As a traveler dedicated to experiencing the gay communities of the world's top travel destination, I had always been interested in discovering the country of the iconic gay Tom of Finland. Helsinki being the host city for the 2016 EuroGames next Summer, I figured this would be a great opportunity to explore the land of the Northern Lights. To extend my trip and see a bit more of Finland, I also chose to visit the beautiful city of Rovaniemi.
I began my trip in the north, in the city of Rovaniemi, a city I never expected to fall in love with, by minus 35 degrees celsius. Rovaniemi is located in the northern Lapland region of Finland. With just over 60,000 inhabitants, the official language of the city is Finnish. As home to Santa Claus, these unique city's streets have been designed in the shape of a reindeer's head. There is no shortage of activities to do in Rovaniemi. Here are a few options of things you can do during your stay:
The best way to begin your trip around Rovaniemi is on a tour on snow mobile. By navigating the area on snow mobile, you will be given the opportunity to see the city in ways you would not be able to do on foot or car. The snow mobile allows you to view areas otherwise difficult to get to.
You can book a snow mobile tour of Rovaniemi with Arctic Lifestyle. Arctic Lifestyle offers a variety of different tours, including a night snow mobile tour where, if you're lucky, you can witness the Northern Lights. In booking a tour with Arctic Lifestyle, you can be sure your equipment is taken care of and you'll be able to discover the white landscapes of Finland, all while riding a luxurious snow mobile.
Before taking a husky sleigh ride, I worried that the tour would not be good for the dogs. Boy, was I wrong! Upon arrival at the sleighs, the dogs were excited to greet me and begin the safari. It was clear that the trainers take very good care of their dogs and the dogs love what they do.
While the husky safari may not give the same adrenaline rush as the snow mobiles, it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever been a part of. Exploring Finland in a sled pulled by a team of huskies gave me an opportunity to connect with nature in a way I never had before.
Santa Claus Village
As home to Santa Claus, Rovaniemi celebrates Christmas year round. You can travel above the Arctic Circle, visit Santa Claus, and get in the giving spirit no matter what time of year you visit. With over 500,000 letters arriving to Rovaniemi every year, they take their Christmas spirit very seriously.
Santa Claus Village also provides a number of entertainment and shopping options. Visit one of the many shops to buy exclusive reindeer fur and hide products, or pick up a variety of Santa Clause themed souvenirs and gifts. While visiting Santa Claus Village, you can also stop by the husky and reindeer farm, take a reindeer sleigh ride, or select one of the many other activities available.
When looking for a place to stay in Rovaniemi, there are a number of options available to you depending on your budget. If you are willing to pay a little more for your staying arrangements, you can get out of the classic hotel and experience something unlike anywhere you've stayed before. With its Glass Igloos, the Arctic Snow Hotel is something you need to see to believe. While the prices may be a little steeper than a traditional hotel, the Arctic Snow Hotel is anything but traditional.
The hotel itself is made of and decorated with ice and snow. Each year, the hotel is re-carved to give it a different design than years before, so each time you return it is an entirely new experience. The rooms of the hotel must be kept very cold to keep the snow and ice from melting, but the hotel provides guests with reindeer furs and special sleeping bags to ensure they are warm during their stay.
The Arctic Snow Hotel also provides the option to stay in one of their Glass Igloos. These igloos are independent of the snow hotel, with options for two or four people. The glass roof of the igloo allows guests to sleep under the stars, or when they appear, under the Northern Lights.
When staying at the Arctic Snow Hotel, you don't need to worry about leaving for meals or other activities. Right at the hotel you will find an Ice Restaurant, Ice Bar, and Ice Sauna. You can even have a gay wedding at the Ice Chapel!
Another excellent option for staying in Rovaniemi is Beana Laponia Wilderness Boutique Hotel and Safaris. Beana Laponia emphasizes their connection with the wilderness of the area, offering you with a wonderful experience to go on husky safaris and explore the Lapland area of Finland. Each of Beana Laponia's rooms are designed for two adults, making it an excellent get away for you and your boyfriend.
A stay at Beana Laponia also gives you the opportunity to explore the area and participate in additional outdoor activities, including fishing, snowshoeing, tobogganing, or hiking and canoeing in the summer months.
You should be able to find a lot of informations about Rovaniemi on visitrovaniemi.fi
After my stay in Rovaniemi, I continued my trip to Helsinki. Thanks to Finnair, the two cities are well connected and easy to travel between.
Located in the southern part of Finland, Helsinki is an entirely different experience than Rovaniemi. As the largest city in Finland, Helsinki has a population of about 626,000 people and is known for its design stores.
As capital of Finland, you won't run out of things to do during your stay in Helsinki. Here are some of the most popular activities of Helsinki tourists.
Helsinki's Market Square is known internationally for it's selections of food, sweets, souvenirs, and gifts. Wandering through the market will give you a clear look into the lives of Helsinki inhabitants and give you a glimpse of all that the beautiful city has to offer.
Market Square is also the home to Helsinki's oldest event, the Helsinki Baltic Herring Fair. From February until August, fishermen will bring their herring to the market for purchase and other goods, including clothes and handcrafts, will be available for purchase.
Explore the art and culture of Helsinki in the many museums they have to offer, including the National Museum of Finland, the Ateneum Art Museum, and the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum.
At the National Museum of Finland, you will find information about the history of the country. Beginning at prehistoric times and going through all the way to present day, the National Museum of Finland is a great place to visit if you're looking to understand what made your host country what it is today. It also includes an interactive exhibit designed for children, but that doesn't mean adults can't enjoy it too!
The Ateneum Art Museum has over 20,000 works of art dating from 1750 to 1950 and hosts the largest art display in all of Finland.
A tour of the Seurasarri Open-Air Museum will give you an idea of how the people of Finland lived in the 18th to 20th centuries. Your tour guides will be dressed in the traditional outfits of the time while they take you around all there is to see.
The Sibelius Monument is one of Helsinki's most popular statues. Made in honor of the composer Jean Sibelius, the monument resembles an organ's pipes and is made from over 600 pipes and weighs 24 tons.
Shopping in Helsinki
As home to THE gay souvenir of Finland, you can't visit Helsinki without checking the Tom of Finland furniture at Finlayson store. As the basis behind my trip to Finland, this is a must on my list of things to do in Helsinki. Touko Laaksonen, best known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, was a Finnish artist notable for his stylized homoerotic fetish art and his influence on late twentieth century gay culture
Gay Life in Helsinki
There are quite a few places to visit during your stay in Helsinki. During the day, one of the best places to go is the Bear Park Cafe. The Bear Park Cafe is a small coffee shop that is decorated and managed with love by the owner, well-known for launching the bear drag race in Helsinki. During the summer months, this drag race has become a popular attraction.
"I would probably say DTM is the best club. It is fairly large with regular events that attract a diverse crowd. For a long time, Hercules was a great club for nights out, but with the new change of venue it remains to be seen how successful it will be. The newly opened G Louge is worth mentioning because of its excellent location with a view over the rooftops in the city center." Joakim who lives in Helsinki.
The gay Helsinki scene is a bit small, but it is very involved. The community is laid back and accepting, with many of their nightlife clubs and bars welcoming of all individuals regardless of sexual preference and gender.
Gay events in 2016
EuroGames 2016 will be hosted in Helsinki from June 29th to July 2nd. As the biggest LGBTIQ event in Europe, EuroGames coincides with Helsinki Pride.
Hosted by the European Gay & Lesbian Sports Foundation, or EGLSF, the EuroGames give athletes the opportunity to compete regardless of gender or sexual preference. The EuroGames hope to eliminate discrimination against gay and lesbian athletes and enable and support gay and lesbian athletes as they come out to their teams and coaches. Through hosting the EuroGames and leaving registration open to everyone, EuroGames also hopes to encourage the development of organizations and groups among gay, straight, and bisexual individuals.
Athletes in everything from bowling and badminton to basketball and tennis can compete in the EuroGames. While registration is open to individuals from all over the world, EuroGame's primary audience includes European athletes, so those outside of Europe are typically placed on a waitlist.
The Helsinki Pride Week will occur at the same time as the EuroGames, officially beginning on June 27th and continuing to July 3rd. In addition to a sea of rainbows, Helsinki Pride week will feature speaking events, workshops, art and culture exhibitions, discussions of current topics, and events for all ages. The official Helsinki Pride Parade will be on Saturday, July 2nd, where supporters of any gender, sexual identification, and race will come together to show their support for gender and sexual minorities.
If you are considering booking a trip to Helsinki, I strongly encourage you to go during the EuroGames and Helsinki Pride Week. While you can always celebrate the gay culture of the beautiful city, join in with the hundreds of LGBT individuals visiting for the events and demonstrate your pride and support while also watching some intense sporting competition, meeting athletes, and experiencing a wonderful event.
Based on your budget, Helsinki offers a variety of places to stay during your trip. Because it is the capital of the country, you will find that there are a number of hotel options all with great locations, great amenities, and at every level budget.
The Indigo Hotel of Helsinki is an excellent option when looking for a place to stay during your visit. The well-decorated hotel offers a breakfast with a large variety, Wifi included, and is located in the city center - close to all the shopping and gay nightlife.
There are also a few gay-friendly places to rent on misterb&b.
You should be able to find a lot of informations on visithelsinki.fi
My trip to Finland was everything I expected and more. Before beginning my journey, I had no idea how I would fall in love with the beautiful snowy Rovaniemi, and I accomplished my goal of exploring the land of the iconic Tom of Finland.
The easiest way to go there is to fly Finnair. Finnair's route network connects Europe, Asia and North America through its hub at Helsinki Airport. The airline operates flights from 60 destinations in Europe to 17 cities in Asia. The operations are based on quality, reliability, safety and design inspired by Nordic pure nature.
A pioneer in terms of sustainable development, Finnair is the launch airline in Europe for the eco-efficient new generation aircraft, the A350 XWB.
In France, Finnair operates 5 non-stop daily flights from Paris to Helsinki all year round, as well as flights from Nice and Biarritz during the high summer season.
In Finland, Finnair flies to 17 cities from Helsinki, among which Rovaniemi, the famous destination in Lapland, with 4 flights a day from Helsinki which offer convenient connections with flights from Paris. Return trip from Paris to Rovaniemi from 360 euros (VAT included).
For more information about Finnair, visit www.finnair.com