I looked at my window and a sea of clouds were replaced by a land mass blanketed by snow. As we descend gradually, I became more thrilled to set foot and experience how winter feels like in Rovaniemi, Finland for the first time! Airport proceedings went smoothly and cold Finnish breeze welcomed me as I exit the arrival area. Waiting for taxi cab took a while probably because of a volume of tourists in December hence, I opted to take a bus from the airport to City Centre and then, take a taxi to my hotel.
I had little research of Rovaniemi so everything came as a surprise for me. “What time does the sun sets here?” The taxi cab driver replied with a smile and said, they only have 4 to 5 hours of sunlight those days, and even shorter as the year comes to a close.
When I checked in into my room, the first thing I did was to make sure that the alarm on my mobile phone is set for the following day’s activity. I had to trade waking up early with my excitement to experience winter wonderland in Rovaniemi!
Too much anticipation and with great expectations, I arrived in the office of Lapland Safaris an hour earlier than the call time of 9:30AM.
The weather outside was cold at negative 10 degrees however, I felt otherwise when I was greeted my warm smiles at the reception.
One of the female staff checked my name on the list, and requested me to sign a registration form and wait for my other fellow tourists who will join our group for Santa Claus Safari.
Next thing I knew – I was listening to the introduction and orientation of our tour guides for the day. I really appreciate that they provided thermal gear from overalls, socks, snow boots, gloves, balaclava, scarf and helmet before we’re all set to go. My excitement within became more apparent with smile from ear to ear! Then, I became more thrilled to go out of their office and walk to those snowmobiles! The day tour that I availed includes snowmobile driving to meeting Santa Claus, and riding his reindeer sledge and more!
Following quick but detailed explanation and demonstration on how to safely drive a snowmobile, I was randomly paired with another traveler who came with her 2 friends. I drove first the snowmobile and she became my passenger and a new found friend (We took turns when we went back at the end of the day – she became my driver while I savoured the priceless view and unforgettable moments on snow as a snowmobile passenger).
Tons of pleasant surprises greeted us at the Santa Claus reindeer farm!
Our group was met by a Lappish woman who led us to sit around a fire place inside a cozy log cabin house. Her humour in putting all of us at ease and into the moment was fantastic! She narrated a local legend about the 4 winds in Lapland with so much fun and enthusiasm! I found myself looking closely at the children in our group, who were all listening and enjoying everything as well. Who would not be fascinated to be introduced to how local people live in Lapland where days are short and nights are longer during winter?
Excitement heightened when our group was divided into 2, one of the groups had to meet Santa Claus first, while I joined the others to initially experience riding the reindeer sledge! I was silently ecstatic when I saw those beautiful reindeers up close; their antlers are long and gorgeous, their eyes look meek and gentle! Fun doubled up after I sat on the wooden sledge, stretched my legs and off we went with the reindeers!
Meeting Santa Claus following riding his reindeer sledge was also phenomenal! Never in my wildest childhood dreams had I imagined that day would happen! I was almost speechless!
Another highlight of our tour was being treated to a traditional Finnish lunch buffet! I swear, it was the finest mashed potatoes and the most tasteful beef meatballs I’ve ever had! It was also lovely to taste local sweets, bread and cookies that were perfectly paired with hot tea and coffee. Just when I thought going back to Lapland Safaris office from Santa Claus and reindeer farm would end one of the happiest days I had, we were told we have to take the bus because we will be brought to Santa Claus Village in the Arctic Circle! And 8 kilometer-drive after, I found myself sending several postcards to my friends all over the world, through Santa Claus Official Main Post Office where they mark all mails and postcards with official Arctic Circle, Lapland post stamps! How cool was that?! I didn’t let the chance pass to send postcards to my family and friends and even one for myself!
There were many things to do and enjoy in Santa Claus Village however, I decided to go back to Lapland Safaris office by the same bus that took us there, and just revisit the place the next day, as it’s already dark.
Everything that happened that day was all first-time experience for me, and with all honesty, I enjoyed it immensely! No matter what superlative I used or how long I narrate about my first day experiences in Rovaniemi, the reality is more spectacular and a countless times better! The place is magical and experiences are surreal! Finland, you are a dream!