With those tickets booked and the excitement well and truly building, that magical visit to Lapland is now on the horizon. Or perhaps you’re still mulling over the trip and would feel better about a more concise idea of what to expect.
Lapland is unlike many other holiday destinations. Not only is it located within an area of the world that few would venture into during winter if it wasn’t for its connection with Santa, but it’s also a place where outdoor activities are a common way of life despite the frosty temperature. Here are 6 tips to consider before arriving in Lapland.
Venturing deep into the Arctic circle is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but also one that probably conjures images of numb fingers and chattering teeth. Low temperatures are part of the whole experience in Lapland, but it is important to be clear on just what to expect.
The average temperature in Lapland in December generally hovers between -3°C and -6°C during the day and you can go down another few degrees at night. Everybody travelling to Lapland must be prepared for freezing temperatures as many of the activities on the agenda take place outside.
Specialist warm weather clothing is often provided as part of the activity but that doesn’t mean you can term up in your summer attire. Pack the warmest clothes you have and don’t forget the scarves, gloves and hats. It’s also a good idea to bring a few heat pads that can be kept in pockets or in gloves to provide some extra warmth.
Lapland’s connection with Christmas makes it an ideal destination for children but there are a few points to consider. Visiting Santa’s house in the forest is an experience that any child will cherish for years to come, but of course, this particular story has a sell-by date.
We recommend a visit to Lapland for children between 5 and 10 years old as they are the ones who will probably get the most from it, but that’s not to say older children won’t enjoy it also. The magic of Christmas certainly changes dramatically once children discover ‘The Big Secret’ and it’s up to you whether children who have already been through this stage will still be able to get the same level of enjoyment.
Length of Visit
We offer three different options when it comes to the length of your stay in Lapland. If you’re short on time but still want to experience everything this magical land has to offer, a single-day trip packs in a whole lot of fun in one day. There is also a two-night option that allows you to see a little more of Lapland and also a three-night package that lets you get the very most out of your visit.
Obviously, we’d always recommend staying as long as possible, but in today’s economic climate and with our frantic schedules, it may be a case of taking what you can get. What we will say is that whether you’re here for just one day or the full four days on offer, no visit to Lapland will ever disappoint.
Most of the activities on offer take place outside and while the idea of snowmobiling, sleigh rides through the forest, and tobogganing might sound like heaven to some, it’s not for everybody.
There are plenty of opportunities to spend more time in Pyha should you wish, but we’d hate for anybody to be taken by surprise by what’s on offer. Lapland is a magical location, but a place where the great outdoors plays a huge part in its charm.
Don’t worry too much about the conditions as warm weather clothing and extra blankets are typically provided. Lapland provides an excellent standard of care and we can promise you that those on the ground will do everything they can to make you as comfortable as possible.
Lapland is quite simply stunning and you’ll no doubt want to take plenty of photos while you’re here. Just remember that phone and camera batteries tend to decrease at a much faster rate in extreme cold. It’s always a good idea to bring a few backup batteries and perhaps even a portable charging device to ensure you’re never caught off guard by that flashing battery icon just as your child sits down on Santa’s lap.
One way to keep batteries healthy is to keep them near heat sources such as heat packs or simply keep them as close to the human body as possible.
It might sound crazy considering the temperatures, but suncream with a decent SPF is an absolute must. Temperatures might remain comfortably below zero for days on end but Lapland also receives its fair share of sunny days and sunlight reflected off the snow is considerably more powerful than when it comes at you direct from the sun.
It’s also quite common to experience dry skin in Lapland, again a result of the combination of low temperatures, dryness in the air, and intense sunny periods, so something to moisturise is always a good idea.
The Northern Lights
One question we get regularly is how, when and where can the Northern Lights be seen. We have to be completely honest here and say that some people see the dazzling lights in the sky every night of their trip while others fail to see a single glimmer of light. It is a glorious sight and one which is very much up to chance.
Seeing the Northern Lights is a spectacular experience, but unfortunately, one which we have zero control over. The best way to stay up to date on the lights is to download the Northern Lights Forecast app and keep track of it throughout the day and into the evening. If there is a chance to see them, the app will tell you well in advance.
Lapland – Where Magical Tales Live
A visit to Lapland means you are diving into one of the most well-loved stories on the planet, but it’s also where you tread in the footsteps of a culture that has called the area home for thousands of years and long before the notion of Christmas was even a flicker in the imagination.
The story of Christmas is of course well established but why constrain yourself to just one magical story? A visit to Lapland gives you the unique opportunity to introduce your children to an indigenous culture along with the wonderful tales of magic and fantasy that swirl through Lapland.
If your children were among the millions around the world who watched the Frozen films with delighted wonder, then they might already have a rough idea about the enchanting world that awaits. But for the adults in the room that need to brush on their magical tales, here are five of our favourites.
The Yule Goat
The exact details of Santa Clause change depending on where you are in the world. In Finland, it is the Yule Goat that delivers gifts to children, a character that was said to be based on the Norse god Oden.
The goat connection comes from the figure’s long white beard which was said to resemble that of a goat, while he is sometimes pictured behind the wheel of a chariot being pulled by two goats. The myth itself is complex and has changed over time. One version of the story was that the Yule Goat was a real man who changed into a goat once a year to deliver gifts, but this was possibly changed to make it more appealing for children.
The Early Elves
Ever wondered why Santa uses Elves in his workshop? Any reasoned mind might suggest that larger creatures might be able to get the job done quicker, but why ruin a perfectly lovely tale?
Our modern understanding of Santa’s helpers as elves very much originates from Lappish mythology. Older stories tell of mischievous creatures known as tonttu – similar to dwarves or gnomes – who were said to wear little red hats and hand out gifts. They also needed to be carefully placated with a bowl of porridge left out for them, a practice that eventually morphed into leaving milk and cookies for Santa.
Over time the tontuu gradually became elves and they’ve almost become as integral to the story of Christmas as their boss, Santa Claus.
The Northern Lights
If you are lucky you just might witness one of nature’s most remarkable natural phenomena while you’re in Lapland. Even today, scientists are only beginning to truly understand the Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, but for those fortunate enough to witness them, it’s a sight you will never forget.
Cultures across the Northern hemisphere have long sought to explain the bizarre yet beautiful lights that appear in the night sky and Lapland is no different. The Finnish word for the Northern Lights, revontulet, translates as fox, and according to the Sami, the Northern Lights are created by a fox running so fast through the sky that its tail leaves sparks that create the lights.
The Northern Lights took on even greater importance during polar nights, in which the sun is only visible for a couple of hours a day. During the pagan era, it was thought that the mesmerising lights in the sky were messages from the ancestors. Other beliefs were that the lights contained the souls of the dead themselves and that staring directly at them or talking too loudly around them was deeply disrespectful.
Lintukoto – The Land of the Birds
Today with our modern scientific understanding we can effectively map out the migratory routes taken by birds each year, but hundreds of years ago the Sami had a very different theory.
The word Lintukoto translates as ‘Paradise’ or ‘Happy Place’ and it was said that birds in the region travelled to it every year. Nobody knew exactly where Lintukoto was but stories told of an Eden-like land located near the edge of the world, where the stars and the land were significantly closer. The Sami also believed that this region was populated with human-esque creatures, but because the distance between the Earth and the heavens was that much smaller in Lintukoto, those that resided there were dwarfs.
The White Reindeer
Behind Santa Claus and his army of elves, nothing says Christmas like herds of reindeer. There are an estimated 200,000 of the creatures in Lapland, all of which are legally owned by the Sami people who continue to use them as a food source as well as a huge source of income through tourism.
How much you want to explain to children about the popularity of reindeer meat is up to you, but we believe it’s important that they understand the wider importance of the animal to the Sami people. Rudolph and his red nose might be the stand-out star of the show, but to the Sami, it is white reindeer that have long held the most significance. Successfully catching and taming a white reindeer was said to bring luck, riches, and eternal happiness.
In other tales, they go even further and state that at the beginning there was only the sun and the Earth and it was a white reindeer which created the world that we live in today by donating its veins to create rivers, its fur to form forests, and its antlers to build mighty mountains.