Last summer I travelled to Rovaniemi for the first time in my life. Rovaniemi is Finland’s gateway to Lapland and to the arctic life. The most famous and visited destination in Rovaniemi is Santa Claus Village. In case you didn’t know, Father Christmas or Santa lives in Finland – not in the North Pole! I cannot call myself a Christmas person but I have to admit, Santa’s Village had some magical vibe to it.
Usually, people flock to Lapland during the winter season but summer was actually a great time to see the area. There were almost no people, it felt very safe corona-vice and you could still meet Mr Santa. So, what can one do in Santa Claus Village?
Cross the Arctic Circle
The Arctic Circle runs 66°33′45.9″ north of the Equator. It is the southernmost latitude where the sun can stay continuously below or above the horizon for 24 hours. This means that the sun doesn’t set in the summer or rise in the winter.
The Arctic Circle runs right through Santa’s Village, and it is the most convenient place on Earth to cross that circle of latitude. At least nowhere else you can do it while listening to Christmas carols.
I can only imagine the crowds of Asian and other tourists flocking these shopping grounds during the high season. You can shop every possible Christmas item you can think of or Finnish and Lappish souvenirs.
Rovaniemi is the official town of Santa Claus and you can meet him every day of the year. There are actually two Santas in the village. The first one you can see inside the first souvenir shop and the second one, “the real one”, inside Santa’s craft shop. That place is really worth a visit. With no entrance fee, it offers a magical experience for children and adults alike. You are not allowed to take your own photos but they will sell you pictures and videos of your visit.
Be prepared to queue for Santa’s audience.
Eat and drink
We decided to test the cute and cosy Kotahovi restaurant. With a brief Lappish menu, you can test the highlights of our Northern cuisine. They offer for example smoked salmon (they smoke it in front of your eyes!) and sautéed reindeer with Lappish mashed potatoes, lingonberry chutney and pickled cucumbers. My Swedish companion had his first try of reindeer and this dish got thumbs up from him.
Some foreigners think that we all ride reindeer here in Finland but for me, this was the first time I saw a real reindeer. You can meet and feed Santa’s reindeer for a fee of €5. These furry dudes were super chill and calm, basically ignoring everything but food.
I had mixed expectations of Santa’s Village. I was afraid that the place will be a total tourist trap but I must say that I was positively surprised. You can visit the place free of charge, meet Santa, see his craft shop, see reindeer and enjoy some Christmas magic – even in the middle of summer. It was a pleasant experience to see this place during the off-season and covid time with just a few other visitors. This place relies heavily on foreign tourism, and I can believe how exotic and interesting this destination must feel for many.
Would you like to visit Santa Claus Village? Winter or summer?