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Beating the Arctic heat the Finnish way

While Nordic winters may be world famous, thanks to Northern Lights, the summers are equally breathtaking with the Midnight Sun and other natural phenomena coming to life. Here’s an account of experiencing summertime in Finland.

travel Updated: Aug 24, 2018 19:52 IST
Finland,Rovaniemi,Lapland
A midnight shot of a cabin at Vikajärvi Lake, Rovaniemi, Finland.(PHOTO: Juho Uurtamo/Beyond Arctic)

When it comes to visiting Northern Europe, most opt to visit during the winters to witness the spectacle called Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights. But what if your bravado fails you when it comes to extreme cold? Well then, Nordic summers would be the perfect choice for you.

So, having taken the brave decision to visit a Nordic site during the week when it was predicted to be the hottest, I rounded in on Rovaniemi, Finland, for it offered me a chance to cross the Arctic Circle (under the most friendly weather) and visit the real Santa Claus (there is just no debate here). To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that the capital city of Lapland had so much more to offer that no matter what one’s personality, they will find something of interest.

The Arktikum museum and science centre opened its doors to public on December 6, 1992, the 75th anniversary of Finland’s independence.

Arktikum

It is suggested to make the museum your first stop as you get to visually witness the history of the land. Right from how the light travels in the country with the changing seasons, and taxidermy specimens of polar bear and moose to the pre-war to post-war models of the city (it was totally burned down by Germans during the Lapland War, 1944-1945), it is the perfect icebreaker to Rovaniemi. Like all museums, one can avail of the services of a guide who will explain in detail the history and culture as you pass through various sections in the Arktikum.

The structure that went from being a bus depot to a house of art and culture.

Korundi House Of Culture

This brick structure dates back to 1933, when it was a bus depot. In 1986, the depot was converted into Rovaniemi Art Museum, and the modern art museum, Korundi House Of Culture, opened in 2011. The building holds a special place in the history of Lapland, as it is one of the few ones that lasted through the burning of the entire city of Rovaniemi during the Lapland War. Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa has been the brains behind its refurbishing. The entire museum can be easily covered in about two hours. If you are lucky, you may also get to witness rehearsals by the Lapland Chamber Orchestra in the in-house concert hall.

Midnight Sun

While the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are a well-known phenomenon and is one of the main reasons tourists flock to northern Europe, the lesser known phenomenon is an equally enchanting spectacle — the midnight sun. At 12am, it is surreal to see the sun glowing bathing the arctic forests in a deep golden glow. Get a local guide’s help to know the best spots to witness this as well as take pictures at.

One can also opt for midnight sun floating in which you wear an air- and water-tight body suit that enables you to float on water. This truly amplifies your midnight sun experience.

According to popular culture, Santa Claus resides in Rovaniemi, Finland. (Photo: Alexander Kuznetsov)

Santa Claus Village

A visit to Rovaniemi is truly incomplete without meeting one of its most famous residents, Santa Claus. What’s more, a meet ‘n’ greet with Santa at the Santa Claus Village does not cost you anything. The Arctic Circle also passes through the village and is one of the most photographed spots. One can also visit a reindeer enclosure where they allow you to interact with the friendly animals closely. The village also houses cafés and souvenir shops and one can easily spend an entire day here.

An exterior and interior view of the Church Of Rovaniemi. (Photos: Torvinen Aarno , Uutela Petri)

Church Of Rovaniemi

Rebuilt in 1950, the Church Of Rovaniemi is another cultural centre that offers a peek into Finnish architecture and artwork. Architect Bertel Liljequist designed its structure, whereas artist Antti Salmenlinna worked the interiors. Among the many wooden carvings and wall paintings, the one that stands out is the 14m-high fresco called The Source of Life at the altar by Lennart Segerstråle. The church also houses a 4,000-pipe organ, which in itself is a piece of beauty with its golden hues.

Huskies

These native-canines are an essential part of the Nordic culture. In the olden days, they were used a lot for transportation in the Arctic region. Even now, tourists can opt for rides pulled by huskies. One can also opt to skip the rides and simply visit one of the many family-owned husky kennels to play with the puppies or go for a walk in the woods with the grown ones.

Adventure Sports

While Lapland is famous for winter adventures such as skiing and snowshoeing, the summers offer one equal variety. From river rafting, canoeing, trekking and jet skiing, the options are endless. And there is no dearth of water bodies in Finland for it is justifiably called a land of 1,000 lakes. Moreover, two major rivers, the Kemijoki and the Ounasjoki run through the capital city, which are major hubs for sports activities.

From calming canoe rides to adrenaline-rushing rafting trips, one can choose an activity that they prefer. (Photo: Antti Kurola)

In all, a Nordic summer experience is something definitely worth the bucket list.

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The author tweets@iamsusanjose

First Published: Aug 24, 2018 19:52 IST