Finland is the first new country I’ve been in the last 5 years.

I have probably flown more than 80 times in the last half decade with or without Cheesiepetits, but this was the first time that it was not (anywhere in) Japan, Bali, or Gold Coast. It was a new challenge. Maybe even the start of a new life I had been thinking about.

Given the chance of a lifetime to be a #RovaniemiSummerAmbassador, I had spent 6 full days in the official home of Santa Clause, experiencing the true Lappish nature and wilderness, under an almost eternal sunshine.

I’ll come to that more later on, but this blog post is on how to get to Rovaniemi, and where I ate and stayed!

 

FLY

Finnair is undoubtedly the best option you have if you are flying to Rovaniemi from Singapore. I was really surprised that there’s a daily direct flight from Changi to Helsinki, like… are there that many Finnish people here in Singapore? Haha. (Of course I know that Helsinki Airport is a major international airport which many people stop over at before their next destination. It has kickass lounges and lots and lot of shopping!)

Finnair is also a Oneworld Alliance member (so as Japan Airlines) which means I get to collect mileage and use their awesome lounges.😌

I departed from Changi on a midnight flight, had a stopover at Helsinki, and caught my connecting flight to Rovaniemi airport and landed at noon time.

Rovaniemi is not a mega city, but its airport is the second busiest in Finland. There are 4 daily flights from Helsinki to its local airport so you can choose the timing that best suit your schedule!

Up in the air

For SIN-HEL I was on economy and for the return HEL-SIN I was upgraded to business class and it was my first ever long haul flight (11 hours) on business I nearly shed a few tears haha. Full service meals, lots and lots of movies, and most importantly, flat bed for the much needed sleep after a whole week of my body clock going haywire.

Love the collaboration with Marimekko on all the in-flight amenities!

A welcome drink and appetizer.

Midnight dinner. I had smoked salmon with cauliflower and asparagus. So good!

Movie time over dinner. I’m not sure if it is a coincidence or not but it looks like Finnair was running a Wes Anderson special because I watched 4 of Wes’s films in total on board!

First I watched Isle Of Dogs on my first flight, which soundtracks were soooo superbly captivating (until I couldn’t sleep haha). And then I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel, then Moonrise Kingdom, and lastly, Fantastic Mr Fox. I’d say I love his stop-motions the best.

Dessert

A great breakfast over Fantastic Mr Fox.

You may book your flight here at Finnair.com!

 

Moving About

What greets you upon setting foot on Rovaniemi. It’s such a cute little airport!

This was how I go around in Rovaniemi. Fancy! Yeap, just me, alone.

To be honest I haven’t driven for yearsssss and not to mention, in Finland the driver’s seat is on the left side and they also drive on the opposite side of the road!! Every time I tried to reach for the seatbelt I stretched my hand over my right and touched nothing and when I wanted to reach for the gear I knocked my hand on the left side door lol. EVERY TIME.

It was also scary at first because the highways in Rovaniemi are completely empty so the first 5 minutes I was truly in doubt whether I was driving on the right (which is right) side.

But I was really glad I took up this little challenge and adventure because driving was quite therapeutic, and you really do get used to it after a while (except for the seatbelt and gear), so go for it!! Self-driving is your best bet when it comes to moving about in Rovaniemi.

Reached my accommodation safely! It was only 3km from the airport but to me that felt like forever! Haha.

 

 

STAY

Santa’s Igloo Arctic Circle

The Santa’s Igloo is probably world-famous because I bet you have seen it on all the curated travel feeds so many times on Instagram. Staring out of the glass roof overlooking at the mesmerizing Northern Lights. But that’s for the next round, winter! Today I’m sharing the charms of summer time in Rovaniemi.

This is Santa’s Igloo at midnight. I was telling everyone that I was just pretending that it is the Day Version of Northern Lights that I am witnessing. And I see it every day. Hues of pink, lilac and crimson flashes over the bright sky. Yeap, it is the day-time aurora. ^^

Little welcome gift from Santa’s Igloo! That’s Santa’s helper, really cuddly and slightly clumsy looking because you can’t be sure if they can see anything haha.

The igloo is cozy and uniquely Instaworthy, if you are into that sort, and it even comes with an in-room sauna, which is pretty much a necessity in Finland, just like the compulsory ofuro in Japan.

There are 71 igloos in total and in winter time they are almost all fully booked up, but summer time is low season and it’s the best time to truly enjoy some solitude and peace in the wild nature.

Yuria joined me for 2 days here all the way from Amsterdam!

The glass-roof that everyone is lusting over for their hunt of the Northern Lights. Just a note – while there are curtains for the glass window, the roof top is fully transparent so when you do come in summer time, you are going to experience a white night – the sky just never gets dark enough for you to feel that it’s bed time. The only salvation – eye masks. They do provide the eye masks in the igloo, and if you like, you can bring your favorite ones!

Sauna time. The locals say that it is the hottest summer they have ever experience with the temperature going up to 30 over degree, but at night it can still get a little chilly (although not in Finnish standard – to them that’s “warm” or “just nice”). Sauna is a good way to warm your body up!

Yeap tripod.

Eat

In summer time the restaurant, Arctic Eye is closed unless there’s a group tour staying over. On one of the days I’ve stayed there was a small tourist group so Yuria and I had a very traditional Lappish breakfast from the buffet at the restaurant!

On days where the restaurant is closed, you get an in-bed breakfast which they pre-arrange in your room’s mini bar, which is also very awesome.

You can find out more about Santa’s Igloo Arctic Hotel here. It is located right next to the most popular tourist spot in Rovaniemi – the Santa Clause Village, and it’s just a 5 mins drive from the airport!

 

Arctic Light Hotel

On the 3rd night (well, sunny night!), I moved into Arctic Light Hotel – ranked the Best Hotel in Rovaniemi – neatly tucked right in the very city center, so if you are one who can’t live without the possibility to get a few drinks just downstairs, it is your best bet. It’s surrounded with all main tourist service providers and a couple of major shopping malls, restaurants and more.

It was luxurious to say the least. Starry snowflakes on the wall and fun play with lighting in the room. The only thing you will wonder is what you will do with the million pillows on the bed.

Spot a baby polar bear on the bed!

I was here for two nights and I really had the best sleep ever.

Shower room, if you don’t mind a curious polar bear staring right at you.

Arctic Boulevard in the hotel which is one of the most charming restaurant I’ve seen really, oozing nordic charm at its fullest.

 

Eat

Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, I’d suggest to splurge on a meal at the Arctic Boulevard!

My daily breakfast. The guests were spoilt for choice. Lots of warm and cold dishes, a juice bar, and my favorites were…

Allllll the mini smoothies and berries in a cup! I LOVE FREE BERRIES! Haha. In Finland you get berries infinity so I was really overdosing on them the whole time.

And then there was dinner. I went for a tasting menu without looking at the price. You won’t be told what is served because everything was a surprise.

First the Lappish-style bread selection with cream cheese and this amazing garlic and herb spread…

Appetizer: Slightly roasted arctic char (a kind of fish) fennel, leek mayo and seaweed caviar, pickled spring onion.

Soup: Charcoal grilled pumpkin with dill-infused truffle oil.

Main: Reindeer cooked two ways – Reindeer roast and overcooked shank, Lappish Puikula potatoes & charcoal grilled vegetables.

Honestly I was a little hesitant at first but my first reindeer meat experience – it’s like eating really really lean beef, tender and slightly juicy. It’s pretty good! What blew me away was the potatoes. IT IS THE FINNISH POTATOES. (Also called almond potatoes) I don’t know what’s the magic in them but they are soooo rich and flavorful, be it wedges, mash, chips… I’m in love.

Sweets: Yellow flower mousse with… of course, berries!

It was a truly lovely dinner, I only wished I had a company to share this yummy moment with T_T. Anyway I expected a fancy, treasure-box like course dinner like this to cost over a hundred euro. But the 4-course tasting menu was only 50 euro, which I think is really reasonable given the quality of it, with most ingredients are sourced from its local nature prepared in the Arctic way – pickling, salt-curing, smoking.

Go for a treat if you are in Rovaniemi. ^^

Arctic Light Hotel has more to offer than just a gorgeous stay. Check them out here!

 

Hostel Cafe Koti

Main street of Rovaniemi, you won’t miss the yellow hanging umbrellas!

Hostel Cafe Koti is located right here, and right opposite the Arctic Light Hotel. If you are looking for something budget, this new stylish hostel in town that was originally a bank has been renovated to house cozy Scandinavian-style private rooms and dorms.

A swirly stairway to the terrace upstairs.

Enjoy a beer or two under the midnight sun.

The dorm starts from 26 euro (!!!), and this is a private room if you are not so much into sharing with strangers. Really cozy-looking!

 

Eat

I didn’t stay at the hostel but I did had a meal at cafe Koti. It was my first ever meal in Finland and I was really pleasantly surprised!

Fruit water and OJ. Check out those little cranberries at the bottle neck! Like a necklace. ^^

Yuria and I both had the grilled trout with leek as main, and beef carpaccio with shredded eggyolk, and pea soup to share. It was more than cafe-standard. Creative, artisan quality and delicious. And the best thing? Affordable. Each dish here was under 10 euro.

My tastebuds were so excited because it was something fresh and new for me. I was so glad to have come here for my first dinner and to leave feeling happy and impressed.

You can read up more on Hostel Cafe Koti here.

 

That’s all for today. Hopefully I’ll have time to blog about my full 6-day itinerary in Rovaniemi real quick! Stay tuned!

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