Ultimate Christmas in Lapland, Finland

Ultimate Christmas in Lapland, Finland

January 26, 2024 0 By travelfromaustralia

After years of researching and planning it was time to begin making our way to Rovaniemi, for the ultimate Christmas in Lapland, Finland.

Decorating Christmas trees at Santa’s Cabin in his Secret Forest

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Tallinn to Helsinki

19th December

We woke early to get packed up and out the door in time to walk to the ferry terminal. Due to our previous taxi experiences in Tallinn, we opted to walk to the ferry terminal! We did have a couple of hiccups this particular morning though, that did slow us down.

Firstly Taj touched Elfie on his pom pom and was absolutely distraught that he would have caused him to lose his magic. We assured him that Elfie would have understood and perhaps he should just apologise and all would be well. Fortunately, Google said the same thing, so all was well! Then, just as we were putting bags on our back, the drink bottle in Finn’s bag opened and leaked throughout his entire bag. We had about five minutes before we needed to leave, so I grabbed the hairdryer and dried things as best we could before leaving.

Fully loaded packs on our backs and dragging the Kathmandu 80L super tanker through the snow and along the icy paths, we made it! Only one icy fall (mine) with a quick recovery, a stop in at RØST for one final Estonian bakery treat and a “kiss” under the Kiss and Sail sign!

We checked in at the ferry terminal and boarded the Eckerö Line ferry to Helsinki.

Our plan upon arrival in Helsinki was to find luggage storage and then go for a wander. Unfortunately all of the large luggage storage was full, so we opted for taking up some space on the floor at the train station playing cards. We’re not really sure how acceptable or unacceptable this was to the Fin’s but we are suspecting, not so. We got lots of dirty looks from passers by. So much so that it made the boys feel quite uncomfortable, so we found a restaurant at the station to eat an early dinner and kill some more time!

Then it was time. Our long awaited journey to the home of Santa Claus was finally happening! We made our way to the train platform and excitedly waited for the Santa Claus Express to arrive. The wait at the station was full of great excitement and anticipation! There were squeals of delight and jumping up and down as the train approached. These moments are truly priceless! Dreams really can come true!

Once we were on-board, we could not have been more excited! The boys were keen to get their beds sorted and ready for a night on the train. Geoff and Finn were in one cabin and Taj and I were in the next. We all got to sleep pretty quickly and for the most part had a good night’s sleep.

Arrival in Rovaniemi, Luggage Storage, Santa Park and Airbnb Rovaniemi

20th December

We woke up with enough time to get ready for our arrival at Rovaniemi, Lappish Finland. What a long wait this had been! We were thrilled to step off the train and be on Lappish soil at Rovaniemi Train Station. We dropped our luggage at Smuk Shop Finland before setting off to Santa Park for the day.

We managed to find the bus stop that we needed to get to Santa Park and joined other keen visitors on the route. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get the right bus but we did get close enough to be able to walk from one of the stops. Once we got off the bus, we saw a sign for the Park and headed that way. It was absolutely majestic! 

Santa Park

At Santa Park, we had a blast, and what a great way to hit the ground running in Lapland! We went to and graduated from Elf School, rode the Magic Train, watched the Elf Show, wandered through the ice gallery, decorated gingerbread at Mrs Gingerbread’s Bakery, followed Santa’s trip around the world using VR goggles and visited the Post Office to send some mail. There weren’t too many queues, so it was an easy place to visit after our journey to get to Rovaniemi.

Our centrally located Airbnb Rovaniemi accommodation was ready for us, so we got settled and then prepared ourselves for our next outing to Kotatieva Winter Leisure Park where we had the most wonderful and authentic Finnish winter experience.

Kotatieva Winter Leisure Park

It was a complete evening, from door to door. We were picked up from our accommodation in Rovaniemi before travelling out of the city, to Kotatieva Winter Leisure Park. Upon arrival, we were welcomed into the main hut where Inga explained the evening program for the small group experience.

We all (seven people in total) began skating through the forest. We were given skates, helmets and head torches as well as access to supportive frames to use on the track.

It had been snowing quite a bit prior to (and during) so there was snow on the ice track, so Tuomas was busy clearing the track as best he could, while snow continued to fall. The track was easy to follow and smooth underfoot.

Ice skating through a forest is not something I thought we would ever do, let alone at night! It was beautiful!!

Following the skating, we enjoyed a private traditional Finnish Sauna and Hot Tub. Tuomas explained how to operate everything to Geoff, and he was very thorough. The sauna itself is 80 years old. It was rustic, authentic, and an experience we’ll treasure forever.

The hot tub was sitting at 37°C, outside it was -8°C! From the sauna to the outdoor temperature (with snow underfoot) to the hot tub was warmth that almost stung.

I couldn’t help myself and had to experience this one step further with a roll in the snow before getting into the hot tub – it was exhilarating and took my breath away!!!

Finally, our evening finished with dinner prepared by Inga in the main hut, while we enjoyed great conversation with both Tuomas and Inga. They were so very accommodating, wonderful with our boys and have created a most unique experience for visitors to Rovaniemi.

For us, this was a once in a lifetime experience that we will never forget and are hugely grateful for.

Wild About Lapland Tours – Husky Dog Sledding and evening Reindeer Safari

21st December

I started my day with a run. I loved exploring new places on foot, it is such a great way to see things. I ran from our apartment, down to the river, along the river to the Old Bridge, crossed the river then ran along the other side, over the new bridge and then to the apartment. It was a 3km loop that became the basis for each my runs in Rovaniemi.

Husky Dog Sledding

We had two adventures to look forward to that day. The first was husky dog sledding, the second was a reindeer safari at night. We ate lunch at the apartment and then set off to find Wild About Lapland office where we were to meet for our tour.

Our guide Santi instructed us to get into the van and then we travelled about half an hour to the husky farm. Touring with Wild About Lapland, they took us to the most ethical husky dog farm in Rovaniemi, where we learnt to drive, take care of our dogs while on the move, be safe in the sled as passengers; and, then we were off and on our way through the forest! 

It was a mix of terrifying, somewhat physically demanding, mentally challenging, but mostly, absolutely awesome and exhilarating! Hands down one of the most awesome experiences of our lives! 

Geoff drove first and then I had a go. It was more physically demanding than I expected. It was really enjoyable while we were on the flat and were just coasting along. When we went uphill, we sometimes had to take a foot off the sled and push a little to help the dogs out, in some cases, you had to take both off and run! I didn’t have to take both off thankfully, but Geoff did. There was no way I was taking both off, I would have been too scared the dogs would leave me behind! To turn, we had to lean to each side a little. When the dogs needed a little help, they looked behind them as if to say “come on you lazy things, help me out a little!” – it was quite funny! 

To slow down, we had to put our foot on the foot pedal in front of us, that was the brake. To stop, or when stopped, we had to put both feet on the pedal. Going down hill was a little stressful. It was hard to find the middle ground between going slow enough that you had control but also going fast enough that the dogs had momentum and knew still to pull. I don’t think I quite nailed this but it was a great challenge all the same!

The boys were tucked up under the cosy blankets, sleeping bags and seated on the reindeer skins in the sleds and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Hello Adventure

After the ride, we were able to cuddle and pat the dogs. We also sat inside the warm yurt and learned about the life of the dogs and how they are cared for throughout the year at the farm, while drinking hot drinks and eating gingerbread biscuits.

We had the most awesome adventure driving our own team of husky dogs. Bucket list item ticked but we’d love to go again, and again! Highly recommend this tour!

Reindeer Safari

Once we were back in Rovaniemi, we had a quick turn around before our reindeer safari. We had to find something quick for dinner and most of the restaurants in the area were fully booked so unfortunately we ended up at Burger King. 

With a new guide from Wild About Lapland, we visited Sieriporo Safaris on tour where we experienced a slower paced adventure through the forest, being pulled by a reindeer in a sleigh. The reindeer were smaller than we expected, but had quite a presence as they gracefully strolled along the path.

Finn and Geoff were in a sleigh together, while Taj and I were. We really enjoyed looking at the sky, the snow and the trees. The reindeer behind us kept coming up to our side and for most of the trip was walking alongside us, which was pretty cool. We were nice and cosy between our reindeer skins and blankets.

Inside the main building, we learned about the life of a reindeer and were able to hold a large male antler. It weighed approximately 25kg!! Imagine carrying two of those on their heads!!

Before we left, we were able to pat and feed one of the reindeer. However, typically it is not recommended to touch reindeer. He was losing his antlers, as they do at this time of year in Finland.

The whole experience was unforgettable!!

Wild About Lapland Tour – Ice Fishing and Snowshoeing

22nd December

We had a slow morning after what was a busy day and a late night, the day before. Late morning, we set off for our Ice Fishing and Snowshoeing tour, with Wild About Lapland

There were only the four of us, the guide and one other participant. She had hoped to do a cross country ski trip but she was the only one, so she skied on our tour, while we snowshoed. 

BONUS!! WILD ABOUT LAPLAND are offering our readers a 10% discount on their winter tours: Northern Lights Wilderness Tour, Ice Fishing, Snowshoeing, Ski Trekking Safari, Visit to Korouoma Canyon Frozen Waterfalls and Winter Wilderness Survival Tour. To take advantage of this offer, use the PROMO code is ERININLAPLAND10.

Snowshoeing in Finnish Lapland

It was another beautiful drive into the forest, just thirty minutes from the centre of Rovaniemi. We got kitted up in our snowshoes, were given a quick instruction on how they work and we were off. We had time to wander around through the deep snow in the forest. It was another incredible new experience. It was so nice to be walking through the trees, watching the snow fall being surrounded by layers of marshmallow like snow. 

We all took to it with ease and enjoyed exploring through untouched snow and gaining confidence in the snowshoes along the way.

Ice fishing

Part way through our tour, we met our guide at the tee-pee where we set off from and he took us out onto the frozen lake. The top layer was slushy which, to be honest, was a little unnerving! We walked about 150m out into the middle of the lake where our guide found a spot to teach us how to fish through a frozen lake!

The first thing we had to do was drill the hole, then clear the area of excess ice, prepare our rods and then lower the hook through the hole. Seemed pretty simple and straightforward, and it was, once the hole had been drilled. All the adults had a go and once again it was harder than I expected. I’m not sure why I thought it would be easier than it was, I mean, I was drilling through ice, after all! 

Between us, we drilled three holes, set up our chairs and lowered the hooks. By this stage, we had realised that three of us (myself and the boys) were wearing boots that were not in fact waterproof and we did in fact, have very very cold feet! Well, I only had one cold foot. I obviously had a hole in mine somewhere where the water was being let in. Regardless, it was cold.

As awesome as the experience was, none of us are actually keen on fishing so didn’t see the need to stay for an extended time out on the lake, where our feet were freezing!! The boys were first to move, so I graciously volunteered to go with them back to the tee-pee where the guide was grilling sausages over a fire for us. By the time we got to the lakes edge, he was ready for the rest of the group to come in anyway, so everything got packed up and brought in.

Grilled sausages by the fire followed by toasted marshmallows was a far more enjoyable experience than sitting in the freezing cold! 

Our guide told us that normally it would not be slushy on the ice but because the weather had been so warm (-5 degrees), the ice had begun to melt somewhat.

It was a fantastic day having new experiences in an absolutely spectacular part of the world!

Snowman World and Santa Claus Village

23rd December

It was run-morning, so I took off and did the same route as last time, except in reverse. It is always nice to see things from the other direction. I ran a little off the track and found the church in Rovaniemi and enjoyed seeing the sun begin to come up.

The boys had been desperately waiting for so long to go to Santa Claus Village. There was high level excitement about this for all of us actually. They got ready to get dressed and go and without hesitation, the boys were onto us! We were all dressed (in all our layers) and out the door ready and waiting to catch the bus to Santa’s Village by 10am.

Upon arrival we had to find the Arctic Circle line and the LiveWebCam where we waved to family back home in Victoria, Australia. We called them and chatted for a few minutes, waving furiously. The boys were very patient but were so desperate to explore, the call only lasted a couple of minutes. Enough time to say “hi” and exchange Christmas well-wishes.

From that point on, we didn’t stop! We visited Snowman World – Lumiukkomaailma, we met Santa at his office, Mrs Santa Claus in her cottage, spent a lot of time sliding and tubing at Snowman World, we wandered through the Village in beautiful daylight (thank you clear skies!) and then watched the daylight disappear and the magical Christmas lights emerge.

We had arranged an early dinner at the Three Elves Restaurant. The food was good and the prices were high! We ate quickly and then made our way out to the stage area where we joined hundreds of others gathered together to wait in anticipation for the big man in red to come out to say “Farewell” before he took off on his journey through the night, delivering gifts to all the children around the world. The entire show was being live streamed and we were there on the screen. It was very exciting, for all of us. The boys were in absolute awe of what they were witnessing, it was truly a beautiful moment.

It was the perfect day and night. Magical. Overwhelming. A pinch yourself, kind of day. One to remember, forever. ❤️

Following the farewell, we found the bus stop and made our way back home for a sleep, before what was to be the day of the ‘big surprise’ – Christmas present from Mum and Dad to the kids.

Music: Happy Santa, Musician: Grand Project. Music: Joyful Snowman, Musician: Grand Project.

Joulukka, Christmas Eve lunch at Santa’s Secret Cabin

24th December

The boys woke up in anticipation desperately wanting to know what their big surprise was! It was hard work all morning not telling them until we left! 

I went out that morning to do some last minute shopping and to prepare for Christmas Day lunch. The boys had a restful morning in preparation for the excitement of the upcoming days. They’d also had a late night so needed a little break. On my way to the shopping centre, I happened to pass by a second-hand shop that had some really interesting items in it. I went in for a look and came out with an arctic fox hair scarf and a rabbit and fox hair headband. I’m not sure when I will wear these in Australia, but they were oh so lovely and I just thought why not!

At around 11:30am, it was time to tell the boys what their surprise was – we were off to meet Santa himself, and his elves, at Joulukka, Santa Claus Secret Forest.

We had to meet at Santa Hotel for pick up. We got there are waited excitedly in the hotel reception, before the elves arrived in the magic bus to collect us. We travelled by bus to the secret forest, watching the sun rise as we went – it was another beautiful day. The elves told us stories, we say Jingle Bells in English and in Elfish and rang special bells that the Elves gave us for the bus ride.

We arrived at Santa Claus Secret Forest and were welcomed by more elves. They took us on a wander through the gardens to find some good trees to chop down to decorate before lunch. They carried the trees back to the cabin by sleigh and everyone pitched in to decorate them. The elves played with the children around the trees and helped out with the decorations. It was a wonderful, happy experience where everyone worked together to make the cabin more festive.

Once the trees were looking pretty, we had some time outside to enjoy the surrounds, ride in some small sleighs, chat to the elves, stand by the fire to keep warm, drink warm juice; until it was time to go into the cabin. 

We were welcomed, one family at a time and were directed to our seats. We were in the middle of a long table with families either side. Soon after sitting and ordering drinks, Santa arrived and the room erupted. There were children that ran straight to him, so excited. Our two, were eyes fixated on him. Finn stood out of his seat in a desperate search to clap eyes on Santa Claus. It was a very special moment.

Each family had time with Santa to talk to him and have photos. He talked to the boys, asked them if they had been kind to each other and made them pinky-promise to to be more kind to each other in the new year. I think we were all a little star struck!! He was kind and really took his time with each family. The boys told him what they wanted for Christmas – they wanted sleds for the snow, which of course was a problematic request when we were travelling! Taj also asked for a Christmas decoration.

Before we finished our time with Santa, Geoff asked him a burning question, on the kids behalf – they wanted to know how old Santa was. He pulled us in closer into a little huddle, put his finger up to his mouth, in order to keep us quiet and told us, in secret how old he actually was. We were all under strict instructions not to tell anyone and it was a secret we must keep forever. What an honour to have been told a secret from Santa!

Our lunch was an amazing buffet, with cold meats and salad, as well as cooked meat and vegetables. The salmon and mash potatos were the highlights and then the dessert table of course as well! 

We are ever so grateful to be doing this with our children. It really is a dream come true. 

Our ride home to Rovaniemi was quiet, I think we were all exhausted after what had been an exciting day! We got back to the apartment, had a little rest and then hit the sled park with the butt-sleds for an hour before dinner.

We decided to have an easy dinner (sandwiches and salad) after having such a massive lunch, so we got ourselves ready for an early night. Next thing, my Aurora app pinged to say there would be a 37% chance of seeing the Northern Lights at 7:34pm, from our location!

It was immediately dinner to-go (sandwiches), snow gear over our pyjamas, and we were off!! We headed down to the river in town to try to find the darkest spot. The boys spotted the lights, so we moved closer to the river to have a more unobstructed view.

It was absolutely incredible! What an amazing privilege to witness one of nature’s greatest gifts. This was the greatest Christmas gift Geoff and I could have ever asked for!!

Christmas in Rovaniemi, Finland

25th December

We woke to discover that Santa had been and you know what, he had gone against our wishes and brought the boys sleds!!! We couldn’t believe it. A dream come true for the boys, they were so grateful for being able to give Santa a last minute Christmas wish yesterday, because sleds were not on their original list. Taj got his Christmas decoration, as well.

We had breakfast and then, you guessed it, we hit the sled park! We spent a good hour there and for the majority of the time we had the place to ourselves. The sleds were awesome, they went so fast. We all had a lot of fun on them!

Back at the apartment for lunch we had ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ – it has become speciality for us. It is a table full of all our favourite things – this time it featured reindeer balls and smoked salmon. It was delicious!

We had an afternoon session at the sled park as well. More fun, more carnage and more exhaustion!

It was an early dinner for us on Christmas Day, pasta, jam packed with vegetables, before going on our Wild About Lapland Northern Lights Tour.

Northern Lights Tour

On a very chilly and clear evening, our guide, Vess, drove us to a number of viewing points within an hour of Rovaniemi. We were lucky to see the lights at two different viewing points that night. The final stop was just incredible, and we took the opportunity to have a number of photos at different stages as well as take the time to appreciate the magnificence of this natural wonder.

The boys were exhausted and freezing, it was minus eighteen degrees after all and they had had a massive day and an early morning. 

By the time we got back to the apartment, we all fell into bed and absolutely crashed out for the night.

BONUS!! WILD ABOUT LAPLAND are offering our readers a 10% discount on their winter tours: Northern Lights Wilderness Tour, Ice Fishing, Snowshoeing, Ski Trekking Safari, Visit to Korouoma Canyon Frozen Waterfalls and Winter Wilderness Survival Tour. To take advantage of this offer, use the PROMO code is ERININLAPLAND10.

Kotatieva Winter Leisure Park

26th December

We packed up all our things, tidied up the apartment that had done us so well in Rovaniemi, picked up our hire car and made our way to Kotatieva Winter Leisure Park for some daytime snow fun!! It was our first stop before heading to Ranua for the next four nights.

Kotatieva has something for everyone! Set a couple of kilometres off the main road, the Park has a day full of family activities. It’s a fantastic place to visit if you want a quiet, authentic, Finnish winter experience.

We went snowshoeing, ice skating, had a go at ice hockey, sledding, played disc golf, and bowling. For lunch, we cooked sausages over the fire in the Lappish Hut. It was another wonderful time at Kotatieva, and we will have very fond memories of our visits.

We hit the road at around 3:30pm, it was already getting dark and the snow was falling. We knew we had about an hours drive, so didn’t want to leave our departure too late. It was a good drive, although dark and snowy, so we couldn’t see anything. 

We arrived at Ranua’s Holiday Gulo Gulo, checked in and then settled into our very comfortable cabin.