Finland is a truly magical place, especially in the winter. With the gorgeous snow-topped forests, to visiting Santa Claus and hopefully catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights, we look at the top five things to do in this beautiful country. It makes for the perfect Christmas holiday destination.
Watching the magical Northern Lights
Electrically charged particles colliding… or the sweep of a fox’s tail? Electric power generated by the solar wind from the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field… or glowing air gushing out from cracks in the sky? Does it matter, you ask yourself.
When you witness the Aurora Borealis your imagination flies and the extraordinary sight of the fabulous flashes of green, red and orange dancing across the sky makes your spirits soar.
You can see the Northern Lights frequently in Lapland from September to March and, once seen, you’ll find yourself believing in magic again.
Driving a husky team through the forest
The huskies pull you along at what seems like a cracking pace as you keep your balance, and your nerve. But don’t worry, you will soon get used to driving once you - and the dogs - have settled into the rhythm.
Then with the cold air in your face, there’s nothing as exhilarating as driving a husky team through the winding forest paths of Finland’s Lapland, past trees that sparkle with frost and lakes that lie frozen in winter’s grip.
When I did this I got back to base feeling like the Lewis Hamilton of husky sledging.
Visiting Father Christmas
As every child knows, Father Christmas lives in the deep north, working away every day of the year to answer children’s letters and, with his elves, collecting all those presents that he will, magically, deliver in one single night all around the world. Families visiting Santa’s official home, just outside Rovaniemi, can recreate the festival every day of the year, but it’s best to go in winter.
Snow covers the ground, reflecting the fairy lights that cover the pine trees and the brightly lit buildings, while you can hear the sounds of children’s whoops and excited cries. There’s the famous post office to visit, a reindeer farm, exhibitions, cafés and restaurants to try and, of course, that meeting with Father Christmas himself which even my slightly sceptical son loved.
Saying hello to reindeers
Reindeers are more than just part of Santa’s transport; they provide the main livelihood for the indigenous Sámi people who live in Lapland. The reindeer are delightful creatures, as you’ll find on a visit to a reindeer farm where you can get up close to them.
Feed them treats, pet them, and watch them being harnessed to a sledge to take you on a reindeer safari, their specially adapted hooves taking them safely over the ice and hard-packed snow.
A Sámi feast
You sit in a large circular room, the wooden walls and benches covered with brightly coloured woven blankets and soft reindeer skins. A fire crackles in the central grate as a large salmon, lying on a special board, cooks in front of you.
There’s vodka, of course, and dill potatoes with special sauces to accompany the fish. Afterwards you can lie quietly watching the dying embers of the cooking fire as your Sámi host takes out a drum and starts the beat of a hypnotic rhythm. It’s said to conjure up the Northern Lights, and the only time I have done this, the glorious show made a spectacular appearance.
There are so many wonderful things to do in Finland and this only touches the surface. If you're looking for a magical holiday where you have the chance to see Santa Claus in real life, this is the holiday for you.
There are 39 RCI-affiliated resorts in Finland, so if you want to visit this fantastic country, take a look at our Resort Directory below.
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Visit our Holiday Ideas page to discover some of the great things you could be doing in Finland on holiday in winter in Lapland, and during a Lakeland summer.