In Europe, December can be pretty off the hook in the lead up to Christmas, with the magic of the first of the season’s snowfall, Advent, Saint Nicholas visiting early in the month and the famous Christmas Markets. My family and I, two Aussies living in Germany with our four-year-old daughter, decided to take things to the next level this year and go and visit the Big Man himself, so we packed our bags and headed to the “North Pole”, AKA, the home of Santa Clause. To the locals, it is known as Rovaniemi, located in Lapland, Northern Finland.
Germany → Rovaniemi (via Helsinki)
• Santa Clause Village and activities
• Glass igloos
• Urho Kekkonen National Park
• Santa’s Home
Finnish people are incredibly warm and friendly. I grew up in an airline family, and have a husband that travels extensively (who can often be persuaded to take us along for the ride), so I have been lucky enough to have to have flown with, and sampled the service of several airlines, and I can honestly say that the hospitality that we received from Finnair would be up there with some of the best service and warmest welcomes that I have ever received. When we landed, the snow was falling softly and it felt like we had actually arrived in the North Pole. I thought there would be a bit of touristy tackiness about it, but I was the first one front row and centre ready to get amongst it all.
The town of Rovaniemi, is located about 10 minutes from the airport and is quite picturesque itself, however, I suspect that it is often overlooked by visitors for Santa Clause Village. There are beautiful ski slopes across the river with quality accommodation and some great snow activities for families. Santa Clause Village is located 8km outside of the town centre at the Northern Arctic Circle (and you can even have your photo taken on the Arctic Circle line).
Santa Clause Village is small and unique with a lot of activities on offer, and a wide range of accommodation to choose from. The village is referred to as Santa’s “workplace”, and you can visit him for free! The official North Pole Post Office is also located in the village. You’re able to send postcards and letters to anywhere in the world from there with the official North Pole stamp on them. Other than that, there’s a range of souvenir shops and restaurants, but that’s about it.
As an alternative to Santa Clause Village, you can check out SantaPark. It is basically an underground mini theme park, with shows and interactive activities.
If you want to visit Santa in his home, you can make an appointment to visit him at his actual house, which is located about 300km north of Rovaniemi in Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. The visit is a 2-hour, small group experience where you get to spend some quality time with the man in the suit, share a hot berry juice and find out where he takes his annual leave. Turns out, he has a good friend in Lightning Ridge, Australia, that he often spends his downtime with!
Kakslauttanen is also the home of the infamous and highly Instagramable glass igloos that lie beneath the Northern Lights, should you be lucky enough to see them if they come out to play. Whilst the resort has always been on my bucket list to visit, I’m sorry to report that at a starting rate of €600 per night, they simply weren’t worth it. They were overpopulated, with thousands of people at the resort, which spreads 2km across the East and West Villages. Don’t expect any frills or uniqueness on offer for the money either. The rooms are not serviced daily, there are no toiletries on offer, and don’t get me started on the fight to get a second toilet roll! Hint: it is also possible to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from Santa Clause Village.
The real star of the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort was the Finnish forests that surround the village. You don’t need to stay at the resort to visit the forest, and they are free to enjoy.
I also found it interesting to see that that Santa-tourism in Finland was not wholly made up of families. There were heaps of holidaymakers that included couples, single travellers, and groups from all over the world and from all ages. It’s a holiday with lots of snowy Christmas magic and cheer.
We flew to Rovaniemi from Germany via Helsinki with Finnair. They served complimentary refreshments including BLUEBERRY JUICE which, I had never tried before! We are now completely addicted. I would 100% recommend this airline, even without the blueberry juice.
We opted for the scenic Santa route. Usually, people travel directly to Rovaniemi to take in SantaPark and Santa Clause Village and don’t necessarily then drive up north to Kakslauttanen for Santa’s Home. Warning: as mentioned the accommodation at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort was really disappointing and I would not recommend it. But, if you wanted to experience it for yourself, the closest airport to Kakslauttanen is Ivalo, 37km away.
If you are based in the UK, TUI specialises in flights and packages from several UK cities.
If it suits your group and your budget will allow it, I would recommend staying in some of the more unique accommodation options available.
• Santa Clause Holiday Village is located in the heart of Santa Clause Village. The big guy himself will come and visit you in your room upon request.
• For glass roof wagons and ice igloos, check out Apukka Resort.
• As an alternative to the glass igloos in Kakslauttanen, try the Arctic Snow Hotel in Rovaniemi, conveniently located about 2km from SantaPark.
• SantaPark: the underground theme park is less Disney and more a magical Christmas world. Tickets were quite cheap, starting at €33, with various add-ons available.
• If you are brave (or mad) enough, try a full day or even overnight icebreaker trip including Arctic Ocean swimming.
• Reindeer, husky or horse safaris and farm visits are all easily accessible from Santa Clause Village in Rovaniemi, with a range of options to all suit families/ group’s requirements. For thrill seekers, try ice karting or snowmobiling.
• Skiing and snowboarding are available, with spectacular views overlooking the town of Rovaniemi.
• During Autumn, opt for some berry and mushroom picking, as well as hiking, mountain bike riding and lake activities such as camping and kayaking.
Overall, my family and I would agree that Finland is a special place, particularly at this time of year. The forests and the snowy landscapes up there are beautiful, and if you are lucky enough you can catch the Northern Lights dancing in the night sky on a clear evening. I would highly recommend visiting, just don’t go for the “Santa-tourism”, as Lapland has so much more to offer.
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**This is a guest blog for www.jetsetwithjas.com