You may not be aware but autumn is one of the quieter seasons in Rovaniemi, most people tend to visit in winter (at Christmas time), which yes, is lovely but if you are looking to visit Rovaniemi when it’s a little cheaper and quieter autumn is for you! Imagine a tour with you are the main guest or there is only a small group of people rather than a busload of people – this sounds like heaven to me!
This article will cover off a quick 4-day Itinerary for Rovaniemi in Autumn – I would recommend staying longer if you can however 4 days, in my opinion, is the bare minimum. Most of the tours suggested in this Itinerary are based on a minimum of two people, if you are travelling alone, please contact the company directly, as they may charge a single supplement.
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Your first day will mostly be spent at the airport or on a plane travelling to Rovaniemi, for example, I left London at 10 am and arrived in Rovaniemi at 4 pm.
I would recommend staying at the Hostel Cafe KOTI, as it’s close to the attractions and activities that you will experience in this itinerary. The Hostel Cafe KOTI isn’t a traditional hostel, while it does have three dorm rooms, it also has twenty-three private rooms and one apartment. It also has a café downstairs that (in some rooms) includes breakfast in the price, they also offer lunch for a reasonable price and some very yummy cocktails for after your day touring around.
Your first adventures start tonight! So, nap on the plane(s) if you can as you’ll be heading out to chase the Northern Lights on the Northern Lights Photography Tour with Beyond Arctic. You’ll be doing this activity from approx. 10 pm to 2 am – grab a Red Bull ladies and gents – you will need it!
Beyond Arctic is a photography-based company and all of their tours are based around photography. They have a professional photographer guide on hand to help you set up your camera perfectly to capture the northern lights and take a few photos of you during the tour, in case you have issues with your camera like I did.
Meet up at the Beyond Arctic office at the requested time (on your confirmation email) – which is next door to the Hostel. From here your guide will provide you with a backpack that holds a headlamp, thermos full of a hot delicious berry drink and a fire prong – for you to enjoy a sausage over the fire. Your guide will also provided you with a paper-based photography guide to using during the night or to take home – this guide shows you what settings to change on your camera, don’t stress, the guide will help you set up your camera. They also offer tripods for those who don’t have one or forget theirs. Once you have everything, you’ll be off to start your adventure!
Your professional guide will take you to a few spots during the evening in search for the best viewing point for the Northern lights, depending on which way they are coming from. During your last stop, your guide will set up a small fire to keep you warm, here you can enjoy your thermos drink and a sausage cooked over the fire.
Note: The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and viewing them is highly dependent on the weather, if it’s cloudy, the chances of seeing the lights are very low – some companies will contact you and cancel the tour (and give you the opportunity to re-book) if the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are low to non-existent, this is why I would high recommend that you book your Northern Light tour for your first night. I’ll say it again, there is no way for any company to guarantee or predict the Northern Lights precisely.
Also something else to keep in mind is that the Northern Lights aren’t always bright! The photo you see below has been taken on a long exposure to capture the lights, this isn’t always a a direct result of what you will see with the naked eye. You will be able to see light movement with your eye, however there are rare times where the Northern Lights are very bright.
This morning you will be doing a little something different, you’ll take taking the Wellness from the Lappish Nature tour. I can see your eyes rolling, but go with me on this one, you won’t regret it. One of the favourite past times of a lot of the Finnish people is very nature related, they love to fishing, foraging, hunt or just relax by the fire. This tour will emerge you into the local Finnish lifestyle with your experienced nature guide, that will lead you into the world of berry picking, nature bathing, and wild water fishing.
Head to the Lapland Safari office, which is just around the corner from your hostel Here you will meet your guide who will run through what you will be doing this morning, you will then be fitted with boots, a jacket and pants if you need some extra layers of warmth.
Once you’re all set, you’ll drive out approx 20-30 minutes along a somewhat bumpy road to the company-owned land and lake. Here you will go foraging for berries such as cloudberries, blueberries, lingonberries, cranberries, and crowberries if they are in season and if there are any around – if there aren’t any berries you can take some extra time fishing in the lake. There is no guarantee of finding berries, as the local wildlife love to eat them too!
Enjoy fishing on the lake with a simple rod and hook, a technique loved by the locals. You likely won’t catch any monster fish as the rod only goes out so far, but it’s still a fun and very relaxing experience and you’ll be sure to catch a few smaller fish. Don’t worry about getting too hands on with the worms, your lovely guide will be happy to help you out.
When you’re finished berry picking and fishing, you can sit by the fire pit and enjoy some Finnish coffee (or tea) and some fire-cooked pancakes, which you can enjoy with the berries you foraged – in the case you don’t find any berries, the guide has a back up berry jam to slather on your pancakes.
After your pancake breakfast, your guide will take you on a short wander through the forest, where you might be lucky enough to spot a few reindeer or find some of the cool mushrooms that grow in the area.
It’s a lovely environment to just to sit by the fire or enjoy fishing in the peace and quiet with the only sounds being the wind and the birds.
Later in the evening, it’s time to go Northern Lights hunting again but this time with a twist – you’ll be floating in water! The Auroras Floating by Safartica tours, which is just down the road from the Hostel. Check-in with them at the allocated time and make sure to double-check your check in time! When you arrive, you’ll be offered boots and other warmer clothing if you are not prepared enough or the chilly evening – I would recommend at a minimum that you borrow their boots.
Your guide will drive approx. 25 min outside of the city to a small cabin next to an inland lake. This is where you will get geared up in your “survival wet suit” – which is a 5mm neoprene wet suit, you’ll be covered from head to toe, to ensure you are warm, especially in winter when the lake is literally icy.
Once you are all suited up, your guide (who will also be suited up) will take you down to the lake and show you how to enter the water, what to do to move around the water, how to get into a comfortable floating position and then how to exit the lake. Make sure to pay attention as they will explain how to keep water out of your wet suit, making it a more comfortable experience for you. Lay back and enjoy the view – hopefully, you will be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights show and if not, it’s still a very peaceful and relaxing experience.
When you have had enough of floating, you can exit the lake and sit by the fire where you can enjoy a delicious hot berry drink and some chocolate chipped cookies. This a great opportunity to get some photos of the Northern Lights (if they appear) or just to enjoy the view of the lights over the lake. Listen out for the sound of bells, this means reindeer are roaming around nearby.
One thing I want note is that the wet suit can make you feel a little claustrophobic as it covers your mouth, leaving your nose and eyes free, however, if you remain calm and breathe through your nose – you will be fine, initially it can be a little scary.
Oh my lord! I have a treat in store for you! Today you’ll be taking part in the Born to Run – Husky excursion at Bearhill Husky Kennels. Get excited!!!!!
You’ll get picked up from your hotel and driven approx. 30 minutes to the Bearhill Husky Kennels, during the drive you can ask any and every question you’ve ever had about huskies – your driver will be more than happy to answer every question and give you more information than you know what to do with! You’ll learn that Huskies really love to run, they aren’t forced into sledding, they absolutely love it! On arrival, you’ll be introduced to your guide and taken to get some overall on and change your shoes – this isn’t mandatory, however it can get muddy and dirty so it’s for your protection.
Once you’re outfitted for your adventure, your guide will show you the “cart” you will be using for the morning and given instructions on how to steer and how to stop the cart! If you are in a couple, one person will drive and the other will sit and enjoy the view. I would recommend driving, it’s a little scary at first but is a lot of fun, as a couple you can swap halfway through during your first stop, if you both want to try driving. Note: if you are driving, you are not permitted to take photos or video, you need to be in control of the cart 100% of the time unless told otherwise.
It’s really important for the Huskies to get exercise and training throughout the year and in particular in Autumn before the busy winter season. During this excursion you will get hands-on with your Husky team as one of their trainers, taking them out on the 4km forest exercise trail. During the trail, you’ll stop once or twice to let the huskies rest and have a drink and get some amazing photos with you and your team! It’s encouraged to interact with the dogs, most of the dogs are very friendly and used to being around a lot of people – they love to be told “good job”!
After your trail ride, the staff at the kennels will take over the care of the huskies, removing their harnesses, giving them a drink and letting them cool down before they bringing through the next teams for their daily exercise.
While the staff take care of the huskies, you’ll get to visit the Husky puppies!!!!! The guide will give you some information about breeding and taking care of the puppies and then you’re off for a forest walk, where the puppies roam free, running, jumping and playing with each other, all while their handler calls them back and gives them treats for their obedience – this is a part of their training, that starts at a young age.
After a little forest walk and the puppies are a little calmer (aka worn out!), you’ll take them back to their kennel, where you can sit down and play with them or cuddle them and get a lot of photos to capture their incredible cuteness! It’s hard to walk away and not want to take one with you – trust me, I almost snuck one of the puppies into my overalls to bring home with me!
You’ll end the trip with a hot berry drink and some biscuits in a lovely and warm yurt, before removing your now dirty overalls and boots before heading back to the city.
You can also enjoy a traditional Finnish sauna and lunch experience, which you can add on to your tour when you make the booking.
Note: For animal welfare reasons this tour is offered only weather permitting, 10 degrees Celsius or colder, otherwise it’s too hot for the Huskies to pull. The company will be in touch with you if this is the case. Also, that puppies may not always be available during Autumn, the kennels try to breed to have litters in spring as it gives them more time with the pups.
Your afternoon can be your own free time to wander Rovaniemi, however, if you want a suggestion, I would recommend taking a guided tour in the museum and science center Arktikum by “A Frank Idea”. Frank will meet you at your hotel (for an additional charge) or he will meet you at Arktikum. The tour goes for an hour however, I would highly recommend contacting Frank to book a 2-hour slot, he is very very knowledgeable and has stories for days (not the boring kind either!), I felt like 1 hour wouldn’t be enough time.
The Arktikum covers off two areas in the museum, the Lapland culture, history, and Northern and Arctic nature. While you can, of course, visit Arktikum on your own, a guided tour by Frank goes in-depth about each exhibit (and some that are a little out of date), rather than trying to learn about the Lapland or Arctic exhibits from a small plaque, in my opinion you don’t learn enough from the plaques and they certainly can’t answer any of the questions you may have.
Frank covers off climate change and how it is affecting the Lapland’s and Arctic areas as well as the what happened to Finland in the war and how it has since bounced back. Frank is also very knowledgeable about the indigenous Sámi people, who live in the far northern Lapland’s, you’ll learn about their history (that’s known), their culture and how they live.
Arktikum is an easy 10-15 min walk from the hostel, on your way back, if you’re interested in art, I’d recommend stopping off at the Art house Korundi. The art house mostly features Finnish modern art and at times has some interesting art installations from around the world. If you do a tour with Frank, you’ll learn that the Art House building is one of the very few buildings that survived the second world war, the Nazi’s planted bombs in the basement of this building, however they had to leave in a hurry and forgot to detonate the bombs, however, I’ll leave the history lesson to Frank – he will provide a better explanation than I do.
Your evening is 100% free, no tours, no plans, completely free! However, If you;re game, I’d recommend heading to Kauppayhtiö Bar and Restaurant (just down the road from the hostel – 300m) and order the Reindeer burger, which costs roughly 15 euro. You’re in Finland, do as the Finnish do and eat some reindeer!
Welcome to your last day in Rovaniemi – I know it’s a sad day, but don’t worry I’ll show you how to go out with a BANG!
Pack your bags and check out of the Hostel Cafe KOTI, catch a taxi or the local bus to Santa Claus Village where you can leave your luggage with the Elves at Lumi Lappi luggage service. The Santa Claus Village is a very special place, it was originally one building, the “Roosevelt Cabin”.
Eleanor Roosevelt made a surprise visit to Rovaniemi in 1950 and the cabin was made in her honour and used in the welcoming ceremony. The cabin was designed overnight and erected within a week and next year (2020), they will be celebrating its 70th anniversary! You can go into the cabin for more detailed information.
The Santa Claus Village is located on the Arctic circle and is visited by 600,000 people per year! It’s also one of the only places in the world where you can feel the Christmas spirit as soon as you step out of your car, no matter what month of the year it is! With Christmas music playing, elves running around and of course the ability to visit Santa, who is here daily! It will give you butterflies with excitement!
I would recommend getting in to see Santa first thing, as at times there may be a 1-2 hour wait – this is more likely in winter time! Within Santa’s office, you’ll see a massive machine above your head, this machine is Santa’s magic “Earth rotation speed machine”. At Christmas time, he turns his machine on to slow the rotation of the earth, slowing down time so that he can deliver all his presents to all the good little (and big) boys and girls around the world! That’s why Christmas Eve always feels like its drags on and on!
Your visit with Santa is completely free, however, you can purchase a few pictures (and a video) taken by a professional elf photographer after your visit with Santa, it might seem a little corny and only for kids, but in my opinion, it’s a must-do for everyone of all ages! It’s really something special meeting Santa! Note: No photos can be taken of Santa on your own devices, the elves have special magical powers to make you look amazing in your photos!
Once you have had your exciting visit with Santa, head on over to the Santa Claus Main Post Office, where you can buy souvenirs as well as send postcards to your friends and family back home (or yourself haha!). The postcards are stamped with a special Arctic Circle postmark and you can purchase an extra cool stamp to go on your card as well – one of which glows in the dark! There are two mailboxes for posting, you can either post a card to your friends and family now or you can choose for the postcards to be held and sent around Christmas time as a special little surprise in the mail for them.
If postcards aren’t your thing then you also have the option of getting a letter from Santa written and sent to your kids or friends/family at Christmas time. You simply fill in a form with the name of the person and their address, and around Christmas time they will receive a letter from Santa and a certificate of niceness!
A couple of other really cool things about the Post Office is that it’s an official post office, it’s not just a tourist attraction and it’s also the place that all the Santa mail is posted to from around the world. If you’re like me and think that when you posted a letter to Santa when you were a kid, it likely ended up in the bin at the post office, we were wrong! Santa (and this post office) received roughly 500,000 letters per year and at times up to 32,000 letters per day from children and adults all around the world! Each letter is opened by an elf and read in full and then stored carefully for Santa to read through. So, when you get home, make sure to write to Santa, all you need to write on the envelope “To Santa at the North Pole” (or whatever you like) and this is where it will come – how cool is that!
There are also a few small shop in the Santa’s Office, such as the popular Iittala outlet and Marimekko. Iittala is a glassware store of sorts, it sell dining and glassware. It started as a small glass factory in 1881, with Alvar Aalto design of a vase that has become a Finnish icon, their belief was to make things for everyday people that were beautiful and functional.
Marimekko is a worldwide known brand, that sells Finnish home furnishings, textiles, and fashion, with large the simple flowered prints such as the Unikko poppy being the main feature of the brand.
Your final official activity is heading over to meet Santa’s Reindeer!!!! This is actually a unique activity to do in Summer and Autumn and is not something that is offered during Winter. You just need to walk up, ring the bell or go to the counter, pay a small 5 euro fee and then you are given some lichen (mossy grass) and instructed what to do and not to do with the reindeer and led through to meet them.
You will be able to handfeed the reindeer, pat them and take as many selfies and pictures as your little heart desires – but try not to get too carried away, you have a flight to catch in the afternoon.
By this time, you’ll probably be starving, so before heading to the airport I’d recommend having lunch at the Nova Skyland Restaurant, which is right behind the reindeer enclosure (a 2-minute walk). The lunches served here are buffets at a very good price. Fun fact – most restaurants in Rovaniemi compete with one another for lunchtime specials, as a lot of tourists and workers eat out for lunch, so you can get some really good food for a very decent price!
Sadly… it’s time to head to the airport and continue your adventure or head home. I hope you had a wonderful time in Rovaniemi – I know I did! Next time you come, I would highly recommend visiting Rovaniemi in Summer, where you will be able to experience the Midnight Sun and it will be a little warmer!
Most flights during autumn coming through Helsinki, I would recommend spending a few days here if you have time, there is plenty to see and do in Helsinki. My favourite hotel in Helsinki is the Hotel Katajanokka, it’s an old prison converted into a hotel, you can even visit one of the old cells!
Recommended tours in Rovaniemi
- Autumn Aurora Borealis Picnic in Rovaniemi
- Highlights of Rovaniemi and riverside sightseeing on bike
- Rovaniemi Northern Lights Photography Small-Group Tour
- Full Day Lapland Tour, including Lunch and Dinner
- Ranua Zoo Trip from Rovaniemi with lunch