Written by Joy S on 06 Jan, 2010
We booked the trip to Santa's Secret Hideaway with Ingham, our tour operator before we left the UK. This holiday was to see Lapland, enjoy the winter activities on offer there, but also to bring our 6 year old to meet the "real" Santa…Read More
We booked the trip to Santa's Secret Hideaway with Ingham, our tour operator before we left the UK. This holiday was to see Lapland, enjoy the winter activities on offer there, but also to bring our 6 year old to meet the "real" Santa in his hideaway in the middle of a forest above the Arctic Circle.We got collected by coach from our hotel in Levi and were taken about 15 minutes drive into the countryside. It was 3:30pm when we were picked up, so it was dark.When we arrived at the hideaway, we had to drive up a long track, at the end of which we were met by an elf, who walked us up a long candlelit path. It was nice with all the candles, but it was really dark, icy cold and quite a long walk for young children, with not much to see but flickering candles.We came eventually to a log cabin in the forest and were all taken inside. There was a fire, flasks of coffee and hot berry juice and biscuits. The "elves" in the cabin led a singsong of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer then Santa came in briefly to say hello to the children. He was large, round and fairly jolly and the children were all wide eyed with awe.When he left, the children were told they could draw and colour a picture, they had a few (very babish) wooden jigsaw puzzles and a small craft area where you could make your own Santa head from a piece of wood and some cotton wool.While this was going on, the Inghams rep took each family in turn to see Santa in his log cabin. This felt a bit like a production line and the rep seemed intent on just getting the job done, rather than making it a memorable or nice experience.Inside Santa's log cabin though, it was lovely. Beautifully decorated with a lovely Christmassy smell and Santa sitting in a huge rocking chair. Our son Reuben was dumbstruck and overwhelmed and could barely utter a world. Unfortunately, although Santa was very nice he was not overly chatty - possibly due to the language barrier - so most people were only with him for a couple of minutes. You could take as many photographs as you wanted though, and there was no professional snapper - so no pressure to buy anything.After the Santa meeting, there were a few things to do outside the cabins. They had a reindeer which you could get close to, a skittles game, some snowshoes you could try out and a big fire where you could cook your own sausages.There was no running water, so no toilets at the hideaway and, due to the extreme cold, you could only stay outside a maximum of 10 minutes. It was also extremely dark, with only the light from the fire, so hard to watch children and impossible to see anything much.We were at the hideaway for 2.5 hours. Realistically one hour maximum would have been more than enough time there - the Santa visit was the highlight, but was very brief and after that everyone just crammed into the wooden cabin waiting for our coach to take us back to Levi.We all trudged back down the long path to our coach - watched the next coach load of people arrive and we had to wait in the cold for them to disembark before we could get on. It all felt a little like a conveyor belt.Overall our son loved meeting Santa, and the log cabin encounter with him was, although brief, very pleasant. Everything else felt like a filler though and for the cost - £40 each - it was disappointing and a big waste of time and money. We have had better Santa experiences in other places and would not recommend this to anyone. Close
Written by Joy S on 05 Jan, 2010
Snowmobiling is a way of life in Lapland. There is no more exhilirating way of exploring the wintery woods than on your own snowmobile.A carefully managed network of trails criss-cross the beautiful winter expanses of North West Finland. You follow forest tracks, cross…Read More
Snowmobiling is a way of life in Lapland. There is no more exhilirating way of exploring the wintery woods than on your own snowmobile.A carefully managed network of trails criss-cross the beautiful winter expanses of North West Finland. You follow forest tracks, cross frozen lakes and speed across snowy plains.We took a guided snowmobile tour with Perhitsafarit, based in Levi.The operators gave you guidance on how to drive and handle the snowmobile. They also provide the correct clothing - oversuit, helmets, gloves, balaclavas and boots. You still need to ensure you are wearing lots of thermal layers underneath.Children under 10 are not allowed on the snowmobiles, but can ride in a covered sleigh which is towed by the guide's snowmobile. It is safe and convenient, albeit a little bumpy at times, but our 6 year old son loved it. Children under 2 years of age are not permitted to ride, but I would have thought to be safe on the sleigh they need to be minimum of 5 years old.We travelled through the forest and across 2 frozen lakes. Our train of snowmobiles stopped for about 10 minutes on the lake, where we got the most incredible view of the sun setting over the forest - it was about 1:30pm.Our tour in total was 15km. We stopped at the half way point - a reindeer farm. We all left the snowmobiles, went inside and had coffee and doughnuts then had about half an hour to have a look at the reindeer.Children were allowed to feed moss to the reindeer. There was an igloo you could explore and a couple of sledges harnessed up to 2 white reindeer which you could sit in.The reindeer are interesting animals. All winter long they pull sledges - mainly for tourists and stay in the various reindeer farms. In the summer they do not "work" but are allowed to roam freely in the forests. Every winter though, amazingly, they make their own way back to their own farms - every reindeer knows where it needs to go and goes back!Afterwards we got back on our snowmobiles and travelled again to Levi. The journey back was quite fast - much more speedy than on the way there. We sped and bumped across the tracks - riding as a passenger you really have to hold on for dear life! The whole thing was an amazing experience - an adrenalin rush from start to finish, full of thrills and exhiliration. Close
We spent a great day at Wingrens Dog Safari in Kongas, 15 minutes drive from Levi. We booked the experience through our tour operator - Inghams - when we got to Levi, but it is possible to organise this independently. The safari, plus…Read More
We spent a great day at Wingrens Dog Safari in Kongas, 15 minutes drive from Levi. We booked the experience through our tour operator - Inghams - when we got to Levi, but it is possible to organise this independently. The safari, plus the coach ride there and back cost £85 for adults and £41 for children under 12 years old.It is really thrilling as you venture into the countryside with a team of huskies, over a frozen lake through dense forest with everything carpeted in a white blanket of powdery snow.When we arrived, we were met from the coach by the dogs' owner Maria. She owns and operates the kennels and has 95 racing huskies, who are trained to follow a 6 mile trail through the forest and across the lake. She speaks fluent English.No previous experience is needed to drive the sled. Maria gave us a demonstration of how to stand and balance and steer. She also told us safety information. You do need to make sure you are dressed really warmly, with lots of layers and thermals. The temperature as you travel through the forest and across the frozen lake is perishing. You also need to cover every bit of exposed skin on your face to make it a more pleasurable experience.In the Arctic regions sled dogs have been used for hundreds of years, traditionally as the means of transportation in the frozen wilderness. At these kennels they use both Siberian and Alaskan huskies.We had 6 dogs pulling our sled - myself and our son sat on the sled and my husband stood at the back and drove. The dogs worked really hard, but did seem to love running and working. The noise they made before we started and their enthuasism to get going was remarkable.It is a lovely feeling on the sled - everywhere is white and really silent - you feel like there is no-one else on earth.A guide on a snowmobile is around during the safari, to make sure everything is going as it should. He also stops you at the half way point so you can change drivers, if you wish to do so.On our safari the huskies worked hard, but apparently did not travel as fast as is normal. There had been fresh snow falling all morning, apparently this slows them down as it is harder to build up speed.Our safari lasted half an hour. We were then taken back to a traditional Finnish kota or wooden hut with a blazing fire in the centre. We were given hot drinks and sausages which we cooked over the fire. This was the perfect way to warm up again.Afterwards we had about 15 minutes to wander and look at the dogs. The working dogs are all kept behind a fence - each has its own kennel with its name on. We also saw and got to hold a 2 month old husky puppy - this for our 6 year old was the perfect end to a wonderful experience. Close
Written by Joy S on 29 Dec, 2009
* Wear the right clothing - this is absolutely essential and cannot be stressed enough. Layers and waterproof outer clothing are a must. Temperatures are cold during the day - the first three days of our visit it was minus 28 degrees centigrade,…Read More
* Wear the right clothing - this is absolutely essential and cannot be stressed enough. Layers and waterproof outer clothing are a must. Temperatures are cold during the day - the first three days of our visit it was minus 28 degrees centigrade, although it warmed up to minus 15 degrees by the end of the week. You also need thermal socks, waterproof and insulated gloves or mittens (I found these preferable) and hats that cover your ears. A balaclava for covering your face when doing activities is also a good idea. Make sure you have a good pair of boots - insulated, waterproof and with a good tread. Goggles are also useful if you are doing reindeer and husky rides. Get the anti-fog type with tints.* Thermal suits and boots are available for hire in the resorts - these were included in our holiday. They are not a substitute for the waterproof clothing listed above and are a handy extra. The thermal suit is an all in one overall which is worn over your clothing. The boots are rubber soled and lined. The temperature immediately strikes you in Lapland - you really need at all times to be togged up in endless layers of clothes, even if you only venture outside for 5 minutes. * Be aware of the temperature at all times. If, like during our visit, it becomes exceptionally cold - i.e. minus 20 degrees or less, you need to manage your time outside and keep going in every 15-20 minutes to warm up. You also need to keep a close eye on children and make sure that all areas of skin are covered.* Lapland packages are marketed in the UK as primarily being about seeing Santa. From the moment you step off the plane however, you realise this is just one of a multitude of reasons for coming to this most unusual part of the world. The Santa trips tend to be only 3-4 days - in our experience this is nowhere near enough time to properly explore and you need a week. We visited Lapland 8 years ago and spent the week skiing, on this visit we did not ski at all, but still found our time to be rich with interesting activities and adventures.* We stayed in Levi - a small town with shops, a bowling alley, restaurants, bars and a few hotels. Choose your resort carefully - some places are a bit more wilderness like. We flew into Kitilla airport - the transfer by coach to Levi from here takes only 15-20 minutes.* Christmas is the coldest and darkest time of year, but is a good time to see the Northern Lights. During December, 150 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise properly. Instead from 10am to 3pm there is a violet tinged sunlight. I cannot emphasise how unusual this is and how strange it makes you feel.* The local language is Finnish, but as elsewhere in the country, you will find everyone speaks excellent English.* Traffic on main roads is sparse, distances are great and driving conditions are hazardous. I would absolutely not recommend hiring a car in this area.* Sample reindeer and cloudberry. They serve reindeer in soups, stews and as a meat dish - delicious. Cloudberry is apparently the world's most expensive berry. It grows in swamps and contains lots of Vitamin C.* Take time to play in the snow - it is such great fun for adults and children alike. If you stray off the main thoroughfares you can sink in it up to your waist!* The optimum age for children on a Lapland holiday, I would say, is 4 plus. Any younger than this and the cold would be too challenging. If you want to have a "Santa" holiday, they probably need to be under 8 - any older and they might be cynical about the Santa stuff. Our son at 6 was the perfect age - completely taken in and awestruck by Santa and old enough to do most other snowy activities.* Photography can be a bit frustrating - keep your camera inside your coat when not in use. The warmth of your body will keep the battery from draining. Also I found mittens to be the best thing - your hands freeze even in the short space of time it needs to take a photo, pulling mittens off and on is so much easier than gloves. Close
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…Read More
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. Close
Written by chewie on 09 Apr, 2001
If you're in Saariselka and you want to see a true craftsman at work, visit Lintu-Antti, otherwise known as the Bird Man. He has been professionally carving intricate bird ornaments from wood for the past 12 years and studied the craft for 30 years…Read More
If you're in Saariselka and you want to see a true craftsman at work, visit Lintu-Antti, otherwise known as the Bird Man. He has been professionally carving intricate bird ornaments from wood for the past 12 years and studied the craft for 30 years to perfect his trade. With his Kuukkelilampi restaurant as the backdrop for his work, he serves up savory grilled fish and crepes for his customers and gives them bird carving demonstrations while they eat.
When you walk into the circular-shaped wooden restaurant, you immediately notice the the product of his work: hundreds of beautiful birds hanging from the ceiling, wooden logs used as tables and chairs, the smell of wood on an open fire (which functions as a kind of barbecue pit for the restaurant), and the curls of wood scattered on the floor.
The grilled whitefish and mushroom dill salad were served to us on parchment paper with carved wooden spoons. I thought this was very environment-friendly. The fish was so tasty. Perhaps it was the fact that the fish was grilled right before our eyes. For dessert, we were served coffee and crepes sprinkled with sugar. Again, simple, yet delicious.
As we ate, Lintu-Antii began carving his bird, explaining each step as he went along. From a medium-sized piece of wood, the bird form quickly began to take shape. In a matter of minutes, the wood was transformed and he was carving out the fragile wings. Close
Written by chewie on 08 Apr, 2001
Have you ever felt like sleeping in a room made out of snow? For the more daring, you can stay inside the snow hotels located on the Hotel Kakslauttanen complex. These hotels are basically rooms made entirely of snow and ice. Everything…Read More
Have you ever felt like sleeping in a room made out of snow? For the more daring, you can stay inside the snow hotels located on the Hotel Kakslauttanen complex. These hotels are basically rooms made entirely of snow and ice. Everything from the beds to the tables are made of ice. Don't worry, reindeer skins are laid down onto the ice bed block to keep you warm, and each person is given a heavy-duty sleeping bag that cinches up, exposing only your face. There's even a honeymoon suite for those who want to spend their wedding night cozying up to each other in the cold. To go along with the honeymoon theme, the suite has romantic cupid and angel carvings on the ice walls.
For those just interested in spending an evening under the stars and being surrounded by nature minus ice cold temperatures, there's the option of staying in the glass igloos. These glass structures are completely transparent and built in the shape of an igloo (an idea dreamt up by owner Jussi Eiramo). The best part is, you can sleep comfortably with an incredible sky view, while the temperature is kept toasty inside. There's even a private bathroom in each igloo. The zebra skin patterned bed covers are a very hip added touch. Remember to turn the lights off before you change into your pj's. There are no curtains in this glass igloo, so you can even see your neighbors. Close
Written by chewie on 10 Apr, 2001
If you want to see something really unusual before leaving Finland, find out where the local ski town bar is and go there. You'll be in for a real surprise. Aren't you curious?
One thing you should know is that Finnish people…Read More
If you want to see something really unusual before leaving Finland, find out where the local ski town bar is and go there. You'll be in for a real surprise. Aren't you curious?
One thing you should know is that Finnish people love dancing and they love skiing. So after a long day of cross country skiing, many Finnish people head for the local bar and dance the afternoon away. It's like nothing you'll ever see: middle-aged Finns dressed in their cross-country skiwear and boots, polka dancing and twirling around on the dance floor to a live band.
Wallflowers: be prepared to be swept off your feet and flung onto the dancefloor. Close
I flew from Helsinki to Kemi, my first stop in Lapland, where Finland's famous ice castle is. It's a small industrial town spotted with wood-paneled buildings (most of the original architecture was destroyed by the Germans during WWII) and where life seems slow enough…Read More
I flew from Helsinki to Kemi, my first stop in Lapland, where Finland's famous ice castle is. It's a small industrial town spotted with wood-paneled buildings (most of the original architecture was destroyed by the Germans during WWII) and where life seems slow enough that you would recognize your neighbor at the local Euromart.
A 10 minute walk from the center of town, the Ice Castle is right next to the water's edge (frozen over during winter and a vast snow field as far as the eye can see). Bundle up before you go, you'll be surrounded by walls of ice.
When I entered the Ice Castle, I was surprised to see an ice bar, complete with tables made out of blocks of ice, ice sculptures, and ice shot glasses. I can see why shots of alcohol are needed in there. You can explore the different cavernous rooms and stumble upon something completely different and amazing. The ice sanctuary was my most favorite room. It's an ecumenical prayer area with pews covered in reindeer fur and religious crosses carved on the walls. Inspiring in its uniqueness.
Attached to the Ice Castle is a small ice hotel, where people can spend the night bundled in warm reindeer fur laid on top of a block of ice for a bed. I sat on one, and it's actually quite comfortable. I recommend bringing someone to cozy up with.
Try to visit the Ice Castle during the day and at night to get a different feel. At night, the castle exterior is lit up and the inside bar has a more dramatic effect. I had a shot of vodka out of the ice glasses and tried their smoked salmon pizza. I highly recommend both to warm the senses. Close
Written by elizabeth melding on 02 Feb, 2004
You depart from your chosen airport and are flown to a magical land called Lapland where nothing else matters except for Father Christmas, reindeer, and snow.…Read More
You depart from your chosen airport and are flown to a magical land called Lapland where nothing else matters except for Father Christmas, reindeer, and snow.