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Dear Santa...

Dreaming of a winter wonderland? Santa's hometown in Finnish Lapland brings the spirit of Christmas to life, writes Amelia Hungerford.

Far away in the Arctic Circle lies the charming wilderness of Finnish Lapland. Home to the midnight sun in summer and Northern Lights in winter, Lapland is a wonderland for all ages and has an unbeatable claim to fame: this is where Santa Claus lives.

If your kids thought an encounter with Santa at the local shopping centre was exciting, they will love the idea of meeting the jolly man in red at his abode, set in the snowy pine forests of northern Finland. Spend the day on sleigh rides and snowmobiles before setting out for Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. A highlight for many young ones is an audience with Santa in his office. Outside, as the snow falls and Christmas lights twinkle, send a letter from the post office and make a snow angel in the wintry landscape – you can’t help but be swept up in feel-good Christmas spirit.

Christmas magic
Journey into the forest’s depths to the magical land of Joulukka to join the elves on a Fairytale Trail and learn the art of gingerbread making with the help of Santa’s helpers at the Elf School. Santa Park is also worth exploring – you can cross the Arctic Circle underground in one of Santa’s secret caves. Santa Park is home to the Ice Gallery and Ice Bar, where your drink comes in a glass made of ice.

Test your skills at the Angry Birds activity park, with fun inspired by the world’s most addictive game.

Husky sled rides are popular with kids of all ages – there’s nothing quite like dashing through a winter wonderland behind a team of blue-eyed dogs. A more sedate option is curling up under blankets and furs as reindeer pull your sleigh along. Reindeer are the lifeblood of Lappish culture; Lapps are traditionally herders of the majestic animal, and no trip to Lapland is complete without a close encounter with these docile creatures.

For the final magic touch, settle in on a clear, dark night to watch the light play of the Northern Lights, one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders.

There are a host of accommodation options in and around Rovaniemi but some of the more unusual ones include a log cabin buried in the snow-blanketed landscape or the Arctic SnowHotel. As the name suggests, everything here – in the restaurant and the rooms – is made from snow and ice. There’s a snow playground outside and the kids can pat the roaming reindeer. If sleeping on ice in a sleeping bag is not your idea of fun, you can opt for a warm room in the log building.

Festive cheer
Flying is the quickest way to get from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, but if you’re not in a rush, try the overnight train that winds its way north. It is a 10-hour trip in small but comfortable sleeper cabins. One way may be enough for young ones, though.

Tour company 50 Degrees North runs a family-friendly Christmas tour with plenty of festive cheer and Finnish traditions far from the madding crowds. The six-night tour leaves 22 December and will have the kids doing everything from baking cookies to whooping with delight on a husky sleigh ride.

Spending Christmas in Finland is a novelty because of the weather alone – it gets cold in Lapland, often around -25 degrees in winter, so be prepared with balaclavas, gloves, and the warmest possible clothes from your wardrobe. The cold is worth it, though. Lapland will create magical winter memories for the whole family to treasure for years to come.



Getting there:
Finnair operates a direct flight from Sydney to Helsinki. Finnair and Norwegian fly from Helsinki to Rovaniemi daily

Arctic Snowhotel

Visit Santa’s elves at Joulukka
Explore Santa Park


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