The more I visit Lapland, the more it starts to feel like a separate country from the rest of Finland. We Finns should feel privileged to have a region that is so different and that it attracts visitors from all over the world, even more than to the rest of the country. And this goes for Swedish Lapland and Norwegian Lapland as well. Our latest visit was to Rovaniemi (the biggest town in Finnish Lapland) in March, and it was packed with international tourists. To my delight I could see that the locals are thrilled to have tourists visiting them and they are happy to please their high-valued visitors. Also my hotel was packed with guests, and nevertheless the personnel had the chance to serve everyone with a smile.
Since the Sami culture is vibrant in four countries north of the Arctic circle, it is obvious that there are misunderstandings on what to find in the different regions. The Arktikum research center and museum in Rovaniemi goes even further than that: it produces exhibitions and knowledge on people in the north also beyond Scandinavia, for example Greenland and Siberia. Note that for example ice bears are not part of the Scandinavian fauna. Another misunderstanding concerns the natural phenomenon that so many wish to see when they visit the north: aurora borealis or the Northern lights. The phenomenon is very rarely seen although post cards and posters may suggest that they are a sight for every evening. If you are lucky, they have been worth waiting for, though. In Arktikum you can experience simulated Northern lights, if you are fine with that compromise.
If you plan to visit Rovaniemi in winter, please note that it might be very very could outside. The hotel rooms have central heating and are probably warmer than any hotel room in central Europe in winter, but outside is different. If you come from a country where extreme cold is not usual, you might not have the right clothes no matter how thick they are when bought in your home country. Most professional travel arrangers provide sufficient clothing either as part of the package you have bought or for a rent. Distances in Lapland are vast, so you might wish to participate in arranged tours such as husky drives, Santa Claus land, visits to reindeer farms or skiing, swimming in the ice or fishing beside a hole in the ice! December-March is guaranteed snow season in Lapland, but some wish to visit Lapland during early autumn when the nature offers stunning trekking possibilities with colorful experiences as leaves, bushes and trees are turning yellow and red (ruska in Finnish). July is the warmest month but that is also the month when mosquitos are a true pain for all breathing creatures.
There are quite a few possibilities for culinary experiences in Lapland. Most go for reindeer meat (stew, steak, liver or even tongue!), but there are also other specialties. Some restaurants offer willow grouse and Arctic char and even bear on their menu. In Rovaniemi I visited a restaurant that offered Asian-inspired food with Nordic ingredients and that was awesome. How about reindeer sushi or bear dim sum? For dessert you should not miss the golden nugget of the north, the cloudberry, and what the chefs can do with that! Some hotels have bread cheese as standard for breakfast and that is very often served with cloudberry jam.
A very warm welcome to everyone to the cold north!