Kemi is a tiny Finnish city in Lapland that is all about snow and ice. Arctic to the core, there are few places in the world like it; where the sea freezes to create a stunning adventure park, where the air is this clean and the silence so golden. Yet, all the while, there is a vibrant city culture.
Kemi is the major port of Lapland and most importantly the home port of Santa Claus. Santa’s Seaside Office is at the picturesque Inner Port of Kemi, and the world-famous Santa Claus Village amusement park in Rovaniemi is just an hour and half away. Tours can be arranged from Kemi.
Breaking the ice
In Kemi the sea is frozen for nearly half of the year. This enables the most amazing adventures, which will impress even the most seasoned traveller. There is no better way to experience this incredible environment than on board the Icebreaker ‘Sampo’. Built in the 1960s, and converted to a tourist vessel 30 years ago, ‘Sampo’ maintains all of its original charm, from the engine room right up to the Captain’s Bridge. Like a museum on ice, passengers are fascinated by the history of the vessel. ‘Sampo’ is truly one of a kind – an icebreaker that offers incredible adventures at sea. During the four-hour cruise you’ll experience her phenomenal power as she breaks the ice – which is often close to a metre deep – forming a channel for other boats. All the while, you can enjoy a delicious meal in the warmth of the Arctic Restaurant, before your guide shows you around. During the cruise ‘Sampo’ stops in the icy wilderness, providing you with the opportunity to drop into a hole made by the icebreaker and float amid great blocks of ice, protected of course by warm survival suits. Truly an experience like no other.
The amazing SnowCastle
Every year a huge SnowCastle is built in Kemi. As you wander through the shimmering white paths and corridors of the castle you’ll discover the SnowRestaurant, SnowHotel, and SnowChapel. Sitting at a table made from ice, enjoying a three-course meal, toasting your event with handmade IceKuksas, you can admire the gorgeous snow sculptures decorating the walls of the restaurant.
Stay overnight in the SnowSuite, wrapped up in a warm sleeping-bag, lying on lambskins and with the fresh air invoking sweet dreams. Truly white weddings can be arranged in the SnowChapel. The SnowRestaurant and SnowHotel have achieved global recognition; each have won the World Luxury Hotel and Restaurant Awards. Is there a better place to get married or enjoy a grand celebration?
Did you know that the north of Finland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights? Cosy and warm in Kemi’s luxurious Seaside Glass Villas, you can lie back with a glass of wine and enjoy the phenomena above. During the summer the sun never sets so the attention turns to the magic of the white nights. The villas are situated in the SnowCastle area and are available all-year round. Soon the castle will be too, as Kemi Tourism is building an all-year SnowCastle to offer wintry experiences in the summer time.
In Kemi, you don’t know where the land finishes and the sea-ice begins. The ice provides a world of adventure. Here you can go ice-fishing, or skiing, or take a tour on a kick-sled to the nearby islands. In Sea Lapland you can cycle out to a beautiful island, there’s no need for bridges! Even more extreme, you can take a ride in a rally car on the world’s one and only sea-ice track. Should even this not be enough you can rent a Lamborghini and drive it alone out on the ice.
Venturing on a short snowmobile ride you’ll find the Arctic Adventure Island, where you can try Arctic island-hopping on skis or take part in a SnowOlympics in the middle of the frozen sea! For the most adventurous, there’s the Overnight Aurora Experience. Here, you can camp freely and even gather your food in the wilderness. Although in the winter this is understandably harder, which is why Kemi can arrange glamping in the Olokolo. The unique Olokolo is a tiny, warm nest on skis with a transparent ceiling. Drawn by a snowmobile, the Olokolo means you can ride along admiring the scenery and even stay overnight. But don’t worry, you won’t be left alone on the island – a wilderness guide is on hand to organise food and keep you amused with the legends of Lapland.
For pure relaxation there is always enjoy that most Finnish of traditions – the sauna. The temperatures outside can drop below -20 degrees, while inside the sauna it rises to over 80 degrees. It’s an exercise in extremes! So, the sauna and some ‘oxygen-hopping’ on the terrace, roll down the snow banks to increase your circulation. Then immerse yourself in the steaming hot tub, but remember to wear a cap as your hair might freeze!
Food is prepared on open fires with delicacies made from local produce. The sea provides fresh fish, while the woods are full of berries and mushrooms. Incredible food harvested from this most pristine of wildernesses, enjoyed with friends and family. What an adventure!