LAPLAND - My week with Santa
Last Christmas, our family embarked on what can only be described as a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ holiday – to Santa Claus’ Holiday Village in far north Finland’s mystical and magical region of Lapland.
We were 10 members of one family from 3 different generations, travelling to the other side of the world to one of the coldest places on earth at Christmas time – what could possibly go wrong?
First things first, if you are wanting to stay in “Santa Claus’ Holiday Village” over the Christmas period, as we did, then you’ll need to book at least 18 months in advance to ensure you get it! There are several other accommodation options just on the outskirts of the Village and more getting built everyday but we settled on staying in the actual Cottages in the Village to be right amongst all things Christmasy.
At this time of year, the only option available is to book your accommodation including Half-Board. This means that all of your breakfasts and dinners are included and you eat all these meals at the same restaurant everyday. Which was fine as they offered a different selection of meals nightly and every morning there was a good variety at the breakfast buffet to suit everyone.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Between the 10 of us, some flew with Qatar and some flew with Emirates, both are great airlines and both get you into Helsinki in the evening, so you’ll need to overnight here so why not stay a couple of nights and check out Helsinki’s beautiful Christmas lights and Christmas Markets while you’re here. From here you’ll need to catch a domestic flight up to Rovaneimi, the capital of Lapland.
If you’ve booked to say at Santa’s Village then one of their representatives (unfortunately it wasn’t one of Santa’s Elves 😉 will be there to drive you the 5 minutes right to the door of your Cottage.
HOW COLD IS IT REALLY?
If you come prepared and I’m talking thermal pants, tops and socks, jumpers/fleeces to layer with, proper ski/snow jacket and pants, beanies, gloves, scarves, neck warmer and water-resistant snow boots of some kind, then you’ll be pretty well set!
On some of the experiences, like the Snow Mobiling, Ice Fishing & going out at night in search of the Northern Lights, then most of the tour companies will supply you with a full Artic Suit, which I advise putting on top of all of the above, not instead of – it is cold!
The night we went out on our Northern Lights tour, it got down to -28 C degrees, so cold that my mobile phone shut down – it came back to life when we got back inside but that was by far the coldest night of my life!
SO MANY ACTIVITIES & SAFARIS ON OFFER, WHAT DO I CHOOSE?
The answer is simple – ALL of them! It’s most likely that you are not going to get back to Lapland any time soon, so my advice would be to save up your pennies and do as much as you possibly can. It’s an experience like no other and you need to “Seize the Day”.
There are so many companies offering all the various experiences in this area that it can be overwhelming. I decided in the end to just book everything directly through Santa Claus’ Village main reception and would definitely recommend you doing the same. It made life very easy!
We did a Reindeer Safari, Huski Sledding, Snow Mobiling, Northern Lights expedition, Ice Fishing, 3 course dinner at the incredible Ice Restaurant (a true highlight), tubing, sleding and shopping – yes there is a reasonable amount of shopping to be done in Santa’s Village. A LOT of Christmas paraphernalia but also some beautiful local Finnish homewares and clothing stores!
One tip with the tours, try and book them so you are doing them in the very few hours of daylight each day, as making your way through the snow drenched forests, by Huski, Reindeer or Snow Mobile, is absolutely spectacular but you can’t see much of it if it’s in darkness! Trust me, I made that mistake on the Reindeer Safari – still beautiful but would have been 100 times better in the day light.
IN AND AROUND SANTA CLAUS’ VILLAGE
The main town of Rovaneimi is only a 10 minute taxi ride into town. My tip is to download the App ‘Taksini’ on your mobile phone, as this is the only legitimate taxi service in Lapland and it is MUCH simpler to order a taxi on the App rather than try and phone them and explain where you are with the language barrier (trust me – I tried.) If you are in the Village however, just ask the really friendly staff to book one for you.
Only 2kms down the road from Santa’s Village is SantaPark and is most definitely worth a visit. This Christmas theme park, is entirely underground (so leave your hats, gloves, jackets etc in their cloakroom and enjoy!) The kids can go to Elf School, make a mess decorating gingerbread biscuits at Mrs Gingerbread’s Bakery and enjoy the jolly Elf Show on the main stage, which was actually really good!
Other than SantaPark, we spent half a day wandering around the town of Rovaneimi itself, getting a feel for how the locals live in this wintery wonderland, grabbed some supplies from the Supermarket and stocked up on Champagne and the local Lappish Vodka to help us celebrate the spirit of Christmas with.
Between the Village and the town is another shopping centre, with a huge supermarket, a chemist and a bottle shop, so this is a closer option if this is all you need.