Santa Claus Holiday Village & Northern Lights in Rovaniemi, Finland

4

For my last stop in the 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge, I stayed at the Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, where I met Santa Claus, and then I also took a Northern Lights photography tour for an evening and saw the Northern Lights! This was an incredible capstone to my #3Cards3Continents challeng. The “Holiday Village” cottages are an excellent value for what you get and the entire Santa Claus Village experience really gives you the spirit of Christmas at any time of year and viewing the Northern Lights and doing it with a professional photographer who was highly prepared to capture the moment forever was an experience that I’ll never forget.

Santa Claus Holiday Village Bottom Line Review

Key booking details follow below for those interested. One key piece of info that will likely be cause for confusion: Santa Claus Village and Santa Claus Holiday Village are the same place but different things.

Santa Claus Village is a complex of 40 different companies working under shared roofs. More detail about all of the stuff available below. There are actually several hotels / inns that are part of the village, one of which is Santa Claus Holiday Village (which is where I stayed). Santa Claus Holiday Village consists of sort of duplex cottages that are probably the “budget” accommodation option at Santa Claus Village (but they are nonetheless quite nice as you’ll see below).

You can read more about the Santa Claus Village here at their website and more about Santa Claus Holiday Village (accommodations) at their website.

Main details:

  • Award cost: Santa Claus Holiday Village is not part of any rewards program, nor are there any chain properties that I could find in the greater Rovaniemi area.
  • Cash price: My rate was 100 Euro per night. I booked through Hotels.com so that I could use discounted Hotels.com gift cards that I purchased via Amazon. I used 1 Membership Rewards point to save 40% on a $100 gift card earlier this summer (effectively paying $60 for the first night) and I used a subsequent promotion for 20% off of a second $100 gift card, effectively paying $80 for the second night. In other words, all-in my two night stay cost me $140,
  • Breakfast: Breakfast was included when booking via Hotels.com and is buffet style. I found it to be a fairly typical Scandinavian buffet with an assortment of bread-type options (croissants, pastries, waffles) and meats (including sausages and some cold cuts and cheeses). The buffet was a solid fine — it wouldn’t match a five-star resort, but neither would it leave you hungry. Coffee was from a machine and wasn’t very good.
  • Location: Santa Claus Holiday Village is located right within the Santa Claus Village about a mile and a half from Rovaniemi airport. There is a nice bike path from the airport that makes for an easy (gradual downhill) walk to Santa Claus Village or you could rent a car or get a taxi. The village itself is on a rural highway with a Shell gas station right across the street that’s open 24 hours a day (convenient if you need some drinks or snacks).
  • Amenities: I don’t believe there were workout facilities. Every room is essentially like a studio cottage, with a mini kitchen (complete with two stove burners, a microwave, a sink, and glassware / pots & pans) and a dining table with coffee pot and instant coffee and an electric kettle. Saunas are very popular in this part of the world and each room features its own private sauna within the bathroom. Instructions for use were quite simple and I used my sauna both nights of my stay. There are lots of activities in which to partake around the village,

More detail about my stay at Santa Claus Holiday Village and time in the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finalnd

First of all, to understand why I went to the Santa Claus Holiday Village in the first place, you’ll want to watch this reel on Instagram:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Nick Reyes (@nickatfm)

The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi actually consists of 40 different companies operating separately under shared roofs. There are a couple of restaurants and cafes, numerous gift shops, some outlet stores, a reindeer petting area, a husky (dog) park, there’s a post office (where you can send postcards / Christmas cards / letters any time of year or put them in a box specifically for Christmas delivery and you can also order a letter from Santa), and in the winter there are activities like snowmobiling and I believe cross country skiing (I saw someone rollerblading with cross country ski poles; I don’t know whether the equipment was rented). There is also a clearly-marked place to cross the Arctic Circle (as many of you saw me do on Instagram) and you can get a certificate commemorating the occasion.

Here I am feeding Reindeer inside Santa Claus Village, which I believe cost 5 Euro.
Crossing the Arctic Circle like a boss.

The Santa Claus village has an RV park and there are a couple of higher end hotels within the complex as well. Across the street from the park is Santa’s Secret Forest and of course you can meet Santa within the Santa Claus Village 365 days per year and get a picture with him. There were actually two places to meet Santa — one place that’s a bit simpler right up in front of the village and a second place that is a bit more cavernous (and truthfully with a bit more Christmas magic) further inside the village (though there was a line at this second place, so I skipped it as I had already met Santa in the main building).

My experience meeting Santa here was great. I absolutely felt like a kid meeting Santa. I’m less into Disney than the die-hard Disney fanatics, but visiting the Santa Claus Village made me understand the sort of “Disney magic” feeling that Disney fans describe, likely because of the way it evoked childhood memories. My parents were what I would describe as exceptionally “good at Christmas” in the sense of decorating and family traditions like the milk and cookies we would leave out for Santa and the apple or carrots we would leave out for the reindeer (Santa and those reindeer made a mess all over the kitchen floor every year) and so I think this place may have been extra fun for me because of the significant tie to my childhood. In Rovaniemi at the Santa Claus Village, Santa was as jovial and talkative as you would hope. I saw him interact with a few people and he let conversation continue at a leisurely pace to the point where I think people really felt like they had gotten a chance to live out the fantasy a bit. Of course, at busier times, I imagine they herd people through more quickly, but my experience was great.

Unfortunately, they do not allow you to use your phone or take your own pictures or videos with Santa in either place within the village. You’re stuck buying a picture if you want a picture with Santa. There was a small size, a medium size, and a large size. I opted for the medium size picture, which was 35 Euros.

After I explained to Santa what I was doing and why I was there, he insisted on us taking a second picture (the one above with one of the elf hats on me instead of my fedora) and he insisted on giving me the photograph for free and a USB drive with some additional pictures and footage of the Santa Claus Holiday Village. He also sent me info on his “Santa’s secret house” (presumably an Airbnb-style vacation rental). Santa actually sent me pictures and videos via WhatsApp. Yes, I now have Santa on WhatsApp. This trip has given me so much street cred with my kids.

I’ll eventually share more of his footage because I think the place looks downright magical, but since it wasn’t stuff I saw and did, I figured I wouldn’t include it in this post.

Overall, I loved my time at the Santa Claus Holiday Village. We are planning to bring our kids next year, probably a little bit closer to the holidays (though I don’t know that we’re up for the December cold — we’ll see).

More pictures from Santa Claus Village:

It really is quite a complex — these maps they have around the village came in handy a few times.
My room at Santa Claus Holiday Village
My room looking towards the entrance (to the left) and the little dining table.
The dining table had a coffee pot and electric kettle. The kitchenette in the background had a two-burner stove, a sink, a microwave, a small fridge, and pots and pans and glassware in the cabinets. It was quite complete.
The highlight of the room had to be the private sauna! I used this both nights of my stay. There was an electric box to the left upon entry that looked kind of like a stainless steel garbage can that contained stones. You turned on the heat and waited, then poured water over the stones to get the steam. It was great!
The sauna came with easy-to-follow instructions on the wall for those of us less versed in Finnish sauna culture.
I didn’t love that the shower wasn’t really separated from the rest of the bathroom, but the water mostly stayed in the shower area nonetheless.
Accommodations here weren’t fancy, but were plenty sufficient.
There is a husky park with numerous activities throughout the day. A couple on my Northern Lights tour went and loved it.
I also took some videos at breakfast, but this was the lone photo. It more or less captures the idea.
Dinner entrees at Three Elves, the main dinner restaurant in Santa Claus Village. I had the grilled reindeer roast. Don’t hate me, Santa!

Northern Lights Photography Tour

Once I decided on going to Rovaniemi to visit the Santa Claus Village, I realized that I would be far enough north and at the right time of year to possibly see the Northern Lights and I got really excited. I began hunting around for Northern Lights tours, unsure of whether I would know when and where to go to see them on my own. That turned out to be a really good decision.

I landed on Beyond Arctic Tours and their “Discover the Northern Lights Photography Tour“. This passage in the tour description really sold me:

Northern Lights are always unpredictable and there is no guarantee that we will find them every night. However, we give you the best possible chance to experience and photograph these mystical wonders of the Arctic area. What sets us apart from other tour providers is a genuine determination of finding the Northern Lights. With us you are a member of an exclusive team led by a professional photography guide. Simply put, we are real Aurora hunters and rely on the following to succeed in our mission:

• background research into local weather and Aurora forecasts
• live information feed coming direct into our minivan
• local knowledge of all the best viewing spots
• willingness to go the extra mile – or a hundred miles – to find the Aurora

During the night, we normally go to 2-3 different locations which are always chosen according to local weather conditions and photographic opportunities. This means that if we have a clear sky and a possibility to see the Aurora 100 km away, we will take the chance and drive you there.

That sounded perfect. I knew I would only be in Rovaniemi for 1 or 2 nights and so I might only have one real chance to see the Northern Lights. Beyond Arctic sounded like they would give me the best possible opportunity.

I’m glad I booked with them because, for starters, they stayed true to their word in multiple ways.

As that paragraph promises, we drove 45 minutes away from Rovaniemi to get to the best position to view the Northern Lights that night and our photography was indeed monitoring a live stream of info from an app that was tracking solar storm conditions in order to predict when and where we might see the lights. That was all great.

Equally terrific was the way my booking went down. Beyond Arctic requires at least 2 people to confirm a tour. I was a solo traveler, so I reached out via email inquiring about booking for one person on the night of my arrival in Rovaniemi. They wrote back saying that they require at least two people, but that they’d pencil me in and let me know within 14 days of the date whether they had enough bookings to confirm a tour.  When they didn’t have anyone else book the same date, I asked whether I could pay more to confirm the tour. They told me that yes, I could pay for two people to confirm the tour and they would take me out by myself if necessary but further said that if anyone else ended up booking the date, they would refund me the cost of the second guest. They even gave me the 15% discount that they were offering on September bookings for “both” guests (so while the tour ordinarily costs 125 Euro, I initially paid $106.25 x 2 (or $212.50 total). Sure enough, a few people ended up booking at the last minute and they held true to their word and refunded me the $106.25 I had paid for a second guest. I was impressed.

But as impressed as I was with that, I was all the more impressed with the work of our photographer for the evening, Matías Gaitán. Matías is from Argentina, but he’s been in Finland for a few years hunting the Northern Lights. Not only does he know what he’s doing in terms of finding them, he was masterful at capturing them. See the photo evidence:

Those are photos that I can frame and keep forever. He did a phenomenal job. He was personable, friendly, and a clear professional.

As good as those pictures are, he could only capture what the sky gave him. Northern Lights hunting is the luck of the draw (and the others on more tour lamented that my night was the first night all week that had been clear enough to see anything at all in the sky — they said it had been rainy and cloudy for days leading up to my arrival). We were lucky to catch the lights, but there are of course nights that are more impressive than others. Head over to his Instagram here to see some incredible shots.

I even got some decent photos of the Auroras from my Google Pixel 6a:

The photo above was actually from an astrology-mode shot that took a few minutes of exposure. It also produced this little video doodad version that Carrie posted on Instagram:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Frequent Miler (@frequent_miler)

There is no doubt that this was a magical ending to an incredible trip.

will go back to Rovaniemi and when I do I will get out to see the Northern Lights again with Beyond Arctic and Matías.

Bottom line

I had an amazing 3 Cards 3 Continents trip. From my experiences flying 6 segments on 5 airlines to 6 countries over 5 days with my crazy one-way Air Canada Aeroplan award to snorkeling with whale sharks in Oman to canyoneering in Cebu (see the reel here!) to my first class lounge day in Doha, it was exhilarating. But I have to admit that the entire time I was doing those things, I was exciting about the finish yet to come in Rovaniemi, Finland. My time at Santa Claus Village and seeing the Northern Lights worked out exactly as I hoped and I enjoyed every minute of it. I lucked out big time that we were able to see the lights on the one night I’d planned — all of the dots really connected on this trip in the most fortunate way possible. Next time, I’ll plan for some more time in Rovaniemi — and I’ll probably come away with another set of amazing memories and pictures. I can’t wait.

5 2 votes
Post Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Shirley L

So close, Nick. You woulda earned my respect with the husky park ;).

Looking forward to Rovaniemi again. Thanks for the memories, you took way better pictures!

Saffron Biasio

Thank you! Great tips for my upcoming trip in January. I shall definitely be in touch with Matais.

Brands

Great work, Nick, and awesome photos. Seeing the northern lights is definitely a bucket list item for me, as well. I am curious, do the lights come through like that to the naked eye, or are they more visible because of special camera shots and modes?

MalMel

This is wonderful! What a find. I was smiling with every word and picture. Thank you for what you (and Greg and Stephen) do for the world of travel.