Why Lapland is a winter wonderland that everyone will love

Hello again…

Hope everyone had an awesome week!

During my trip to Finland, I made sure to include a visit to Lapland. I’ll be sharing with you places we visited and the activities you can do in Lapland.

When you visit Lapland, you cannot, and I emphasise, CANNOT miss visiting the Santa Claus Village!

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Rovaniemi is the Official Hometown of Santa Claus, and the city’s most famous resident can be visited every day of the year in Santa Claus Village right on the Arctic Circle, an attraction that draws more than 500 000 annual visitors from all around the world.

Santa Claus’ original home lies in the mysterious Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland. Since the exact location is a secret only known to a chosen few, he decided to establish an office in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland, in 1985. Rovaniemi received the status of the Official Hometown of Santa Claus in 2010.

Rovaniemi was almost completely destroyed in World War II. In 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to visit Rovaniemi to witness the rebuilding process. She wanted to visit the Arctic Circle and Rovaniemi officials rushed to build a cabin eight kilometres north of the city. The cabin marked the birth of Santa Claus Village and still stands today next to Santa Claus Main Post Office.

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Santa Claus Village is one of the places to go when you explore Lapland. It is Lapland’s best-known attraction and a resort in its own right. Husky and reindeer rides, snowmobile tours, design items and souvenirs, ice and snow constructions, shops, an igloo hotel and holiday village accommodation can be found there.

It was pretty surreal meeting Santa Claus on our first day in Lapland. It was like a childhood dream come true! He is pretty much exactly what every child imagines him to be!

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When you’re exploring Santa Claus Village, you also have to try out the famous Santa’s Salmon Place. Santa’s Salmon Place is all about original Lappish cuisine and atmosphere, where they serve fresh and delicious salmon baked at a traditional Lappish teepee with open fire. You’ve got to try every dish on the menu, which consists of a snack, the main dish and dessert!

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For the snack, they serve traditional Lappish cheese served with homemade cloudberry jam. It’s so good that just writing about it, makes me drool! The main dish is of course the restaurant’s famous fresh salmon cooked on open fire , served with Finnish salad and warm bread. Dessert cannot be missed when it’s a chocolate mousse cake!

Since 1985, Santa Claus has received 15 million letters from 198 countries, which makes Santa Claus Main Post Office a must on any visit to Santa Claus Village. The merry postal elves are happy to serve customers all year round in their headquarters, which is a real post and known as Finland’s national postal service. Every letter sent from here gets a special Arctic Circle postmark not available anywhere else, so your greetings home are sure to be unique.

I sent like 15 cards back home to Singapore, for family, friends, and yes, myself! I really wanted to special Arctic Circle postmark!

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A trip to Lapland will be incomplete if you did not experience staying at an igloo! We stayed at Santa’s Igloo Arctic Circle, which is a 5-minute walk (600m) from the Santa Claus Village. How convenient! You can actually catch the Northern Lights from the comfort of your room during winter, where temperature in Lapland can drop to as low as -40 degree Celcius! In summer, you can catch the midnight sun there as well.

When you explore Lapland, make sure to include a trip to the Husky Park near Santa Claus Village, where there are over 100 huskies! You can pet the dogs and enjoy a ride on the husky sled. But please abide to the rules and not feed them as they are running dogs and require a strict diet! I saw one lady sneakily feeding the dogs some bread and was very disappointed that some tourists don’t seem to respect the rules.

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You cannot miss a snowmobile safari when you visit Lapland! While on an exhilarating snowmobile safari, you get to admire the raw beauty of Lapland. Plus, you can combine your snowmobile safari with a trip to the husky farm and reindeer farm. It was pretty wild driving the snowmobile in deep snow so deep it covered my knees! Just be mindful that the mobile is very heavy and can be tough to manoeuvre. We had a small incident where our snowmobile fell sideways and had our feet squashed by it. Luckily, no one was hurt! But otherwise, it was a really fun safari tour!

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Follow in the footsteps of the Sami people as you travel in the age old way; on a reindeer pulled sleigh. The most traditional and peaceful way to move through the silent Lappish nature! Many of the reindeers were actually losing or had just lost their antlers when we visited. I was quite shocked to see blood on the animals but apparently, it’s normal to bleed as the velvet contains blood vessels carrying nutrients to the antlers. Just be careful when approaching the animals as I’ve noticed they get squirmish. We also got to enjoy a hot berry juice while warming ourselves in a traditional Lapland tent. There, we were told the story of how the four winds hat came about., which is a hat pointing four ways that is commonly used by the Sámi.

We managed to catch the Northern Lights two nights in a row! How amazing is that?! You cannot visit Lapland in the winter and not try to catch the Northern Lights! We waited by the lake for about 4 hours before managing to catch a glimpse of it close to midnight. Our guide was telling us that a few days before we arrived in Lapland, the temperature dropped to as low as negative 30 degrees Celcius and tourists still flocked to the lake for a chance to see the Northern Lights. I salute them because I don’t think I can be as brave as them!

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Just a reminder: before you leave Lapland, don’t forget to get your certificate stating you crossed the Arctic Circle, at the Santa Claus Village.

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Xx,

Nic

 
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Best places to visit in Helsinki and Tallinn in two days

Hello there…

I’m sure you guys are so ready to read about a country other than Iceland by now.

To tell you the truth, we were actually going to stay in Helsinki for two days before flying to Lapland, but upon arriving in Finland, our driver told us that we can actually take a cruise to Tallinn, Estonia for less than than 20 Euros. We thought why not? It is a completely new country! Hence, we visited two new countries in two days!

Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital, sits on a peninsula in the Gulf of Finland. The city’s urban area has a population of 1,268,296, making it by far the most populous urban area in Finland as well as the country’s most important center for politics, education, finance, culture, and research. Helsinki is located 80 kilometres North of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 km East of Stockholm, Sweden and 390 km West of Saint Petersburg, Russia. It has close historical ties with these three cities.

(PS, I really wanted to take a cruise to Russia as well, but we didn’t have the time! Perhaps in the near future….)

Helsinki, Finland

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Completed in 1868 in the Katajanokka district of Helsinki, the Uspenski Cathedral is the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. With its golden cupolas and redbrick facade, the church is one of the clearest symbols of the Russian impact on Finnish history.

The Cathedral, by Carl Ludvig Engel, rising on the northern side of the Senate Square is the stage of national and academic festive services and one of the most popular tourist sights. The church is part of Helsinki’s Empire era centre and a landmark for those arriving by sea. It has become the symbol of the whole of Helsinki. Earlier called St. Nicholas Church and Great Cathedral, the current main church of the Helsinki Diocese was completed in 1852. Sculptures of the twelve apostles guard the city from the roof of the church.

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We had lunch at a local Finnish restaurant called Savotta Restaurant. Savotta offers genuine Finnish food and atmosphere, just off the Senate Square in the heart of Helsinki. The name Savotta means a logging site.Therefore the interior decoration and dishes has got inspiration of the Finnish forests and thousands of lakes, with a dash of Finnish nostalgy from the past decades and logging traditions. Savotta’s kitchen cherishes the Finnish food tradition. We use only Finnish ingredients from the pristine forests and lakes and from carefully selected small suppliers.

In the decor of Savotta, you can see the genuine old artefacts dating back to Finnish homes and logging sites from the old days. Downstairs dining room’s hundred-year-old floor planks, as well as the old chairs and tables, have been found and brought to Savotta from all over Finland. The tableware includes old and new china of the world-renowned Finnish Arabia including of course Moomin mugs.

Tallinn, Estonia

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A two-hour plus cruise from Helsinki, Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. There are so many cruise companies that travel between Helsinki and Tallinn. You can choose between spending the day there and going back to Helsinki in the evening, or a few days there.

We spent the day exploring the old town and city centre. Did you know Tallinn is considered one of the best preserved medieval city of Northern Europe? With all the Gothic spires, winding cobblestone streets and enchanting architecture, I can see why.

Once a home to wealthy merchants settling from Germany, Denmark and beyond, Tallinn Old Town today is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, with restaurants, bars, museums and galleries bringing much life to this historical city centre.

Unlike many other capital cities in Europe, Tallinn has managed to wholly preserve its structure of medieval and Hanseatic origin. Due to its exceptionally intact 13th century city plan, the Old Town was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, joining the ranks of the world’s most recognised landmarks. Here you’ll find original cobblestone streets dotted with medieval churches and grandiose merchant houses, barns and warehouses many of which date back to the Middle Ages.

It just so happened that the day we visited Tallinn, 24th February, it was a public holiday. That’s because the Republic of Estonia was celebrating 101 years of freedom. We saw soldiers and army tanks passing through. It was a grand sight!

With medieval churches nestled between modern highrises, Tallinn’s city centre is a place of fascinating contrasts. The area boasts a number of major landmarks, which are conveniently located a short stroll away from each other.

The quarters filled with glass-walled skyscrapers in the very centre of Tallinn are often playfully called Manhatten, though formally the name was Maakri – the name of one of the streets.

Maakri street is the home of some excellent cafes and it is a well-known area for the best furnishing shops in the city. Otherwise, this street is mainly dominated by banks, media houses and offices.

Hope you guys enjoy this blog post!

In the mean time, you can follow me on Instagram.

Till next time….

 

Xx,

Nic