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I'm planning a trip for mid-February to fly into Helsinki-Vantaa, then catching the Santa Claus Express Night Train to Rovaniemi (Lapland). Staying in Lapland to see the Northern Lights for a week, then returning the same way. I'm interested in seeing the Santa Claus Village, and sledding, and doing touristy things during the day, and trying to see the Northern Lights at night.

Is it necessary to rent a car to get around Lapland, or is there suitable public transportation to take us to and from our hotel to our activities during the day?

  • I would really consider flying to rovaniemi, the train ride is pretty long and expensive. Ok so you see scenery and night train is somewhat nice but you can spend your time better. – joojaa Aug 31 '16 at 7:25
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    I would very much propose taking the train to Rovaniemi. I find Finnish night trains very comfortable and well-managed and it places you in the town centre rather than somewhere on the outskirts (although the airport is very close to Santa Claus village). – Jan Aug 31 '16 at 8:00
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Within Rovaniemi itself, the bus network seems to be quite good considering its (small — except by Finnish standards) size. The route to the Arctic Circle where Santa Claus Village is (Napapiiri) is operated roughly hourly on weekdays. Departures are a lot less frequent on weekends though, and buses stop operating in the evening (something like 6 p.m. as per random samples). Other lines (again as per random sampling) are operated a lot less frequently.

To plan your routes, you can use the local version of matkahuolto which is even available in English. Simply type in destination and location and it will even tell you how far you have to walk.

Also, Rovaniemi has an English-language page on public transport which will give you a few important routes and destinations. Note line 8 going to the Santa park. Clicking on any line number’s link will point you to matkahuolto again to plan your route.

Urban Rovaniemi is not huge so if you want, you can reach anywhere with a good walk. But that is not an option for everybody. So as soon as you want to get somewhere comfortably after hours (and I see northern lights in your list) you may well want to rent a car or rely on taxis. Same is valid as soon as you leave Rovaniemi for any other place in Lapland as public transport out of town is really scarce.

(Of course, Helsinki-Vantaa to the central railway station (rautatientori) is easily done at any time of the day by direct bus or train connection.)

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    As a note, based on wanting to see the Northern Lights in Iceland (and not sure if it would apply in Finland or not), the Northern Lights are sort of like an eclipse, in that weather can be a determining factor. We tried to see them several nights in a row, and there were a group of us in a van chasing the northern lights, looking for a place with a break in the clouds where they could be seen. So unless you've another way of covering large amounts of arbitrary distance quickly, I'd plan on renting a car, to increase your chances of seeing the lights. – Kevin McKenzie Aug 30 '16 at 23:37
  • @KevinMcKenzie that only makes a difference if there are scattered clears, which is common in the Atlantic and with mountains that can trap the clouds. In more flat areas, like northern Finland, it is usually an all or nothing. – Davidmh Aug 31 '16 at 11:34
  • Also, be aware that unless you're taking long-exposure shots on a tripod, the Northern Lights usually aren't very exciting. What you see in pictures is (usually) not anything close to what you'll see with the naked eye. – Kevin McKenzie Aug 31 '16 at 17:10

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