Christmastime in Lapland
Taylor Takes on the Arctic
Lapland, Finland is the perfect travel destination to celebrate Christmas and the Holidays. Not only will a trip to Lapland make all of your childhood dreams come true, it is also the best winter destination to experience unique activities that you cannot do elsewhere.
During December 2017, I traveled to Lapland for a week with SitInMySeats Travel. We traveled to Finland two weeks before Christmas to get us into the holiday spirit. While we were exploring Lapland, we got to meet Santa Claus; experience a five-course dinner in an igloo; sleigh ride with reindeer and huskies; practice yoga in the coziest cabin; stay in a beautiful five-star Arctic hotel; shop through a dreamy Christmas market; snowmobile through peaceful forests; savor traditional Finnish and Lappish cuisine; relax in an Arctic sauna and experience the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
I split this blog post up into two. Below, read about all of the wonderful Christmas activities we participated in during our time in Lapland.
Click here to read my second blog post on the unique winter activities we participated in.
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Traveling to and around Lapland:
Getting to Lapland from other countries outside of Scandinavia will require you to fly into Finland’s capital, Helsinki. From there, you will get on a short domestic flight that will take you to Lapland’s main city, Rovaniemi. You could find great flight deals through Skyscanner!
Rovaniemi’s airport is located 15 minutes from the city itself. (One of the cool things about this airport is that it gets you into the Christmas spirit right when you land. The terminals are filled with Christmas lights and snowflakes and the baggage claim area had a snow village that reminded me of my nana’s Christmas village. It was cute and festive!)
During your time in Lapland, it is best to get around via taxi or private coach. Since Lapland is located in the Arctic Circle, you bet there will be a lot of snow on the ground during the month of December. To avoid getting stuck, you could call a taxi to take you around or contact your hotel to see if they have a shuttle service. (Unfortunately, there is no Uber or Lyft.)
Staying in Lapland:
During our time in Lapland, we stayed at the Arctic Light Hotel situated in the heart of Rovaniemi city. The location of the hotel was perfect because it was in walking distance to some great restaurants, Rovaniemi’s Christmas market, a few cozy bars and shops. I loved how the hotel was perfectly decorated for the holiday and it even had lights, similar to the Northern Lights, shining on the building. My cousin Alexie and I shared a cozy room that was located on the top floor. It featured sky windows that allowed us to possibly see the Northern Lights from our beds! In addition, the hotel also had an amazing buffet breakfast every morning. There was really nothing better than fueling up on smoked salmon and Finnish donuts with blueberry juice. The hotel’s bar was also amazing. My favorite drink was Finnish berries such as lingonberry, cloudberry, bilberry, raspberry or blueberry drinks made with egg yolk and whiskey!
Besides the Arctic Light Hotel, there are a variety of different hotel options in Lapland. You could stay in other festive hotels, more modern ones or even in igloos! In addition to staying in a hotel, Lapland also has a wide range of Airbnb options as well!
Weather in Lapland and How to Dress:
Lapland is located in the Arctic Circle. During the month of December, it is cold and dark! The temperature ranges from 30 down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and daylight is usually from 11am to 2pm (if even). Don’t worry though, if you are looking to experience Finland’s beauty during daylight, you could travel back during the summertime where the sun is out around the clock!
In regards to clothing in Finland, we wore heavy snow apparel 24/7. No matter where you go in Lapland, you will be walking in snow that will be up to your knees or higher. You also want to layer too with heavy sweaters because most activities will be taking place outside and you will get cold easily. Check out my selection of clothing recommendations at the end of this blog post.
Getting into the Holiday Spirit in Lapland:
As I mention above, Lapland, Finland is the perfect destination to get into the holiday spirit. It is a great trip for people of all ages to enjoy and there is magic throughout the fresh Arctic air! From meeting the “real” Santa Claus to enjoying a magical sleigh ride with Rudolph; you cannot get more of a Christmas experience than on this trip.
Because you cannot physically travel to the actual North Pole itself since it is frozen ice over the Arctic Ocean, Lapland is a close place and that is where Santa has his workshop. 15 minutes from the city of Rovaniemi is Lapland’s famous Santa Park. This enchanting place is considered an amusement park for all of those who “believe”!
When we arrived at Santa Park, it felt like my nana’s Christmas village came to life right in front of me. My nana was a big Christmas person and made each holiday season magical for all of us, even during our teen years! (She unfortunately passed away to cancer when I was 19.) During those 19 years, I remember always sitting in front of that village every December and fantasizing about one day being in there and when I arrived at Santa Park, my childhood dreams became reality. (It only took 26 years at that point. LOL)
Santa Park is full of fun attractions; Christmas lights galore, snow hills and forts, a beautiful Christmas tree and so much more! We walked around, took photos and then bought a cheap plastic sled. One of the best parts about Santa Park is that no matter what age you are, you could act like a kid and no one will judge you. Alexie and I bought a hot pink sled and took it to the top of one of the snow-piled hills and had a blast riding down it. We shared some great laughs!
As we walked around, we found a cozy spot where there was a bonfire surrounded by pine trees and Christmas lights. It was a great place to warm up and relax from our sleighing fun.
Later on in the evening, we decided it was a good time to meet Santa since the crowds died down by then. If you decide to meet the big man earlier in the day, expect to wait on line for a while since that is the prime time families go with their little ones. When we went, we walked right in without having to wait on any lines. As you walk in, there is a whole North Pole exhibit set up. When we finally got to the room, we were greeted by Santa’s elves and then were able to go in to meet him. Just like big kids, we got excited when we got to talk to Santa (LOL).
In addition to meeting Santa and having fun outside, you can visit the Toy Factory Shopping Area, Elf School, Santa Park Magic Show, Magic Train, Elf Workshop, Angry Birds Activity Area and Mrs. Gingerbread Bakery. It is the perfect place to visit if you have young children or just looking to relive your childhood.
After having fun at Santa Park, we made our way next door to Snowman World, which is literally considered “The Coolest Place on the Arctic Circle”. Every year, a group of people with different talents and skills work together to create a magical igloo that includes both a hotel, restaurant and bar with beautiful ice carvings and sculptures of snowmen and other intricate details to make for a unique and unforgettable experience. If you are visiting Lapland, I definitely recommend making your way here! The igloo melts at the end of Lapland’s winter season, which is usually late March into early April.
When we first entered the igloo, we were taken straight to the ice bar. I loved how we were able to get our own private experience so that we could create memories together. Since vodka is a staple in Finnish culture, our tour guide let us choose from a variety of flavors from Finland’s famous Finlandia bottles. Even though I am not the biggest vodka fan, I chose to try the mint flavor since it complements the winter season. What was cool about it (no pun intended) was that it was served in an ice cup! I even got to drink next to Frosty!
As we made our way deeper into the igloo, there was a fun ice slide that we could ride down. I had a blast and felt like a big kid! We had to make sure we did not touch anything in the igloo because the heat from our gloves and hands could’ve made the sculptures melt.
Dinner in an Igloo:
When we were finished exploring the igloo, we worked up an appetite and made our way to the glistening Ice Restaurant for our private dinner. When I made my way into the dining room, I was in awe at how beautiful it was. In fact, I was mostly in shock that I was actually eating my first Finnish dinner in an igloo with Swarovski crystal chandeliers hanging from the ice ceiling!
As we sat down, we were given fleece blankets to keep ourselves warm and were served glögi, a heated spiced drink that has been enjoyed by the Finnish for years. You could even add a spiced liquor or vodka to your glögi as well. This drink was originally served to messengers and postmen who travelled on horseback or skies in the cold weather of Scandinavia.
After enjoying our warm glögi, we were also served delicious French red wine. (Another thing I learned during my trip to Finland is that wine is not produced in the country.) Our appetizer was a hearty king crab bisque served with delicious Finnish rye bread. It was amazing! The main course was a filling, but oh-so-good Arctic char, which is similar to salmon and found in Arctic and subarctic waters. This fish was served with a side of warm veggies. For dessert, we savored a warm molten chocolate cake with hot chocolate. (The Finnish LOVE their chocolate cake!) Having dinner at the Ice Restaurant was the perfect way to end our first day in Lapland.
Reindeer Sleigh Riding:
To continue our North Pole adventures, another exciting excursion for our second full day in Finland was sleigh riding with Rudolph and his reindeer friends. Located a half-hour outside of the city of Rovaniemi is an area called Raanujärvi, where we were taken into a Lappish wonderland. It was absolutely breathtaking!
We did our adventures through Lapland Safaris, who provided us with a special winter suit that we wore over our winter clothes to keep us warm as well as snow boots so that our feet wouldn’t freeze during our long period in the woods.
When we first arrived to the reindeer farm, there was a plastic reindeer. We were all given a rope to pretend like we were catching the reindeer like they used to do in the old days. It was a lot of fun and I was able to catch the plastic reindeer by the antlers.
Reindeer sleigh riding is a traditional way of traveling through snowy forests in Scandinavia. We were given a brief education about how to maneuver the sled the proper way so that the reindeer would be comfortable. We then hopped into the sled that had fleece blankets for us to keep warm as we traveled through the heart of the world’s best winter wonderland.
Alexie and I shared the same sled and were able to switch when our arms got tired. Our reindeer was definitely the older one out of the bunch, so we lost everyone within a few minutes of our adventure. The rest of the crew were way ahead of us, but I didn’t mind because it gave me more time to take in all of Lapland’s beauty around me.
About half way through our trip, there was a teepee with a campfire set up for us to enjoy lunch. Before we ate, we had to feed our reindeer first. Our guides gave us a mossy type of plant that is only found deep in the Lappish forests. This plant is filled with rich nutrients and the reindeer love it!
After our reindeer ate their lunch, it was time for us to warm up by the fire and enjoy a Lappish meal. We were given a stick and pre-cooked sausage to stick in the fire. After a few minutes, we were ready to eat! Since we were in the middle of the forest and were “toughing” it out as if we were camping there, we were not given bread and condiments to eat with our sausage. Instead, we were given a napkin and ate the sausage by itself. It hit the spot though.
For dessert, our tour guide had pre-made batter that he brought along with a skillet. He had the batter over the fire and made delicious sugar crepes out of them and used homemade blueberry jam as a filling. It was delicious and the blueberry filling came straight from the blueberries that are found in the forest we were in. We were also given coffee to wash it down with. It was such a great experience!
During the second part of our sleigh riding adventure, we were able to switch reindeers. We ended up going on the sled with the fastest, reindeer this time! Overall, it was truly an unforgettable experience.
The city of Rovaniemi is pretty small and easy to navigate. One of the nice things was that the Arctic Light Hotel was about a 5-minute walk from the heart of the Christmas market area. I loved how the city was one giant winter playground. Besides the markets, there was an area for sleigh riding, an ice rink, chocolate shops, boutiques and great restaurants.
Even though Rovaniemi’s Christmas market isn’t as big as the Christmas markets in Germany or Austria, it was still the perfect place to grab crafted souvenirs and Finnish home goods.
Check out a quick GoPro video from Finland below:
I hope you all enjoyed reading about the Christmassy things I did during my time in Lapland, Finland with SitInMySeats Travel. If you have any questions about my magical time in Lapland, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
Kiitos (Thank You) and Happy Travels!
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