Monday, April 6, 2015

FINLAND: LAPLAND


The first place we visited in Lapland was the Santa Claus Village, located 7 kilometers away from Rovaniemi. We arrived to this town, the capital of Lapland, at 7 am by train.

One of the main goals of going to Finland was to see the aurora borealis. So we decided to stay 3 nights in Lapland. It supposed 3 chances to see northern lights, which are not many considering that there may be bad weather and the chance to see the aurora borealis in Rovaniemi in early April is 50%. We did not go further north because logistically it is quite complicated. Rovaniemi is easily reached by train and the probability of seeing aurora borealis was not low. If we had wanted to go north, we should have gone by bus and travelling in winter is quite slow due to the speed limits.

Although the main reason to go to Lapland was trying to see an Aurora Borealis, as we were going to the land of Santa Claus, we wanted to visit his village located a few kilometers from Rovaniemi. From Rovaniemi the Santa Claus Village is easily reached by bus. Furthermore we wanted to enjoy snowy landscapes and practice some kind of sport related to snow: our choice was Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. So it was a goog choice the Chalet hotel Rovaniemi, a complex of cottages located next to the Ounasvaara hill where there is a ski resort. Unlike my country where ski resorts are high in the mountains in Lapland this ski resort is on a hill just 250 meters over the sea level.

However, the closeness of this hotel to the ski resort was not the main reason for choosing it. The initial reasons were that we wanted to stay in the typical Finnish cottages and that the hotel was away from the light pollution of cities to better see the Northern Lights. This hotel was about 3 kilometers from Rovaniemi and, at one end of its facilities, it offered a good point to try to see them: beside the wide river frozen Kemijoki facing north.

The only drawback to this hotel was that there was no connection between the hotel and Rovaniemi. We needed to go to the capital of Lapland to catch the bus to the village of Santa Claus and also the day we were leaving Lapland to go to train station. The day we went to the village of Santa Claus was lovely so we walked to Rovaniemi and came back to the hotel. The other two times we called a taxi since we had to carry the luggage.

Next you can see what we do each day we spent in Lapland:


Day 1
  • Ounasvaara Resort (Chalet Hotel Rovaniemi)
  • Kemijoki River
  • Santa Claus Village
  • Searching for Northern Ligths (Aurora Borealis)


Day 2
  • Country Cross Ski in Ounasvaara Ski resort


Day 3
  • Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
  • Searching for Northern Ligths (Aurora Borealis)


Day 4
  • Rovaniemi
  • Arkikum Museum


Day 1



We arrived to Lapland in a sleeper train from Tampere. The night train takes about nine and a half hours to travel the approximately 800 kilometers from Tampere to Rovaniemi. The train left at 10:11pm and arrived at 7:47 am. The train was the IC 265 and we booked a Sleeping Compartment for 210 €, which was perfect because they are for two people.

It was my first experience sleeping on a train and it was quite positive. I slept quite a few hours and you save a hotel night. You also save some money compared to a long flight and if you do travel by road. The only drawback would be the small size of the compartment in which barely fit a bunk bed and a small sink. Luckily the bed was quite comfortable and everything was pretty clean. I decided to have a shower and for this there is a shower on each end of the car, also small but with hot water.

Shortly before the train reached Rovaniemi I was ready with my suitcase made, so I amused myself watching the sunrise from the train and the forest with snowy avetos snowy. We arrived on time to Rovaniemi where we decided for a breakfast in the cafeteria of the station. At the end we ask the clerk if he could call a cab and she did it with a small extra charge. Comfortably we arrived at our hotel in fifteen minutes.



Lapland in Finland
Sunrise in Lapland from the train near Rovaniemi


Sleeping Compartment in a night train to Lapland
Our Sleeping Compartment in the night train from Tampere to Rovaniemi in Lapland


Train Station in Rovaniemi
Train Station in Rovaniemi



Ounasvaara Ski Resort and Chalet Rovaniemi





We spent our first day in Lapland visiting the village of Santa Claus. We knew you could reach it by bus from Rovaniemi. From our hotel to the nearest bus stop to the village of Santa Claus in Rovaniemi there were about 3 kilometers. As the day was lovely, we decided to stroll along a parallel path to the road. But before going to Rovaniemi we walk among the red cottages of our hotel to the north end of the complex beside the wide river Kemijoki absolutelly frozen. The view of the frozen river was really nice. This would be the point where that night we would do our first attempt to see an Aurora Borealis.



We begin our walk towards Rovaniemi enjoying a beautiful landscape with red and yellow cottages covered with fresh snow. Once we leave the cottages along the path we keep walking beside the river Kemijoki. Shortly before reaching the bus stop we crossed the spectacular bridge over the river, which at this point was 200 to 300 meters wide.






Chalet Rovaniemi hotel in Lapland
Chalet Rovaniemi, our hotel beside Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland


Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland
Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland from our hotel Chalet Rovaniemi


Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland
Fresh snow beside our hotel in Lapland


Cottage in Chalet Rovaniemi
Our cottage in Chalet Rovaniemi


Cottage in Chalet Rovaniemi
Following this road to the left you get Rovaniemi after driving about three kilometers


Cottage in Lapland
More red cottages of our hotel between the road to Rovaniemi and the Kemijoki river 



Kemijoki River




Kemijoki river in Lapland
From this point to the north beside the river Kemijoki we would try to see an Aurora Borealis that night


Lapland in Finland
Snowy landscape in Lapland


Kemijoki river in Lapland
Cross-country skiing on the river Kemijoki frozen


There were more cottages near our hotel in Lapland



Cottage in Lapland
Some of these cottages were yellow as this one



Lapland in Finland
While we were walking to Rovaniemi we enjoyed fantastic landscapes 


Kemijoki river in Rovaniemi
River Kemijoki near the nice bridge over tbe river designed to get to Rovaniemi



Santa Claus Village



Santa Claus Village is small and we didn't need much time to visit it. One of the curious things you can do there is crossing the Arctic Circle which passes right by the entrance to the village. We took pictures with one foot on each side. It was a fun experience to visit Santa Claus too. We had no intention at first, but then we became curious. I'm happy we did it because we had a fun time and we hardly had to queue. Even we bought the picture. In the village you can also enter the Post Office where letters from children all over the world come and sit down to write yours. Besides near the village there is a farm with Huskies and you can see reindeers with sleigh. Finally we ate in one restaurant of the village one reindeer meat burger. The reindeer was raised by the restaurant owner who was also Sami as showed some of the photographs that adorned the walls.

The day we spent in the village of Santa Claus allowed us to see and enjoy many typical elements of Finland: crossing the Arctic Circle, an absolutelly snowy environment, wooden houses and cottages, Santa Claus Post Office, reindeer sledding, Huskies with puppies and reindeer meat in a restaurant of a Sami person. It was really an amusing day.

On our return to our hotel we stopped at the small supermarket at the entrance of the hotel beside the road to buy food for dinner and lunch the following days we would stay in the cottege. After dinner I took all the photography equipment and I went to the point beside the river to try to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately it would be difficult because there were a little activity forecast.






Santa Claus Village in Lapland
Santa Claus Village in Lapland



Santa Claus Village in Finland
The Arctic Circle passes beside Santa Claus Village and close to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland in Finland




Post Office of Santa Claus Village
Comfortable place inside the Post Office of Santa Claus Village perfect for writting your letter


Husky puppies in Santa Claus Village
Husky puppies in Santa Claus Village in Lapland




Reindeer Sleigh in Santa Claus Village
Reindeer Sleigh in Santa Claus Village



Searching for Northern Lights



It was about 11:30 pm and in the west, where the sun sets, there were still some clarity. I was contemplating the horizon until 1:30 am when I decided to give up because at that time if there has been no aurora borealis, the likelihood that appears one is very low. Anyway I was taking pictures because when the Northern Lights are weak, the human eye can not distinguish well because it isn't fully used to seeing the color in the dark. If they are weak you can think it's a cloud while the camera can capture the color.

Being static in the night It was a bit cold, but not so much, between 0 and 2 below zero. It is true that in November the probability of seeing Aurora Borealis is much higher, but we must also be able to withstand temperatures of 20 degrees below zero. The failure to see the aurora borealis left me a little disappointed, but I enjoyed a quiet and a very nice peace in contact with nature and observing the night starred sky.



Searching for Northern Lights in Lapland
Searching for Northern Lights in Lapland



Searching for Aurora Borealis in Lapland
I don't know if this light could have been an Aurora Borealis






Day 2




After enjoying our breakfast in the hotel we walked the 200 meters up to the ski resort to practice Cross-Country ski.

The previous evening we were asking about different possibilities in the reception of the hotel and, finally, we chose only to rent the equipment and do the simplest circuit.

Renting the equipment cost about 20 € and discarding the monitor option let us save up to 70 €. We thought that cross-country skiing was easy and a monitor was not necessary.

However, turning in cross-country skiing is quite difficult when you're a beginner like me.

Finally I did not enjoy this activity as much as I thought because I thought that the circuit would be more plain and I only would have to slide gently. On the other hand, the environment was very beautiful, skiing between trees without any trace of civilization and enjoying snowy landscapes. 

In the afternoon the day got worse and even it snowed so we spent the afternoon and the evening in the cottage. Obviously that night I didn't try to see northern lights.





Cross Country Ski


Ounasvaara Ski resort in Lapland
Practice area of Cross-Country Ski in Ounasvaara Ski resort


Cross-Country Skiing in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
In this point of Ounasvaara Ski Resort began our Cross-Country Skiing itinerary


Cross-Country Skiing in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
Cross-Country Skiing among avetos in Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland







Day 3


This day dawned cloudy too and after breakfast we went to the ski resort to spend the morning doing snowshoeing.

I liked it much more than Cross-Country skiing because there is hardly no risk of falling. You can go through areas with fresh snow but you have to take care where you put your snowshoes. You have to go where you see fingerprints. Otherwise you can sink in the snow up to the waist.

We went through the trees to reach the top of Ounasvaara hill from where there were good views. Unfortunately the day was cloudy. If the day had been lovely the landscape would have been really nice. As the terrain was very flat I could see quite far. We descend back to leave the snowshoes after three hours of practice and came back to the cottage for lunch.



Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski Resort




Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
Ready to practice snowshoeing for three ours in our third day in Lapland



Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland
Wild landscape with fresh snow in Ounasvaara Ski Resort


Ounasvaara hill in Lapland
View to the north from the top of Ounasvaara hill in Lapland


Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
And now view to the south from the top of Ounasvaara hill near Rovaniemi


Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland
Arriving to the Ski Resort after three hours of Snowshoeing in Lapland



Luckily the day became sunny in the afternoon so we went for a walk around the hotel and the ski resort. When it got dark we came back to the cottage for dinner.




Ounasvaara Ski Resort in Lapland
In the afternoon we went for a walk around the Ounasvaara ski resort



Searching for Northern Lights



The night was clear so I had a second chance to see northern lights although the forecast was low activity. As in the previous night, I put the camera on the tripod and waited in the silence of the night. From time to time I was taking pictures in case I couldn't appreciate a faint aurora borealis and I took pictures of the beautiful starred sky. Unfortunately at 2 am any Aurora Borealis didn't appeared, so I would leave Finland without having seen the aurora borealis.



Searching for Northern Lights in Finland
Looking to the north beyond Kemijoki river in Lapland



Searching for Northern Lights in Finland
At 11 pm it wasn't dark yet looking to the west



Day 4



For our last day in Lapland we hardly had any planned visit. The idea was to walk around Rovaniemi and visit the Arktikum museum. So we had breakfast we quietly and slowly. We ordered a taxi to the city and left our luggage in the luggage train station. We came back walking to Rovaniemi while I realized there was little to see in this town. Besides it was cold and the day was quite unpleasant, so we went into the Arktikum museum where at least we would be warm.




Rovaniemi and Arktikum Museum




Rovaniemi in Lapland
Street of Rovaniemi in Lapland where we bought some souvenirs



Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi
Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi



Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi
Ceiling of the Arktikum Museum in Rovaniemi


I didn't like Rovaniemi, but the museum was really interesting. You can spend a whole morning quietly. Leaving the museum we ate at a restaurant in a mall and we were buying some souvenirs at a nearby shopping street before going to the train station. By 6pm we went quietly to the station where we were eating something in the cafeteria before boarding the train at 21h15.



Finally this was our trip route in Finland and Estonia:


Day 1 - Helsinki
  • Aleksanterinkatu Street
  • Senaatintori
  • Lutheran Cathedral
  • Esplanadi Park
  • Kappeli Cafe


Day 2 - Helsinki and Tampere
  • Sibelius Monument
  • Olympic Stadium


Day 3 - Lapland


Day 4 - Lapland
  • Country Cross Ski in Ounasvaara Ski resort


Day 5 - Lapland
  • Snowshoes in Ounasvaara Ski Resort
  • Searching for Northern Ligths (Aurora Borealis)


Day 6 - Lapland
  • Rovaniemi
  • Arkikum Museum


Day 7 - Rauma
  • Yyteri Beach
  • Rauma


Day 8 - Turku and Helsinki
  • Castle and Cathedral of Turku
  • Senaatintori and Kauppatori (Senate Square and Market Square) in Helsinki
  • Suomenlinna (Sveavorg) in Helsinki



  • Saint Olav Church. Views from the bell-tower
  • Pikk Street
  • Tower's Square


  • Town walls, Tower's Square and Viru Gate
  • Aleksander Nevski Cathedral
  • Saint Mary Cathedral
  • Kohtu and Patkuli Platform
  • Saint Nicholas Church
  • Town Hall and Town Hall's Square


  • Olde Hansa Restaurant
  • Saint Catherine Passage


    Day 10 - Helsinki



    • Buying souvenirs near Senaatintori (Senate Square)


    Finally, other countries and cities I have already visited are:

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