Bunny’s Arctic Express: How to Do Lapland in Three Days

Bunny recently took Mummy Bunny to Lapland in Finland to experience the Arctic Circle, have some snowy adventures, meet the Santa Claus and see the Northern Lights. 

Luckily for Bunny, it was possible to capture all this on a whirlwind tour of Lapland’s capital, Rovaniemi, and its surroundings.

Image of Bunny in Snow Hotel


Image of reindeer


Image of Aurora


Rovaniemi as a Base

If you are short on time, Rovaniemi (population: 62,000) is easy to get to (flights from Helsinki are approximately 1h) and the city offers a range of different day tours to enjoy from your cozy base. While based in Rovaniemi, you can stay in high-quality accommodation and zip off to husky or reindeer tours, go skiing or ice-fishing, enjoy snowmobiling, meet the Santa Claus, admire the Northern Lights and return to your comfortable bed every evening after the adventures.

Rovaniemi is, however, a big city (by Finnish standards) so if you're looking for a real wilderness experience, it is best to combine your stay in Rovaniemi with a night or two in special accommodation outside the city.

That’s exactly what Bunny did. She started by staying in the delightful Arctic Light Hotel in Rovaniemi for the first two nights and then moved on to the Arctic Snow Hotel, approximately 30 kilometres from Rovaniemi, for the last of her three nights in Lapland.

Bunny had planned the program with surgical precision and managed to include a number of excursions. But there was plenty of downtime too. At the end of the trip, Mummy Bunny was happy and that was the purpose of the whole trip.


Arctic Light Hotel

Arctic Light Hotel is a new hotel in Rovaniemi city center. It caught Bunny's attention when it was chosen as the best hotel in Finland in a recent survey. It is the first luxury hotel in the Finnish Arctic Circle and has all the action at its doorstep. Bunny was impressed from the very first communication (by email) with the hotel staff and eagerly awaited her stay in Rovaniemi.

The Arctic Light hotel offers 54 rooms in 7 different room categories. Bunny chose the slightly more expensive Polar room as they all have private saunas. There's nothing like enjoying a hot sauna in the privacy of your own room after a day of Arctic adventures.

The welcome at the hotel was very friendly, luggage was whisked away to the room immediately and the front desk was equally helpful. The hotel lobby and lounge bar were very elegant and inviting.

Image of Arctic Light hotel

Cool bar at the Arctic Light hotel

Image of Arctic Light hotel bathroom

Polar bear bathroom

Image of Arctic Snow hotel

Excellent breakfast buffet

Image of Arctic Light hotel

Bunny's Polar room

The Polar Room

The room itself was lovely! Spacious, luxurious and stylish. The bathroom with the polar bear themed shower and a cute little sauna were particularly nice. The toiletries were by RITUALS, with heavenly scents.

Bunny spent quite a bit of time trying to perfectly capture the room for her Instagram followers. Luckily Mummy Bunny has infinite patience, at least compared to Mr. Bunny, in this regard...

Dinner

On the first night, Bunny and Mummy Bunny had dinner at the hotel’s Arctic Boulevard restaurant. They had the pleasure of having the restaurant to themselves, thanks to their early eating habits. The food was excellent! Bunny enjoyed a very tasty vegetarian offering while Mummy Bunny had a proper steak.

Sauna

Afterwards, it was sauna time in the room! The sauna worked well, got very hot quickly and ensured a good night's sleep in the comfortable and good-sized bed afterwards. Bunny experienced no noise issues (contrary to what she read in some reviews) as her room faced not the busy main road, Valtakatu, but rather the backyard of the hotel.


Chasing Northern Lights

Bunny does not have weather luck, Mr. Bunny does. Usually, this works out OK for Bunny as most of her travels are conducted with Mr. Bunny in tow. Mr. Bunny brings weather luck, pays half of the bills and carries the heavy bags - occasionally Bunny has other uses for him as well.

This time, Mr. Bunny was not around and the weather was just as predictable: raining and sleeting during Bunny’s special Northern Lights tour. Such conditions are not really conducive for great sightings. Bunny didn't see much, to be honest. However, she learned how to properly use her camera’s settings at night and take pictures of the Northern Lights. This lesson came in handy sooner than she had dared to hope for…

A number of companies organize tours to chase the elusive Northern Lights in the Rovaniemi area. Bunny opted for Beyond Arctic because their group size was small, they were the only photography-oriented tour she could find and their Tripadvisor reviews were excellent. In addition, their office is just opposite the Arctic Light hotel! They are a new outlet (two young guys with great photography skills) and the tour was relaxed and fun in the Finnish way.

Top Tip

How to Take Pictures of the Northern Lights

Use a tripod and a wide angle lense if possible. Set your camera for manual with the following settings:

  •  ISO 1000 or around that
  •  F-stop as low as possible (F3)
  • shutter speed around 10"
  • switch to manual focus, set on infinity

and fire away!

Image of Northern lights


Go See Santa

As everyone knows, the real Santa Claus lives in Finland. And everyone, not just children or bunnies, is invited to visit him in his grotto in the Santa Claus Village located 8 kilometres from the center of Rovaniemi.

Just do not go on an organized tour as visiting Santa Claus is super easy with public transportation (bus number 8) and you avoid the worst of the crowds. The bus stop is 200 metres from the Arctic Light hotel and the bus runs every hour. The fare is a couple of euros for the 20-minute journey and, theoretically, that's the only money you need to spend.

The Santa Claus Village is quite a big complex where it is eternally Christmas, with plenty of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants to choose from. Bunny is not really a shopper but she did enjoy walking around for a bit. She also likes Iittala glassware and there is a cool Iittala shop at the village.

There is also free Wi-Fi and a post office in the complex, with special stamps and a chance to have your postcards delivered specifically for Christmas.

Image of Santa Claus Office

Santa Claus Office in Rovaniemi

Image of Santa Claus

A memorable meeting! (photo by Santa Claus Village)

Image of Arctic Circle sign

Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi

But of course seeing Santa Claus is the highlight! Bunny was lucky enough not to queue at all. She was basically ushered directly to the man and held a conversation for quite a bit. All encounters are broadcast live on their website: 

https://santaclausoffice.com/santa-claus-live/

so watch your language when talking to Santa, although you're probably already at your best behavior.

There is no charge to meet Santa but they (of course) rob you afterwards. Very nice pictures of your meeting with Santa will be on display immediately after you leave Santa's grotto. Bunny dares you not to buy any... it's one of those moments that just has to be recorded.

There is also a left luggage facility in the Santa Claus Village, just next to the post office, where you can store your suitcase for five euros. This is really handy as the village is very close to the airport and you can easily drop by Santa on your way to the airport, if you haven't had a chance to do so earlier.

Fancy Cross-Country Skiing?

A number of cross-country skiing trips were on offer in the Rovaniemi area but Bunny decided to be self-sufficient. She is an experienced skier and didn't really fancy being stuck in a foreign tourist group learning skiing for the first time and bumping into people every two metres.

So she decided to go to nearby Ounasvaara, rent equipment there and spend some time exploring the tracks with Mummy Bunny independently. She did send an email to a ski rental shop in advance to make sure the right-sized equipment would be available on the day. No reservations were needed, she was advised to just show up in the morning. So Bunny dressed up in her glamorous skiing gear straight from the year 1998 and took a taxi from the Arctic Light hotel to Ounasvaaran hiihtokeskus (app. 15 euros).

She was able to start skiing right from the drop-off spot. There were a number of tracks for different abilities. The weather was horrendous (think sleet and wet snow) but since she had decided to ski, ski she did, with Mummy Bunny on her heels. Let's just say that the hotel room sauna felt heavenly afterwards!

Image of Bunny paw prints

Husky Fun

Bunny is not too keen on motor sports so she skipped the numerous snow mobile tours on offer in the Rovaniemi area. She was hesitating between a visit to a reindeer and husky farm but then opted for the latter. It's much nicer to go and interact with happy dogs than animals that will eventually end up on someone’s plate at dinner.

She chose Bearhill Husky for the husky ride because of the good reviews on Tripadvisor, as well as their fast and helpful replies by email to enquiries. Bunny also managed to negotiate a deal where the company picked her up with luggage in Rovaniemi, stored the luggage during the husky adventure and then delivered everything to the Arctic Snow hotel which was Bunny's next destination. This way, Bunny managed to save a lot of time (and some money) as she didn't have to return to Rovaniemi after the tour, just to take other transportation back again to reach the Arctic Snow Hotel.

Image of husky ride

The Master of huskies!

Image of huskies

Hardworking boys

The husky ride was great fun! The weather was not perfect but the scenery was amazing, with metres of snow and fairytale-like snowy woods all around. Bunny was a bit spooked in the beginning when receiving instructions on how to handle the dog sleds (she is not much of a driver) but it turned out to be quite easy in the end.

And the dogs love what they are doing! That was the main criteria for Bunny. She never supports activities that exploit animals, be it wild or domesticated species, but she had no scruples about going for a husky ride with the Bearhill Huskies.

Staying in an Ice Hotel

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Each suite in the Arctic Snow hotel...

Image of a suite

..is unique...

Image of a suite

...but rest assured that...

Image of a suite

...they are equally cold!

Bunny’s next stop was the Arctic Snow Hotel - a real ice hotel she had been dreaming about for quite some time. Technically speaking, Bunny didn't stay in the ice hotel itself but in the snug igloos built around it. Practically speaking, she was very happy about her choice!

The Arctic Snow hotel and Glass Igloos is an amazing place approximately 30 kilometers from Rovaniemi, in the woods in the middle of nowhere.

The snow hotel is out of this world! And also very, very, very cold. Bunny was never really tempted to stay in one of the snow suites (cold is so not her thing!) but she was very happy to hop around in all of the 31 rooms.

There are three different types of rooms, with eight amazing snow suites, all individual in their style and decoration. The suites are really stunning and spacious but Bunny is not sure whether they are worth the money in the end. Unless you have cash to burn, you might as well stay in one of the basic rooms if you are determined to spend the night in the snow rooms. It's not like the suites are better heated or anything...

For her one night in the Arctic Snow hotel, Bunny booked dinner in the ice restaurant. That was a cool experience. The three course meal took about an hour and Bunny, sitting on a reindeer skin in her best winter getup, did not get too cold. The vegetarian food was delicious and hot, and Bunny even had a beer with the meal. For once, she didn't have to worry about the beer getting warm while she nursed it during the whole meal...

And speaking of cold drinks, there is, of course, an ice bar in the Snow hotel as well. It is only open for drinks a couple of hours per day, just before and after dinner, but you can visit anytime. Bunny and Mummy Bunny were compelled to have a pre-dinner drink at the bar and were delighted to smash their ice glasses on the ice floor afterwards.

Glass Igloo is the Way to Go

Image of an igloo

Snug igloos in a row

Image of igloo inside

Your view when waking up

Image of Bunny's igloo

Bunny outside her abode

In addition to the snow rooms, the Arctic Snow hotel offers alternative accommodation: glass igloos in two different sizes. They are warm, clean and comfortable. They all have private bathrooms and showers with enough hot water for 25 minutes of continued use (which was plenty for two people).

But the best thing is the huge glass ceiling which allows you to gaze stars (or the Aurora) directly from your bed if you so wish.

If you're staying in the igloos, like Bunny did, you're getting the best of both worlds really. You can move around the snow hotel freely, explore the rooms, restaurant, ice bar and chapel (yes, you can get married there too!) at your leisure, take all the pictures you want (bring a tripod, it is quite dark inside the snow hotel) and then retreat to your cozy igloo to warm up afterwards. Perfect!

Bunny felt a bit sorry for the people who actually stayed a night in one of the snow rooms as it really didn't look too comfortable. If you have masochistic tendencies, by all means, go for it, but if you're like Bunny and enjoy life's many luxuries, you're best to admire the snow rooms at an arm's length.

Aurora Alarm

The snow hotel and the igloos have an Aurora alarm which lets you have a good night's sleep while someone else is up and keeping an eye on the capricious Aurora. Once (if) they appear, the Aurora alarm sounds in the igloo and you're sure not to miss anything. You can, of course, also opt out of the Aurora alarm (there's a simple switch in the room) if you prefer sleeping to natural wonders. There was never any question which option Bunny would choose.

The Aurora alarm in the igloo worked well and Bunny was up in a split second when it sounded just after midnight.

The Northern Lights were amazing! Green light all across the dark sky, dancing and putting on a real show for all the admirers woken by the Aurora alarm. At one point, there was even a loud collective cheer from the crowd that had gathered outside their igloos. Once Bunny had taken enough pictures (Mr Bunny doesn't think there is ever "enough pictures" for Bunny...) she retreated back into the igloo and continued to marvel at the dancing lights directly from bed.

Don't Skip the Ice Saunas!

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Ice sauna...

Image of ice bar

...Ice bar...

Image of ice chapel

...and ice chapel! What more do you need?

In case you haven't noticed, Bunny is a huge fan of saunas. So she couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity of trying out an ice sauna whilst staying at the Arctic Snow hotel. Now hang on, an ice sauna?! How can that even work? Turns out, quite easily.

Bunny had reserved a private sauna experience which included a typical Finnish sauna (the only real sauna if you ask any Finn), rooftop ice jacuzzi under the stars and the peculiar ice sauna which ended up being Bunny's favorite. The total sauna time was 1,5 hours, which was plenty, and there was much-desired privacy in all parts of the sauna complex, with fresh towels and slippers abound. The only thing missing was a bottle opener but Bunny was resourceful enough to open two bottles of beer with her bare paws.

The ice sauna was actually many ice saunas as they don't tend to last long. Surprise, surprise! The ice saunas are really tiny constructions, made of ice but with a real stove and wooden benches installed inside. It does get nice and warm but the fun lasts only about 10 minutes before the physics prevail and you're best to head back to the real sauna.

Mummy Bunny was a bit claustrophobic in the ice sauna when the roof started dripping with cold water once Bunny threw water on the stove. You couldn’t see anything in the mist but it was lovely. Just don't contemplate doing it if you're a plus sized person as the doorway to the sauna is really really tiny. Meant for small Bunnies really.

If the private sauna option doesn't appeal to you (it is a bit pricey), there are also public saunas and showers in the complex. Bunny didn't try those as she is notoriously private but it is certainly a way to warm up before or after your stint in the snow hotel. The shower room opens at 6am and the last people are thrown out from the sauna at 11pm so that leaves only merciful seven hours to brave the cold in your cozy snow room…

Eating Options

Breakfast is included in the room prices and is served in the Log restaurant between 7:30 and 10am. It is not a sumptuous affair but it fills your belly alright.

Being in the cold does wonders to one's appetite and Bunny is no exception. She knew she would be staying in the middle of nowhere so she came duly prepared, with snacks and beers and other necessities in her rucksack.

You don't have to go hungry in the snow hotel though. For dinner, you can choose from three options: the already mentioned ice restaurant, a cozy Lappish Kota Teepee (a proper building with heating and a lovely fireplace) and the Log restaurant which is located in the main building and also serves lunch. Bunny only got to try the ice restaurant, but if the other two are anything like it, you will not be disappointed.

Practicalities

Image of Arctic Snow hotel

Bunny inside the Arctic Snow hotel

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Snow hotel entrance

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Snowy corridors

The Arctic Snow Hotel & Glass Igloos is open each year until the end of March. The glass igloos usually open in November, while the snow hotel is built from scratch in December each year.

The snow hotel has single, double and family rooms in addition to the eight suites. The igloos come in two sizes, double and family rooms. If possible, ask for an igloo on the outer row to allow more privacy and better views (Bunny thinks igloos number 5 or 20 would probably be best for privacy but they are all lovely really).

The hotel is difficult to get to if you don't have your own car or driver. They do organize transportation a couple of times a day from Rovaniemi so make use of that. Just remember to book it in advance. It is a journey of about 30 minutes. Naturally, you can also organize private transfers at any time of the day or night, for an extra (hefty) cost.

Bunny used the hotel transportation on her way home. The schedule was tight as her train was due to leave 9 minutes after the anticipated arrival at the railway station. She made it on time although there were 20 other people in the bus. Miraculously, none of the other passengers were late in checking out and the bus left on time. That is Finland for you. Everything just seems to work, on time, effortlessly and without any undue conversation. Just the way Bunny likes it!

Wrap-up to How to Do Lapland in Three Days

Image of Bunny


Image of Bunny


Image of Bunny


Image of Bunny in ice bar


Staying in Rovaniemi, it is quite possible to do a whirlwind tour of the Finnish Lapland in three days. Bunny managed to tick off all the cliches doing her arctic express: meeting Santa Claus, going on a husky ride, seeing Northern Lights, trying cross-country skiing, experiencing ice hotel and enjoying plenty of sauna fun as required in Finland.

Image of Bunny paw prints

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