Coronavirus in Finland: insights from our local expert

From its vast lakes to quirky Helsinki and the winterscapes of Lapland, Finland has soul. We chatted with our local expert to learn more about the country’s experience of coronavirus.
Snowmobile safari. Photo: Marcelo Souza
Snowmobile safari. Photo: Marcelo Souza

It’s hard not to be charmed by Finland. Whether you come in summer or winter, there are unparalleled treats in store. In summer, its glittering lakes, edged by tall pines and cute wooden villas, are bathed in light until close to midnight, while winter brings the joys of virgin snow, bone-warming saunas and flashes of the Northern Lights. We caught up with our local expert, Marcelo Souza, to understand more about coronavirus in Finland, and what travelers can expect from a visit to the Scandinavian show-stopper moving forwards. 

Fall colors in Finland. Photo: private archive

In conversation with Marcelo

Q. What does your daily life in Rovaniemi look like at the moment?

A. Since we are located in the remote Arctic Circle area, we have been relatively ‘safe’ amidst this harsh situation. We had a short period where restaurants and stores were closed, although the worst has already passed in Rovaniemi. Usually summer is our low season so we are only feeling the real hit of corona during this month when the Northern Lights have begun to appear.

Usually during the summer we take time to relax along the rivers and lakes, pick berries and truly appreciate the nature of Lapland, and this year it hasn’t been any different. At the same time we have been preparing as well as possible for the next winter season and we hope that tourists will find their way to Lapland also this winter.

Q. Rovaniemi is known as the ‘Santa Village’. If you had a crystal ball to look into the future, what do you think the Christmas season will look like this year in Rovaniemi? 

A. We have been working continuously to be ready in the event that borders will be open by Christmas time. I think that most of our season will depend on the Finnish Government’s decisions. At the present moment, it is possible for tourists from countries with good epidemiology situations to travel to Lapland. Tourists from other countries can come too, but they will need a negative test from their country to enter Finland. So, we are expecting tourists during Christmas, but not so many. At the same time, it is more likely that our peak season will be later – in February and March – as our website analytics have shown. Of course it won’t be a problem as Santa is here during the whole year!

Husky safari. Photo: Marcelo Souza

Q. Which is the best way to explore Finland? By rental car, taking a driver or public transportation between cities?

A. During the summer and autumn seasons the best way is by car, and plenty of tourists drive all the way from different parts of Europe to the Arctic. Having your own car or rental vehicle is a great way to explore the country at your own speed. While already in Lapland, I also recommend guided tours for some activities, so you can learn more about local life, habits and culture. However, in the winter I recommend having a guide or tour operator and traveling to Lapland by plane or train, especially because of the frozen roads during the winter months. It is safer to have someone experienced doing this type of driving.

Q. If you had 10 days to discover Finland, what kind of itinerary would you recommend?

A. Ten days is a great length of time to explore Finland; coming in either in the summer or winter you will be able to grasp almost everything the country has to offer.

The best way to begin the itinerary is from the capital. Helsinki has its own unique style and it is unlike other Finnish cities you will be visiting. Afterwards you should travel North-East to Kuusamo. Either visit during the summer to watch brown bears 20 meters from your cottage or during the winter to experience unspoiled beautiful winter-wonderland nature and for skiing. The next stop would be Rovaniemi, Santa Claus’ Hometown! This is the gateway to Lapland and the biggest touristic city in the region. The itinerary will end in Saariselkä, the center of Sámi culture in Finnish Lapland.

The otherworldly Northern Lights. Photo: private archive

Q. What are your favorite hidden gems?

A. My favorite gem in Lapland must be the month of March. Not only is this the best month to watch the Northern Lights, there are far less tourists visiting so you will have an exclusive experience.

Q. What is something 'typically Finnish' that every traveler should experience during their trip?

A. It must be the traditional wooden Finnish sauna and ice swimming. Nothing compares to diving in a frozen lake after getting a charge out of a hot sauna and repeating the process over and over again!