“Suitable for children of all ages”: that could sum up the Lapland experience. Many travellers on midwinter journeys to the far north are families with children, but there are also a number of couples (snow-white weddings are available) – and even the odd office outing.
The easiest way to organise a Lapland adventure is to book a package – lasting a day or, if you possibly can, longer. Flights to Finnish Lapland take three hours or less from UK airports. Most of them arrive at Rovaniemi, the capital of the region. The airport is located five miles north-east of the city (well, more of a town), close to the Arctic Circle. It has been designated the Official Santa Claus airport, and most flights are met by helpful elves. Coaches outside the terminal take day-trip arrivals on the short journey to Santa Park – about five minutes or less. Longer-stay travellers are usually taken to downtown Rovaniemi, about 15 minutes away.
Some flights from Gatwick and Manchester serve Kittila airport, about 100 miles north of Rovaniemi. The airport is actually closer to the ski resort of Levi than to Kittila itself. Most of the activities take place about 20 minutes from the airport.
Who could resist a stay at the Hotel Santa Claus? This modern hotel, part of the Clarion chain, is in the centre of Rovaniemi at Korkalonkatu 29. It features in many package holidays, and often has no availability at peak times unless you book a package.
The main reason most people come to Rovaniemi is for the Santa Claus experience. The most enthralling location is Santa Park (00 358 16 333 0000; www.santapark.com), which occupies a bomb shelter built under a hill (as required under Finnish civil-defence legislation). For a few weeks around Christmas the bunker is converted to an underground fun park. You can drink in an ice bar, attend elf school and visit Santa himself. Most activities are included in the admission price or package trips, but there is a small charge for the Ice Gallery – and you have to pay for photos taken with Father Christmas. Santa Park opens from late November to mid-January, 10am-6pm daily except Monday. First Choice has exclusive use for day trippers on key dates in December.
On the far side of Santa Park, you can take part in a wide range of Arctic adventures, from snowmobile rides to sledges drawn by huskies or reindeer.
EATING AND DRINKING
Day-trippers are served a buffet meal that includes regional specialities as well as familiar “comfort food”. For longer stays, it is well worth sampling more of the local cuisines. Whisper it quietly, but some of the reindeer surplus to Santa's requirements find themselves on the menu of restaurants in Rovaniemi. Other dishes are available, including some excellent fish dishes.
The leading UK operator to Lapland is First Choice, and details of its Lapland opportunities can be found at www.firstchoice.co.uk/lapland. Alternatively, you can book on 0870 850 3999 (£15 service fee applies). A family of four ona day-trip from Gatwick to Rovaniemi on 1 December 2007 will pay a total of £1,616; on a three-day stay from Manchester staying at the Hotel Santa Claus, departing 7 December, the price is £2,374.