We slipped off early one morning, leaving the UK to last minute present shopping, to make our journey to the frozen North. Sleigh bells were ringing, calling us out to snow covered Lapland, a landscape as crisp as a newly decorated Christmas cake, adorned with fir trees and log cabins. We’d come to pay homage to all that signifies the Christmas of childhood dreams, to sledge, snowball, sleigh ride and Santa seek from Santa’s Hotel Tunturi. Feverently wishing every scrap of Christmas dreams, every slither of Christmas mythology, every glimpse into our imaginings of Father Christmas himself, to be brought to life…all four of us, from 8 to 42 years old.
Santa’s Lapland is a once in a lifetime trip for many families, so over the next week I will be sharing our 3 day trip in three posts and videos, so you can really visualise how the trip pans out. It was every bit as magical as we had expected, but as unexpectedly magical too, so I will try to not share all of it, surprises are nice! Do let me know if you have any questions and I will answer them in the comments.
I wouldn’t normally make such a big deal of the ‘getting there’, but unlike other adventures, this one starts the moment you board the plane…
The flight staff created a party atmosphere with Christmas songs, pass the balloon and parcel, and elf costumes. It was a flight full of passengers wearing Christmas jumpers and hats, very excited kids and grown ups relishing reliving their childhoods. We soon forgot the 4am start, the kids were so well entertained. If only all flights full of young children and their families could be this relaxing. Food isn’t included, but we were soon snacking on the oranges my Dad gave me as we left his house at 4am (although I am not sure if these are allowed through customs) and some chocolate coins we found at the airport. It was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!
Top tip – the flight is the perfect place for your Christmas jumpers and hats and pack some festive snacks and water too – there were snacks to buy on the plane, but this service isn’t guaranteed.
The welcome at Ivano airport.
It was novel to have to add rather than remove layers as we prepared to set foot on snow in the EU’s most northerly airport. Immediately the kids were throwing snowballs. It’s a tiny airport, so after quickly showing our passport we walked through a door and straight into carolling staff from Santa’s Lapland.
Top tip – pack your hats, scarves and gloves and warm coats, and an extra jumper in hand luggage, especially for little ones. There was no way I could face flying in long johns and trousers, but we were fine in jeans for the short walk from plane to airport.
As we waited for our cases, brightly dressed elves appeared chattering excitedly in their own language. They began to unzip passengers camera bags, steal hats and handbags and parade around the airport taking ‘elfie selfies’. It certainly stopped any tantrums or travel weariness in its tracks. I must have seemed too game as I quickly lost half a sandwich and found myself covered in another guest’s perfume.
Top tip – pack your camera in hand luggage too, plenty of fun photo opportunities here..
Outside the airport a reindeer was waiting, our first glimpse of these magical creatures proved to be every bit as mystical as we imagined. They shed their antlers in December, so don’t worry, this one hasn’t been injured.
Top tip – the plane was a good place for a quick reminder about how to behave around animals on the trip, it’s all very exciting when you arrive and antlers can be sharp.
First Glimpses of Lapland
Through the coach windows we glimpsed log cabins nestled amongst vast stretches of fir trees dusted with snow. Twinkling fairy lights in outdoor Christmas trees. The sound of families singing Jingle Bells led by the Santa’s Lapland staff. My doubts about package holidays evaporated like snow around a campfire. Then from the coach window a gathering of cheeky elves, mucking about in the snow and welcoming us to the resort of Saariselka, much to all the kids’ delight. It’s only a 25 minute transfer to Saariselka resort from Ivalo airport, which is lovely.
Top tip – throw away your inhibitions, sing along, gaze out the window – look out for wildlife you never know what you might see!
Getting kitted out
It’s the last thing you might think you will feel like doing after an early flight and travelling, but picking up our artic thermals was swift and painless, plus there was time for a quick play in the snow before we went in. No need to try on, the staff can work out your size just by looking at you. You emerge with two bin bags full of gear for your family.
Welcome and settling in
We arrived at Santa’s Hotel, Tunturi around 3pm, as it was already getting dark. My 8yo wasted no time, after a quick glance, he was out the studio apartment door, onto one of the resort free-to-use sledges and down a hill before you could say ‘snowball’. I followed him down and we lay in snow angel pose, in a big bank of snow, gulping fresh air, fir trees and big skies full of promise. It took me back to being 4, in the frozen winter of 1981, the last time I feel like the UK had ‘proper snow’.
Top tip – the sooner you get used the artic snow shoes and suits the better, try them outdoors before the welcome meeting as staff can swap them for you if they are too big or small. Sledges are a great way to transport your gear!
The welcome meeting was handy and the kids were entertained by the staff which was lovely. Then it was time for buffet dinner, in the gorgeously Scandi restaurant, complete with wooden cladding, antlers and lots of hygge. There is a kid’s buffet too, so everyone was well catered for.
‘I’ll get the drinks, you get the meat!’ said our waiter. Mr A loved that.
Top vegetarian tip – I rather disappointedly put together a plate of salad from the buffet, but much to my relief once I mentioned I was vegetarian to the staff, a plate arrived loaded with two lentil burgers and a veggie sausage roll covered in a spicy vegetable casserole. The food was simple, warming and tasty, exactly what you need after being cold. Sometimes there was a veggie option, sometimes you needed to ask for it.
After dinner there was time for a little wander around the resort, we pulled the kids around on sledges, there are some lovely handmade Finnish goodies in the gift shops, a bar, a supermarket and a couple of other hotels, but it doesn’t feel commercial, it’s a very peaceful place.
We stayed in a studio apartment at Santa’s Hotel, which was warm, clean and cosy. It worked well for families with a twin room for the kids and a living room/ bedroom for grown ups, plus a small kitchen, bathroom and sauna. The day bed was a lovely place to all snuggle up together at the end of a busy day and we had lovely snowy views out across the resort.
Already we were beginning to relax and feel like the Finnish really have the secrets to eternal happiness. Half the rooms at the hotel have private saunas, there is also a communal one. Once we re-emerged the kids had both drifted off and after our sauna, we were ready to join them.
Next morning we woke in the dark, it only really was light in December between 10am and 3pm, got kitted out, had a hearty buffet breakfast and boarded the bus for our Search For Santa Day, click the link to continue the adventure.
Ready to find out more now?
We travelled to Lapland as guests of Santa’s Lapland on a three day Santa’s Magic Tour which includes flights, transfers, accommodation, thermal clothing, a Search for Santa Day including a Husky Sleigh ride, Reindeer Sleigh Ride, private meeting with Santa by Snowmobile to his cabin, lots of snow fun activities including ice fishing, tobogganing and skiddos, breakfast, and for those who book half board, dinner and a Gala Christmas dinner. Four day tours are also available and there are optional extra excursions like Northern Lights tours. Find out more about Santa’s Lapland and book for 2017. Free child places are available, but are limited, find out more here.