as I received some feedback previously on our plans to visit Rovaniemi I would like to give a quick summary of our week at the Arctic Circle.
Initially the plan das been to try to go to a place to see the Northern lights. We had considered Myvatn (Iceland) which we had visited in the summer, the Lofotes (Norway) which we had seen in autumn, Kiruna (Sweden) and Rovaniemi in Finland. In the end the decision was made based on a combination of available flights and activities possible in Rovaniemi (which does not mean that we won't visit either of the other places at some point in the future).
We decided to fly into Rovaniemi (via Helsinki) and not take the train, bus or car from Helsinki. It is about 8 hours from Helsinki. Flights worked smoothly and we arrived basically on time. We had decided that we wanted to have rental car and I would probably recommend this for most combinations. You can definetely also get around without an own car. Most tour providers will pick you up at your hotel and especially if you pick a hotel in the city center you can reach everything you need on foot. So why a car? We wanted to visit a reindeer farm, the zoo in Ranua, Santa Claus village and had considered the Amethyst Mine as well as wanted to have the option to drive out of the city to watch the night sky. Most of it is possible with tour operators but if you add up the fees you will be likely better off with an own car. And you have more flexibility.
So, in our case the car was provided by Scandid Rentals and was in prime condition with Navigation and a few other nice gadgets. Can certainly recommend it. And the "office" is right next to the baggage claim area (as are all the other rental car companies) so while waiting for our bags we could finish the logistics around the car rental. Driving on snow was not too bad, you get used to it quickly and the first thing we noticed was, that the drivers in Rovaniemi drive very carefully and defensive. Quite nice. We felt quite safe on the roads.
Rovaniemi is a nice little town we some shopping options, a good selection of hotels and restaurants and some very interesting museums.
In terms of hotels we were a bit surprised that quite a few of them had been booked out - at least on certain days. So in the end we had to split our week into two parts: We started at the City Hotel and then moved to the Chalet hotel. Both were good choices, I would give the City Hotel slightly higher marks.
Other than walking around the city we deciced to get the cultural pass in Rovaniemi, which includes three museums: the Arcticum (covering a lot of aspects around life in the Arctic), Pilke (kind of a science museum covering topics around wood and forestry) and the Korundi (Art Museum). I would recommend all three of them, if you have the time.
Other activities and day trips. As said initially one of our motivations was seeing the Northern Lights. We booked a trip on the first weekend with Welcome Lapland. They claim to have the best success rate but even they cannot blow the cloud cover away - which in our case made sightings impossible. The tour itself is nice with a bit of a hike up a hill and sausage at the campfire. Without the Northern Lights it is still okay - but not a must. There is one other operator that cancels the tour if there is no chance of sightings.... Unfortunately cloud coverage remained an issue for the rest of our stay .. so we have a reason to go back to the Arctic Circle.
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