In Search of Christmas Spirit: Santa’s Lapland
Nothing and no one says Christmas quite like Santa and so when I announced two my daughters that we were going to deliver their Christmas lists directly to Santa in Lapland this year, the magic began. A trip with Santa’s Lapland was booked and whilst I packed the cases with thermals and contemplated a long drive to the airport; two very excited little girls completed their letters to Santa, before giving them pride of place on the Christmas tree.
In the few days leading up to our trip, I heard very little from my daughters other than talk of Santa, reindeers and snow. The excitement over meeting the bearded man was certainly mounting and it was a delight to hear their excited chatter. When a letter arrived in the post from Santa (courtesy of Santa’s Lapland) there were shrill shrieks and positive beams that I will treasure forever,
After a flight that was positively geared for children being filled with carol singing, colouring competitions and even a bit of children’s karaoke we arrived at Ivalo airport and a Santa’s Lapland rep ushered us off the plane to meet a very patient reindeer whose handler was dressed in traditional Finnish costume. As we gazed at the pure white snow it was certain that the magical festive adventure had begun.
The journey to our hotel was by coach and gave another opportunity to further embrace festive cheer as the reps treated us to carol singing and games, although it was not to feel full of the Christmas spirit as you gazed out of the window at the beautiful snow drenched scenery and caught glimpses of reindeer and even the occasional elf by the roadside.
After a short coach ride we arrived in Saariselkä, 250km north of the Arctic Circle and about 1,000 kilometres from the southern capital, Helsinki. We were kitted out with thermal all-in-one waterproof snowsuits, thick woollen socks, leather gloves and boots – in no time at all we were ready to brave the cold and dressed for adventure
Checking in to the Santa’s Hotel Holiday Club, I was impressed by the basic but well-equipped room, complete with tea and coffee facilities, adequately sized with a good bathroom, comfortable beds and free wi-fi. We didn’t spend much time in our room, but after a fun filled day it was great to have a good space to crash out in.
We enjoyed a hot chocolate by the roaring open fire in the hotel bar and made our plans for the next day of snow shoeing, tobogganing, a visit to the Angry Birds Activity Park adjoining the hotel and dips in the hotel pool. There were many trips and excursions on offer, but without signing up for anything additional there was plenty to do and see.
For dinner we headed to the hotel’s restaurant for a buffet of traditional Finnish cuisine that was inclusive with the trip. There was plenty of selection, even as vegetarians we dined well and the food was all freshly prepared and warming.
After a good night’s sleep we awoke excited and refreshed and once booted and suited we enjoyed a good breakfast before commandeering two of the sledges available free for hotel guests and set out into the snow. Crunching across the untouched snow in the low light with snowflakes gently falling was magical. We headed off to the toboggan run and as we sledged down to the hill surrounded by snow capped tree it was certain that we were in a winter wonderland. It was hard to drag the girls away from the floodlit 1.2km toboggan run, the longest in Northern Europe; it was great fun and well worth the trek up the hill. The views from the top were spectacular and the trip down pure exhilaration for adults and children alike
By 3pm darkness was falling, but with everything well lit there was still plenty to do. Lapland receives around four and a half hours of light in December, with approximately two to three hours of ‘grey light’ either side, rather like twilight in the UK, but it must be said that the lighting was atmospheric and added to the magic of the place
We headed off for a touch of snow shoeing with a guide and it was great to get to take in the scenery and bask in the sound of softly crunching snow before enjoying hot berry juice and contemplating that dip in the pool on our return to the hotel.
Throughout our trip there was plenty of sledging, and lots of exploring but the best was still to come, when we arrived at the Arctic Circle Centre the next day, the memories will last forever. The day started with husky sledging, and after some brief instructions I assumed the role of ‘musher’ – pulled by six enthusiastic huskies and thankfully guided by our husky wrangler ahead of us on a snow-mobile. With my daughters seated in the sledge in front, I stood on runners at the back and negotiated the route through the beautiful snow covered countryside and this was a truly magical experience and great fun
More excitement was in store, with a show in the Snow-Dome – a giant icy igloo where we were entertained with comical and seemingly spontaneous pranks and antics from the resident elves. My girls were chuckling away and beaming from ear to ear
Then there was a visit to the Ice-bar where we treated ourselves to hot chocolate and sweet treats whilst seated at the solid ice-block benches and tables at marvelled at the ice sculptures.
After the reindeer sleigh ride which gave us all a chance to snuggle down and take in the scenery and festive magic, we were able to try a variety of snow games including ice fishing. Finally it was time meet the big man himself, and after meeting more elves we entered Santa’s grotto. As Santa produced the letters the girls had left on the Christmas tree and began to read out the items they had written they were awe stricken. There was time for some photographs and then they parted with a gift, they couldn’t stop talking about how Father Christmas had magically got their lists.
Santa’s Lapland experience was magical for both my daughters and me as a parent. It certainly made Christmas a very special time and it will be one which will be remembered for years to come and the memories cherished for a lifetime.
Seren and family travelled to Lapland with Santa’s Lapland. All holidays include return flights from a choice of airports, transfers, and a gift from Santa for children under 13, a private family meeting with Santa and a full-day’s activities in a snowy woodland centre. Call 01483 791945 or visit the Santa’s Lapland website for details.