Rovaniemi is a small city, consisting of only 60.000 inhabitants, and it’s the last city of any importance before entering the northern vast open spaces of Lapland. The city nearly lies on the Arctic Circle and is home to the Santa Center, which is the permanent residence of Santa Claus. It is also the hometown of Lordi, the cult hard rock band who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006. You can even dine on monstrous dishes in the Lordi Rocktaurant.
In all, Rovaniemi is a place where you can easily stay for a long time, given its attractive tourist facilities. It’s also a great starting point for journeys into the open spaces of Lapland. We only stayed in Rovaniemi for a few days, visiting most of the major points to see (such as the great Arktikum museum), either through the snow with the Jeep, or on foot using the city sidewalks, which were covered with layers of gravel to avoid slipping.
Rovaniemi, the “official” crossing of the Arctic Circle, was also the destination we had set as a goal, and it was the starting point for our journey back south. We continued our traveling, driving southeast towards the Russian border, in the direction of Kajaani. On the long and desolate route between Kajaani and Rovaniemi, which is about 360km. at low speed over ice covered roads, we stopped to visit the Ranua Zoo.
The Ranua Zoo Wildlife Center is a most attractive initiative, where live animals from the northern regions around the world are kept in big, open spaces and walking around freely. Needless to say, with all the snow, this offered a few amazing scenes, with polar bears in frozen waters, wolves and lynxes running around hunting through the snow, and elk and reindeer very near.
Once near Kajaani, we had a hard time finding the home of the owner of our rented cottage. In heavy snowfall, and with darkness settling in, we navigated a lonely road, up to the point that we were sure to be lost, then all of a sudden, a little light shined and we found the house of the owner hidden in the woods. He greeted us very heartily upon arrival and spoke Finnish. With gestures and some German, we explained that we had had a great journey until now, and he showed us around the cabin.
The little house was built of wood, and had everything you need to focus on three things: rest, nature, and holiday. The sauna was outside, next to a giant pile of wood, and just up the pathway which leads about 150 meters further to Lake Oulujärvi, which is, of course, frozen. The owner of the cabin, when seeing our two little boys, was quick to provide us with two sleds for sleighing on the lake. He turned out to be an avid elk hunter at the age of 78 and also a great grandfather.