Chasing The Northern Lights - Day 5 (Rovaniemi)

  • Thursday, December 25, 2014
  • By Iva Wen

Click here to read day 1day 2, day 4day 6day 7 and day 8 report

Day 5

We moved on to Rovaniemi after 2 nights in Helsinki. Rovaniemi is the highlight of this holiday.

Rovaniemi was snowing all the time when we were there. Don't forget to dress warmly if you plan to visit Rovaniemi in December. See video how to dress and enjoy winter. This article is also very useful to guide you what clothes to bring to Lapland.

You can check out the webcam live stream from these websites:
- Santa Claus Village
- Rovaniemi down town

Getting here and around

We took Finnair flight from Helsinki and reached Rovaniemi at 1:30pm after an hour. You can also take overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, return ticket costs about 140 euros (with sleeping compartment) but it takes at least 10 hours. I thought of taking this option but air ticket is less than 100 euros (our hotel in Helsinki is 136 euros per night) and only an hour flight, so traveling to Rovaniemi by air will be a better option. Click here to purchase your train ticket.

There is an airport taxi leaving Rovaniemi airport to Rovaniemi town right after every flight arrival. It stops at Hotel Pohjanhovi, Hoteli Vaakuna, Hotel Santa Claus, Hotel Cumulus, City Hotel, Hotel Scandic and Rovaniemi bus station and 7 euro per pax.

This airport taxi departs from Rovaniemi bus station to airport 1 hour and 10 minutes before departure of every flight. This can be very dangerous and you might miss your flight. Our flight departed from Rovaniemi at 6:30pm, Finnair bag drop counter closed at 5:30pm and this airport taxi picked us at 5:15pm. Do you think we can make it to airport before 5:30pm? Obviously not! In fact, we asked our hotel reception staff if 1 hour and 10 mins before flight departure time is enough and their answer is yes. We reached airport at 5:40pm and luckily we still managed to check in our luggage, I think we were the last passengers. I overheard the conversation between Finnair check in counter staff and another passenger (who took the same airport taxi with us), Finnair had actually feedback to this airport taxi company many times that the pick up time (from town to airport) is not enough.

Bus number 8 go to airport first before Santa Claus Village. You may consider this option instead of airport taxi. It is better to check with your hotel and they will show you the time table.

Click here for airport taxi information.

Attractions in Rovaniemi

Need I say more? It's all about Santa Claus VillageSanta Park and winter safaris! If you are into museum, you will love to visit Arktikum. And don't forget to sign up winter excursions with tour operators like Lapland Safaris, Lapland Welcome, Lapland Safartica. Many winter tours such as husky ride, reindeer ride, northern lights tours can be done here.

We signed up "aurora borealis adventure" with Lapland Safaris, "visit a husky farm and 2h safaris" & "northern lights snowmobile driving safari" with Lapland Welcome.

Read things to do in Rovaniemi in and activities in Rovaniemi by Rovaniemi Tourism.

What to eat in Rovaniemi?

You might want to try Finland Lappish cuisine. There are many restaurants in Rovaniemi town.

Snowland restaurant (the restaurant is made of ice & snow)
Hotel Santa Claus ZoomUP restaurant (weekday buffet lunch, ala carte dinner, weekend buffet dinner)
City Hotel Monte Rosa restaurant (weekday buffet lunch, ala carte dinner, weekend buffet dinner)
Pohjanhovi Hotel restaurant (weekday buffet lunch, ala carte dinner, weekend buffet dinner)
Nili restaurant (Lappish fine dining)
Choco Deli (famous for their homemade chocolate)
Cafe21 (famous for their salty waffle and salad)


After we dropped our bag at Rantasipi Pohjanhovi, we headed to Cafe 21 which is about 600m away from our hotel. Someone (whom I believe he is local) in tripadvisor recommended me this place. It's located in the center of town, it's popular and packed with local especially during lunch time. It's a trendy cafe with good and affordable food.

We ordered their famous funky chicken salty waffle, salad and special chocolate drink with marshmallow. Salad is fresh and tasty.  

After we had light lunch at Cafe 21, we took a stroll along the main street in Rovaniemi, Christmas market again! Most stalls here are selling souvenirs and we saw this special stall selling reindeer product. They provide free engraving on purchased reindeer product.  .


We had dinner at City Hotel Monte RosaI noticed that most of the hotels in Rovaniemi only offer buffet lunch (11:00 - 14:00) & ala carte dinner (18:00 - 21:00) on weekday and buffet dinner or ala carte on weekend. We wanted to try Christmas buffet at Monte Rosa, however it's only available for lunch on weekday and buffet dinner on weekend. Their menu and ala carte is only available for dinner. 

The restaurant was almost full house and quite noisy, there were many diners in there. Tables are close to each other too which lacking a bit of privacy. We ordered arctic ocean king crab soup, pan roasted scallops and Monte Rosa burger. Service and food is great. However I prefer Cafe 21 than Monte Rosa.  

Chase aurora

We signed up northern lights by car and on foot with Lapland Safaris at 99 euros per pax. I would recommend you to sign up northern lights tour instead of hunting aurora yourself IF you are not driving and staying in city. This kind of tour can be very touristy. It is very popular among tourists since everyone is there for aurora. If you don't want to waste your money, you can also choose not to stay in city hotel and stay log cabin in deep forest kind. You just need a dark place to spot aurora. This kind of tour is meant for tourists who are staying in city (light pollution).

Since we just stayed beside Lapland Safaris, we just walked over to their office at 8:50pm. We waited at the reception there until all other participants arrived before we were brought to changing room. There were about 30 - 40 over people signed up for the tour. All of us were given overall snowsuit, snow boots, hats, gloves and we brought along our own scarf. We left our jacket and shoes in Lapland Safaris office, personal belongings we would need to carry with ourselves, no bag was given.

Everyone got onto a bus and they brought us to a reindeer farm Poro-Pekan Pirtti (poro = reindeer), approximately 53 km away from Rovaniemi town and took us 45 mins to reach there.

Poro-Pekan Pirtti does provide accommodation too. You can spend a night there to catch aurora.

We left Rovaniemi town at about 10pm and reached reindeer at about 11pm. We sat around camp fire and cooked sausages on stick while we were waiting for aurora. Hot berry drinks were served too.

Rovaniemi had been cloudy for a few weeks since early December. We waited patiently until 12am aurora finally appeared! It's very faint and we had to use camera to check it frequently. Aurora appeared on and off. I managed to shoot a few pictures and sky seemed to be getting clearer, I wanted to stay a little longer but our guide started to "chase" us home at 12:20am. Seriously? Couldn't stay a little longer? Aurora just appeared not long ago and most of us paid a lot of money traveled very far to Rovaniemi just for aurora.

We chatted with a pair of couple from Belgium the next day after this tour, they signed up aurora tour with Lapland Welcome the same night when we were with Lapland Safaris. Their guide stayed with them until 1am before they heading back to hotel!!!! I believe I can take much nicer photo if I was allowed to stay until 1am.

Overall everything was ok, the guide was friendly, the service was good, the campfire was well done just the ending part is something can be improved. When I was with Lapland Welcome, we ended at 1am and we get changed into our own jacket and shoes and kept the snow suit into the bag provided. This arrangement is better as all of us didn't have to go back to their office to change again before sending all of us back to hotel. The extra time saved allowed us to spend more time at aurora viewing place.

Something you need to know about aurora borealis

What is aurora?

It's one of the most incredible natural phenomenon. This is because electrically charged particles from sun collide with gaseous particles (oxygen, nitrogen) in earth's atmosphere when they enter earth. Aurora can be seen at northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere. The most well known and common aurora is green, there is also violet, red and blue. Aurora color changes depending the element interacted.

Green: Oxygen, up to 240km
Blue: Nitrogen, up to 100km
Red: Oxygen, above 240km
Purple/ Violet: Nitrogen, above 100km

When is the best time to see aurora?

There is no best month. Aurora is a year round phenomenon. However, aurora is usually visible between September and April when nights are longer, from 6pm - 6am. 11pm - 2am aurora activity is the most active. From May to August, the midnight sun doesn't go far below horizon and daylight hours are much longer, it can be 24 hours.

Clear sky (no cloud), location (no light pollution) and aurora forecast, these are the few factors which can help to increase your chance of seeing aurora.

What are the forecast websites available?

Aurora Service and their facebook page
Geophysical Institute

Where to watch aurora?

Rovaniemi is not the best place to see aurora in Finland. Inari or Ivalo in Finland, Tromso in Norway, Yellowknife in Canada, Kiruna in Sweden and Fairbank in Alaska are better and more recommended location. I didn't travel further up because transportation is an issue for me and Rovaniemi has everything I want.

It was a cloudy night and this was the best aurora we could spot.

You need luck to catch aurora. Sometimes even the forecast is good and clear sky but aurora may not appear, so try to stay as long as possible. The longer you stay in any one of these locations the higher chance you will see aurora, I would say minimum 3 - 4 nights. We stayed 3 nights. To maximize our chance, we signed up tours with 2 different operators to different viewing location in 2 days, another night we stayed at Artic Snow Hotel which is also a great remote place to see aurora.

Check Rovaniemi sunset sunrise time here, moon phase, and live radar of cloud cover in Rovaniemi.

Click here to read day 1day 2, day 4day 6day 7 and day 8 report

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  1. Do you purchase the prepaid sim card at the Helsinki airport?

    1. Hi Steven, nope I did not buy SIM card in Finland. There's a tourist information counter in Helsinki airport, you should be able to spot the counter (it looks like a shop) once you step out from gate, you can go ask them.

  2. Hi Iva,

    great blog u have������

    I was totally clueless in planning my year end trip until I read your blog!
    Day 3 is missing or meant to be?
    love all the tips and details you put into this blog!

    Love, Donna

    1. Hi Donna, I was in Helsinki on day 3 and there wasn't much thing to talk about on day 3 therefore I did not write anything.

  3. Hi! Which camera did you use? Was it snowing at the time of aurora watching?

    1. Hi I used Nikon D800. It was winter time and thick snow on the ground when I was there.

  4. Hi, when I looked at the map, I saw that Reindeer and Husky are just nearby, do you think we can just walk in instead of getting from tour agency?

    1. Hi, I did not sign up reindeer ride so I'm not too sure which reindeer farm you are referring to. As for the husky farm, you can sign up with the husky farm directly which save you euro 10 (during my time of visit) - I signed up through an agent and only found out later that I could actually sign up with the farm directly. Here is my husky ride trip report -

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