MAGICAL LAPLAND FINLAND
This trip had been really hyped up for us and we were worried about it being OVER hyped... but it was the most magical experience and worth every penny. DEFINITELY lived up to the hype and now I will continue to forever hype it up!
Just inside the edge of the Arctic Circle, lies a most magical place. A land covered in snow. A land of reindeers and dog sleds. A land of elves. A land of wonder. AND... a land of Christmas. The first time I heard that the North Pole was in Finland was over a decade ago and I thought the person was crazy. The North Pole wasn't in Finland! But the more and more I heard about this magical place in Lapland Finland, I knew we just had to check it out.
We had originally planned this trip for Christmas 2020... but we all know how that turned out. Lockdowns were back and countries were closed down. Finland was not allowing in anyone who wasn't a resident. So we pushed back to Christmas 2021 and even amid an Omicron Covid scare- we were still able to get into the country and have the best time!
A lot of people end up booking a Lapland adventure with a travel company, but we opted to put it all together by ourselves. I don't know if we saved money by putting it together by ourselves... because Lapland is quite an expensive trip. We liked being able to pick and choose what we wanted to do so that made it appealing to us.
We stayed in a cabin in Santa Claus Holiday Village and this worked perfectly for our small family. It was one large room with a double bed and a sofa bed, a small kitchen, a bathroom and of course- a sauna. When in Finland, do as they do!
There are many places to stay in Santa Clause Village and here is a link to everything that is on site. We found the cabins to be best for our budget, but would have loved to splurge on a room with lots of windows to look up into the sky!
SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE
There is lots and lots and lots to do in Santa Claus Village. Doing everything here will easily take a couple days and will easily empty out your wallet! Things are quite expensive... but when are you going to be in Lapland again? Probably never?
Here is a list of things we found ourselves doing...
Sledding everywhere. They have little sleds all over the village and you just grab one and use it for the day. Leave it outside when you go inside, and then grab another one when you come out. It was such a cute way to get around!
Santa Claus. Of course! There is a free Santa in one of the gift shops and the main Santa in the village center. This one you queue up for and have to pay to get your picture at the end. We opted not to pay for our picture because there is ANOTHER Santa you can visit and take pictures with at Santa Park... more on that later. However, this Santa was extremely lovely and made us feel so important and loved.
Mrs. Claus. She was so much fun and really took her time to have a conversation with us. She told us all about her life and what she does. You do have to pay to see Mrs. Claus AND you have to pay extra to get your photo with her, which we ended up not purchasing.
Reindeer ride. There is a cute place to have a reindeer ride around the village, but it is quite short and amidst alot of people. I would recommend booking an excursion to get away from the crowds and do a reindeer ride out in the real forest. BUT if you don't have time for that, a little reindeer ride around the village is where its at!
Cross over to the Arctic Circle! There is a line you can cross over to enter and there is even a live stream camera that you can have your friends and family to tune into to see you at the North Pole. Such a fun idea!
Send a postcard from the North Pole. Yes, there is a post office at the village! We sent several postcards to friends and family. They didn't get them until well after we got home, but it was the thought that counts, right?
Snowman World was hilarious amounts of fun. There is tubing, ice skating, igloos, ice slides and more. We did this on our last day there and had so much fun going down the tube run over and over and over again. The view at the top was also spectacular.
There are lots of places to eat at Santa Claus Village. If you are wanting to eat at a sit down restaurant then I would definitely recommend booking in advance. We ended up eating at more low key restaurants... Shell, Santa's Pizza & Burger and the Three Elves Restaurant. The latter was the only one that required a reservation. Here is a link to all the restaurants in the village.
We ended up booking all of our excursions through Santa Claus Village because that was easiest for us. I am sure there are other tour companies and probably a lot more option of range and price. If you click on this link, and then click on "book activities" in the corner it will show you what their options are.
Northern Lights. I feel like we got SUPER lucky with our tour as most people aren't able to see the Northern Lights on the first time they try... but we DID! It was a beautiful, magical and very cold experience. They were only out for a short period of time, but we got to watch the gray/green lights dance across the sky. One thing I found surprising is that to the naked eye, the lights seem rather gray- kind of like a cloud. But when you look through a camera, you're able to see the green a lot better.
Husky Sled Ride. This one was a little disappointing for us because our sled ride was quite short. On the excursion description it was listed as a twenty minute sled right but ended up being maybe five minutes. Our tour group was large and so I wonder if they just weren't able to accommodate for us all? Either way- that's the fault of the excursion. It was still a really exhilarating experience. Especially when the sled first starts!
Ice Fishing. This one was very educational... but does anyone really catch any fish? Probably not! It was entertaining to see everyone gathered around little holes in the ice with miniature fishing poles waiting to see if they would get any bites. No such luck. But we're here for the experience, right?
Reindeer ride. Our favorite. This one was so peaceful and serene. Reindeers are beautiful creatures and taking a sleigh ride through the silent forest was something that will forever live in my memory as a surreal moment.
Travel Tip- You can combine several of these excursions into one day trip so you can experience a lot within one full day instead of needing
several days to do everything.
If you haven't had enough of Santa yet, you can head to Santa Park and experience even more elf magic. We had heard good things about this place and so we decided to give it a go. We were worried about confusing our kid with seeing another Santa and more North Pole stuff... but she seemed to sort it out for herself that "of course Santa would have multiple offices". Of course.
Unlike Santa Claus Village where anyone is free to roam around and you pay per activity... Santa Park you pay an entry fee and then everything inside is free. The Santa in Santa Park is where we were able to take our own pictures with Santa Claus.
Although I loved Santa Claus Village, Santa Park is more what I imagined the North Pole to be like. Maybe that is because I grew up watching the movie "The Santa Clause" with Tim Allen in it! Santa Park is underground and is kind of secretive. It is a big cavern with lots inside: crafts, activities, elf school, entertainment, a little ride, gingerbread decorating, post office and more. Everything was brilliantly decorated and it felt a bit more intimate than Santa Claus Village.