learn more about it!

◘◘ Experience an authentic Finnish sauna

Relaxing in a Finnish sauna is a must to do when you’re in Finland! Sure, Tampere may be the sauna capital but there are lots of sauna places in Rovaniemi where you can start. After all, a Finnish sauna experience is at the core of every Finnish person’s lifestyle and culture, so why not give it a try too?

So where to do it? Most likely, your hotel will already have a sauna center on its premises — if not, ask them about it and they’ll surely point you in the right direction. Otherwise, here’s a list of some great sauna experiences on this page.

~ Wanna know some how-to’s, tips and things to do in a Finnish Sauna? Read here.

MEAL OPTIONS: Amarillo may not be an authentic Lappish restaurant but it’s a popular Mexican-style restaurant that’s sure to satisfy your cravings!
SUBSTITUTE ACTIVITIES: If you have more time during Rovaniemi in summer or if you simply want some other choices, consider the following:
With Helios Tour: Up on Lampivaara hill is an amethyst mine and each visitor can dig up their own lucky quartz that can fit in one fist.
With Happy FoxHow about some gold? With Happy Fox you can join a tour where you can experience gold panning along with a boat trip.

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