Santa in Lapland is one of the most magical spots in the world you can travel with your children while they are young.
Imagine. After a cosy tunnel, two of Santa's elves greet your child. A short walk full of anticipation and then a “Ho, ho, ho” from the big man himself. I may be a bit sentimental but remembering the looks on my childrens faces can still make me a little weepy. It’s not too often you get to treasure such looks of wonder, amazement and pure excitement.
With only a short window in childhood to get the most out of this experience, we timed our visit off peak season to get the most for our time and money.
Here are 5 reasons why we loved our visit in the off-season.
We saw Santa Claus.…lots of times
Rovaniemi is the year long hometown of Santa Claus and the capital of Finnish Lapland.
According to Visit Rovaniemi, Santa Claus Village has more than 300,000 annual visitors, with that number rising each year. At Santa’s Official Office , we were the only people there on our first visit. We took our time exploring the exhibition that showed Christmas traditions from around the globe as well as unique Finnish customs. Then the kids sat and had a chat with Santa, telling him how they wanted a giant for Christmas ( seriously! ).
We stayed in the village for two nights and the kids made sure they saw Santa every day. In fact, on the first day, they went to say hello twice. Entry is free here with the chance to capture the moment on camera and film for a fee. We were either the only people there or were joined by one or two other families, every time we visited. We also explored Santa Claus’s post office. Here we saw some of the hundreds of thousands of letters he receives each year from around the world. Then jumped across the arctic circle with nearly the whole village to ourselves.
We got accommodation easily
When we stayed there were maybe only one or two other couples staying at the Village .
The service here was amazing, with free airport shuttle right to our cabin door. There was a festive Christmas tree on every verandah and advent candles in the windows. Not to mention each cabin had its own private Sauna ( the Finns love saunas and you will find them everywhere).
Staying the in the village makes it a quick trip to the attractions, and only a two-minute walk to see Santa. We also booked some of our activities through the reception area here. As we only had limited time I wanted to make everything as simple as I could.
We got to go on a Husky Ride
280 dogs howling with excitement when they realised a team was getting harnessed up for a ride is an experience that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
Huskypoint , love what they do and share their passion and knowledge enthusiastically with visitors. A family run and owned business, you can see the love they have for their animals and their sport.
As there was no snow we, of course, couldn’t go sledding. Instead, they harness the team to a quad bike and you speed through the wildflowers.
If you think that lack of snow will make for a slow experience, think again. These dogs can run, with the scenery moving so fast past it makes you dizzy.
Along with the ride, we got to pat puppies, play with giant malamutes and enjoy warm juice over an open flame. They showed us the racing sleds and we watch a film on some of the amazing races they compete in. Conditions look so harsh and intense, it is fascinating to watch how the dogs and their riders survive and rise to the challenges they face.
We fed Reindeer
Not being able to go on a reindeer sleigh was perhaps one of the things I was disappointed about before we left for Finland. I soon forgot this after our adventure at Sieriporo Safaris .
Heading to a village named after the Reindeer Farm’s family. Ari shared his family history and lifestyle with us, even showing us the sauna he was born in.
A lot of the herd are put out in the forest to forage for food but he let out a call and the reindeer that pull the winter sleigh rides thundered out of the woodland to meet us. The children got to feed these gentle giants lichen by hand. Ari telling us that this was pretty much reindeer candy.
We had more warm juice by the open fire in a hut built by Ari’s father ( who couldn't speak any English but wanted to know all about our Kangaroos, possibly as another farming idea? ).
Spending such an intimate and wonderful few hours here made missing the winter sleigh ride okay.
We saw the Northern Lights
Glimpsing the dancing Aurora Borealis has been a dream of mine for a long time. Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland experiences the lights around 150 nights of the year from usually mid-August until the start of April. Heading to the arctic circle for two nights I hoped we had a 50-50 chance of seeing them.
We were told the lights had been stunning about two days before we arrived, so we joined a tour on our first night, hopeful. Even though it was only the start of Autumn, temps still got to 0C that night. Luckily our tour provided us with warm suits. Coming from Australia this was a whole new experience for my children. In winter, temps here can drop to a staggering -40C and I’m not too sure we would have enjoyed extreme conditions like that.
Although we enjoyed a night of open fires, stories and cooking our own sausages on the open flames we did not see any lights that night.
Determined to see them we ventured out on our second night too. With more hot juice and sausages to while away the hours during our wait. At 1 pm the lights were a no show and we called it a night. Then just as we started to pack up we caught a glimpse of bright green shimmering in the sky. They might not have been the most dazzling display but they still took our breath away. Photographs do not do any justice to the way these lights slink and weave across the ink-black night.
We saw some amazing nature
Finland in Winter looks like a magic wonderland. Finland in the warmer months is full of nearly endless days. We were there at the start of ‘ruska’, just as the leaves were starting to change in an explosion of reds, oranges and yellows. The days were beginning to get shorter and temps cooling slightly. If you visit in summer you can expect 24-hour sunlight and the midnight sun.
During our short time in Rovaniemi, we were lucky enough to spot Moose and even an Arctic Fox. After a glimpse of the beautiful scenery surrounding Rovaniemi I really wish we had some spare days to hike in the area.
Weighing up the Pro’s and Con’s
It’s important to note that some attractions may close in off season and you may want to weigh up what you feel are priorities to your family adventure.
SantaPark was shut at the time of our visit in September. Some of the restaurants and stores in the village may also close.
Coming from Australia, my children have never experienced a winter Christmas so seeing Santa without the snow and cold weather was nothing unusual for them. We watched our kids play in the park, discover mushrooms and hunt for elusive elves. All things I do not think they could have enjoyed in winter conditions.
We did find that we could save money on flights and other activities during off-season. For us this was a major factor in being able to afford to take our family on this adventure.
To start pricing up your adventure, check out flight deals here.
It may take a little extra story weaving when you visit off-season but the lack of crowds, amazing experiences and beauty of Finland make it worth it.
We all left Lapland with a little bit more magic in our hearts and memories that we will treasure forever, long after those few short years of belief are over.
Travel With Meraki - Explore the option of visiting a place out of peak season. The lack of crowds can make your experience much more authentic and enjoyable. We find that locals and guides have more time to help you and share their special knowledge with you.
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