10 Most Popular Activities in Rovaniemi in the Winter
Rovaniemi, Finland is a charming and magical city that we’re sure you’ll want to add to your list of places to visit. Located in the far north of Finland and just above the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is known as the ‘official home’ of Santa Claus! The town covers over 6,340 square kilometers and is the capital of Lapland. Rovaniemi has a population of about 65,000 people, making it one of Finland’s largest cities. Rovaniemi in the winter is such a unique destination that’s full of amazing sights and activities for visitors.
The area around Rovaniemi is one of Finland’s largest national parks and is home to some of the most breathtaking views in all of Finland. The northern lights are particularly spectacular during winter, and the stunning landscapes make for perfect hiking opportunities through the snow. This area is also known for its natural beauty and wildlife. From reindeer herding to husky sledding, there are plenty of ways to experience Finland’s wild nature during your stay in Rovaniemi in the winter.
We absolutely loved our stay in Rovaniemi in the winter and are here to share what we believe are the top 10 things to do on your trip to this gorgeous destination. No matter what type of traveler you are, Rovaniemi has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to experience a unique culture, explore the outdoors or simply relax in the sauna, Rovaniemi is sure to be an unforgettable vacation destination.
Booking your Activities in Rovaniemi in the Winter
While in Rovaniemi, we booked a lot of our activities through the Apukka Resort. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here and locking in our excursions through the resort made our lives so much easier and cheaper. The Apukka Resort is a place we highly recommend checking out when booking your trip to Rovaniemi in the winter.
Something to keep in mind when booking your Rovaniemi excursions is the time of day. Any of the activities you do that are during the evening are going to be more expensive due to the potential of seeing the northern lights. Additionally, keep in mind it will be quite cold on most of these experiences, so make sure to pack accordingly.
Top Activities to Do in Rovaniemi in the Winter
1. Husky Dog Sledding
One of the first bucket list winter excursions we booked in Finland was the Aurora Husky Tour. This is a dog sledding tour that gives you the option of doing it during the day or at night. We personally booked the evening tour in hopes of seeing the northern lights. Sadly, the sky was a little too cloudy for the auroras to show up, but the tour was still incredibly fun.
Prices and Packages
If you’re looking to do this tour during the day, the cost is $159 per person. The day package offers you all the clothing and gear you’ll need to stay warm, as well as sausages and warm berry juice at the end of the tour.
The nighttime aurora hunt tour is $199 per person and offers the same amenities as the daytime tour. The only difference between the two packages is the time of day and the hopes of seeing the northern lights.
What to Expect on Your Tour
The entire activity is about 3 hours long. You and your partner will switch off between sitting in the sled and actually driving the sled. You’ll get about 30 minutes in each role which includes one full lap around the lake area. When it comes to steering the sled, you don’t have too much work to do, but you do need to pay attention.
After the dog sledding, you get to enjoy petting and hanging out with each of the dogs. They’re all adorable and fun to play with.
From here, you get to enjoy some sausages and warm berry juice next to the fire and relax. Everyone says the husky tours are the best part of visiting Finland and we definitely saw why. This is an absolute must do activity in Rovaniemi in the winter.
2. Riisitunturi National Park
Just about two hours from Rovaniemi is the Riisitunturi National Park. This stunning area is famous for its arched snowy trees throughout the entire park. It snows so much in Finland that the trees get heavy, and this combined with the wind results in the curls of the trees. This park is magical and is truly a winter wonderland.
Winter Activities in Riisitunturi
If you’re looking for outdoor activities near Rovaniemi in the winter, look no further than this National Park. This area is perfect for snowshoeing or even cross-country skiing.
*Note: Keep in mind that during the winter, there are only two trails that are open, and the rest of the park opens up during the summer time. *
If you choose to visit during the winter like we did, make sure you check the weather beforehand to ensure you’ll have a nice day to explore the beauty of the park.
When it comes to hiking, all the trails are very well marked. We know snowshoeing can get confusing with the snow covering the trails so having good markers is very essential. This National Park is completely free to explore on your own, but you can also book a tour for cross country skiing or snowshoeing if you don’t want to venture out on your own.
This National Park is perfect for any of you that want to do outdoor activities near Rovaniemi and escape the city for a little while.
3. Lakeside Sauna & Artic Bath Experience
During our stay at the Apukka Resort, we were able to book this amazing arctic bath and sauna experience. It was extremely refreshing and relaxing and we highly recommend it to anyone looking for unique Finnish activities in Rovaniemi in the winter.
What Does This Experience Look Like?
The experience starts with cold plunging for at least 10 seconds in a frigid lake. During our time it was snowing outside, and it was absolutely freezing before even getting into the water.
After your 10 seconds are up, you get to relax in a wood burning sauna. While in the sauna you have to maintain the heat yourself by pouring water on the top of the furnace to get it super-hot and adding in more wood when necessary.
You then repeat this process of going from the lake to the sauna and back for about an hour and a half. You can either do this experience naked, which is the traditional Finnish way of doing it, or you can wear your bathing suits like we did.
In Finland, they like to say they’ve been doing the practice of the sauna the longest and that’s where the idea came from. But, after speaking to our guide, he informed us that there actually isn’t any scientific proof of that. The Finnish like to say they invented the sauna because almost every person in Finland has one, and saunas are very important in Finnish culture and social life.
Overall, we loved this experience because it allowed us to relax and participate in a major part of the culture in Finland.
4. Northern Lights Hunting
When it comes to activities in Rovaniemi, hunting for the northern lights is a must do. Something we learned on our trip is that the weather has to be in certain condition in order to see any aurora activity.
Factors Needed to See the Auroras
- You need a high KP index, also known as Aurora activity. This means you need a strong flare between 2-3 or all the way up to a 7 in order to see any activity.
- You need a clear sky. If you go in January or February when it’s snowing a lot, the likelihood of having a clear sky is more minimal than visiting in March.
Best Time of Year to See the Northern Lights
If you read online, it’ll tell you the best time to see the northern lights is anytime from October to April. But after our visit, we believe the best time to see aurora activity is during the equinoxes. That would make the best time to visit being the last week of September, first week of October or the last week of March.
The reasoning behind this is because you’re going to get a high aurora index due to the high solar activity. Anything above Rovaniemi has a 50% chance or higher of seeing the northern lights. In talking with the locals, they said the auroras show up about one week out of the month versus every other day so be aware that seeing the northern lights isn’t as common as it may appear.
Northern Lights Tours
We highly recommend downloading some aurora apps before going on or booking any northern lights tours. Check the apps and weather and if the skies look 100% clear, you can book your tour. On the other hand, if it’s cloudy or snowing we recommend saving your money for another day. A lot of the aurora hunt tours are more expensive than the daytime ones and they don’t cancel based on the aurora index. We went on a few tours that ended up being 100% clouds and zero aurora activity and they didn’t cancel them.
Just be aware of the weather when booking your nighttime tours so you don’t waste your money not being able to see the northern lights.
5. Snowmobile Tour in Rovaniemi in the Winter
Our next excursion we booked through the Apukka resort was our snowmobile tour. This is a 2-hour long tour that takes you all around the resort area. We found the landscape looks similar to the National Park’s due to all the fresh snow around us.
The snowmobile daytime tour is $109 per person. If you’re wanting to do a nighttime tour in hopes of seeing the northern lights, the price is $129 per person.
What to Wear
For this tour, they offer you a full jumpsuit, helmet, gloves, and shoes to wear. We highly recommend using their clothing as it does get very cold when you’re going 30-40 mph, especially at night. If you don’t want to use their clothing options, we suggest wearing two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, very warm jackets, beanies, and good snow gloves. There’s nothing worse than not being able to enjoy your activities on vacation due to being too cold.
We chose to do the daytime snowmobile tour which happens at sunset. Even though our tour didn’t end up getting glimpses of the aurora when it turned pitch black, it was still such a fun experience. We each got a turn driving the snowmobiles and seeing the headlights in the dark with the snow all around was really amazing. The surrounding landscape looked like a winter wonderland. Halfway through our tour, we got to relax and enjoy some hot berry juice once again. Overall, we highly recommend this experience whether you choose to do it during the day or night.
6. Visit the Arctic Snow Hotel in Rovaniemi in the Winter
If you’re visiting Rovaniemi in the winter months of December through March, you have to stay at the Arctic Snow Hotel. The entire hotel is made of snow and ice and is absolutely stunning.
Things to Know About the Arctic Snow Hotel
- First off, the hotel stays at -5 degrees Celsius at all times, which is 23 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll definitely want to pack warm clothes to not only sleep in, but also to explore the hotel.
- The toilets are not made of ice, thankfully!
- The hotel is only open December-March.
- The number of rooms in the hotel changes each year depending on demand. There were 20 rooms when we visited.
- Every room is unique in design and has its own individual artist team.
- Out of all 20 rooms, there are 10 specialty rooms with really intricate designs and then 10 basic rooms with more casual designs.
- Every room has little ice blocks as bedside tables and a bed made of snow and ice.
- There are tons of ice sculptures and crazy snow designs throughout the entire hotel.
Our Experience Staying in the Arctic Snow Hotel
We stayed in one of the basic snow design rooms and loved it. We slept in sleeping bags with sleeping bag liners and dressed extremely warm for bed. It was definitely cold and a good night’s rest doesn’t quite exist in this hotel, but it was worth it.
You really don’t need to stay here for more than one night due to the cold. It was an experience we highly recommend to anyone who is willing to brave the cold.
7. Grab a Drink at an Ice Bar & Restaurant
Located inside the Arctic Snow Hotel is an ice bar and restaurant. Both the bar and the restaurant are also completely made out of ice and snow. Since we stayed at the hotel, visiting these two spots were even easier. If you aren’t staying at the hotel, you can still access the bar and restaurant and you can even buy tickets to explore each of the rooms and get a drink at the ice bar.
The Ice Bar
The ice bar is truly amazing. Each glass you get is completely made out of ice. A fun tradition you can do here is chuck your glass at the wall after you finish your drink. We both did it and it felt so fun being able to do something that you can’t do in normal bars.
The Ice Restaurant
The ice restaurant was completely made out of ice from the tables and chairs to the dinner plates themselves. There were beautiful ice sculptures and artwork all throughout the restaurant as well. We had their reindeer and salmon for dinner, which were amazing. They also served us our dessert on an ice plate shaped like a snowflake.
The bar and restaurant are absolutely breathtaking and an experience everyone should have when visiting Rovaniemi in the winter.
8. Stay in an Aurora Glass Igloo
If you’re staying in Rovaniemi and want to see the northern lights, we highly recommend you stay in a glass igloo. We personally stayed in various types of igloos ranging from a front facing view, to a full 360-degree panoramic hotel.
Our Favorite Igloo
Out of all the glass igloos we stayed at, we liked our glass igloo suite at the Apukka resort the most. It offered the most amount of space, it was really well heated, and the 360 panoramic views at the top were so amazing. You really can’t beat seeing the northern lights while looking up from your bed.
9. Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi in the Winter
As we mentioned earlier in the blog, Rovaniemi is known as being home to Santa Claus and right outside the airport is Santa Claus’s Village. We want to preface that the Santa Claus Village is 100% a tourist trap, but it’s also very cute and a fun little outing, especially if you’re with your family.
Santa Claus Village Activities
- You can stroll around Santa’s workshop and even sit on Santa’s lap if you want.
- There are a bunch of areas to check out that sell ornaments and different types of knick knacks.
- You can visit some reindeer and also go on a sleigh ride with them. However, we don’t recommend doing that here as the ethics are questionable – try doing a reindeer sled with a more specialized local family.
- During the evenings the lights start to come on and there are thousands of Christmas lights everywhere. It looks absolutely magical.
Overall, we recommend checking out Santa Claus’s Village. It’s free to walk around and is such a unique and fun experience.
10. Ice Fishing
When it comes to Rovaniemi in the winter, the Finnish love to use their free time to go ice fishing. Ice fishing was included in our Arctic Hotel package so we figured we would go check it out and see what all it entails.
What to Expect When Ice Fishing in Rovaniemi in the Winter
First of all, this activity takes a lot of patience. If you aren’t someone who does well with being patient and waiting around, this activity probably isn’t for you. But if you don’t mind being out in the cold on a frozen lake for a while, then by all means, book an ice fishing excursion.
- Before you get out there, you want to make sure you bring really good and thick layers to keep you warm. It’s definitely chilly out there, especially when you’re mainly just standing or sitting.
- Once you get there, you have to dig a massive hole that’s about 2-3 ft. This can vary depending on what lake you go to. To make the hole, you use a large screw tool that drills directly into the ice. Once your hole is deep enough, you need to clear all the ice and snow out of the way.
- You then attach a worm to your fishing pole (we named ours Jerry) and stick it straight down into the hole.
- This is where your patience comes in. We personally waited about 30 minutes before pulling our fishing pole back up and when we did, our worm was gone and sadly, there wasn’t a fish attached to the hook.
We didn’t end up catching any fish, but it was still a ton of fun. Many of the locals use ice fishing as a social event and they start up a fire on the lake and hangout for about 5-6 hours. We personally stopped after our 30 minutes due to the cold weather and wanting to leave time to explore other areas of Rovaniemi. If you have some extra time and want to experience ice fishing, we definitely recommend booking an excursion and seeing what it’s all about.
Ready to Experience Rovaniemi in the Winter?
Rovaniemi in the winter is the ultimate winter wonderland experience. From staying in an ice hotel, to snow covered trees, to dog sledding, you can’t get more wintery than this. We loved our stay in Finland and we hope each of you can book your trips to Rovaniemi soon as well.
If you want to learn more about visiting Rovaniemi, Finland, check out our Ultimate Guide to Rovaniemi, Finland in Winter.