We stayed a week in Finnish Lapland, having been twice before skiing and then visiting with a young child, we amassed a few tips and hints which I thought apt to pass on, maybe helpful to someone else preparing a holiday in this winter wonderland.
First up, sounds obvious but could never be stressed enough – wear the right clothing. We saw several people emerging from the plane dressed for a (mild) UK winter – definitely not a good idea. Layers, layers, layers are the order of the day and waterproof outer clothing is a must. Temperatures are super cold during the day – on the first three days of our trip it was minus 28 degrees centigrade although it did warm up to a balmy minus 15 degrees by the end of the week. You desperately need thermal socks, waterproof and insulated gloves or mittens (I found these preferable to stop hand freeze) and hats that cover your ears. A balaclava for covering your face when doing any activities is also a good idea, it makes breathing more bearable. Make sure you have good boots too – insulated, waterproof and with a good tread. We also took along goggles for the reindeer and husky rides, it makes things more pleasant and stops eyelash freeze.
Thermal suits and boots do tend to be available for hire in the resorts – these were included in the price of our holiday. They are not though a substitute for the waterproof clothing above, just a handy extra was what we found. The temperature immediately strikes you in Lapland – you need at all times to be togged up in endless layers of clothes, even if you only venture outside for five minutes.
Be aware of the temperature at all times. If, like during our visit, it becomes exceptionally cold – i.e. minus 20 degrees centigrade or less, you really need to manage your time outside and keep going in every 15-20 minutes or so to warm up. You also need to keep a really close eye on children and make sure all areas of skin are covered.
Lapland packages are marketed in the UK as being primarily about Santa with one or two activities thrown in and seem to me rather rushed affairs. From the moment we stepped off the plane we realised Santa is just one of a multitude of reasons for coming to this most unusual part of the world. The Santa trips tend to be 3 days, we thought this was nowhere near enough to properly explore and we needed every second of our week there.
We stayed in Levi – a small town with shops, a bowling alley, restaurants, bars and a few hotels. Choose your resort carefully – some places are a bit more wilderness like. Levi was perfect for us – small but with plenty going on. We flew into Kitilla airport and the transfer by coach to Levi took only 15-20 minutes, another win.
Christmas is the coldest and darkest time of year but a good time to see the Northern Lights – having been three times though, they have stubbornly refused to appear to us. During December, 150 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise properly. Instead from 10am to 3pm there is a violet tinged sunlight. I cannot emphasise how unusual and beautiful this is.
The local language is Finnish, but, as elsewhere in this country, everyone speaks excellent English.
Traffic on main roads is sparse, distances are great and driving conditions seemed to be hazardous. I would definitely not feel comfortable hiring a car and driving in this area.
Sample the reindeer and cloudberry – but don’t tell your child he is eating Rudolph! Reindeer is served in soups, stews and as a meat dish – we thought it was delicious. Apparently cloudberry is the world’s most expensive berry. It grows in swamps here and contains lots of Vitamin C, it is also yummy.
Take loads of time to play in the snow – so much fun for adults and children alike. We strayed off the main thoroughfares a couple of times and frequently found ourselves in waist deep snow – the novelty never wore off.
Photography I found could be a bit frustrating. I kept my camera inside my coat when not in use and the warmth of your body keeps the battery from draining. I also found mittens to be the best thing, my hands froze even in the short space of time it needs to take a photo. Pulling mittens on and off was so much easier than gloves.
Lastly this is a holiday perfect for adults and children but the optimum age for little ones, is, I would say 4 or 5 years plus. Any younger than this and the cold would be incredibly challenging for them. If you want to have a “Santa” holiday they probably need to be under 8, any older and the cynic might sneak in. Our son at 6 years old was the perfect age, completely taken in and awestruck by Santa but old enough to fully take part in most of the other snowy activities. That said you’re never too old for Lapland….. our 12 year old is now desperate to return. So are we.