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  • Writer's pictureTupur Chakrabarty

Can't rave enough about Rovaniemi!

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

Time visited: August 2022

Time spent: Three nights


After months of planning, days of anticipation and hours of flying, we arrived in Rovaniemi, the capital city of Finnish Lapland, soon after 9:00 am. The airport is quite small. We were at the carousel in no time and waited only a few minutes before our luggage was on the belt. We were out of the airport and in a taxi by 9:30! The sky was a bright, almost translucent blue, the air was crisp, the sun was molten gold and the rows of birch, spruce and pine reaching out to the sky were lush green. We immediately felt our exhaustion gone and spirit lifted.

Airbnb, Valtakatu, Rovaniemi

Our Airbnb, $460 (AUD) for three nights, was in Valtakatu. It took us about 15 minutes to get there - the taxi charged us €28 (and accepted cash, thankfully). The host let us in and showed us around the flat. She'd even bought some food for us - bread, milk, yoghurt, cheese and ham. This wasn't expected at all, but we were thankful she did! We were hungry!


With only three nights to spend in Rovaniemi, we had no time to lose. After the host left, we had a quick bite and were ready to explore the city. It was 11:30.


Day 1

The first landmark on our list was Jätkänkynttilä (Lumberjack's Candle Bridge), which happened to be minutes away from the Airbnb. The amber lighting solution at the top of the columns burned bright in the autumn sun and the blue-silver expanse of the Kemijoki - Kemi river - flowed gently below. We took a leisurely stroll across the bridge and saw the Ounasjoki, the main tributary of Kemijoki, on the other side.

The only other place we'd planned to see on Day 1 was Korundi House of Culture, a contemporary art gallery that celebrates the north. The best ticket option is the Culture Pass, which allows entry to three of the main attractions in Rovaniemi - Korundi House of Culture, Arktikum Science Centre and Museum, and Pilke Science Centre. A Family Pass cost €50 in August 2022 - now the price has gone up to €55.


Thanks to an informative video we saw about Korundi, we knew what the building looked like. Even if we didn't, we wouldn't have had any trouble spotting it! We went around to the front - the long red-brick warehouse, running parallel to the street called Lapinkävijäntie, had a row of artworks along the facade.

We appreciate art even though we don't always understand it. Korundi was no different. We cannot claim that we understood much, but there were some exhibits that caught our eye. It took us about an hour to see the two levels of the gallery. We realised much later, after leaving Rovaniemi actually, that we never went to the courtyard to see Aurinkopoika, the Sun Boy!

A visit to Rovaniemi is incomplete without eating a cinnamon pulla - a cinnamon bun. We headed straight to Korundi Café. The bun is delicious by itself, and a sweet deal at only €2.80 each, but coffee certainly adds to the taste! We had Latte, which cost us €4.50 each, but filter coffee, far more popular, was cheaper too. ShNaajh's hot chocolate, also €4.50, came with a generous topping of whipped cream.


Most of the other patrons were enjoying a buffet, which, we noticed during our stay in Finland, was a popular lunch option at €11-15 a head.


Happy that we'd ticked Korundi and cinnamon bun off our list, we went to K-Supermarket for grocery shopping. We were in Rovaniemi for three nights and our flight on day 4 was at 5:00 pm, so we needed to sort out our meals during the stay. Rovaniemi isn't too expensive - a baguette cost 1.65, 300-800g frozen meals (noodles, meatballs, lasagne) between 2.35 and 6.15, 10 eggs - yes, eggs don't come in dozens here - were 2.29, half a kilo grapes 2.29, and a litre of skim milk 0.92.


We walked home, had dinner and left again for a stroll at around 6:00! We walked by the Kemijoki and went over to Ounaskoski rail bridge via Angry Birds Activity Park. We saw a red squirrel on the way - apparently, the squirrel is red in summer, and the colour changes to grey in winter. We crossed Ounaskoski rail bridge and walked past a camping site on the other side of the river. We returned to the Airbnb via Lumberjack's Candle Bridge. It was almost 8:00. The sun still hadn't set.


It'd taken us over 33 hours to reach Rovaniemi and then we spent our first day exploring the city on foot and constantly having to remind ourselves to walk on the right. We were exhausted and thankful for the comfortable beds. Sleep came in no time!


Day 2

Two much-awaited visits were planned for Day 2 - Arktikum, and the workshop and home of reindeer whisperer Irene Kangasniemi.


Thanks to another informative video, we were keen to experience Arktikum! But we'd arrived too early and had a whole hour to explore the Arctic Garden. The Ounasjoki was calm, and as we stood on the narrow beach, the water lapped gently.

It was a short trail - or the part where we walked was. We could see the bridge from the trail and the cars, but it all seemed so far away! We walked slowly, soaking in the nature around us and these Arctic treasures!


It was 10:00 already. We headed to Arktikum. As soon as we stepped inside, we were struck by the scale of the glass tube! It's 172 metres long and covered by a thousand panes of glass! The chairs, neatly lined, are made from birch and reindeer hide.

The two permanent exhibitions we saw were Northern Ways and Arctic in Change. Northern Ways is all about the history of the Lappish people and their connection with nature. Walking from one exhibit to another in the dimly lit cavernous hall was more enjoyable to the parents than the child! ShNaajh did have a great deal of interest in the Arctic animals but not so much in the people! She patiently listened to all the animal calls and read all the descriptions as we explored the space.

Arktikum, Arctic Animals

Rakesh and I were just as fascinated by the Sami people. It's sad and surprising how indigenous communities all around the world are typically treated by the 'civilised' - how generations are stolen in one way or another by 'civilisation'.

Sami, Loss of language

"A particularly strong factor that changed the linguistic world of Saami people was the compulsory basic education.


It was even punishable to use Saaami languages in schools and boarding houses. As a result of this, many Saami who learnt the dominant language under such traumatic circumstances abandoned their own language to the point of using only the dominant language when speaking to their children in order to save them from similar experiences.


The generations who lost their Sami language because of this process have, however, increasingly started to reclaim their language in recent decades by actively studying it as adults and by speaking it to their own children."

Arctic in Change had a completely different look and feel! It was informative, engaging, and interactive. ShNaajh loved every part of it, but lying on her back and watching the stories of the Northern Lights, and entering an ice cave she loved the most!


We had cinnamon bun at Arktikum Cafe as well - they were also €2.80 each.


Our next highlight was visiting Irene and Ari Kangasniemi. We saw a few YouTube videos where tourists visited Irene's workshop and made jewellery with reindeer antlers and bones while Irene shared stories about the reindeer and Sami culture and people. We wanted to hear those stories from her.

Rovaniemi, Hornwork, Irene Kangasniemi, Ari Kangasniemi

We'd contacted Irene months ago and booked this visit. Little did we know that we would be the only visitors on that day and we'd have Irene and her magic all to ourselves, for far longer than we'd thought! We Bengalis like a good 'adda' and that's exactly what we had - a spontaneous and organic conversation with Irene about Lapland - the 'very far land' that lies across Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia, and the reindeer, and the Sami people and their culture. Like any good 'adda', there was food and drinks! Irene welcomed us into her Lappish LEGO home - yes, the house was built with wooden blocks slotted into each other! Irene took a top block off to prove it! She'd baked a blueberry pie and made fresh blueberry juice. She also gave us cloudberries to try as well as lingonberry juice and talked about Lappish food. Our hearts and bellies were full.


Day 2 had more to offer! After we'd had dinner, Rakesh downloaded an aurora app. Apparently, there was a 10% chance of seeing the Northern Lights and travel videos had claimed that the Arctic Garden was a good spot, so we headed there, at 10:00 pm! We didn't see the aurora, but the sunset glued us to the beach - we stayed there until 11:00.

Day 3

We knew today would be touristy! We were visiting the Santa Claus Village after all! Exploring the village was predictable - we crossed the Arctic Circle, dropped a postcard for ShNaajh in the postbox marked for Christmas delivery, had a photo taken with the big guy himself, and visited the Elf's Farm Yard, where ShNaajh fed the reindeer lichen.

Then came the much-anticipated visit to Husky Park and the hike with huskies! After the guide, Joni, briefed us about the hike and we geared up, we were ready to walk with Kari and Aurora through the wilderness. Apparently, hiking is not a very popular activity; most tourists choose husky rides! It was a short hike - about five kilometres. We had a hard time keeping up with Kari and Aurora at the start, but soon we found our rhythm. The trail was beautiful - there were blueberries everywhere and they were delicious! The hike was truly memorable, and Joni seemed knowledgeable and answered all our questions.

Despite these positives, we felt that the Park and its people were cold and distant. Joni made no attempt to connect with us - he didn't even ask us our names. When we returned from the hike, we were the only visitors left in the park, and the staff had gathered in the yard and looked ready to call it a day. ShNaajh spent a few minutes in the kennel where Aurora's puppies were and that was it! We picked up some postcards and left. Our booking was from 2:00 to 5:00. We left at 4:00.


We took a taxi back to the Airbnb. The host had recommended Lahitaxi, which is what we used even to go to Irene's house and the Santa Village. It works just like Uber - everything is done through the app. It's not cheap though! Irene's house was about 12 km from the Airbnb - it cost €33.30; the Santa Village, 8 km away, cost €25.10.


Day 4

The morning of our last day in Rovaniemi was reserved for Pilke Science Centre. Entry to Pilke is covered by the Culture Pass. There is a short video, which we discovered only after returning to Melbourne, and it gives a nice overview of what Pilke is. Pilke celebrates forests and sustainability and is a fun place to visit. There were many families with young children and they were all so engaged in learning about the northern forests - learning to see the forest for the trees.

We still had a couple of hours before we headed to the airport. We sat by the Kemijoki, dazzled by the blue sky and water. It was a stunning day - all our days in Rovaniemi had been stunning in one way or another. We couldn't have asked for a better, more fulfilling start to our month-long holiday.

Rovaniemi

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