Liv­ing it up in La­p­land

Wel­come to a fan­tasy world of ce­les­tial won­ders, rein­deer rides, icy adventures and warm wel­comes travel2013

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - CHRIS LEAD­BEATER

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.

PIC­TURES: SHUTTERSTOCK

EERIE SPEC­TA­CLE: Sci­en­tists pre­dict that this month’s dis­play of north­ern lights will be es­pe­cially fab­u­lous due to a so­lar peak.

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