We entered Finland near the arctic town of Rovaniemi which sits almost exactly on the Arctic Circle, the afternoon we arrived turned out to be one of the hottest days in the countries history, so, with temperatures reaching 30°C we thought it would be the perfect time to pay a visit to Finlands very own home grown hero, Santa Claus.
Meeting old Saint Nick in the winter months I imagine is a mystical and magical experience, however at the end of July, the atmosphere is a little lost. Just outside the town of Rovaniemi sits Santa’s residence, a sprawling estate named Santa’s Village, a theme park that focuses on all things Christmas, all of the time.
Getting into the spirit of things
After parking up and with jingle bells blaring out of the parks PA system we made our way to the big guys office, upon arrival we were greeted by some very enthusiastic elves who pointed us in the right direction of Santa’s quarters. We passed along decorated corridors complete with fake snow, ice and the odd stuffed polar bear. Deep down I could feel the familiar warm festive glow trying to make its way to the surface, however this soon disappeared when I looked down and remembered I was wearing shorts and sliders. Eventually, after passing down a few more empty and eerily quiet passage ways we came to a flight of stairs that led to a room. As we approached the room another chipper elf appeared to greet us. She told us to wait a moment whilst she darted inside. I can only guess this was to wake the big guy from his afternoon slumber. After a few minutes we were allowed to enter the office. Inside we found the man himself, who’d been waiting patiently, despite the tropical conditions outside, in full costume to meet us. In fact by the amount he chatted I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been waiting all day for a visitor.
After leaving the festive village and shelling out 30 euros for a photo with the big guy (worth it). We made our way to the nearest body of water to cool off and spend the night.
The following day we rose early to begin our journey south towards Helsinki, our first destination was the town of Ranua, famous for its abundance of cloudberries.
We had no idea what cloudberries were either, what we had heard however, was that they can be very elusive and are known as Finlands gold, so with this in mind we headed to the nearest snake infested swamp to try our luck. Unfortunately our foraging came up somewhat fruitless. After a sweaty couple of hours we’d only managed to collect three rather dodgy looking berries.
Our not so impressive haul of berries.
That evening we drove on again and found another huge lake that was busy with locals making the most of the heatwave. We had a great spot for the night here, right on the waters edge perfect for an early morning dip.
Sometime during our third day in Finland we noticed we were making a lot more progress than we’d anticipated, this was probably due to not having encountered so much as a small hill since entering the country. After the meandering climbs of Norway, the flat straight roads were a blessing.
The hot weather continued so we took a rest from driving to have a splash in the Gulf of Bothnia, more accurately the beautiful sandy beach of Kalijoki. A section of the beach juts out nearly a kilometre from the coastline with the sea on both sides.
After a bit of much needed sunbathing we headed onto our camp spot for the night, which again was a stones throw from the water and right on a beach.
Sunset on Ruissalo
After five days of driving south we reached the town of Turku and the start of the Finnish Archipelago. We planned to spend five nights exploring some of the 20,000 islands, we spent our first couple of nights on the island of Ruissalo, which is the closest island to Turku and the mainland, from here we headed to the island of Perrainen for one night before beginning the mammoth journey to Mossala which sits at the heart of the Archipelago.
To get to Mossala we first had to contest with 5 ferry crossings, thankfully, unlike Norway these were all completely free! We eventually reached the island in the early evening hungry and in need of a beer.
Sunset in Mossala at the heart of the Archipelago
The island itself is very small with only 68 inhabitants and a total area of under 8km. We stayed at the Mossala Island Resort and filled our days playing disc golf (a mixture of golf and frisbee), lounging in the free sauna’s and exploring the hiking trails, we’ve both put this campsite at the top of our list for best so far, for me the bar overlooking the ocean clinched it.
All that remained now were the 5 ferry’s to get back to civilisation, but not before Magnus the Mercedes decided to have one more breakdown….