Kemi, the hidden gem in Lapland, Finland
Ready for a winter wonderland trip in Lapland, Finland?!
We finally had some time off to take an awesome trip together, so B and I were talking about different trips we could take, and where we wanted to go. He threw out Finland, and I ran with it. We had seen the Northern Lights in Iceland about a year and a half before, but if you remember, those were the boring lights. We still wanted to see the magical green lights dancing in the sky. We had a small taste on our flight over to Iceland, but it just made me want to see them even more. So, we started planning our trip to Finland, and quickly decided we would spend our time in beautiful Lapland.
We also said “we don’t leave Finland until we see the Northern Lights”. So we planned 2 full weeks in a few different areas in Finland, and I fell upon this beautiful, winter wonderland, known as Kemi, Finland.
This is a sponsored post with Visit Kemi. We were invited to come see all they had to offer. Here are our honest thoughts about this beautiful town...
Kemi is all you would hope a winter getaway to be. They have very unique accommodations, which is actually the reason I jumped on the idea. You can sleep in a Snow Hotel, take an excursion to head to the Finland/Sweden border, and even cruise on the famous Icebreaker Sampo.
You can fly directly into Kemi, but we just happened to find a killer deal landing in Rovaniemi, so we landed there first, and took a bus to Kemi after we landed.
Where to Stay in Kemi, Finland
Our first night there was in the Snow Hotel, and to be honest, I was a bit nervous, and almost dreading the night. It was one of those things where it sounds super cool, so you decide to do it…then you realize what you had signed up for. Sleeping in a -5º C room?! What were we thinking?!
We ended up touring the Snow Castle when we got there, and had reservations at the Snow Restaurant. The LumiLinna Snow Castle has a different theme every year. And they have been doing Snow Castles for over 20 years! The Snow Castle is open during the winter months, BUT, they are building a Snow Castle building in December 2018 that will be open all year round, that will include an Snow Restaurant, shopping, etc.
It was magical, the second we stepped inside. The details in all of the carvings inside the castle were amazing. The Snow Restaurant is inside with tables made of ice, and they even have a little cafe, where you can order drinks in ice glasses, without a reservation throughout the day. There’s a Snow Chapel, where they actually have church services, and people have been married there before! Theres a room of ice sculptures, the kids will love, and a snow slide on the top of the castle. And of course, there’s the Snow Hotel, all inside this LumiLinna Snow Castle.
I was in awe, walking around, checking out all the intricate details and carvings inside. We went to warm up in the lobby area (in another building) before our dinner in the Snow Restaurant. When it was time for dinner, we were seated at an ice table, and sat on wood stumps padded with a reindeer skin, and had a blanket to drape over our laps. It was a 3-course meal, with soup, our main dish, and dessert. We had to try the drinks in the ice glasses, that are all handmade! It was a delicious dinner, and I actually stayed fairly warm throughout. It was for sure one of my favorite parts of the Snow Castle, and I would recommend having lunch or dinner at the restaurant. When are you ever going to have a chance to do that again?
We had a brief meeting about how to bundle up in your arctic weather sleeping bags, and headed to our room. They recommend you only go to your room when you are actually ready to sleep, or else you’re just sitting there freezing. After our long journey of getting to Finland, we were more than happy to sleep right when the rooms were open, at 9 pm. Our sleeping bags were in there for us all ready to go. We quickly jumped inside, and zipped ourselves up, and…after a few pictures of course… we were ready to sleep.
I don’t know if it was the 48 hours of travel, jet lag, or the cool night sleep, but we both slept really well. We woke up around 2 am thinking it was morning and we were ready for the day. After we realized what time it was, we went back to sleep and slept until it was time to get up. The staff at the Snow Hotel also offers a wake up knock at your door, which we asked for, in case our phone ran out of battery. (We left all our luggage, and my phone in the luggage room, which is locked, and secured with lockers if you’d like for your valuables as well.)
It was a great night sleep, and I was glad to have enjoyed it as much as I did. The sleeping bag kept us nice and warm, and the few times I did wake up, I would just pull my face into the sleeping bag a bit to get my face warm. Such a cool experience staying in the Snow Hotel.
Seaside Glass Villas
We only booked one night in the Snow Hotel, (which I think is definitely enough time to enjoy it), and stayed at the Seaside Glass Villas for our remaining 2 nights. This was the reason I choose Kemi. I saw a picture of the glass villas located on the Baltic Sea in the Summer, and it looked like the most cozy place to stay with a unbeatable view.
The Villas and the Snow Hotel are both on the same property, so it’s an easy move.
The Seaside Glass Villas are made with 2 walls completely made of glass, and a glass ceiling as well. Perfect for Northern Lights hunting. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the Northern Lights while we were there because it snowed, but it was so beautiful watching the snow fall from our heated rooms. The first day we were in the Villas, the sky was so blue, and we spent a good amount of time enjoying the view of the frozen sea. And yes, it really is a frozen sea! We learned that sea’s don’t freeze, but the Baltic Sea does, because it has more fresh water sources running into it than it does salt water sources, so it freezes. The second and third day were were there, it snowed, so we enjoyed that view as well. Everything completely white. Like a Winter Wonderland.
The villas are heated, and have a sink, stovetop, refrigerator, and table with 2 chairs. The bathroom had heated floors, which was my favorite part…(besides the glass walls and ceilings of course). Definitely something I want in my dream house now. You are given a code to enter your room, so no need to worry about carrying a key around. We spent our days enjoying some really cool activities with Lapland Safaris, and spent our night staring out our villa. It also feels very private while you’re there. It was quiet around us, and felt like we were the only ones there…until we went to the lobby area. I recommend getting the villa right on the bank, as you’ll have the best view in these.
I did not want to leave when it was time to check out. We really enjoyed our stay, and have already put it on our list to come back in the Summer one of these days.
What To Do in Kemi, Finland
Activities with Lapland Safaris
There’s not much that you can’t do in Kemi. Lapland Safaris offers it all. From Husky and Reindeer Safaris, to Ice-Fishing, Northern Lights Hunting, and Snowmobiling, Lapland Safaris has you covered.
ARCTIC ISLAND HOPPING
Our first excursion was the Arctic Island Hopping Tour. We met at Lapland Safari’s office next to the SnowHotel, and “suited up”. Lapland Safari’s provides you with everything you need to stay warm. We were given ‘overalls’, which was basically a onsie jacket/snow pants combo, snow boots, wool socks, gloves, a baklava, helmet, beanie, and scarf with them. You don’t have to wear some of these things if you have your own, but it was nice to know that they had us covered. For this tour, we were taken on a sleigh pulled by our guide on a snowmobile. We got to enjoy gliding along the Baltic Sea over to an island, where we out on some wide skiis, and kind of cross-country skiied over to another island, across the sea. When we got over there, we made a fire in a teepee type tent, and cooked sausages, and had our very first taste of warm berry juice. We searched for sticks to make our sausages, and our guide made a sharp point in each of them. It was a nice break from the skiing, which gave you a bit of a workout. Since the skiis were wider than normal, it wasn’t too difficult to get the hang of it.
SANTA’S SEASIDE OFFICE
After our excursion, we had time to explore Kemi, where we went to visit “Santa’s Seaside Office”. It is a quick walk (or drive if you prefer) from the SnowCastle and Seaside Villas…just ask the front desk, and they’ll show you the way. This was a cute building right across from the shoreline (ice-line in our case), where Santas elves take care of the place while he is away. Inside, is a quaint little cafe, where you can order cookies, pastries, hot chocolate, or coffee. And of course I had to have the hot chocolate. We were greeted by an elf, who showed us around the place. We even got to sit in Santa’s chair and snap a picture with the elf. Right when you walk in, it feels like Christmas, no matter what time of year it is. There’s Christmas music playing, a table where you can write your letters to Santa, and even a Christmas countdown board, that will tell you how many days till Christmas. It was very relaxing, and the Christmas kid in me was loving every second. Ask the elf some fun Christmas questions. They’re really great!
The Kemi SnowCastle has been around for over 20 years! And you can see the history of each one at the SnowCastle Exhibition. This was near Santa’s Seaside Office, but if you visit after December 2018, they have plans to move it to the new year-‘round building by the SnowCastle, and Seaside Villas. Inside the exhibition, we saw props, and pictures of each hotel. Every year, the SnowCastle has a different theme, so it was fun to see what each year looked like. (This year, the theme was animals). It’s a bit chilly in there, which makes you start to feel like you’re inside the SnowCastle…just not quite as cold.
CROWN AND GEM MUSEUM
After, we went next door to see their Crown and Gem Museum. Growing up, I had a rock collection, and was always fascinated with these museums. We got to see different gems and rocks from around the world. The Crown Museum upstairs has some really great replicas of crowns, scepters, and jewels from royalty around the world as well.
ICEBREAKER SAMPO CRUISE (WITH SNOWMOBILES)
The next day, we did the one thing that I would call a “must do” in Kemi, which is the Icebreaker Sampo Cruise. We did ours with Lapland Safaris, that included snowmobiling there. We had a couple hours racing on the frozen lake in our snowmobiles before arriving to the Samp Cruise. The Icebreaker Sampo use to be a ship that would break the ice so that all the other ships could make it to port. This ship has a round bottom, that lets it move on top of the ice, and the weight of the ship breaks the ice. You can read all about the Icebreaker Sampo here.
We parked our snowmobiles in the middle of the Baltic Sea, and the icebreaker pulled up next to us. What a crazy thing to be boarding a ship in the middle of a frozen sea! When we boarded, we had a tour of the ship. We saw the engine room, and got to watch the captain as he broke through the ice. Then we got to witness the icebreaking. It was the coolest thing to watch. Just hearing the ice crack, and watching it break into these massive pieces was a site in itself. We then had a nice lunch inside, and had my favorite dessert in all of Finland! Not even sure what it was…(chocolate brownie/cake type with crunchy sprinkles on it)…but I was loving it!
Then, after the cruise came to an end, it wasn’t quite over. We got to do my favorite part, and that was floating in the frozen icy waters, that the Icebreaker Sampo had just broken. We got dressed in these ridiculous looking orange suits, that kept us super warm, and dry the entire time. We walked out onto the ice, and were helped in the water, where we got to float and play with the ice. It was an unbelievable experience, that you can’t do very many places, I’m sure. We hopped back onto our snowmobiles and headed back to our villas. There aren’t very many places in the world that you can do all this, which makes Kemi an extra special place.
Where to Eat in Kemi, Finland
Breakfast at SnowCastle and SeaSide Glass Villas
If you’re staying in the SnowCastle or the SeaSide Glass Villas, you get breakfast with your stay. It’s a very nice buffet with tons of options to choose from.
For lunch one day, we ate at Hotel , which had a lunch buffet for a good price. We were told that lunch was not that common for people to go out to eat in Kemi, so there aren’t really a ton of options for restaurants.
ICEBREAKER SAMPO CRUISE
Of course lunch is served on the Sampo Cruise as well, so we had lunch here one day. Lunch, Icebreaker Cruise, Snowmobiling, AND floating in the sea…can you tell why we recommend it so much?!
For 2 of the nights, we headed to the market to pick up pre-made sandwiches and salads for dinner. It is a quick walk to a small market on the corner, and we were able to get snacks and dinners there. You can also pick up lunch. Ask the front desk, and they’ll happily tell you the way.
I definitely recommend eating at the SnowRestaurant while you’re there. It is unlike anything else. I was a bit afraid I would freeze the whole time, but you’re given a blanket for your lap, and you sit on some fur to keep you warm. I really enjoyed our dinner, and drinking out of our glass cups!
Our time in Kemi was a great start to our Finland trip. Just an hour or so away from Rovaniemi, it is definitely a great spot to check out on your Lapland adventure. It is all quite easy to set up and book everything. Just head to Visit Kemi to check out the rooms and rates...and Lapland Safaris to book your tours.
We’re already adding “Kemi Summer Trip” to our list!
After we packed up, we headed to Saariselka, Finland to find the Northern Lights. You can see the next part of our journey here.
Tips for Kemi, Finland
- Wear layers, but don't bring your full wardrobe. We were not sure if we would have enough warm clothes for this trip, but we were provided with all the warm clothes we needed to go on our adventures in Kemi.
- Bus transportation is fairly simple. We took the bus from Rovaniemi and back, since we had an awesome flight deal. The bus was really easy to get a ticket and head to Kemi.
- Check flights into Kemi. Kemi also has their own airport, so its worth it to see if you can get a flight straight there.
- Even without the Northern Lights, Kemi is an awesome place. We had snow days while we were there, but we still loved the beauty of all white around us. It was a perfect winter dream!
Thanks so much to Visit Kemi for collaborating with us, and inviting us to stay with you!