A winter holiday in Lapland is an experience you will never forget - we had the most wonderful time.
Above the Arctic Circle, Lapland comprises one third of Finland and is the country's most northernmost, largest and sparsely populated province. It is often called the "last wilderness in Europe."
It is the legendary home of Santa Claus - the Finnish word for December is Joulukuu, which literally means Christmas month. Meeting Santa Claus here must be every child's dream, but that is definitely not the only reason to visit Lapland - add to this the snow, crossing the Arctic Circle and seeing the Northern Lights - and this is just for starters!!
Lapland has four seasons - in summer the vegetation sprouts flowers and bears fruit all within 3 months, because the sun does not set for weeks on end. Between October and March there is no sun. Winter is the longest part of the year, but it includes the Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights. After the polar night comes the dazzling spring snows - skiing is great here until May.
Lapland is the wild north of Finland and the last refuge of the Sami people. They exist on reindeer herding and increasingly selling trinkets to visitors. Traditionally they were a nomadic group who roamed far and wide among the northern extremes of mainland Russia, Finland, Sweden and the northern coast of Norway. They lived in tepee like tents and their economy and culture were based on farming and herding reindeer.
It was largely through the Sami people that Norwegians, Finns, Swedes etc. from the south learned how to survive in the extreme climate above the Arctic Circle.
Apart from the intriguing culture of the Sami people, Lapland presents amazing natural drama - beautiful fjords, inland lakes and trees and extreme contrasts - sunless winters with a snow covered world shimmering in a haunting blue light and bright summers with abundant wildflowers.
It is an area of great forests. There are bears, wolverines and eagles - as well as more than 300,000 reindeer. It is the best place in the world (apparently) for cross country skiing and other winter activities such as snowmobiles and husky and reindeer sleigh rides. At any time of the year, Lapland offers scope for activity and adventure.
We had a wonderful week in Lapland, but the real highlights of the holiday for us were:
- snow, snow, snow - coming from the UK we never see snow like there was here - powdery, soft and plentiful, great for playing in, building snowmen in and sledging downhill.
- a trip across a frozen lake on a sled pulled by 6 energetic husky dogs, warming up afterwards in a traditional kota with coffee and hot sausages cooked on a fire.
- a snowmobile ride through a forest at 2:30pm - sunset - where we had the most amazing views, as well as an exhilirating experience. Warming up at a reindeer farm halfway was also fun and interesting.
- meeting Santa Claus in his traditional homeland and seeing how awe struck our 6 year old son was by the whole experience. We saw him twice - once at his secret hideaway in a forest and once at Santa Park in Rovaniemi - a bit of a touristy experience, but fun and magical nonetheless.