19 Fun Things To Do In Rovaniemi In Winter (+ Christmas)

Finland is a winter wonderland and one of the most easily accessible places to experience the Arctic in all of Europe. Given its accessibility, there are plenty of incredible things to do in Rovaniemi in winter.

I first fell in love with Rovaniemi a few years ago the mix of city life and beautiful nature made me feel at peace. Since my first visit I have been back multiple times and I am happy to call it my home in the Arctic.

This guide will take you through the best things to do while visiting Rovaniemi during winter.

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When is it winter in Rovaniemi?

Winter officially runs between December and the end of March. During this time there is likely to be snow on the ground and most of the activities will run.

However, if you are looking to do dog sledding or snowmobiling I recommend visiting between January and March.

Walking path through a frozen lake
Snowshoeing path across a frozen lake during winter in Rovaniemi

During this period there is more of a guarantee that there will be enough snow for the tours to run. Unfortunately, as the planet warms the snow is arriving later and later in the year and becoming less reliable.

Seeing the northern lights in Rovaniemi

If you are dreaming of seeing the northern lights on your trip I advise going later in winter. While December and January are the darkest months of the year, the area tends to experience plenty of cloud coverage making northern lights chasing more challenging.

During February and March, the weather is normally better, and the days are a little longer for other activities.

Explosive northern lights display with vivid greens
Northern lights tour from Rovaniemi

However, March is definitely the best time in winter to experience the northern lights, as around the equinox solar activity tends to be stronger and you have a higher chance of incredible displays.

As always though seeing the northern lights is a natural phenomenon and seeing them is not guaranteed no matter the time of year you go.

How cold is Rovaniemi in winter?

Winter in the Arctic is known for being extremely cold and Rovaniemi is no different. Below I have broken down the temperatures for each month in Rovaniemi:

  • Rovaniemi in November – Average high: -2.1°C(28.2°F), average low: -6.7°C (19.9°F)
  • Rovaniemi in December – Average high: -4.9°C (41°F), average low: -10.6°C (12.9°F)
  • Rovaniemi in January –  Average high: -7.3°C (18.9°F), average low: -13.5°C (7.7°F)
  • Rovaniemi in February – Average high: -7.3°C (18.9°F), average low: -13.3°C (8.1°F)
  • Rovaniemi in March – Average high: -1.9°C (28.6°F), average low: -9.1°C (15.6°F)
Camera covered in ice after photographing the northern lights
Camera covered in a thin layer of ice

The above temperatures are for Rovaniemi city center, travel a short distance away from the urbanized areas and temperatures will significantly drop.

Daylight hours during winter in Rovaniemi

While the common misconception is that the Arctic is plunged into complete darkness during the middle of the winter, this is not strictly true. While places high in the Arctic like Svalbard do spend much of the winter in darkness, Rovaniemi has a nice mixture of night and day during the winter.

The polar nights start around late November and end in mid-January.During this time it will not be fully dark but more like a continuous sunrise and sunset for a few hours in the middle of the day. On the winter solstice, there is officially no daytime (although it will will not be a full day of darkness), which is a truly unique experience.

How to get to Rovaniemi during the winter

During winter there are a number of direct seasonal flights from cities all over Europe. However, early in the season and towards the end of winter these flights start to drop off.

Finnair runs multiple flights each day between Helsinki and Rovaniemi. Alternatively, there is a train service between Rovaniemi and Helsinki.

Santa Claus express over night train from Helsinki
Santa Claus train from Helsinki

The train runs throughout the year with multiple services throughout the day and overnight. The train has different styles of carriages from cheaper seating areas to sleeper cabins that sleep two adults.

Some of the trains also have a car carrying carriages allowing you to bring cars up from Helsinki. Make sure you book your train tickets via the official VR website, as there are often issues when booking through third party providers.

Tickets are only released six months in advance, but some third party sites offer tickets beyond this date despite the tickets not being available.

Getting around on your winter trip to Rovaniemi

Getting around the city is fairly easy during winter with most of the snow-covered walkways gritted. However, towards the end of winter, the paths start getting icy and a bit more dangerous and it is worth having spikes for your shoes.

Driving in the area is fairly easy, all rental cars will have spiked tires which will keep you on the road providing you drive sensibly. During the winter many of the main roads will be clear of snow given the high volume of use, but it’s important to learn the rules of the road, especially the differing speed limits for snow-covered roads.

Frozen Road Through a forest
Snow covered road during winter in Rovaniemi

Public transport is sparse in the area but there are buses to and from the city center to Santa Claus Village and the airport.

Otherwise, public transport isn’t the most viable option. Alternatively, there are plenty of taxis that can be booked in advance or requested when needed.

Taxis in Finland are relatively expensive and a trip between Santa Claus Village and Rovaniemi will set you back over 30 Euro. Most tour providers will offer accommodation pick-up from hotels and Airbnb locations outside of the city center.

This is very useful if you are planning to do a number of tours while visiting Rovaniemi. Limiting the need to take expensive taxis or renting a car.

Best things to do in Rovaniemi in winter

1. Experience the thrill of dog sledding

Dog sledding is one of my favorite activities during the Arctic winter. I highly recommend taking part in a tour where you get to be the musher and control your team of dogs with a co-pilot.

The dogs tend to know their way around the circuit so getting lost or separated from the rest of the tour is nearly impossible. But the thrill of leading a team of excitable dogs is unlike anything else in the world.

Sled Dogs raring to go
Sled dogs waiting to run

Alternatively, if you are looking for a more chill experience you can enjoy a guided tour, where a professional will take control of the sled and all you need to do is sit back and relax as the snowy landscape runs past you.

🐾  Self-drive rates and availability
🐾  Guided tour rates and availability (best for kids)

2. Feel the power of snowmobiling

The noise of snowmobiles often pierces the silence of the Arctic along with the distant barking of huskies. However, rather than being mad at the broken tranquility, I feel a pang of jealousy as I know how much fun those riding the snowmobiles will be having.

First time or not, I highly recommend experiencing speeding through the Arctic on a snowmobile, using the frozen rivers and lakes as snowy highways between forested areas.

Snowmobiles in Rovaniemi city center
Snowmobiles in Rovaniemi

To get to grips with learning how to ride these powerful machines I recommend taking a snowmobile tour, which will also help you avoid getting lost in the white wilderness.

To drive the snowmobile yourself you will need a full valid driving licence.

❄️  Click here snowmobiling rates and availability

3. Hunt for the elusive aurora

There is nothing quite like seeing the northern lights in person. It’s a magical sight that never fails to impress no matter how many times you have seen them.

If I see a clear night I will always head out to hunt the night sky for the aurora and take some photos. If the night is clear in downtown Rovaniemi head along the river in the direction of Artikum, to try and spot the lights.

However, if you are visiting Rovaniemi for a short period of time I recommend taking a Wild About Lapland northern lights tour.

Northern Lights behind a lavvu with fire lit inside
Wild About Lapland lavvu

They have evening tours that will take you out to the countryside around Rovaniemi with the hope of seeing the northern lights.

Alternatively, if you are looking for more wild and adventurous northern lights trips my friends at Arctic Road Trips offer incredible multi-day and night-long aurora trips where there are no limits on how far or how long you will drive to find clear skies.

The tours offered by Arctic Road Trips are the best for those whose number one goal of their trip is to see the northern lights.

💥  Click Here for aurora tour rates and availability

4. Visit a reindeer farm

During the winter the reindeer are rounded up and bought back onto the farms where there is enough food and protection for them to last the long frozen winters.

While personally I don’t agree with reindeer sledding, I find visiting a reindeer farm interesting as it gives the opportunity to learn about an ancient tradition that sustained the livelihood of the Sámi people who have lived in the Arctic for millennia.

It is important to note that unlike Norway and Sweden reindeer farming is not a protected occupation and anyone can own Reindeer farms, so some of the farms around Rovaniemi are not Sámi-owned.

🦌 Click here to book your reindeer farm visit

5. Learn about Sámi culture at Artikum

In central Rovaniemi is the Artikum museum where you can learn about various aspects of the Arctic. Including plenty of information about the Indigenous people who have called this unforgiving environment home for thousands of years.

Arctic garden behind the Artikum museusm
The Artikum Arctic garden

There are brilliant exhibits on climate change and how we are impacting the environment with our actions for the worse. There are also interactive displays that will help keep younger visitors engaged and interested throughout the museum.

I would personally recommend spending around 2-3 hours in the museum, and the surrounding gardens.

Address: Pohjoisranta 4, 96200 Rovaniemi

6. Stay in a glass igloo in Rovaniemi

One of the most iconic accommodation options in Lapland are the glass igloos, where you can lie in bed and watch the northern lights from above.

I highly recommend a stay at the Glass Resort adjacent to Santa Claus Village, where you can stay in a luxurious igloo with your hot tub.

Glass Resort room with view to forest
View from Glass Resort

On-site there is the excellent Restaurant Gallis where you can eat dishes using local ingredients including reindeer and willow grouse.

The glass resort is at the higher end of the budget spectrum and a stay over the Christmas period is likely to set you back over 1000€ a night.

If staying in a glass igloo is on your bucket list and there is no availability in Rovaniemi I recommend checking these glass igloo hotels in Lapland:

7. Eat at Gustav (my favorite dinner spot)

Gustav is hands down one of the best places in Rovaniemi to eat. The restaurant focuses on innovative dining, with a menu that regularly changes based on the seasons and availability.

Pretty much all of the evening meal dishes are too die for and make for a memorable meal out in Rovaniemi. During the winter there are two heated Igloos available for private groups where you can sit and enjoy a spectacular meal in an exceptional setting.

While the dinner menu tends to be on the pricier side, the restaurant offers an affordable lunch during the week, including a salad buffet, a hot meal as well as coffee, teas, and cookies.

The Restaurant is open Tuesday through to Saturday with lunch time dining available on weekdays. To avoid disappointment in the evenings I would book a table far in advance.

Address: Koskikatu 12, 96200 Rovaniemi

8. Walk along the Ounasjoki River

While Rovaniemi is not a big or busy city, sometimes finding a quick escape into nature is nice. Venturing out of the city past Artikum you will find a small but beautiful birch forest along the banks of the Ounasjoki River.

During the middle of winter, the area is covered in plenty of snow but small trails have been flattened out between the trees.

Me Walking by the Frozen River
Walk by the frozen river

During the day this makes the perfect escape from the city, while at night it’s one of the best places to search the night sky for Aurora.

If you visit before the river has frozen over the northern lights will reflect across the water. Once frozen the river is the perfect place to stand for an unobstructed view.

9. Try your hand at ice fishing

I never thought I had the patience for an ice fishing tour, but there was something calming and relaxing about it.

Sitting on a small chair in the winter sunshine waiting for a fish to bite was almost heavenly. I took an ice fishing tour with Wild About Lapland, that was combined with snowshoeing.

The first part of the tour involved snowshoeing through a bit of forest out onto the lake where we found a good spot to set up our fishing spot.

Ice Fishing with snowshoes on
Ice fishing near Rovaniemi in winter

The guide taught you everything you need to know about snowshoeing and ice fishing. We spent a few hours on the lake keeping our little holes clear of ice and waiting for a fish to bite.

Sadly, none of us were successful in our pursuit of catching a fish to eat. If you are lucky enough to catch a fish the guide will cook it over an open fire in lavvu set up on the lakeside.

🎣  Snowshoeing and ice fishing tour rates and availability

10. Have fun snowshoeing

There is no better way to explore the wilds of Finnish Lapland than strapping on a pair of snowshoes and trudging through the deep snow to spots that have barely been explored since fall.

If you are new to snowshoeing I highly recommend joining a tour where you can learn the basics and are provided with all the equipment you will need.

Snowshoes on my feet
Preparing myself to go snowshoeing

I first went snowshoeing in the Lofoten Islands and hated it. I later discovered this was due to having the wrong equipment and no idea what I was doing, and I am now a true convert.

There are many different snowshoeing tours you can take in Rovaniemi but I recommend taking a basic snowshoe tour where you get to enjoy the wilderness and truly master the art of snowshoeing.

❄️  Click here to book a snowshoeing tour

11. Spice up your day at Yuca (epic lunch spot)

Europe is sadly not known for having good Mexican food, however the best rated Mexican restaurant in Finland is in Rovaniemi.

Yuca is located in the city center and serves up incredible tacos, burritos, and bowls along with some delicious starters and desserts.

With the chefs coming from Mexico, the dishes are all not only delicious but harness authentic flavors.

A burrito with a side salad
Burrito from Yuca

The food packs a punch when it comes to flavor and is a great way to warm yourself on a cold winter day. During lunch time they have a special lunch menu that is a little cheaper than the dinner menu.

Be warned when they offer hot sauce it is VERY hot, I consider myself to be good with spice but their hot sauce is truly spicy. Yuca is open Monday through to Saturday, although lunch is only available on weekdays.

Address: Rovakatu 21, 96200 Rovaniemi

12. Visit Santa at Santa Claus Village

The most famous attraction in Rovaniemi by far is Santa Claus Village. Built in the eighties Santa Claus Village established Rovaniemi as the home of Santa Claus.

This has led to people from all over the world coming to visit the big man at his home. During winter the little park comes alive with various different winter activities available from reindeer rides to dog sledding.

Take a walk through Santa’s factory where you can eventually meet Santa and say what you would like for Christmas.

Sign to meet santa at santa claus village
Sign to meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi

From Santa Claus village you can cross the official Arctic Circle (although the true arctic circle is about 700m north), send letters with a Santa Claus stamp, and even get your passport stamped.

The park is free to enter, but any husky rides or reindeer rides are not free. Meeting Santa himself is free but if you wish to have a picture you will need to pay for that.

On-site there are a number of restaurants where you can enjoy hot food and a drink. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Santas Salmon Place
  • Santamus
  • Lapland Restaurant Kotahovi

13. Hike through Korouoma Canyon

The frozen waterfalls of Korouoma Canyon are one of the must-sees during winter in Rovaniemi.

Located about an hour and a half away from Rovaniemi, the canyon is one of the best hiking spots in Lapland, with a few challenging spots but generally an easy walk.

Within the canyon are multiple frozen waterfalls that build up as the weather drops, creating formidable waterfalls out of relatively unimpressive water flows.

People hiking through a canyon
Korouoma Canyon hike

I recommend taking a guided tour of Korouoma Canyon as parts of the route are very tricky and without proper guidance you could get injured.

If you are feeling more daring you can also take an ice-climbing tour to the canyon where you will get to scale one of the more sturdier waterfalls

🏔️   Korouoma Canyon hiking tour rates and availability

14. Learn to cross-country ski

It is hard to think of a more popular pastime in the Nordics than cross-country skiing. There are routes going throughout the city and surrounding countryside where you can enjoy nature after donning a pair of skis.

If you have cross-country skied before you can rent equipment at places around the skiing area within the city.

Alternatively, for first-timers, there is a cross-country ski tour, where you will learn the basics and head out into nature with an experienced guide.

🎿  Click here for cross-country skiing tour rates and availability

15. Go skiing or snowboarding in Rovaniemi

Close to the city center is Ounasvaara, a large hill with a small ski resort where you can ski and snowboard throughout winter.

While the resort does not compare to those found in the Alps there are a few red, blue, and nursery slopes that can be enjoyed during the midst of winter.

The ski passes and rental options in Rovaniemi are very affordable which makes it a great place for those wanting to ski or snowboard on a budget. There are also ski schools available for those wanting to learn. Purchase a multi resort ski pass, so you can check out other resorts in the area!

16. Take a day trip to Riisitunturi National Park

One of the most famous images of the Finnish winter is the frozen trees encased and weighed down by snow. Affectionately, referred to as the popcorn trees, due to the fact that once frozen they kind of look like little mounds of popcorn.

The most famous place to see these trees is Riisitunturi National Park, where you can walk through a frozen forest and take in the spectacular snowy landscapes that feel otherworldly.

Moss growing on a tree
Moss on a tree In Riisitunturi National Park

Once in the park, there are hiking routes, but these can become more challenging if fresh snow has fallen and you will most likely need snowshoes.

For this reason, I recommend taking a tour of the park as you will be driven there and the guides will be aware of the conditions within the park already and can provide snowshoes if necessary.

🌲  Click here to book your day trip to Riisitunturi National Park

17. Watch the northern lights while ice floating

Outside of the city center you quickly enter the serenity of the Arctic, the still air is quiet with any noise dampened by the snow.

One of the best ways to enjoy this peacefulness is spending a few hours ice floating. The only way to go ice floating is on an organized tour, you will be taken out to a frozen lake where you will be provided with some warm floatation suits and explained the process.

Once ready you will go down into the frigid water, lean back and simply float, staring up at the sky and enjoying the atmosphere.

Northern Lights lining up over trees
Northern lights over trees

There are two tours that run, a daytime experience and a night experience where there is a chance you will see the aurora.

I recommend taking either tour, however, if you are desperate to see the northern lights I would not take this tour as if it is cloudy you will not see them as this is a fixed location.

🏊🏼  Click here for ice floating under the aurora rates and availability

18. Stay at Rovaniemi’s Arctic SnowHotel

While visiting anywhere in the Arctic I recommend taking some time to visit Rovaniemi’s Arctic SnowHotel.

These works of art are constructed each year using ice taken from the rivers the previous year and stored until needed.

Each year the hotel is reimagined with different designs and sculptures for the main building and each of the 70 rooms.

The rooms come in various sizes and for those wanting to sleep overnight on an icy bed, you are provided with a sleeping bag built to keep you warm in the most extreme conditions.

The price of the room includes breakfast, the use of a sauna, and an aurora wake-up call.

Alternatively, you can visit the hotel during the day and peruse each of the rooms without having to stay the night.

For those wanting to stay the night but not in an icy room, you can opt for one of the magical glass igloos.

19. Revitalize yourself with a Finnish sauna

No trip to Finland would be complete without a true Finnish sauna experience.

Enjoy a break in a hot sauna before taking a dive into the frigid water.

The best way to experience this uniquely Nordic experience is by taking a tour, as while saunas may be in every residential building the exhilarating cold water plunge can only be done in a few places.

Preparing a wood fire
Wood fire starting to heat up

Tours will take you out of the city where you can sauna surrounded by birch and pine trees, before taking a plunge.

Once you have revitalized your body you will be fed before heading back to your hotel

🔥   Click here to book your Finnish sauna experience

Rovaniemi winter packing List

Packing for your Arctic adventure can be a little bit daunting here are a few things I recommend bringing with you:

  • A long parka jacket – A parka is a must as you will quickly feel the cold. I recommend getting a longer one that sits between the waist and knees.
  • Mittens – Mittens are far better at retaining heat than gloves and I would not go to the Arctic without a trusty pair of Vallerret gloves.
  • Wool base layers and socks – Wool is the best form of insulation and you should pack enough wool base layers to keep you warm and cozy when out exploring.
  • Snow boots – A high pair of snow boots is vital, your feet will be the first to feel the cold. As the snow is also fairly deep you will want a high pair in case you need to trudge through some deeper snow. I own a pair of Caribou Sorrells that are perfect for very cold temperatures.
  • A headlamp – The nights are dark and many streets are not lit at night so having a headlamp with you will help guide you where you need to go. Especially if you plan to venture out to find the northern lights!
  • A tripod and remote – if you are planning to photograph the northern lights you will want a sturdy tripod and remote so you can get the clearest possible photos.

Where to stay in Rovaniemi

Glass Resort (Luxury)- Located next to Santa Claus Village, the Glass Resort offers luxurious glass igloos. The spacious Igloos include a spacious ground floor with a small kitchen, sauna, and living area.

Upstairs is a mezzanine level with a comfortable bed, where you can lie and observe the night sky. Outside each Igloo has its own private hot tub.

Glass Resort igloo covered in snow
The glass igloo I stayed in

Snow Hotel (Unique)- The Arctic Snow Hotel offers 70 stunning rooms made completely of ice. This accommodation is located 33km outside of Rovaniemi but is well worth the excursion.

Snowflake Suites (Apartments)- Located in the city center these small self-contained flats are perfect for those wanting a comfortable homely vibe. Each flat has a fully functional kitchen and a small bedroom.

Living room of Snowflake Suites, with a couch and kitchen
Snowflake Suites in Rovaniemi

Koti Hostel (Budget Friendly)- If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option then look no further than Koti Hostel. Located in the city center they offer a number of bedroom types for varying budgets. Onsite there is a delightful cafe where you can enjoy an affordable breakfast buffet.

What is your favorite thing to do in Rovaniemi in winter? Leave us a comment below to let us know!

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