Finnish Lapland has been on our radar for so long. Definitely one of our bucket list destinations because of its rich forests, diverse wildlife and pristine lakes. Nature at its finest should be the motto for the Finnish Lapland, being one of the most memorable places to visit in the North. If you travel solo, the Finnish Lapland is a safe place to be, with lots of things to do. If you visit with your loved ones, you can immerse in an array of romantic places, hold hands while floating on a lake, and capture some of the most incredible landscape photos together.
We visited the Finnish Lapland during summer and fell in love. The midnight sun is an incredible phenomenon. It's surreal to imagine that when the clock strikes midnight, you can still admire the fiery sun, with its gorgeous sunset colours. Here is our comprehensive guide to planning the perfect Finnish Lapland itinerary in Rovaniemi.
Comprehensive Guide to Finnish Lapland - Contents
Guide to Finnish Lapland
Finnish Lapland has been on our list because of its stunning boreal forest. Although the boreal forest can be seen in many different Nordic countries, we wanted to see it in Finland. We first learned more about it during a documentary and fell in love with the idea of flying a drone over miles and miles of evergreens. The beauty of the boreal forest (or Taiga forest) is that it's the world's largest land biome. It covers around 6.6 million square miles or 11.5% of the Earth's land area. Can you imagine anything better than being in the Finnish Lapland, in the middle of the forest, listening to the sound of silence and breathing fresh air?
We drove our car from Germany to Rovaniemi and en route, we took some amazing roads through the boreal forest. It was incredible. During the Finnish Lapland holiday, we also visited remote areas with incredibly still lakes, saw the midnight sun in unexpected locations and floated on water for almost an hour, despite the temperatures being close to 10 degrees Celsius.
We think the Finnish Lapland is a surreal destination with so much to offer. It perfect for those who want to reconnect with nature around them, ditch the digital distractions and fall in love with simple life again.
Before we begin, we want to thank you Rovaniemi Tourism Board for making our visit possible. We were chosen to be Rovaniemi Summer Ambassadors and were given the chance to experience the Finnish Lapland in the summer. We were hosted by the tourism board and made some of our activities possible.
Finnish Lapland in the summer
Many people visit Finnish Lapland during winter, but there are so many things to do here during summer too. Can you imagine a polar day? The sun just never sets. It gets close to the horizon offering you a glowing sunset like experience. Then, it just hovers there for a few hours before it rises again. The polar days are welcomed and loved by the Finnish people. That's when they feel energised and ready for summer adventures.
It may seem strange at first, to go out of your hotel room at 2 am and feel like it's 8 pm. The sun shines bright in the sky, warming you up and telling you to just be active.
To better plan for your Finnish Lapland holiday in the summer, we recommend packing the right gear. For example, it may be tempting to ditch the winter clothes, but remember that you'll still be close to the Arctic Circle, so summers might be fresher than what you're used to.
We packed thermals, a windbreaker and had a raincoat with us. We recommend hiking shoes as some activities could get a bit muddy. Bring comfortable breathable clothes like T-shirts and long sleeve shirts. A pair of practical yoga leggings will serve you well, together with a pair of trainers (we use New Balance as our prefered brand). For my husband, we got some quick-dry lightweight trousers and a couple of pairs of jeans. It's wise to bring layers. Imagine that you are dressing for Autumn in the mountains. That's kinda what we experienced during July in the Finnish Lapland.
Super tip: There is one thing we didn't expect to find in the Finnish Lapland and that's massive armies of mosquitos. Because of the weather, we honestly didn't imagine there will be so many vicious mosquitos around. We've never seen so many around, not even in the tropical jungles we visited before. So we recommend bringing some serious anti-mosquito repellent with you.
What is the midnight sun
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon during the summer months in the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle when the Sun remains visible at the local midnight. Also called the polar day, the sun basically never sets. It creates this beautiful orange glow on the skies, making it perfect for photography.
For professional photographers in search of the golden hours, the midnight sun is a jackpot, enabling us to have a prolonged time with the softest, most beautiful light ever.
Have you ever heard of the expression "white nights"? There are some areas around the polar circle where the sun remains a few degrees below the horizon. This creates what it's called a midnight twilight and not a midnight sun. However, you can still enjoy normal daytime activities without the need for artificial light. Imagine going out with a book, reading at midnight. Pretty great, right?
Where to stay in Rovaniemi
We picked Rovaniemi as our hub for the Finnish Lapland summer experience. We wanted to stay in the centre, close to restaurants, shops and activity providers. For this, we stayed in the Arctic Light Hotel, a luxury accommodation provider with an array of rooms and suites to suit all requirements.
We stayed in the Christmas Cabin, a stand-alone house with a large bedroom and living area and a kitchenette. There are a shower room and a toilet, with clean fluffy towels and Rituals products.
The bed is huge, and very comfortable, with cosy pillows and nice throws. It also features a real fireplace, making it perfect for winter visits too. The living area has a wooden table with four chairs, rocking chairs for those who want to read and a lovely decorated Christmas tree. Since this is the Christmas cabin, the tree remains up all year round.
The cabin features thick curtains so you can sleep well during your summer visit. So even if the sun is shining outside, you can enjoy the darkness of the night you are used to. However, for added comfort, we recommend bringing sleeping masks as well.
If you decide to not go for the Christmas cabin, there are several other options for you, including luxury rooms with their own saunas.
Want to start the day well? Head to the breakfast area at the Arctic Light Hotel and indulge in a healthy, energising breakfast. You can get delicious vegan fruit shots, lovely pastries, all sort of whole cereals, yummy sweet treats and even non-alcoholic champagne if you prefer. You can create a gorgeous looking table with a colourful and good for you breakfast. Please go for the chia pudding. It's simply delicious.
Things to do in Rovaniemi
As previously mentioned we spent our Finnish Lapland summer holiday in Rovaniemi and Ranua. We stayed 3 nights in Rovaniemi and each day was filled with a lot of fun adventures, which brought us closer to nature. For example, we learned about the local lifestyle, we floated on a lake, enjoyed traditional treats and saw some of the most incredible long sunsets you could possibly imagine. Rovaniemi is a year-round destination which deserves a visit. During winter, you can enjoy the aurora borealis and winter sports. During the summer, you can see the incredible midnight sun. And the coolest part? Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa Clause so you are guaranteed to meet and greet Santa. If you travel with kids, this is a must!
Visit the Arktikum
Kick start your holiday in the Finnish Lapland with a visit to the Arktikum. The Arktikum is a museum and science centre and an attraction on its own. You will learn about local life and the history of Rovaniemi. You can learn about cultures, way of life and some traditional aspects of the region. It's all very informative and engaging. We are usually not museum people, but Arktikum is actually really special.
It also features a science centre where you can learn about the polar days and nights, the aurora borealis and you can even experience how it's like to be in crazy cold temperatures.
Take some time to view the special screenings and marvel at the Lappish nature. You can also find out more about the story of the aurora borealis. Some say it's an arctic fox who's swaying tail creates the beautiful magical northern lights. Others say that it's the soul of the people who play football in the skies, creating the aurora. Myths and legends are what brings us closer to our ancestors. And it's mesmerising to learn about them.
Address: Pohjoisranta 4, Rovaniemi
Admission fee: Adults 13 €
1 Jan–11 Jan Daily at 10:00 –18:00
12 Jan–31 May Tue–Sun at 10:00 –18:00, on Mondays closed
1 Jun–31 Aug Daily at 10:00 – 18:00
1 Dec–31 Dec Daily at 10:00 –18:00
Christmas Eve 24.12. closed
For more info, visit the official Arktikum website
Take a Riverboat Cruise to Famous Kotisaari Island
Kotisaari is a beautiful, small island on the river Kemijoki. You need a boat to get to it, and there are tours organised by Lapland Safaris which include a trip to the islands and dinner. The island never had permanent inhabitants but used to be a hub for lumberjacks.
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During Spring, the island can get flooded making it impractical for permanent residents. It currently has a small sauna which is still in use, an old kitchen house with some beds and a photo exhibition and a larger hall which is used for events. We ate in the beautifully decorated hall, then enjoyed dessert and coffee around the fireplace.
Allow for a couple of hours on the island, so you can enjoy the sound of silence. Live on a small island even if it's for a little time, and start the conversation with others around you around the fire. Even though we took the tour in July, the weather was a little cold, so we truly enjoyed a cup of hot tea around the fire.
Lapland Safaris will take you to the island by traditional boat. For special events, they can hire cooks to prepared food which can be sampled on the boat itself. The guide will tell you about the history of the island and show you around. Then, you can eat your dinner in the fresh evening and admire the gorgeous midnight sun. You will have a berry pie and tea/coffee for dessert. Too delicious.
On the way back to Rovaniemi, the guide will take you around the river so you can see the midnight sun from all angles. This is the Finnish Lapland at its finest.
Have a glass of champagne to celebrate the midnight sun
Take the tour with Lapland Safaris to the top of Ounasvaara Fell. Admire the midnight sun at exactly 12 am and cling a glass of champagne with those views. It's something really romantic to do with your loved one. We loved the tour, going up the hill through the gorgeous evergreen forest.
Just note that it gets pretty cold at top of the hill, so we recommend getting a thermal and a good wind-protective shell with you. Don't forget your camera as you'll have plenty of great photo opportunities here. If the weather permits it, it's also a great spot for a drone.
Unfortunately, we had a windy evening so we just took it as a sign that we need to disconnect, enjoy and be in the moment. That's exactly what we did, and loved every single second of it.
Culture House Korundi
If you love art and history, you'll love the Culture House Korundi. Not many people know that this is actually the oldest standing building in Rovaniemi. It's been through quite a few transformations along the years and it's now been converted into a culture house and art gallery.
The gallery curates art from locals and we can assure you that some of the pieces are incredible. Some come with a gorgeous story about how locals were encouraged to pursue their artistic spirit. Other pieces are innovative, while others have a darker secret behind them. The devil's in the detail... so make sure you look closely when you see something that catches your eye.
At the end of the tour, you can purchase some local crafts from the shop to support some of the locals and get yourself a really nice souvenir from the gorgeous Finnish Lapland.
Address: Lapinkävijäntie 4, 96100 Rovaniemi, Finland
Admission fee: Adults 9,00 €
11:00 - 20:00
Lunch like a local at Taqueria Yuca & Café & Bar 21
I'm sorry did anyone say waffles? Have lunch at Taqueria Yuca & Café & Bar 21 and order either an amazing Mexican dish or a superb savoury waffle with local ingredients.
We ordered a vegetarian waffle as a main course and a sweet waffle with dessert. We had it with tea on the side. You can select from two menus. We recommend checking both menus, the one from Yuca and the one from Cafe & Bar 21. I mean you can probably even mix and match if you wish.
For something truly local you can go for salmon or reindeer if you eat meat. There is a vegan option also which is especially delicious and healthy.
For the sweet waffle, you can ask for a bit of extra cloudberry jam on the side so you can try a variety of sweets.
Click for the menu.
Home & Atelier Kangasniemi
What is the ultimate adventure in the Finnish Lapland? The possibility to see how locals truly live. What do they do? How are their houses? You can now book a craft experience at the Atelier Kangasniemi and learn more about the Lappish way.
First, learn about the various reindeer antlers and how to differentiate between male and female. Understand why and when they shed them and why sometimes they look soft and fluffy. It's actually incredibly interesting. Irene will tell you about how reindeers live and how locals used their antlers for crafts.
For example, it was interesting to learn that nobody actually kills reindeers for their antlers, which was a nice relief for us.
The fun part was when we found out that we will create our own unique Lappish souvenir. With the help of Irene, we made our own bracelets from beautiful materials. We pleated and we picked a special Sámi symbol which Irene tattooed on our bracelets.
G picked a bear and I picked a snowflake as I love mother winter.
Once we created our own souvenirs, we were invited to the local's house to see how they actually live. We were served homemade blueberry juice and apple pies. The house was so cosy and you can tell it has so many stories. This is something we truly recommend you try when you come to Finnish Lapland.
Midnight Sun Floating
Can you take a moment to imagine floating on a lake, admiring the skies and the midnight sun? You won't get cold, nor wet, you'll just listen to the sound of nature and enjoy an unusual, relaxing experience.
Thanks to Safartica, this is now possible. The team will take you to a remote lake where you will get a special suit to protect you from the elements. It's a specially designed suit which will enable you to float on the water and not get cold. In fact, you can't even feel the water, which makes the experience super magical.
All you have to do is put the suit over your clothes and get in the water. The guide will explain to you how it works and will show you some of the safety features. You don't need to know how to swim, the suit will basically take care of everything for you.
If you happen to panic for any reason, rest assured that your guide is a certified lifeguard, so you are safe at all times.
We also recommend taking some cute pictures when you are wearing the suit. We promise you will look silly, which means you can have a laugh with others in the group and make new, awesome memories together.
This tour also runs during winter, when you can float on a frozen lake and admire the aurora borealis. Now that we experienced this during summer, we want to come back and do it in the winter too. It's actually pretty magical and we didn't think we'd love it as much as we did. In a nutshell, this was the highlight of our trip to the Finnish Lapland.
Have tea and cookies by the fire
After you float on the lake, join the group by a nice warm fire to enjoy cookies and teas. Exchange fun travel stories and get to know others from all around the world.
We are normally quite shy when it comes to meeting others during travels, so we love it when we have an opportunity to hear awesome stories from others.
Everyone was also relaxed and had a lot of fun floating on the lake, which broke the ice and got us all closer to one another. We learned a lot of awesome things about local customs and we connected with our guide who was really nice and fun.
Whether you travel solo, with your loved ones or with a family with kids, this is one of the coolest things to do in Rovaniemi.
Visit Santa Claus Village
We already mentioned that Rovaniemi is the official home for Santa Clause so whether you are an adult or you travel with kids, we think you should go meet Santa. The beauty of visiting during the summer is that there are practically no queues to meet Santa Clause.
The experience itself is a lot more fun than expected and to be fair, it was pretty great to get a picture with Santa. I mean as a kid, I would have loooved this experience.
After meeting Santa, have a wander around the village, shop for souvenirs and eat lunch.
Here is some more info about the Santa Clause Village.
Send postcards from Santa's official post office
One of the main things we loved in Santa village is that we could send amazing postcards from Santa's official post office. There are basically an array of postcards to pick from and there are cute tables with pens all around.
The fun part? You can send the postcards with delay. This means the loved ones will get them just before Christmas, even though you sent them during summer. How cool is that? You can also order a special certificate from Santa which states that you (or the receiver) was good and deserves to receive presents from Santa.
You can even pick your own stamp, or order a special stamp with the aurora borealis. The whole system is amazing and you will have an epic time.
Cross over to the Arctic Circle
Located just in front of Santa's office, is a special line which you can cross over to the Arctic Circle. We spent time in Norway, hunting for the northern lights in Tromsø last year, so we fell in love with the idea of the Arctic Circle. Just something cute and fun to do if you ever wanted to go over to the polar side.
Visit a reindeer farm
Reindeers are not really busy during the summer times. That's when they shed their antlers and their thick fur. Many reindeer farmers let their reindeer to roam free in the forest, or keep them in a large space where they can look after them in case they need immediate help or get sick. Either way, they don't do any work.
So it's a nice time to see the reindeers roam free and happy. Some farmers will give you some twigs with leaves so you can feed the reindeer. They will run towards you so don't get scared.
Then, you can sit around the fire and ask questions about these fluffy friends and learn about the ratio of reindeers vs people in the Finnish Lapland. They sure are fascinating creatures.
Photograph the midnight sun
One of the best things to do in Rovaniemi during summer? Photograph the midnight sun! This incredible natural phenomenon is magical and although no picture can ever capture the true feelings you will have when you witness it, we believe making memories together is paramount.
So grab your camera and head on a photo tour in search of epic midnight sun spots. If you are a beginner photographer, tour with Beyond Arctic, a team made of professional photographers who can teach you how to make the most of your camera. They can help you set up, and show you a few tips and tricks. You can also tour with them during winter, in search of the best aurora borealis photos.
Are you ready to visit the Finnish Lapland? Would you like to visit during winter or summer? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.