The Ultimate Rovaniemi Summer Guide
Rovaniemi is the entry point to Lapland, the northernmost province in Finland. It is located right on the arctic circle, surrounded by scenic lakes and tranquil forests, stunning landscapes, and millions of mosquitoes.
In the summer months, Rovaniemi never has a dark night sky. Just as the sun sets it begins to rise again. For a few weeks in the middle of summer, the sun won’t set at all. Crazy right?
Rovaniemi is best known as a winter destination when tourists flock north to see the iconic Northern Lights. However, they also need to deal with up to 23 hours of darkness per day, and temperatures as low as -40 degree Celsius with additional wind chill factor. That’s not my ideal trip.
Summer on the other hand? Well, that’s what this epic guide to summer in Rovaniemi is all about! Not many people seem to be talking about the long days, warm weather and abundance of outdoor activities that Rovaniemi has to offer.
Here I’m going to give you 9 great things to do in Rovaniemi in the summer. Though at least half of these are applicable in the winter months too.
Things to do in Rovaniemi
There are several husky kennels (or husky farms as they’re commonly called) around Rovaniemi. We visited the Bear Hill Husky Farm which is home to just over 120 Alaskan Huskies. The kennels are most popular for their sled dog rides in the winter months when there is plenty of snow and freezing cold air temperatures.
During the spring and summer months, the huskies still do sled rides, however, they pull a different type of sled fitted wheels. The rides can go up to a few kilometers in through the forest.
On the rare occasion that the temperature exceeds 16 degrees Celsius, the huskies will not do sled rides as it is too hot for them. During our visit to Rovaniemi, the air temperature was 29 degrees Celsius. A huge heatwave across Europe.
Cross the Arctic Circle
The arctic circle is the point at which there will be one day of no sunset in the middle summer or no sunrise in the middle of winter. More specifically it is the latitude of 66° 33′ N But if you weren’t very good at geography in school, then it just means you’re very far north.
There are arctic circle markers at various points along the line across Finland. The easiest place to find the arctic circle line as at the Santa Claus Village. You won’t have to go trespassing onto someone’s farm or stop dangerously in the middle of the highway to get a nice photo of your northerly adventure here.
It’ll only take you a minute to cross the arctic circle and continue to the Santa Claus Village next door.
Santa Claus Village
During the winter there are huge lines where you’d wait for hours on end to snag a quick chat with Santa Claus himself. However, in the summer you’ll almost have the village to yourself, the line to meet the man himself was under 10 minutes.
Have a chat with Santa and tell him all the things you want for Christmas (in my case it is to be with my family and have a huge lunch… and perhaps another camera). Meeting and greeting are free, a professional photo will cost, but then where in the world won’t it?
Next, pop into the arctic circle post office and send a postcard with the official Santa Claus Village stamp. You will also see some crazy statistics up on the wall, like the 20 million letters which have been received addressed to Santa over the years.
See a Reindeer or Two
Next door to the Santa Claus Village, you will find an enclosure with some fairly domesticated reindeer. You can feed them a bunch of tasty looking leaves and snap away loads of close-up photos. If you don’t get to see a reindeer in the wild, then this is one easy place to tick that off the list.
Remember to hold the leaves low as reindeer will jump for a feed.
There are up to 350,000 reindeer roaming around Lapland. However, to see these ones will need to head further out of town. Most of these reindeer are not wild but farmed and allowed to roam free.
We encountered lots of reindeer on the road between Rovaniemi and Kuusamo, about 100 kilometers out of town.
The Arktikum Museum and Science Centre is located right by Rovaniemi’s city center. You can easily walk there if you are staying in town. This was far more impressive than I had expected.
Did you know? Rovaniemi was occupied by the then allied German soldiers during World War 2 but burnt to the ground by them when Finland signed a peace treaty with Russia. What was once a nice old wooden town (like Kokkola, Rahe, and Porvoo) is now gone and has been rebuilt in years gone by.
There is lots of information about the Sami people (the indigenous people of Lapland), and also on the logging industry around Rovaniemi and further north. You will even find plenty of old portrait photos of people which give you a great insight into life in Finland as far back as the mid-1940s.
Visit Kotisaari Island
Kotisaari Island is a small island located in the Kemijoki River about 2 kilometers south of the town center. The island was previously used by lumberjacks transporting logs along the Kemijoki River from further up north. Over time trucks became the main method of transporting logs and the island was no longer used.
Today there a few traditional Finnish buildings remaining on the island and preserved in good condition. Unsurprisingly, one of these is a proper Finnish smoke sauna. You can visit Kotisaari Island independently by rowboat or kayak, however, you can only enter the historical buildings by joining an organized tour.
We visited Kotisaari Island with a Midnight Sun Excursion by Lapland Safaris. The tour included a huge Finnish dinner on the island, and a trip to the top of Ounasvaara Fell afterward to watch the late sunset.
Swimming at the Lake or Beach
Rovaniemi’s summers can occasionally get quite warm. When we visited in July the midday temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius. Perfect weather for a swim!
There are lots of great beaches around town on the shores of the Kemijoki, Ounasjoki, and Sinetta Rivers. Many locals go to one of the popular beaches near Rovaniemi such as Koskipuisto Park (i.e. Rovaniemi Beach), Kirkkolampi Park, or Ounaspaviljonki. On hot days these places tend to get a little crowded.
I prefer to go further away to escape the crowds and have a place to myself. The beach at Olkajarvi is the perfect place! Olkajarvi is located about 20 minutes northeast of Rovaniemi, along route E75 heading towards Kemijarvi.
You can swim either at Olkajarvi’s public beach (search for Ounasvaara Winter Trail) or from Apukka Resort if you’re staying there. We did both, but I preferred the public beach as it is more scenic.
Watch the Sunset (Midnight Sun)
The summer days in Rovaniemi are long with beautiful late sunsets. From 6th June to 7th July the sun doesn’t set at all, this is known as the Midnight Sun which only occurs within the arctic circle.
There are plenty of amazing places around Rovaniemi to enjoy the Midnight Sun, such as Ounasvaara Fell, the tallest mountain near to town. There are also lots of scenic locations along the Kemijoki River (pictured above) and the nearby lakes like Olkajarvi.
Pack yourself some dinner, some Finnish beers and lots of mosquito repellant, then laze back and enjoy the scenery for a few hours. You will find plenty of Finns enjoying the summer in Rovaniemi like this too.
The region is surrounded by forest, so you can imagine there are some beautiful hiking trails in Rovaniemi to be explored. One area with lots of trails is Napapiirin Retkeilyalue otherwise known as the Arctic Circle Hiking Area which is located about 25 kilometers north-east of town on route E75. That’s just past Olkajarvi the swimming location I mentioned earlier.
There are several walking tracks here ranging in length. For a shorter walk try Könkäänsaari Nature Trail (1.5km loop), it’s an easy walk through the forest on an island. It’s also wheelchair accessible, so perfect for all people of all ages.
Keen for a long walk? Try Könkäiden Polku (10km one-way) a more demanding hike which will take you across a series of rapids, islands, and mire landscapes. This is a great half-day activity, perfect for the sunny summer days.
Where to Eat in Rovaniemi
If you haven’t been to Finland long, you will soon learn that the Finns love their buffet lunches, and the Nova Skyland is one of the best of the best. The lunch buffet runs daily from 11am to 3pm with a menu which changes daily. It is amazing value for 15 euros including lunch, dessert, tea, and coffee. You can really eat as much as you want.
Looking for a cheaper place to eat? There are cafeterias at the Revontuli Shopping Centre and other shopping centers in town. The larger petrol stations like ABC and Teboil also commonly offer a buffet for lunch and dinner.
Hotels in Rovaniemi
Being a popular tourist destination, there is no shortage of hotels around Rovaniemi. However, during the winter months, you will need to book more popular hotels and resorts weeks if not months in advance. Take that as a warning and book now.
Finding accommodation in the summer months can be difficult for the opposite reason, many of the resorts are closed because there just aren’t enough tourists around. However, those that are open generally have great deals through websites like Agoda (which I use for all my bookings).
We stayed in one of the glass igloos as Apukka Resort for 3 nights. Sure, they are designed for watching the northern lights from your bed, but still just as cool in the summer when you can go to bed under the sunrise. Apukka Resort also has direct access to water at Olkajarvi with a lakeside sauna.
There are more budget hotels and hostels in town. Check out the listings at Agoda here for options under $50 per night.
Click Images to Book Apukka Resort
How to get to Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi is the largest city in the north of Finland, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. There are plenty of ways to get to Rovaniemi including car, bus, plane, and train.
Plane – there are multiple daily flights from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. Finnair and Norwegian Air both fly direct with a flight time of about 1hr 15min. Norwegian Air tends to be the much cheaper option, typically around 1/4 of the price.
Car – it’s a fairly long drive from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, about 10 hours direct without breaks. We rented a car at Helsinki airport (my article shows exactly how I saved over $1000 on car rental) and made a road trip around Finland for two weeks. The scenery and culture between the two cities are stunning. I highly recommend doing the drive if you have the time.
Train – there is a direct intercity train which runs between Helsinki and Rovaniemi on a daily basis. The trip takes about 15 hours one way, then the train continues on to Kemijarvi as its final destination. Tickets are about 80 euro per person and can be booked on Finland’s Rail website.
Disclosure: Our activities were sponsored by VisitRovaniemi as part of their Rovaniemi Summer Ambassador program. As always, all opinions are my own.