A Magical Rendezvous in Finland
It is wintertime and the travel bug within you is getting all jittery! Well, pack your winter clothes and put on snow shoes, for we’re taking you on a magical ride all the way to the North Pole — Finland! Let's take a look at why you must visit two of the best places you can explore this Winter — Rovaniemi and Helsinki.
Sitting on the Arctic Circle is Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. The city is covered in snow for more than half a year, making it the best place for extreme winter sports like snowmobiling, husky sledding, ice fishing, skiing, and best of all — northern lights hunting!
Rovaniemi is an ancient village that is thought to have been inhabited since the Stone Age. Its inhabitants kept mostly to the Kemijoki and Ounasjoki rivers for survival, and have since created the beautiful city of Lapland.
Out of the many extraordinary things in Finland, the most prominent allure is the range of winter sports you can carry out. Not to mention that Rovaniemi witnesses Aurora Borealis for more than 200 nights of the year. If you’re looking to delve into the history and culture of Finland, you could drop by at the Korundi House of Culture and Pilke Science Centre.
One of the most popular attractions happens to be 8 km from the centre of the city — Santa Claus Village. The atmosphere in this village is always festive, as you can shop for handcrafted memorabilia, watch reindeers, and stand directly over the Arctic Circle.
When to visit: Unsurprisingly enough, December happens to be the best time to pay a visit to the snowy mountaintops of the Finnish village. With Christmas lights and festivities around, the city would embrace you readily. But whenever you do visit in the Winter, you must be prepared for a few hours of daylight every day, as Lapland doesn’t get enough sun in the winters. If you’re looking to visit after winter and in adequate sunlight, then you’d have to wait until March, when the temperatures are warmer.
Where to eat and drink: Lappish cuisine constitutes an important cultural aspect to the Finnish. If you’ve never had Reindeer stew, then what better a place to try it than the Arctic? Some of the other exclusive dishes you could try are Arctic Char, which you can fish in the ice, or indulge yourself with some Leipäjuustoth — a cheese dessert.
There are a myriad of winter activities that you can pursue within and around Rovaneimi. Here are some more of them in addition to the ones mentioned in the previous blog:
Husky Sledding: Husky sledding at a reindeer farm at the north pole — could it get any more perfect? Not only will you be able to ride and play with the huskies, but also reindeers! You can pet the reindeers, feed them, click pictures with them and have a complete Christmas experience. You could also sled a reindeer and drive them!
Explore Santa Claus Village and Cross the Arctic Circle: Once you’re back from sledding, you can get to bask in the festive ambiance of the “official” city of Santa Claus. A white line in the middle of the Santa Claus village marks the southernmost point of earth. At this point, the sun can stay either below or above the horizon for 24 hours. While you’re in Santa village, don’t forget to check out Santa’s museum, which contains the history and evolution of snowmobiles in the Arctic region.
1.5 Hours of Electric Snowmobiling: Start early when the sun rises and snowmobile your way through the calming alps of Finland. You can also use “e-sleds,” which can be towed to your vehicle.
Get up and close with Arctic Animals: A day trip to Ranua Wildlife Park will introduce you to over 200 arctic species! Take a 2.5 km hike into this wildlife park and watch polar bears, along with 49 other species of wild arctic animals and over 200 other specimens. If you have bought your children along, you’ll also get child-sized sleds for them! A guide will walk you through the entire park and explain to you about all animals and their habitats. After polar bears, the second-most popular animal happens to be the Arctic Fox. You will also see wolverines and lynxes in the park.
Excursion to Amethyst Mine: One of the most unique sections of the tour, you will be driven to Luosto, where you’ll be able to enter Europe’s only active Amethyst mine. You will board a special “snow train” called Amethyst Pendolina. This essentially is a wagon that’s pulled by a snow machine. The train will take you to the top of Lampivaara fell. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire national park. You can then take some rest in a wooden cabin where you’ll be offered warm berry juice.
The capital of Finland may experience the brunt of winter, but a pair of snowshoes and a cup of coffee would suffice for the entire time you’d be there. Just like Rovaniemi, Winter in Helsinki doesn’t start as late as December. The place is enshrouded in darkness for a major portion of the time, but warm candles in window sills and cozy cafes will make you feel home!
When to visit: Calling Helsinki a winter destination wouldn’t do it any justice, as the city looks beautiful all year-round. However, when you visit it in December, you’d see the Christmas markets beginning to thrum with life. You’ll find a lot of cozy huts selling handicrafts and souvenirs. The fairy-lights dancing in the air and the people celebrating with drinks is truly an ambiance to indulge in. If you’re planning on exploring one of the Christmas markets, the Senate Square is a good place to start. To make your stay easier, here are a few tips and tricks to remember when in Helsinki:
- You can save money on transportation and restaurants by getting the Helsinki City Card.
- Grab a local sim card to stay connected with the internet.
- Pick a tour and get to know the entire city.
What to eat: The traditional foods in Finland include meat like pork, fish, and beef. Among the staples, grains like rye and barley make up the Finnish diet. Helsinki is a small village but with a plethora of restaurants to visit. Some of the famous Finnish dishes that you can try are Näkkileipä, Muikku, and Ruisleipä. After you’ve had to your fill, check out some of the activities you can pursue in Helsinki:
Helsinki Old Town Tour: The best way to start exploring Helsinki is to embark on an Old Town tour where you’ll learn the history of the Finns and their culture. The tour will take you all over the Senate Square where you’ll get to see the Presidential Palace, Lutheran Cathedral, Mannerheim Street, Helsinki’s main thoroughfare, you will see the Parliament House, the National Museum and also Finlandia Hall, designed by the famous architect Alvar Aalto, Sibelius Park with a Sibelius Monument.
Visit the Sipoonkorpi National Park and Enjoy a Smoke Sauna: If you’ve never ventured into a Taiga forest before, then now is the chance to do so! The Sipoonkorpi National Park is a sprawling stretch of Taiga forest where you can relax and rewind in the algid, subarctic windchill. You can top that off with a traditional Finnish Smoke Sauna. A professional guide will navigate you through the National Park along forested trails while explaining the local culture and wildlife. As you reach the Smoke Sauna, you will immerse yourself in a sauna heated to 80-100 degrees Celsius so you may relax. And if you’re into extreme sports, you also get a chance at taking the iconic Arctic dip!
Ice Skating: Like a lot of places where it snows, Ice Skating is one of the most common winter activities in Helsinki. You will find the Helsinki Ice Park at the heart of the city. It’s open from December to March every year. Enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and take in the amazing views of the historical buildings you’d be surrounded by.
Cruise the Frozen Seas on a hovercraft: A hovercraft gliding over the ice and breaking the ice sheets apart as it zooms is a truly unforgettable and once-in-a-lifetime experience. This experience takes place in the other part of Helsinki, and is a totally safe winter activity. Put on your survival suit, board a hovercraft and glide through the Arctic ice sheets!
Catch the Lux Light Festival: The Lux Helsinki Light Festival is an annual fete that is organized during the darker days of Finland. The event portrays a diverse range of light art, which sees over half a million visitors annually. The festival is truly a sight to see. This year, 2023, will witness the festival from 4 Jan 2023 to 8 Jan 2023.
How to Gain Entry into Finland
All UAE residents are required to apply for a Schengen visa before travelling to countries under the Schengen Agreement, including Finland.
For travellers with passport from the below countries, a Schengen visa isn’t required.
Albania || Andorra || Antigua and Barbuda || Argentina || Australia || Bahamas || Barbados || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Brunei || Canada || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Dominica || El Salvador || Georgia || Grenada || Guatemala || Holy See (Vatican City State) || Honduras || Hong Kong S.A.R
However, if you don’t find your country in the above list, you’re required to apply for a Schengen visa for a cost of EUR 30 (AED 310).
The documents required other than a Schengen Visa are your passport and travel insurance. In addition to that, you must hold adequate funds (EUR 30 per day) while on your stay in Finland. In order to obtain a Schengen Visa, you mustn’t hold an entry ban to the Schengen Area. Your visa will be re-evaluated upon arrival in the Schengen Areas, and if deemed a threat to the country, you might be prohibited entry.
NOTE: Before applying for visa, applicants are strongly advised to recheck and revalidate the visa information provided, such as visa requirements, costs, validity, etc., with the relevant authorities. I Book Holiday DMCC shall not be held responsible or liable for any changes or actions that are a consequence of the information provided.
Documents Required for Schengen Visa for UAE Residents: The documents required for UAE residents to obtain a Tourist Schengen Visa for Finland are as follows:
- Visa application form.
- Passport with a minimum validity of 3 months.
- Travel Medical Insurance.
The visa application process takes at least two weeks, so ensure that you apply for it at least 15 days prior to your flight departure time.