Friends, if you thought that my last blog was the icing on top of my recent European spree, believe me, that was not all. I might sound exaggerated, but I really can’t contain my excitement in telling you about my Lapland Encounter.
Lappi Province, located in the northernmost region of Finland, is among the coldest places that one could ever visit. As soon as we got off the plane, we immediately felt the chills of legit wintry weather. It was freaking cold in Lapland that I would have to say, it was the coldest part of the world that I have ever set foot on. Good thing that I made a weather check weeks before my trip and got all my winter coats ready. And so, despite the extreme and harsh draftiness in the air, I was more thrilled than agitated for this entire trip.
I stayed for a total of 4 full days in Lapland, 2 days of which, we spent solely in the city center to try local restaurants, tour the vicinity, and go around interacting with the locals. We were lucky enough to be accommodated by Hostel Café Koti for two nights.
Yes, you read it right. We stayed in a hostel; but, it is not just your ordinary hostel. Hostel Café Koti is one modern and stylish hostel strategically placed right at the center of Rovaniemi. There, we were given a double bed deluxe room, which is similar to the typical deluxe hotel room. They also have all the facilities that any guest would ever need. Just like what you would expect from a regular hotel, they have good housekeeping and room services, café at the lobby, and laundromat. This hostel is highly recommended especially if you’re staying in the city. Plus, Hostel Café Koti is just a walking distance away from all the shops and attraction centers of Rovaniemi.
Aside from strolling around the metropolis, there are surely a lot of things that one can do in Lapland. And for many of you, just like me, who would’ve thought that Lapland was the official residence of – guess who? – SANTA CLAUS!!! During our stay in Rovaniemi, we took our time to visit Jolly Old Saint Nicholas’ home. It was a brief 10-minute taxi ride from city center to the Santa Claus village. It was there where we finally ticked one big item in my bucket list – to be able to cross the Arctic Circle and be in two places at the same time.
In Father Christmas’ house, we felt like little kids once again when we had the chance to have a chitchat with Santa Claus for 10 minutes. And just as I have always imagined and believed him to be, Santa Claus was, indeed fat, funny, huggable and very accommodating. It also surprised us that he was much familiar with the Philippines because he does visit our country every Christmas – he claims! To be honest, I lost faith in Santa’s existence growing up. But with this experience, I can now earnestly say that, “Kids, Santa is real!”
After gatecrashing Santa’s residence, we went to see a Husky Farms. Since, as you know from my Instagram stories that I am a dog lover and that I have two huskies back home, I instantly felt attached to these canine friends from Lapland – the Alaskan Huskies. But, these dogs are not your typical huskies, and they are not as furry as their Siberian counterparts. They are more muscled than the others; thus, making them perfect for sledding, which I truly enjoyed. The Husky sled ran for about 10 kilometers around the forest. The dogs brought us to the Frozen Lake where we stopped for a few minutes to take photos for our Instagram feeds.
Basically, we intentionally did all the iconic activities at the city center with the limited time that we had, just so we can have enough time to chase the northern lights. Apparently, the main goal of our visit, aside from setting foot at the Arctic Circle and experiencing the Lappish/Finnish way of life, is to see the magnificent Aurora Borealis.
This phenomenon occurs when charged particles from the sun during a solar flare enters our planet’s magnetic shield and collides with particles in our atmosphere. These collisions result in the vibrant spectrum of various hues called the Aurora. But, these spectacular displays of natural light are not visible at the city center due to abundance of artificial lights. And so, we had to travel for 30 minutes and away from Rovaniemi’s complex. For 2 full days, we stayed in an igloo cabin, which was tactically placed in the middle of the forest. The igloos were surrounded by nature but were clear from any obstruction to get the best view and experience of the northern lights at the comfort of our own bed.
We made all the best efforts to see the Aurora so as not to spoil our travel. We came to Lapland for the Northern Lights and we were determined to risk everything just to see them. During our last 2 nights, we did nothing but monitor the night skies and chase the elusive northern lights. We even did camping in the middle of the forest, which was a 20-minute snowmobile ride away from our igloo.
Waiting for the lights to show up was a great experience for us. We stayed inside the traditional Lappish tent called Lavvu, where we had barbecue and hot chocolate while interacting with other guests who share the same objectives for being there as we have. We also lit a bonfire inside the Lavvu to keep us warm and waited for over two hours. And then, finally, the Northern Lights showed up!
Everybody gasped when they saw the dancing colors in the night sky, I even caught myself almost stupefied. However, according to our tour guides, the light show that we saw was not its best, and its spectacle only lasted for a brief 2 minutes before disappearing completely.
Seeing the Aurora Borealis for the first time with my own eyes made my heart skip with joy. But, I was a bit disappointed at the same time that the display was short-lived, and that we were not even able to take good pictures of the breathtaking scene. All of us hoped that it had, at least, lasted a bit longer or that it shows up again; unfortunately, that was all that was made for us to see. Nevertheless, the fact that we saw it and we made a few friends along the way made the entire experience worth it.
The following day, we had lost all hopes of seeing the northern lights again. And so, instead of getting stuck with the disappointment, we went around the forest, took random photos here and there, went to the Frozen Lake, and enjoyed our day in the snow. I even goofed around and did all the funny and stupid antics that I can think of. And if you were following me on Instagram (@krisbst08), you probably had seen my video where I literally dived in to the snow with nothing but my skimpy swimming trunks on (LOL). That was a dumb thing to do, and I even had a fever immediately after that shot; but, it was totally fun and all-good.
That night, while we were packing for our early morning flight back to Paris, my travel buddy DG (@dgrazon), saw a reflection of green lights by the window. I thought that he may just be imagining or seeing things since we were told that the Northern Lights were impossible to show up again. But true enough, right then and there, I was flabbergasted to see the Aurora Borealis again, this time in its full majesty. The northern lights showed up and it was right on top of our igloo – DANCING!! It really felt ecstatic that I literally jumped for joy on my bed. The lights were colorful with strong hues of green, and they glared as though they were dancing. The view was mesmerizing, and the experience was so surreal, it almost felt like redemption! Believe me when I say, the Northern Lights are one hell of a show that you should see it in person for at least once in your life!
Altogether, I was very fortunate that my Lapland getaway did not fail me. I truly recommend visiting Finland to all my friends and readers. Although there is no better time to visit Lapland but during winter season, it was definitely worth the experience. And even if winter in Finland is harsh, with an average temperature in Rovaniemi between -20 and -30°C in January, Lapland will always be the perfect and authentic Winter Wonderland for me!