We have just returned from the most amazing five days in Rovaniemi Finland, known to most as Lapland. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to bring my three daughters (and myself) to but I always felt the cost of packages to Lapland were exorbitant. So this time last year I started researching how to get to Rovaniemi from Cork without spending an absolute fortune.
Since returning from Lapland myself and my husband have been inundated with questions from friends, family and work colleagues about how to go about planning a trip to Lapland. With this in mind I decided to write a (once off) blog on our experience from start to finish.
After hours of trawling through skyscanner I discovered Norwegian Airlines had direct flights to Rovaniemi from London Gatwick. The flight cost €660 return for the five of us and we used Ryanair to get to the UK which cost €200 return. If you travel with Norwegian Air be sure to sign up for their rewards club and you can earn cash points everytime you fly. We departed Cork Airport on Saturday the 25th Of November and made the decision to spend two nights with family but alternatively we would have stayed overnight at The Premier Inn at Gatwick Airport on the Sunday night, as the flight to Rovaniemi departed @ 05.50 on Monday morning.
We arrived in Rovaniemei Airport @ 11.10 local time on Monday and we hired a car from FiRent which I booked through economy rentals as they had the most competitive prices. It isn’t necessary to hire a car but to pack in loads it is the most efficient way to get around. All cars come with snow tyres as standard so the driving was fine and we used google maps on our phones to navigate our way to the various activities.
As for accommodation, there are lots of places to stay such as hotels, chalets, Santa Claus Holiday Village, The Tree House Hotel you can even stay in an Igloo at Snowman World or you can use booking.com like we did to find accommodation that suits your budget.We stayed at the Hotel Aakenus in the Kokki Cabin in the centre of Rovaniemi. It was a two bed cabin behind the hotel with self catering facilities but breakfast was also included at the main hotel every morning. For 4 nights B&B it cost €596. The only downside was check in was 4pm but I imagine this is the case with most hotels so we used the time to get some lunch and off we went to check out the Santa Claus Village.
The Santa Claus Village is a Santa experience Village located 8km north of Rovaniemi; this is the same place you’d go if you went on a day trip to Lapland with a tour operator. Entrance to the village is free but you pay for each activity separately. There are lots of different activities on offer at the Santa Claus Village to keep you busy and most importantly it’s where you can visit the “real” Santa Claus. No need to book Santa, we walked straight in with only one family before us. Santa was everything I thought he would be. He chatted with the girls about where they were from and their Christmas Lists. Our youngest child, who is 6 was totally in awe of him. The visit is free but there is an optional charge of €27 for the photograph. They do not allow you take your own pictures in there. Another must see is Santa’s Post Office at the village. Check out the thousands of letters Santa receives from all over the world and make sure you post your letter here too!
We had a wishlist going so knew exactly what we wanted to see and do. If you’re like us and you just want to fit as much as you can in then the taster activities give you a little taste of everything at a more afforable price. You don’t need to pre-book the “taster” activities but if you choose to do longer safaris then you can go to the main reception and book there with Lapland Safaris or online. Don’t get a fright, the cost for the longer safaris are crazy expensive so do your research.
First on our list was snowmobiling – Ideally we thought we could do it as a family but you can only drive or be a passenger on one of the larger snowmobiles if you hold a driver’s licence. Fortunately, there are mini ones for kids to ride on a track at the Santa Claus Village. They get 10 laps for €20 and also get their driver’s licence when finished.
Next on our list was the Reindeer Safari. This is also located at The Santa Claus Village and there are lots of different packages available. Our guide led us over to two beautiful wooden sleighs lined with a large fur to use as a blanket, which was lovely and cosy. We chose the 1 km safari which cost €127 for the 5 of us and it lasted about 20 minutes. It was a magical experience and well worth doing.husky park, again based at The Santa Claus Village have various different safari combinations. Entry to the husky park was €20 for a family ticket and you can stay as long as you like to see more than 80 dogs. While in the park you also have the option to go on a husky safari. This is a must. We picked the 500m husky ride which cost €110 for the 5 of us. Next time I would definitely go for a longer safari as it was fantastic experience.
There are many restaurants dotted around the village and a small shopping centre with another restaurant upstairs. Eating and drinking in Finland is generally more expensive than Ireland, however supermarkets were similar prices to home so if you are self-catering or have fussy eaters you have that option too. We did mostly eat out but we weren’t very adventurous and stuck to places we knew like Subway or Pizza Restaurants. Be prepared as you will see a lot of Reindeer dishes on the menu – poor Rudolph. We did have dinner at The Santa Claus Village at Restaurant Napatapuli on one occasion and I couldn’t fault it. To give you an idea on price for 5 main courses (3 being child portions which were good sized portions) it came to €75.
You could spend so much time in The Santa Claus Village exploring all it has to offer. Snowman World was another place to visit at The Santa Claus Village but unfortunately it didn’t open until the 1st Of December, the day we left. Our girls absolutely loved the little plastic sledges that were free to use while at the village, they probably had more fun on them than anything else during our stay.
Next on the list was SantaPark, located just 8km from Rovaniemi and 2km from The Santa Claus Village SantaPark is a Christmas themed amusement park. It’s all underground in a large cave with 40m of rock overhead as you enter. The only place in the world that you can under-cross the Arctic Circle is at SantaPark. You could easily spend the whole day here as the list of activities is endless. The ticket price includes all fun attractions in SantaPark: Visit Santa in his office, Elves’ Post Office, Toy Factory Shopping Area, Elf School – where everyone qualifies as an Elf and gets a Diploma. The SantaPark Magic Show (3 times a day), Magic Train, Elf Workshop, Angry Birds Activity Area. A visit to Ice Gallery, Ice Bar and meeting with the Ice Princess. Under-crossing of the Arctic Circle. Mrs. Gingerbread’s Bakery where you get to decorate your own Gingerbread. (this is an extra €2.90). Furthermore, you can take as many photos and videos with Santa, Elves, Ice Princess & Mrs. Gingerbread as you like! Entry to Santapark was €153 based on 3 adults and 2 children as our eldest is considered an adult at 16. The ticket is valid for two consecutive days and while the park is geared towards children under 12 our 16 & 14 year old girls really enjoyed the visit.
There is a lovely Irish Bar called “Olivers” not far from our hotel. The average cost of a pint in Rovaniemi was €8 and a glass of wine €9 so if you fancy a few drinks pick up some duty free before you fly.
Another evening we went to see an Ice Hockey match. The girls had never been so it was a novelty to go see it. We got a family ticket for €25 and the game was played at the Lappi Areena, just outside the City. A great way to spend an evening in Rovaniemi. Most other evenings consisted of making snow angels, building a snowman and sledding right outside our cabin.
On Friday the 1st of December, it was time for our Lapland adventure to end. We flew back to Gatwick and stayed overnight at The Premier Inn at Gatwick Airport. A family room was £50 and breakfast was £20 for two adults, kids ate free. We flew back to Cork on Saturday the 2nd on the Ryanair service, which arrived in Cork at 1800.
As you can see from our photos, it is important to have the correct clothing for the trip. The above picture will give you an idea as to how many layers you need to wear. We purchased everything from various different websites like Trespass, Mountain Warehouse, Decathalon,Sports Direct and Outdoor Look. Watch out for deals in Aldi and Lidl also. If you plan ahead you can pick up some great deals off season. The main thing to remember is plenty of layers and that your clothing is waterproof as you will be wet from the snow. Another tip is to bring a power bank as the phones lose battery quicker than normal with the temperatures.
Now the bit that everyone is interested in. I know the title of the blog is “Lapland On A Budget” but our initial aim was to get better value for our money. The tour operator package to Lapland for 1 night for 5 people was quoted at almost €5000. For 4 nights accommodation with B&B, plus one night at Gatwick on the return, plus all flights, plus the car hire came in at €1700. The activities, which I’ve listed above came in at €715. You don’t have to be a genius to work out how much we saved! We flew to Lapland on 27th of November until December 1st. We did notice the following week flights almost doubled in price so December is obviously in high demand. Another advantage to going late November is that the attractions are less busy and queuing for activities isn’t an issue. And of course it was so handy to depart and arrive back into Cork Airport (sure I’d have to give it a plug).
All in all it was a fantastic trip, a trip of a life time. One that will be remembered for ever. I hope this blog gives others the confidence to plan their Lapland trip. There is some planning involved but take it from me it is so worth it!
*Since I wrote this blog, EasyJet have introduced flights from Gatwick & Manchester to Rovaniemi.