Living it up in Lapland
Welcome to a fantasy world of celestial wonders, reindeer rides, icy adventures and warm welcomes travel2013
EUROPE has plunged into winter and the pull of Lapland is undeniable. It is a place with a magical, even otherworldly image – a white landscape of frosted forests and iced lakes.
It is not a country, but an area that spreads over the uppermost parts of the Nordic landmass. You might delineate it as Sapmi, the region inhabited by the Sami people, crossing the top of Norway, Sweden and Finland, even flowing into Russia.
Lapland is easy to reach from Britain. Norwegian ( norwegian. com) flies non-stop from Gatwick to Tromso in Norway, with connections to Alta and Kirkenes. Finnair (finnair.com) flies via its hub in Helsinki to up-country Finland, including Ivalo, Kuusamo, Rovaniemi and Kittila. And Scandinavian Airlines covers Lulea and Kiruna in Sweden via Stockholm.
One attraction is the chance to meet Father Christmas. Finland is the ho-ho-ho heartland, especially in the case of Rovaniemi (www.visit rovaniemi. fi), which hosts two theme parks where the great man can be encountered.
Santa Park (santapark.com; 31 (R440) for adults, 25.50 for children 3-12) boasts Santa’s Office, the Toy Factory and an Elf Workshop. Santa Claus Village ( santaclausvillage. info) is on the precise curve of the Arctic Circle. The attached Santa Claus Holiday Village (santaclaus holidayvillage.fi), has apartments for a family of four from 319 a night this month.
These can be busy in December, but a quieter possibility lies near Kuusamo, in the hamlet of Vuotunki. Santa’s Cottage (nordicholi days. com) is a small operation where guests meet Father Christ- mas and go tobogganing, grill sausages and bake gingerbread. Four- hour programmes will run every Saturday until March 29.
For further information see nordnorge.com, swedishlapland.com and onlyinlapland.com.
Husky-lovers are in for a treat. Mountain Kingdoms ( mountainkingdoms. com) runs an 11- day Northern Lights & Husky-Sledding break, which takes a detailed approach to Norway. The crux is a three-day cruise along the northwest coast, from Bodo to Kirkenes. Guests stay at the Kirkenes Snowhotel, before a three-day husky mission into the interior.
Lapland has a close affinity with the Northern Lights – the swirling celestial phenomenon. Holidays that catch a glimpse of this eerie spectacle include a four-night Hunt for the Northern Lights group trip sold by Aurora Zone (theaurorazone.com), which revolves around the cosy For- est Hotel in the Swedish village of Tarendo. Days are spent ice-fishing or in the sauna; night brings snowshoe hikes in search of the main event.
Lapland wins points as a ski destination thanks to the length of its season, which can last until May. And while it lacks the high terrain of the Alps, it succeeds as an enclave of intermediate challenges ideal for families.
Lapland is not entirely rural. It can also provide the most northerly city break in Europe. Tromso is a splendid slice of Norwegian urban life, largely built on a fjord-framed island. It plays host to the striking landmark of the Arctic Cathedral, which resembles a row of icebergs (ishavskatedralen.no), the explorer lore of the Polar Museum (polarmuseum.no), and it has busy bars and restaurants. – The Independent
HOLIDAY CHEER: Meet Santa and his little helpers at his official residence at Santa Claus Village.
SNOW FUN: There is winter adventure for the entire family in the Lapland.
EERIE SPECTACLE: Scientists predict that this month’s display of northern lights will be especially fabulous due to a solar peak.