Rovaniemi (Lapland): It is the hometown of Santa Claus, but this Land of the Midnight Sun offers much, much more in terms of thrilling experience for adventure seekers and those looking for solitude and quiet.
As one enters this capital city of Lapland – located in the northern Arctic Circle – from the airport, the silence and the wild expanse overwhelm one. As one moves on farther into the city, one realises with a start that there are no cars around for miles – a far cry from bustling cities.
The streets also look deserted, making one wonder about the people.
But these are initial impressions. The neat rows of hotels, restaurants and nightclubs – including an exotic one – beckon you for chilled out evenings and nights.
The best thing about this city, which is a commercial centre of Finland’s northernmost province of Lapland, is that it can be visited both in summers and winters.
Compared to Indian summers, the summers here are cool and windy and the sun gives one a warm, cozy feeling lifting one’s spirits. Finland usually declares summers if it is over 20 Degrees Celsius.
During winters this city, where the sun never sets in midsummer, turns into a fairyland. Winters are also the time when Christmas carols ring in the air and one can even go for a ride on a reindeer-drawn sleigh – Santa Claus’ favourite ride.
The Santa Claus village is not far from the city. For most visitors clicking a photograph with the most-loved man in red robes and flowing white beard is the high point of the visit. And if one is looking for gifts and souvenir shops, there is a wide variety to choose from.
A beautifully decorated post office draws tourists. It is where “elves” help out — either in writing a letter to Santa or buying a gift to take home. All letters to Santa Claus from all over the world land at this post office. Santa Claus has received 15.5 million letters from 198 countries since 1985.
The true Lappish holiday, however, is not complete without experiencing the reindeer sleigh ride. But it is available only in winters when thick snow covers the land, lending it an ethereal beauty.
However, summer visitors need not feel disheartened – there are husky rides to compensate.
Huskypoint, run by Aki Hulk and his wife Malla, has over 200 huskies. They arrange short to long distance dog-sled races during winters and summers.
“This place is blessed. It shows its new side during different seasons,” Jari Virtanen, managing director of Arctic Holidays Oy, said. “This place is where reality and fairytales meet on the border of the Arctic.”
“Every season in Rovaniemi is an unforgettable experience: the never-ending summertime sunshine, the twilight period leading up to Christmas, and the melting snow in spring that looks like fields of glistening diamonds,” he said.
Some Bollywood movies have also been shot in these exotic locales, Virtanen said.
There are many hotels and resorts to stay in. But if you are looking for peace and want to be far from the madding crowd the best place is the Bear’s Den – which offers log huts to stay in.
Situated deep in the jungle, overlooking a gentle lake, the Bear’s Den makes you feel one with nature and at peace.
For an invigorating experience, try out the traditional sauna – first take a dip in the river and then go to the sauna. Repeat the process till you feel your body relaxing. The Bear’s Den offers both the traditional and the modern sauna – a must in every Finnish house.
The holiday is not complete unless you have tried out the exciting river boat safaris and nature adventures.
Lapland Safaris, set up in 1982, gives the visitor a peek into the beautiful locales of the city and also into vignettes of the life of the Lappish people and their culture.
A reindeer farm where one can learn about reindeer rearing is an interesting stop. The city also boasts of good eateries – Nili and Martina, which not only offer continental food but traditional Lappish food too. For vegetarians, there is ample choice.
A trip to Artikum is a must. The museum gives you a history of Lapland, about its natives, the people and their culture.