In my line of work, I’ve been lucky enough over the years to visit some incredible destinations. Iconic sights from the Taj Mahal to the Sydney Opera House will fill you with awe. And while it’s easy to describe these trips, it’s a little more difficult to put into words my recent 2 night trip to Lapland in the run up to Christmas. The trip was more than a destination for the eyes, the feeling you experience in Santa’s homeland is nothing short of magical.
The fun began at check-in in Dublin Airport where we were introduced to Santa’s helper ‘Katy Perry’ who was to get to know us & keep us entertained throughout the duration of our 3 day trip. All the kids were treated to a goodie bag and despite the early start they were in high spirits, donning festive jumpers and hats in preparation of the trip.
The 3 hours flight to Rovaniemi was like no flight I’ve ever been on before. From start to finish it was jam packed with Sing Songs, quizzes and jokes, all led by the ever patient Katy. The kids were all encouraged to get involved and they all relished the opportunity! A hot breakfast was served onboard the flight but it might be worth taking a few snacks for later in the day. Since the itinerary is full of activities, some nibbles before dinner will help keep the kids energy up to enjoy the experience to the max!
After collecting our bags on arrival, we were all keen to get going. Our first port of call was the thermal gear centre to pick up our suits and boots. Temperatures during our few days ranged from minus 3 to zero degrees, however only a few days previously they had plummeted to minus 20 degrees. Layers are a great idea, thermal leggings, tops and ski socks are all a must. A good tip is to wear your thermal socks with a couple of other pairs of socks over them. Sun glasses are not really necessary since Lapland only sees approx. 4 hours of sunlight per day in the Winter.
Our first activity was a 30 minute snowmobile drive across a frozen lake in Rovaniemi. Yes, a frozen lake! Have you seen the weight of these snowmobiles….definitely not something you want to think about too much but what an adventure! After a quick briefing on how to start, stop and signal, we were on our way. This was probably my favourite activity of the trip. As we headed out of the city across the icy ground, we even had a brief glimpse of the beginnings of the Northern Lights in the distance.
After all this excitement, it was time to check into our hotel for the next 2 nights. The Sky Hotel Ounasvaara is located on a hill top next to the ski slopes with views out over the city which is roughly 3km away. I couldn’t fault the accommodation, the rooms were spacious and as is fairly standard in Finland, they all come with a sauna in each bathroom! Just after midnight as we settled into the bar for a post dinner drink, the receptionist announced that the Northern Lights were in view outside the hotel. I’ve been hoping to see the lights for quite a while now but with so much going on during our trip to Lapland, it never entered my thoughts that I might see them on this trip. What a bonus!!
I must mention that I also seen the Chalets on offer on these 2 night trips. They really are the beautiful traditional cosy chalets that you would expect from a Lappish log cabin. Also located a few km from Rovaniemi and at the bottom of the ski slopes, they are the perfect option for families of 4 or more.
We were up bright an early on our 2nd morning and suited up after breakfast for our eventful day ahead to begin our search for Santa. Our coach collected us from our hotel for our journey across the Arctic Circle into the wilderness of Joulukka Forest. We were met on arrival by the resident Elves who actually make this part of the day absolutely unforgettable. They are full of fun, festive cheer and incredibly knowledgeable on how to become an elf…..if that’s your intention. Our magical time in the forest included elf school, gingerbread decorating, a visit to Santa’s secret command centre and plenty of snowball fights. I’m reluctant to give too much away, but you may or may not find the Main Man in the forest…..if you’ve been good enough!
Next on our itinerary was a visit to a husky farm, we began with a tutorial on how to drive the speedy sleigh with one person standing at the back with foot control of the break, while the other sat in the sleigh and the husky dogs pulled us along at great speed. I’m not ashamed to admit I was terrified and unfortunately for the rest of the group, our sleigh was 2nd in line. So when I decided to sit on the break to slow the dogs down throughout the whole ride…..well everyone else had no option but to do the same! We thawed out with a hot drink and gingerbread biscuits while learning about the lives of the husky dogs in Lapland.
A Reindeer farm was our next visit, as was to be expected Rudolf was otherwise engaged helping Santa with some last minute preparations for the big day, so we got to meet many of his pals. They even took us on a short reindeer ride around the farm, the speed of this suiting me a lot better than the previous jaunt.
It was now time to get back to the hotel for a little downtime to recharge our batteries before our festive evening ahead. The 2nd night of your Sleighbell Spectacular trip sees you heading out of the city to Santa Park, an enchanted venue with so many surprises. Santa’s official Post office, an elf workshop, a magic train ride and a special visitor! This is also the venue for your farewell dinner complete with an evening of entertainment.
On our final day after breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and travelled by our private coach to Santa Claus Village. We had plenty of time for some shopping, with lots of beautiful souvenirs and decorations available for purchase. Santa Claus Village is right on the Arctic Circle line and is really picturesque offering plenty more photo opportunities in between shopping. Posting letters home from the working post office in the village seemed to be one of the most popular activities.
Nicely warmed up again after a hot chocolate, it was time to make our way back to the airport for our return flight home. If we thought that Santa’s helper Katy would have been worn out from 3 days of entertaining, well we couldn’t have been more wrong. The flight on the way home was no less fun filled than the outbound journey. We even got a rendition of Feliz Navidad from an 8 year old boy who learned it for his school nativity but missed his chance to sing it as it clashed with his trip to Lapland. I presume singing it at 40,000 feet through the PA system more than made up for it!
So my final thoughts, there is no denying a trip to Lapland costs a lot of money. Having seen the number of activities and the effort involved, I can fully appreciate how much it takes to make this the incredibly magical experience that it is. From beginning to end, this winter wonderland will offer you memories to last a lifetime and there is no doubt it will bring out your inner child….or your inner elf!