Finland’s official ‘Christmas city’ often feels like living inside of a Christmas card all year round. The most popular attraction is the Santa Claus Village, which draws millions of visitors from around the world every year. But there is a lot more to do and see in and around the city that has nothing to do with Christmas. There are plenty of winter sports to take part in, the Arktikum Science Centre, and cool cafes and restaurants. Being in southern Lapland, right on the Arctic Circle, means that Rovaniemi isn’t quite as cold as the rest of Lapland and the airport and railway station make it easy to travel throughout Finland.
Saariselkä is one of Finland’s best resort towns for winter sports and is well known for its ski slopes, views of the Northern Lights, and the igloo holiday villages. Saariselkä is nestled in the sweeping, forest covered mountains of northern Lapland neighbouring the Urho Kekkonen National Park. When you want to take the weight off your feet there are plenty of spas and traditional wooden saunas in the area as well.
The town of Kemi on the Western coast of Lapland is most famous for its stunning ice castle; a marvelous feat of art and architecture built entirely from snow and ice every winter with a new theme. As it is open for anyone to visit you can have a look at the ice sculptures or have food at the ice restaurant. In addition, Kemi also contains a gemstone museum, the Icebreaker Sampo, which takes regular cruises through the Arctic Ice, and a stunning Gothic revival church.
With only 4,000 residents, Ivalo is the least populated town in the Inari province with two square kilometres per resident. If peace and isolation is what you’re looking for then Ivalo is the perfect getaway. The hundreds of kilometres of unspoiled Lappish wilderness make it a perfect location for winter sports, skiing, snowboarding, and reindeer sledging during winter. In the summertime one can go hiking, canoeing, and even gold panning.
Autti, which means ‘deep gorge’ in the Sámi language, is located 70 kilometers from Rovaniemi. The village is famous for its beautiful river canyons and bewitching pine forests. Attractions include the Wanha Autti Fantasy Medieval Restaurant, which hosts a Medieval Fair every year and the Wolftrail husky farm offering husky safaris with their huskies, malamutes and wolf dogs.
Levi is often voted as the best ski resort in Finland and is home to 43 ski slopes that regularly host winter sports competitions, including the Alpine Ski World Cup Slalom. Tourists also flock to the resort to see the Northern Lights, eat at the famous ice restaurant, and stay in one of the igloo hotels. In the summer it is much more peaceful and the snow gives way to golf, hiking, and the glorious Midnight Sun.
Inari is one of Lapland’s cultural centres for the indigenous Sámi people, holding the Siida Museum, the Finnish Sami Parliament, and one of the only schools in Finland teaching the Sámi language. It is also an area of stunning natural beauty and has served as a location in many works of fiction, including the village of the witches in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Other attractions include the Ukko Island on Lake Inari, which was once a sacrificial site, and the Pielpajärvi Wilderness Church, a classic wooden church at the end of an appealing nature trail.
Ever wanted to live at the very top of Europe? Nuorgam comes close; it is the northernmost point in the European Union, right at the border of Northern Lapland and Norway. The village itself is tiny with only 200 residents but has some of the best salmon fishing in Europe.