There are various ways you can do the Lapland holiday experience. For us, we love to travel as a family and like to research, plan and adventure ourselves; so we don’t tend to do package holidays. So our experience here is based on us booking and planning all elements ourselves, independently; from flights, accommodation and trips.
In our opinion it’s more of an adventure to travel in this way and teaches the children valuable life skills, confidence and a better appreciation of culture and the real world around them.
We travelled from Manchester to Rovaneimi, via Helsinki with Finnair.
We stayed at Santa Claus village. There are various opinions about how commercial Santa Claus village is. My personal view is that if you are staying there it doesn’t feel too commercial at all. In the daytime, day visitors can make the centre of the village (which is little more than a courtyard with some themed shops around it) quite busy but we stayed away from it in the day. In the evening when we walked to it, it was magical. It’s full of magical Christmas trees, lights and feels very unique and very special.
Staying with 3 children we found the ease of staying there suited us; as it included breakfast in their on-site restaurant. There are also various places to eat on the site. Including the best salmon restaurant event (link) – a small tee pee with a fire in middle where they cook the salmon. They serve a large fillet of fresh salmon, straight from the fire. Along with a bread roll and potatoes Salad. It’s as simple and tasty as you can get. You can’t book, they operate a one in one out but the simplicity of it works and we never waited more than 15 mins.
There is also a fantastic Finnish restaurant (link) which was full of cosy atmosphere which a central fire. And the reindeer dish was amazing!
We stayed in a cottage cabin which was perfect for our family of 5. The older two had one side with their own bathroom and sauna and we had the other side with the little one! The sauna was a welcome treat after being out in the cold!
One of the great things about the site was the random piles of snow everywhere!! Great for impromptu sledging and snow fun. One evening myself and Daisy spent a productive couple of hours creating a double snow slide down the pile outside our cabin! Resulting in a super sledging run where we could race each other!
That’s one of the amazing things about our experience; just having free time to play in the snow and be in the moment. This is why I wanted to go for 6 days. I didn’t want to have a jam packed schedule of activities, we wanted plenty of time for free play! And loads of snow play time we had!
There is also gorgeous forest all around Santa Claus village. We would walk out of our cabins and straight onto the forest trail. Every evening we would go for a lengthy walk / sledge in the forest. It was truly like Narnia! On the clear nights when you saw the stars too it was truly magical! And on the cloudy nights it also had a magical feel in that the clouds would reflect off the snow providing a low level lighting effect everywhere which was like a different world.
Within Santa Claus Village is Snowman World – this is a fun snow park that has been built entirely from snow and you pay for a day ticket and go in and out as much as you like throughout the day. Inside there is an ice bar, restaurant, small ice rink, sculpture room with ice slide and an outdoor slope with giant ice slide which you do down on a tyre (not for the fainthearted!) There is also a nursery slope! But 5 year old Charlie went down with his big brother and sister. I certainly wouldn’t send a small child down it on their own in case they don’t hold on tightly enough as you get air tine half way down!
You can choose to book off site activities through Santa Claus Village or directly through your own research. We did some fantastic activities in the local area: The best off-site, independent activities we did were…
If you only do one thing – do this! This was a new attraction for 2022. Set up and run by a couple who have land about 15km outside of Rovaneimi. It is completely remote. The main attraction they have is a skating rink which includes a skating track which winds through the trees. Because it is so remote and quiet, it feels like you are skating through a magical winter wonderland in another world! They have set up a couple of wooden sheds which serve as the changing room / place to get snacks and a tepee with a roaring fire.
For the ice they also have ice hockey sticks, balls and equipment so the kids can play. In addition to the ice rink and track they have created a small sledging hill and you can borrow snow shoes to go on an explore within their site. We spent so long skating that we did do sledging for a bit in the last hour, but the highlight is definitely the skating! We also toasted sausages on the fire in the tepee.
The park arranged for a taxi to pick us up and drop us off and we arrived at 10am and left at 2pm.
The couple of run it are so lovely and welcoming. What was so special is when we arrived we were the only people there and then during the time only about 4 other families were there. So it felt very exclusive. Obviously as they are new they are still needing to spread the word and I’m sure once word gets out they will get busier but they told me that they are hoping to always limit numbers to 30 as they want it to be a special experience for visitors and so not too busy.
We all agreed that this was literally one of the most magical and special days out we have ever had.
We chose to use a small, local, family business, to take us on a husky experience, so we chose Yoga and Huskies; who are based about 15km outside Rovaneimi and came and pickled us up and drove us to their home which is on the edge of a beautiful lake in a remote location. Their huskies were so well cared for and such lovely animals. When we arrived the children immediately fell in love with them and the dogs allowed the children to stroke and cuddle them and really lapped up the attention!
For the actual excursion, it was a 10km sledging trip, whereby we were split into sledges where some drove and some rode in the sledge. We travelled mainly on the lake but also went into the forest for some of it. They expertly dealt with the huskies and balanced them according to weight and speed; to the point where they would sometimes stop us all and change up the dogs between the sledges, This was to maintain equal speed between the sledges. Apparently, it can be quite challenging to get the right balance as the digs have different speed and strength abilities and this can vary too. This was fascinating to see them work. The couple of run it were on a snowmobile themselves allowing them to always be on hand to help any of the sledges that needed help and monitor us all.
The lake itself was completely deserted, we didn’t see a soul. To travel across a deserted, frozen lake, topped with snow is the most incredible experience ever. It was exhilarating, fun, peaceful and awe inspiring. And what was great is that the dogs were clearly so well cared for and loved their work!
Afterwards we had warm juice on the fire at the edge of the lake and then they children could go and spend time with the dogs in their kennels which they loved!
Meeting Santa Claus!!!
Of course one of the main parts of our trip was to meet Santa himself! (he had written a letter to 5 year old Charlie which he had put in his stocking inviting him to come and meet him!) We had planned to do this at Santa Park, where they do an enchanted forest offering, which is small groups doing a forest experience with the Elves and meeting Santa in his house there. Unfortunately, the day before this had been arranged they cancelled it due to staff illness. Luckily for us we found an alternative which turned out to be much better (and cheaper!)
As we were staying at Santa Claus Village, we discovered we could have Santa come to visit us in our cabin. We were able to book this last minute which was fortunate. And so ‘Santa’ delivered a postcard which we found outside our door when we went to breakfast in the morning telling Charlie that because he had travelled all the way to Lapland to visit him he was going to come to our cabin to see us! It said he had arranged for us to have a ride with one of his trainee reindeer that afternoon and then he would come to our cabin later that day. I had arranged for a reindeer trip that afternoon which we did from the Reindeer Farm at Santa Claus Village. This was a relaxing and magical sleigh ride pulled by a reindeer through the peaceful Narnia style forest. and finished up with a hot berry drink and toasted hot dog!
After our ride with the reindeer; Charlie was beside himself with excitement. We gathered in the cabin to wait at the arranged time, Charlie was peering out of the window and when Santa suddenly appeared at the window his face was a picture! He came in with one of his Elves and spent 15 minutes with us chatting. As we were visiting after Christmas he asked the children if they liked their (specific) presents! He obviously remembered what he had brought them and made reference to these things. He brought them each an additional present and Charlie was delighted with his toy reindeer which he refers to now as his ‘magic reindeer’ from Santa. Santa said that he was trying to arrange for us to see the Northern lights; which her called his special Santa lights. Low and behold we did see them the following night ; an amazing feat for Santa to have arranged and amazingly magical for Charlie that “Santa arranged for us to see them” in his words!
I found it interesting how nervous Charlie was with Santa; as a usually confident child, he clearly felt like he needed to be on his best behaviour and his fidgety behaviour gave insight into this!
Seeing the authentic Santa was not the main part of our trip; and I think you can do the trip and it still be magical without meeting Santa. However, if you have a child under 10 it does provide a magical, special experience for them which is hard to top
The Northern Lights!!
On the final night of our trip we had organised to go on a Snow Mobile evening tour with Arctic circle snow mobiles. It is called the Northern Lights snowmobile tour. However, obviously its not guaranteed to see the Northern Lights.
To actually see the Northern lights you need 3 things –
- To be somewhere very dark with little light pollution (preferably between 10pm and 1am which is the most likely time they will appear)
- To have a clear sky and little cloud.
- To have high solar activity.
The evening was forecast to be cloudy! When we arrived the guide said there was medium solar activity. So we didn’t get our hopes up. And regardless, we were going to have a fun evening skiddooing through the forest in the dark on snowmobiles! And that would be fun!
Brett drove one snowmobile with George as his passenger. Daisy rode as a passenger with our guide. And I sat with Charlie in a trailer behind the guides snowmobile. It was lovely being snuggled up together as were speeding through the forest. On the first part we travelled for about 30 minutes and then stopped to look at some views at a high point. Despite the fact that it is dark, the reflection of the snow on the sky gives quite a light effect and so the views were spectacular. Especially looking back over to Santa Claus Village where the coloured lights were reflecting in the sky. We then continued on for another 40 minutes during which time Charlie fell asleep!
We then arrived at a piece of high land, on top of the hill with nothing around for miles. There was a fire hut there. These are situated in Finland as free huts where walkers, skiers or trekkers can rest, light fires etc. So our guide took us in there and lit a fire and we started toasting sausages. After about half an hour at about 10pm, our guide went outside and then poked his head back in “You might want to come out here” As we did we looked up and saw the beginnings of a green light just appearing above us. It was so magical. The light started to move and grew with more light becoming prominent. The guide said “you are really lucky, this is a really good show” Little did he know how much better it was going to get!
For the next hour, the lights just got bigger and better! They swirled around above our heads, when you looked above you at them straight above you, you could actually see the speed of them swirling along. They moved and changed formation and were so very, very beautiful and awe inspiring! They stayed out for about an hour! Just as they started to fade away the cloud started to move in. The timing was unbelievable! If you believe in spirituality at all then this experience certainly felt very spiritual and like it as meant to happen for us.
The power and beauty of the natural world is something that I will remember feeling so very closely that night. And the fact that the children experienced it was just incredible! After they had faded away we had hot juice and marshmallows on the fire in the hut and then climbed back onto the snowmobiles and headed back. Charlie fell asleep on the way back and we returned about midnight to the site. The exhilaration we all felt from such an incredible evening was so special and something we will always remember.
So, what were the best things about this trip of a lifetime?
It was about quality family time together; being active, being outdoors and experiencing the incredible beauty of a completely different part of the world that is so different from where we live and full of such magic, fun and wonder!
Whatever age your kids; I would say do it!
I heard that people get ‘the bug’ for Lapland and I can certainly relate to that! Next in the planning is Swedish Lapland!
And a summer trip is also on the wish list! I think the 24 hour daylight will be a bit weird but I want to experience it!
If you would like any specific information or advise on any of the activities do contact me
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