ELISA ELWIN reveals five reasons to visit Finnish Lapland, in the country’s north, during the colder months
1. SANTA LIVES THERE
Imagine your childrens’ faces when they visit Santa in his North Pole home! The man with the lush beard and gentle “Ho! Ho! Ho!’, dressed in red and ready to listen to your child’s wishes is a dream come true when you visit Finnish Lapland. The Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi hosts Santa Claus visits year-round. Christmas is a magical time to visit, with Santa in residence at many of the resorts and guesthouses sprinkled throughout the Lapland wilderness.
2. GO SLEDDING WITH HUSKIES
A family-favourite, husky sledding is an experience everyone will love. The excited barking of the dogs is your welcome. You will be trained in the simple art of managing your team and sled, with a short lesson on steering and braking – and your canine friends will take care of the rest. Dog care is paramount, and there will be time to thank your team with cuddles and pats at the end of your ride. Nothing can prepare you for the exhilaration of gliding across the winter wonderland, and small children can sit safely on an adult lap on the sled.
3. RIDE IN A REINDEER SLEIGH
Long before Santa discovered Rudolph, wooden sleighs were an essential mode of transportation for the Sámi, the Indigenous people of Finland. Now a popular tourist experience, you can take a sleigh ride, wrapped warmly under hides, and glide through the winter forest. Rides usually last from 10 minutes to a few hours. Reindeer rides are generally shorter than husky rides and are ideal for small children.
4. SAUNA TOGETHER
Sauna is a national pastime for the Finnish people, with over three million saunas to 5.5 million Finns! Sauna is a time to relax, to cleanse both your body and mind, and a time to gather together. Suitable for everyone, except babies and those with medical conditions, sauna is a fun – and steamy – family ritual. To experience sauna at its best, visit Arctic Sauna World, which opened in January 2020. Situated on Lake Jeris, Arctic Sauna World is based on Finnish mythology and folktales incorporating the elements of earth, water, air and fire. Spend hours in each of the five saunas while watching the Northern Lights. Even take the ice plunge in freezing lake Jeris if you dare!
5. GAZE AT THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Dancing and flashing across the sky in vast swathes of green, pink, yellow, blue, violet and, occasionally, orange and white, this natural spectacle is also known as The Aurora Borealis – magical dancing lights that can appear more than 200 nights a year in Northern Finland. The auroras form at altitudes over 100km and are created by electronically charged particles, originating from the sun. Multi-coloured displays form when different atmospheric gases are agitated by the solar wind. Most accommodations host Northern Lights tours, taking you away from any ambient light for a vivid view. Wilderness Hotel Inari offers guests an alert buzzer to notify when the lights are visible, creating great excitement and a mass exodus when the ‘buzzers’ all go off, as everyone scrambles into their outdoor gear to capture this spectacle!
The writer travelled as a guest of Finnair and 50 Degrees North
Finland’s national carrier, Finnair, offers flights from Finland’s southern capital Helsinki to Rovaniemi and Ivalo in the north.
50 Degrees North has an excellent range of family tours to Finnish Lapland.
Harriniva Hotels & Safaris operate in five different locations. Harriniva, Jeris, Torassieppi, Galdotieva and Kilpis.
Wilderness Hotel Inari, located five minutes’ from the Sámi village, has a range of apartments, rooms and villas.
MORE INFO from Visit Finland
FUN FINLAND FACTS
- Winter temperatures in Lapland vary from 30C to 0C
- The coldest temperature measured was -51.5C in 1999 in Kittilä
- The cleanest air in the world is in the Muonio municipality of Finnish Lapland
- Angry Birds was created in Finland
- There are more than 190,000 reindeer in Finland
- It is against the law to disturb or frighten a reindeer
- Finland was the first country in Europe to give all women the right to vote
- Finland unique wildlife includes the grey wolf, wolverine, elk, its national animal the brown bear and national bird the whooper swan
- Finland is The Happiest Country in the World according to The World Happiness Report
- Santa Claus’ post office has received letters from 199 different countries, with hundreds of thousands of letters arriving each year. His address is – Santa Claus, Santa Claus’s Main Post Office, 96930 Napapiiri, Finland.