Up on the northern latitudes of Finnish Lapland, on the Arctic Circle to be exact, lies the small city of Rovaniemi. It’s been known as the gateway to the more remote parts in the vast wilderness of Lapland for quite some time, but it has something else that attracts tourist throughout the year to visit the city itself. It’s the home of Santa Claus, who you can meet in his village any day of the year. In the spirit of Christmas, it’s free of charge. In the spirit of our time, you only pay for the photo.
Besides visiting Santa in his chamber you can eat and shop in the village, meet reindeer, huskies, elves, other tourists and Christmas-spirited locals such as the author. The Santa Claus Village has been open since the mid 1980’s, and growing up in the city it’s located in has left some level of permanent, but at the same time selective, Christmas mood. The magical childhood Christmases that couldn’t be complete without at least one visit to the Village have left a forever mark as the only real and true Christmas that can be found nowhere else on earth.
Visiting the Village as a grown-up I can still sense that same, guaranteed Christmas mood-lifting spirit, and I don’t think it’s only because of nostalgic memories. The village is beautiful in an authentic, rustic way, much unlike the glitzy, modern theme parks of today often are. Besides the look, what sets it apart from the near by SantaPark (a theme park in a cave) and in my humble opinion makes it superior, are the facts that it’s free of charge to roam around with no entry fee. Also, a lot of it is outdoors with natural snow.
The village includes the Santa Claus Main Post Office. From there you can send letters, Christmas cards or packages stamped with a special Arctic Circle postmark to anywhere in the world and also read some letters sent to Santa. If reading letters from children from all around the world isn’t a tearjerker then I don’t know what is. Santa receives around half a million letters each year, all of which are kept in the National Archives of Finland. Certain times of the year, you can even order a personalized reply from Santa through the Finnish Post Office.
The animals you can see in the village also add to the experience. You can get a reindeer ride or just take photos of the reindeer while they wait to take people for a ride. In the area there are also two different husky parks that offer safaris, one with an entry fee just to see the dogs, and one without. At least that was the situation the last time I went a couple of weeks ago – at Bearhill Husky no one said anything about me taking photos and petting some huskies. In the village there’s also an Elf’s Farm Yard petting zoo with a reasonable entry fee where you can pet very sociable sheep, see bunnies, chicken and even go inside the reindeer enclosure to feet and pet them.
I hope you enjoyed this little Christmas special and it gave you some of that holiday mood I sure get from even looking at these photos. If you or your family is Christmas spirited at all maybe this even convinced you to have Rovaniemi’s Santa Claus Village as a bucket list destination. I’ll get back to you shortly on other nice and wintery things to do in or around Rovaniemi. Happy Holidays wherever you are in the world!