Dogs pulling a sled in the snow-covered town of Rovaniemi, Finland
Photo by fox jia  –  Link

Rovaniemi

Finland

The capital of Lapland and the 'official' hometown of Santa Claus is everything you'd expect and then some: delightful snow-covered landscapes, Arctic wilderness, and cosy cottages tucked into the woods. Pretty much completely destroyed in World War II, Rovaniemi has had a huge comeback in the past few decades, attracting visitors and outdoorsy types looking for offbeat winter holidays and snowy adventures. Visit Rovaniemi in the winter time for a chance to go dog-sledding, meet Father Christmas and catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, or plan a summer trip for that famous 24-hour sunlight. With plenty of hotels and resorts within easy access of the top things to do, Rovaniemi is the perfect winter break destination.

History

The history of this Finnish city goes way back, all the way to the Stone Age, when the first settlements appeared. Here, human's connections with nature are an essential part of the lifestyle, and the city has long been a popular destination for fishing, hunting and berry-picking.

In World War II, the Germans were ordered to destroy all the public buildings in Rovaniemi, an event that resulted in the loss of 90% of the town. The rebuilding process began shortly thereafter under the direction of architect and designer Alvar Aalto, known for his creativity. Aalto set about rebuilding Rovaniemi in the shape of one of the region's symbolic icons: a reindeer. If you look closely at the city on a map or from above, central Rovaniemi resembles a reindeer's head, with the Keskuskenttä sports stadium representing the eye and the main streets forming the antlers.

Santa Claus Village

Sure, Santa spends a lot of his time making lists and checking them twice, but he still has time to meet visitors every day of the year in his home in Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi's top attraction. Kids and adults alike get a kick out of the snowmobile tours, husky rides and igloo hotels that make up this sprawling resort-slash-amusement park. If you've got a believer in the family who's keen to meet Santa Claus in the flesh, there's no better place than Rovianemi. Check out the official Santa Claus Village website before your trip to see what's on.

Northern Lights

Thanks to its location right near the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is one of the best places in the world to spot the Aurora Borealis, which is visible in the Lapland region on around 150 nights a year. The best viewing conditions are on clear, dark nights between 10pm and 2am. Just find a spot outside the city centre without too much light pollution and you should be good to go.