I love Christmas, and not just for the presents, although also for the presents. I love everything about it; the atmosphere, the annoying tunes and the anticipation of whether or not it’s ever going to snow on Christmas day.
So when looking at options for a winter holiday, I decided that Lapland was the place to go, where the magic of Christmas lasts all winter. After all, it’s the home of Santa Claus. Now I might seem a bit old for wanting to go and sit on Santa’s lap, but there is much more to Lapland that Santa. Travelling with my husband and no children, our winter holiday had to involve activities that excited us both.
So what is it about Lapland that makes it such a great place to go regardless of age? We decided on an activity week which took us to Ruka, where we got a taster of some of the activities available.
It doesn’t matter whether you see yourself as a bit of a James Bond or a complete beginner – snowmobiling is a great way to get into the wilderness and see places that most people don’t get the opportunity to see on foot. You start off with an introduction where you learn all the important things like stopping and starting, safe operation and most importantly where the hand warmers are. Then when everyone is comfortable with their machine, the tour begins.
It lasts about an hour and is great fun racing through the forest. And for those that would prefer to take it a little slower, the scenery is amazing. It’s definitely something everyone should try at least once.
Husky ride and taster rides
Before you go on the husky ride, you visit the husky farm where you get to meet the dogs. The dogs love to be out in the forest pulling their sleds and you can see and hear their excitement from the minute you arrive. It’s great for families, and kids will love meeting the dogs. If you are lucky, you might even get to see some of the pups.
After the husky farm, you’ll meet your guide who will show you how to steer your husky team. There are only ever two people per team so you are involved the whole time. You can either sit in the passenger seat being pulled by the sleigh or stand behind driving the sleigh. The great thing is that you get to take it in turns so you have the chance to get the full experience.
The ice fishing trip is a great afternoon out, even if you’re not a keen fisherman. You are given some thermal clothing to wear to keep warm and are then taken to a local fishing spot. Here you will be shown how to drill a hole in the ice, and taught how to ice fish.
Out of all the activities I thought this would have been my least favorite, but I actually really enjoyed it. I was amazed at the depth of the ice and the size of the ice blocks we pulled from the lake after we had drilled the holes. Afterwards you get to enjoy a cup of hot coffee by the fire while you all compare stories of who caught the biggest fish.
Reindeer Farm Visit
Reindeer herding in Lapland began in the middle ages as a source of transport, meat and furs and is still very strong in Finnish culture today. On this trip you meet a local herder and his reindeer and learn why they’re so important to the people of Lapland. There’s also the opportunity to share a meal with the reindeer. While you tuck in to local pastries and hot chocolates, they get to feast on carrots and lichens, which is their favorite food.
After this, you get to experience the traditional transport of the Lappish by heading out to the snowy forest in a reindeer driven sleigh.
Santa’s Secret Cottage
A visit to Lapland wouldn’t be complete without seeing Santa. Now you might think you have seen Santa before, but the Santa in the department store that appears in December isn’t the real one. He is only a helper requested by the Santa in Lapland to give him a hand during his busy period.
The real Santa Claus lives in Lapland along with Mrs Claus and all the elves. He lives in a secret location less than half an hour from Ruka. When you first arrive, you are greeted by his elves and invited to join in with their games and sledding by the frozen lake. Then Santa appears and you’re invited in to his cottage where you get to meet the lovely Mrs Claus.
Then, as he sits in his rocking chair he tells you all his stories of why he came to live in Lapland and how, with the help of his elves, they manage to get presents to all the boys and girls at Christmas. Ever wondered how he manages to travel all the way around the world on one night? If you’re lucky, Santa will share this secret with you. But you have to promise not to tell anyone.
After listening to his stories, Santa, Mrs Claus and the elves will all teach you a song in Finnish and then you will have a chance to make some Christmas cards, which you can post in the little post office next door.
A visit to Santa’s secret cottage wasn’t actually included on our activity week and we booked this in addition. However it was one of my favorite afternoons and definitely a must do activity for anyone going to Lapland.
Both my husband and I are snowboarders and although we had booked activities every day, there was no way we were going on a winter holiday without getting on the slopes. We were staying at the Aurinkorinne Apartments which are close to the slopes, making it really easy for us to get some decent time on the mountain and still do all of the activities. Being able to ski right back to the door helped us to squeeze an extra run in most mornings.
The slopes in Ruka are quiet which means no lift queues, again helping us to make the most of our time on the mountain. The ski area may not be the largest, but the terrain is varied and the snow is guaranteed. And with so much special attention being paid to slope conditions, snow making and snow maintenance, you will never hit a brown patch in Ruka.
There are 2 kids ski areas and an adventure trail where they can stop off to see the reindeer roaming in their pens. For the adults wanting something a bit more challenging, there is the FIS World Cup Mogul run or the Slalom run. And there are 2 terrain parks, with everything from beginner bumps and jumps to a 22 foot superpipe. Every Friday, the slopes stay open until 11pm with floodlit runs, so you can even participate in some late night skiing.
There are plenty of other activities you can also participate in during your stay in Lapland. These include snowmobiling at night, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, ice karting, an arctic survival lesson or you can visit the beautiful Oulanka National Park. The hardest thing is choosing which ones to do!
Which of these activities would be at the top of your list to try?
Still looking for somewhere this Christmas but Lapland doesn’t take your fancy. Why not try some of our other top Christmas ski resorts.