A trip to Lapland is the holiday of a lifetime and it always helps to have real feedback from real people to help plan the most magical holiday!
Here are some tips from the members of the Christmas Madness Community Group on Facebook – join them HERE
Comments from Christmas Madness FB Group in their own words. The views and information are the contributor’s own experience.
Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! We spent ours in Finland and here is my long review and our itinerary details, hopefully, it might help someone with planning this magical holidays and gives you an idea about wonderful Lapland.
LAPLAND-ROVANIEMI SANTA CLAUS VILLAGE: REVIEW AND OUR TRIP ITINERARY
We originally booked this trip in 2019 for December 2020 but due to corona, many had to cancel/rebook for December 2021. We are a family of two adults and two kids, 7 years and 9 years.
We flew with Finnair on 20 Dec from Dubai to Helsinki (stopover for one night in Scandic airport hotel, cost 169E BB, we booked a family room with funky bunk beds for kids). Next day flight to Rovaniemi. Total flights cost 3600 Euro with 23kg suitcase each (our flight dates were changed numerous times over past 12 months due to airline changing timetable and had to pay extra from original cost to have a stopover in Helsinki).
We booked our flights with a travel counsellor (Sarah Pickford) she matched the price of direct booking and it was great to have her support and assistance with the ever-changing itinerary.
21 DECEMBER One night stay in SANTA’s IGLOO ARTIC CIRCLE in SCV. The cost was 920 E (HB) booked directly on their website. We took bus from airport to Santa’s Igloo it was 7E pp, it took about 10min very short ride. We had a premium igloo with an alcove, which accommodates four people with a small attached room for kids to sleep in.
Was the igloo worth it? As a special treat, for the wow factor, one-off, novelty, tick off the bucket list, yes I’m glad we did it but it is extremely expensive and you paying for a unique experience and novelty really. It was great to have a glass roof to watch the sky and stars, but we were not lucky to see auroras. Each igloo comes with iPad you can set alarm to wake you up if auroras appear, which is very cool, and suppose it would be an amazing experience to actually see them through the igloo’s glass roof. One night’s stay was long enough, as it was not very practical for us (nowhere to dry off wet clothes and minimum storage space).
Kids loved sledging around the resort on a small hill next to the main building. Breakfast and dinner were very nice in a lovely restaurant and we used a large wooden sledge to transport kids from the igloo to the restaurant which they really enjoyed and found hilarious. This resort was about a 10min walk to SCV.
We also stopped for lunch in SANTA PIZZA AND BURGER it was very very busy, had to queue for about 20 min to get in but the pizzas were very tasty.
22 DECEMBER checked in to SANTA CLAUS HOLIDAY VILLAGE we booked the classic cottage for 4 nights, which cost 2700E (HB). Booked with travel counsellor who matched price as per direct booking.
The reception staff was very nice and helpful explaining everything well, our breakfast was in a restaurant in Christmas house (buffet style, was just ok and could be better), our dinner was at a restaurant where cottages are (salads, soup, and desserts were buffet and then you could order the main course from menu, normally two or three choices such as salmon, reindeer, chicken, kids menu had only 3 choices (sausages+chips, meatballs+chips, chicken nuggets+chips) so after 4 days it was bit repetitive for them, but my kids are not fussy and would each chips every day if they could so they didn’t mind at all. Service was quite slow as restaurant was busy with limited staff, tables were rarely cleared of empty plates between dishes. You could buy alcoholic drinks for extra (bit limited choices)
Our cottage had sauna which was very handy for warming up kids when they came in cold from outside and drying off all the clothes. Kids had sofa bed and there was small kitchenette with fridge, kettle and microwave and 2 ring cooker with basic utensils. As we had a standard cottage there was no daily cleaning service or change of towels included (you can have it for extra fee if you want).
TIP: bring slippers as they are not provided in standard cottages because as you walk in from outside you get floor wet with snowy boots so its handy to have some sort of indoor shoes ready to change into. (or upgrade to superior cottages where you have cleaning, towel service and slippers/bathrobe provided).
All around whole village were small hills and piles of snow that kids just loved, and spent hours digging bunkers, sledging and playing in a snow. All cottages were nicely lit up with Christmas trees on each terrace, it looked wonderful.
As our check in to SCV was only in the afternoon, we spend couple of hours in ELF FARMYARD, entrance fee 30E adult/20E child (this included 15 min walking with reindeer) and we bought reindeer grass for 4E to feed animals).No pre-booking necessary. If you don’t want to walk reindeer entry fees are bit cheaper but I can highly recommend it. You can buy drinks, sausages and marshmallows in their little shop or can bring your own, they also sell some souvenirs. I had some non alco gloggi for 2E per cup which was very nice.
Elf Farmyard was a wonderful activity, kids loved little hill inside for sledging, we also roasted some marshmallows inside their kota and saw other animals, they have lamas, alpacas, goats, sheep, peacocks, bunnies and chickens. Kids also tried ‘cross skiing’ (more like shuffling feet on the snow path around the farm. Highlight was walking with 2 reindeers through the forest and our guides were very helpful and explained details about animals. Kids loved walking with reindeers, it was such a unique experience.
23 DECEMBER We explored SCV and kids loved just sledging around little hills, playing in playground, walking around, taking photos and soaking up atmosphere.
SANTA CLAUS REINDEER RIDE We booked (as a walk-in, no pre-booking needed) a 1km reindeer ride (paid 104E- 23E child/29E adult
It was nice and one ‘must do‘ Lapland experience of course, but I felt it was over very quickly and not as exciting or thrilling as husky’s ride or snowmobile. Slow and mellow, one to ‘tick off your Lapland bucket list’, fun but wouldn’t rush to book again.
SNOMAN WORLD entry fee 28E pp (paid 112E)
This was great for our kids, they spend ages on ice slide and toboggan rides, tried ice skating and adults warmed up with gloggi and lingonberry vodka in the ice bar. Tickets are valid all day so we actually could go in and out whole day which was great.
We went for lunch to the popular KOTAHOVI RESTAURANT. We waited about 20 min to get a table (they don’t take prior bookings) and had lovely lunch there. (Limited menu for kids-only chicken nuggets and chips). It was nice to get warm food and to dry our gloves and hats by their open fire pit.
After lunch, we had booking with ARTIC CIRCLE SNOWMOBILE PARK for kids on a mini snowmobile (10 min paid 20E per child (had 15% discount as booked early bird offer in October) followed by booking for 1 hr snowmobile safari for the whole family (240E but had 15% discount as booked in Oct with early bird offer). Kids loved riding their own mini snowmobile around the track and it was well supervised.
Our one hour family safari was booked for 3pm and it was a bit chaotic to try to dress everybody in their snowsuits, (their snowsuits go on top of yours and you can also change their snow boots, socks and gloves) and we waited a bit for everybody else to be ready, and then finally instructor explained everything and we set off. Kids were in the sledge pulled by guide and me and my husband rode one snowmobile (swapping drivers half way through). By the time we set off it was dark and snowing so it was quite challenging to follow the route in the darkness in unfamiliar environment and my visor on my helmet was getting foggy so I couldn’t see very well so had to keep lifting it, but as it was snowing it was a bit hard trying to wipe snow out of my eyes and driving at the same time (adrenalin kicked in), but it was very exciting and unique to ride through dark snowy forest.
Handlebars on snowmobile had heating which was very welcomed as it was -20 degrees on this day and very cold. Kids unfortunately were complaining they were too cold (they had reindeers hides to cover but it was frozen and didn’t provide much heat) and by the time we finished this trip they were almost crying (they had feet and hand warmers, double mittens/gloves, balaclavas and hats, ski googles, all the thermo layers and double snowsuits) but as they were not actually moving at all, just sitting in the sledge for an hour they got cold. Both my husband and I enjoyed this trip very much but if I was booking again, I would probably do it without kids, or if with kids-chose shorter trip and I would prefer during daylight.
In the early evening we went back to Snowman World for more fun on toboggan and ice slide, it was about hour before closing time and we had a place to ourselves, kids loved toboggan rides and very helpful staff made their donuts spin fast as they went down the toboggan run, great fun and even us adults had a go on toboggan. Kids would probably stay bit longer but we all needed a rest and warm up after long day outdoor packed with activities.
24 DECEMBER We sent link for SCV live web camera to family and friends and spent time greeting and waiving to them on Xmas eve (this is our main xmas day celebrating and opening gifts in the evening) and then around 10am we went to visit SANTA CLAUSE in his office. There was a long queue and we waited about 45min to see him. They gave you big bags to keep your clothing in which is handy. Don’t forget to peak through the door key holes for some cute xmas animations or try to spot celebrities and famous people on gallery wall in corridor while waiting.
Kids were very excited when it was our turn and I managed to slip their letters to an elf helper just before it was our turn to see Santa. Actually it was quite disappointing experience for me, because it was very rushed, basically just to take a photo and Santa did very briefly mentioned having received their letters pointing at his table (my kids eyes lit up when they spotted their letters sitting on his table) but kids didn’t have a chance to speak or ask any questions, basically elf asked where we are from, Santa pointed us to smile for the camera said Merry Christmas and out the door we went into another queue to buy photos. It was quite impersonal and I was definitely expecting bit more but my kids didn’t seem to mind and seeing their letters I think was a highlight for them. I guess we went to see Santa at busy time so I understand he doesn’t have a time to chat with each family as queues would be even longer. We bought one printed photo 35E, you could have digital one for a bit more and I think for both digital, printed and video cost was around 70E.
After we visited Santa, we went to Bearhill Husky (Santa’s Husky Rides) paid 40E per adult, 30E per child or 2km ride. This was amazing experience and one of highlight for all of us, and I wouldn’t mind doing longer track but they only operate longer rides from January onwards. Scenery was amazing and whole family enjoyed it. You can warm up with hot blackberry juice inside their kota and also have some biscuits, they also have open fire just next to kota. We were also allowed to pet the dogs as it wasn’t very busy period. Kids loved picking giant icicles hanging down from their kota hut.
On the way back to SCV we stopped in SANTA’S CHOCOLATE AND CANDY SHOP and bought some fancy Fazer chocolate.
Then back in our cottage for some more fun in the snow, building snowmen and using our snow moulds (which worked great), also making frozen bubbles worked for us as it was another cold day -18.
Before we left for a dinner I sneaked in few gifts to their stockings, nice list certificate and letter from Santa explaining he only bought few gifts and rest will wait for us when we get home.
During dinner service we had Santa visiting our restaurant and all families were able to take a photo with Santa and everybody got a gift (kids got cute little reindeer toy and adults SCV logo winter hat).
After we finished dinner, we came back to our cottage for kids to find their gifts and as you can imagine they were thrilled. Once we were all in bed at 10 pm we heard fireworks start (we were very lucky as we could see it close up right from our cottage window) so kids rushed out of bed and we watched an amazing fireworks display which we didn’t know it will be happening so it was an amazing bonus to finish Xmas Eve this way. (I felt SCV could advertise this bit more as many people missed it, as it wasn’t mentioned anywhere there will be fireworks at 10 pm, we were lucky that we weren’t asleep yet and our window was facing directly fireworks side)
25 DECEMBER We had tickets for SANTA PARK tickets cost 42E for adult 36E per child (we had 20% discount as bought tickets on special offer early bird)
This was probably my least favourite experience, just because it was very busy and we had to queue for everything for a long time. Queue to get in was long as only one person checking for covid passports so it took ages to get in, then all the attractions had long queues, even to get a food we had to queue up for about 30 min just to get to the front of the queue to order, so overall lovely experiences and attractions once it was our turn, just frustrating day spent lots of time waiting and queuing.
This is indoor themed park with great acrobatic elf show (very good), magical train ride (queue 40min), VR ride (fun but queue for 30min), gingerbread decorating (queue to get cookie and table another 30min), quick visit to Ice gallery/Ice Bar (no queue luckily) for some photos and lingonberry vodka shots (10E per shot-very nice), elf school experience (ok-ish), (while waiting for elf school to start kids had a little play in basketball play area), there was also little art and crafts area to make xmas tree hanging decorations (we didn’t do it as room looked a mess very disorganised with paint spilled everywhere so we skipped it) and then finally visiting Santa in his office. I was not sure if we should do it as kids seen Santa in SCV day before so was bit worried not to confuse them but it was lovely, Santa had a bit more time to talk to kids and he looked very similar so they didn’t seem confused.
When we walked in, I played along and said “Santa nice to see you again, you were very busy yesterday when we visited you” and Santa played along confirming yes indeed he had very busy day. You can take your own photos and videos with you own phone or you can also buy their photo taken by them. It was short but sweet visit and kids seems to enjoy it. So overall good day but lots of time wasted on queues and that put bit of a damper on our mood so after we left Santa Park, we walked to Arctic Tree House hotel and used the hill next to Rakas restaurant for sledging which was great fun for kids. We took taxi from SCV to Santa Park and back is was 22E each way. Tickets to Santa Park are valid for 2 days so you can come back next day if wanted to. I feel this attraction is best suited for kids up to age 10-12y, older kids might find it bit boring. I’m sure if we didn’t visit on a very busy day with lots of queueing, we would have enjoyed Santa Park more.
26 DECEMBER This was our last day and we had an evening flight to catch back to Helsinki so we voted as a family which activity we would like to do again before we depart and we collectively agreed to do one more husky sledge ride as this was one of our highlights. So, this time we decide to visit HUSKY PARK
Paid 20E per family entry to the park and 2km ride for 40E per adult, 25E per child. (if you buy tickets online in advance on their website, entry to husky park is already included) We did pet some dogs (only one dog outside his pen, rest of them were inside the pens so petting dogs through fence, no puppies currently and we arrived just as dogs were having their rest and feeding break so we had to wait 45 min for our ride. Kids got quite cold again as another day with -19 temperature. Husky ride was great and definitely another highlight for us.
After husky ride we decided to visit MRS. CLAUS CHRISTMAS COTTAGE for their ‘interactive show’, (around 45min) cost was 49E per person. It was basically story about magical reindeer told by Mrs. Claus, assisted by two elves in character, two songs to sing and one gingerbread cookie to “bake” and decorate. “Bake” was basically kids were invited on the stage ‘kitchen’ to cut a cookie shape out from readymade cookie dough and take photo with Mrs Claus. While decorating Mrs Claus walked around tables having small chat with guests. To be honest whole experience was a bit underwhelming and we could hardly hear Mrs Clause talking as she spoke in very soft voice and we sat far at the back of the room so we didn’t hear half of her story so kids got bit bored. Elves were entertaining but we only really chose this activity so we can do something indoors in warmth after kids got cold in Husky park and I would easily skipped this attraction as I felt it wasn’t worth the money we paid.
After that we did some final play in the snow, some more sledging, some final souvenirs shopping and then it was time for our free shuttle bus from SCHV to take us to the airport.
Check in at Rovaniemi took very very long time, lots of paperwork’s checking, vaccine certificate check, covid passport check, residence visa check, insurance check, they even asked for our mobile numbers and emails contacts. I never experienced such a long check in before they finally issued us with our boarding pass. After we flew to Helsinki we had over 2 hrs wait for our connecting flight to UAE, please note that there was no restaurant or coffee shops open after 10pm in Helsinki airport, there was literally nowhere to buy any food after 10pm (I’m not sure if that was covid regulations or just standard), we managed to find one restaurant at 9pm that could serve take away only for sandwiches and salad as kitchen was already closed and by 10pm they had to close outlet and turn people away. There was duty free shop open so I guess you could buy some snacks there if desperate but if you flying Finnair with kids be prepared and bring some food with you just in case you taking night flight like us. Also we found Helsinki airport very cold on arrival and departure with minimum heating (maybe because newly open terminal?) so had to keep layers on as kids couldn’t warm up enough.
Few additional notes:
WEATHER We had temperatures ranging between -21 to -15 during our stay which was pretty cold and we all had all the layers plus hand warmers and feet warmers were must. Spare gloves and snoods were needed for kids also balaclavas were very handy. It really depends on how cold it is during your visit if it’s around -7 to -10 is very mild, anything more that -15 you might need extra layers and as mentioned above specially for kids, we also had silk liners for gloves for kids. Good quality snow boots and high-quality gloves/mittens are a must, I can’t believe I’ve seen some people walking around SCV in their trainers and jeans shivering from cold. We spend lots of time outdoors with short breaks in between for refreshments and lunch and considering how cold it was, overall, I think my kids managed quite well. I saw lots of families with younger kids struggling in such a cold weather.
We were extremely exhausted at the end of each day as our days were packed with activities and constant dressing and undressing (as we didn’t stay in a hotels you had to dress up fully for each meal time as walking to restaurant outdoors was tiring) but everything was so worth it and I knew this was not going to be lazy, relaxing holiday but action packed days filled with an adventure, so we were prepared well for it.
COVID PCR test in Rovaniemi airport 9lives you need to make an appointment via their website, don’t forget to screenshot your reference number because you will need to show it and if you don’t have data on your phone to access your emails you need to screenshot it before. It cost 150E pp and our results took about 30hrs to receive (had to email them as the link they sent to access our result didn’t work as we didn’t receive any code to access it, they replied very promptly with forwarding PCR test results) We took taxi it was around 18E from SCV to the airport one way.
Be prepared and carry your Al Hosn app vaccination QR code and your photo ID with you all the time as most places checked it to allow entry.
We also increased kids’ vitamins about 3 months before traveling to try to build up their immunity to avoid any sickness and luckily we managed the trip without anyone falling ill which was my biggest worry.
Take into consideration limited daylight in December when planing your activities and booking trips, some places open only at 10 or 11am when it’s finally light and by 3pm it’s get dark again. If you want to take pictures during daylight hours between 11am-2pm is the brightest part of the day . If you will be travelling to Lapland for example in December daylights are longer then.
Do not forget to have good travel insurance specially for winter sports and read small print making sure you are covered for all the activities (some for example will not cover you in case of accident if you are the driver on snowmobile ride only if you are the passenger) we had ours arranged from travel counsellor Sarah with AIG insurance.
We found having 3 thermos/flasks very handy – one with hot chocolate and baileys for adults one with hot chocolate only for kids and one with mulled wine/gloggi. Also carrying around normal drinking water in plastic bottle was pointless as it froze solid in our backpack it was so cold, so we had to keep refiling it with tap water from restaurants. (free and delicious)
(Take alcohol with you if you not planning to visit alco shop in Rovaniemi as Duty-Free in Helsinki airport is not allowed to sell anything for domestic flights, which we didn’t know before)
We used lots of face cream and lip balm, also hand cream. We also found flashing armbands lights very handy for kids to see in the dark. I have another post with a full packing list and essentials to take, so just use search to find it if needed.
Planning this holiday was very stressful with constant changes to dates and rescheduling the whole itinerary numerous times, traveling in these times is challenging with new rules and regulations on an almost weekly basis but we would return again in a heartbeat and we promised kids we will return one day to hopefully catch glimpse of Auroras. It was just a magical holiday!
Hope those traveling to Rovaniemi and staying in Santa Claus village will find this feedback useful. Lapland is not a budget holiday but oh so worth it and dream come true.two
You may remember my post from last year regarding Christmas trips to Lapland – Bobby and I design individual trips so that families can afford to visit Lapland from Dubai (or their chosen destination) in exactly the mode they choose with flexibility in mind. We aren’t part of a tour company – we simply piece together the most suitable journey. I’m a self confessed Christmas Maddy and loved this group’s enthusiasm last year! Sooooo, I’d like to share a couple of trips that we can offer right now to anyone wanting to do something extra magical this December. We have spots on hold in hard-to-get Igloo Rooms (hotel style not actual ice!) and Treehouse Apartments. These are right next to Santa Claus Village on the arctic circle.
We know the best direct flight routes (it’s more economical for families to book these direct with Finnair or Norwegian Airlines – but we walk you through this) and we have terrific tips from the families who went last year (eg how to get the most out of your budget, where to eat, what tours to bother with, which ones to leave out, what to pack, how cold is it really?! etc). Each child also receives one of Atelier de Lisa Nicole ‘s Christmas-themed travel bags – super popular with the kids as they take off on their Christmas trip of a lifetime. On the two hotel spots we have ready to go we can offer a 1,000AED discount to members of this Christmas Madness Group if booked this month. 30% deposit is required in April and the balance is payable in August. Feel free to DM me or call for more info! Cheers Mel +971 543808089 (it will be first in first booked!)
We’ve just had the most incredible time in Lapland. I’d throughly recommend Levi as a destination if you’re considering a trip – it’s been absolute magic. It’s definitely easy to organise it yourself rather than going through a company, and good for avoiding crowded excursions etc. I’d especially recommend the husky experience with Eanan tours (eananlevi.com) and the Reindeer and Fishing company (reindeerandfishing.fi) was excellent too. Merry Christmas everyone!
We went in Dec 2019. It was absolutely fab. We stayed in äkäslompolo, ylläs. The area was magical not touristy at all. Our cabin over looked the snowy Forest and felt like Narnia.
The pic attached so the company we booked the cabin through. It was DIY but the lady who we booked the cabin through actually booked our snow suits and extra excursions for us too as well as advised in flights and car rentals. Can’t recommend enough (no affiliation) the cabin in the pic is the actual cabin we stayed in.
(To see Santa) You can fly to Ivalo and then go to Saariselka. We used a British company called Santa’s Lapland. We flew from Dubai to Helsinki (and stayed there for two nights) and then on to Ivalo, although that is not how we had originally planned it.
Short drive to Santa’s village, magical cabins, wonderful lodge and food, loved the husky tour and snowmobile tour. Both private tours for just our family of three and incredible.
Heather Gulzow Hahn
We went for our honeymoon. We stayed at Kakslauttanen. They have a small Santa’s village and reindeer rides. We stayed in the igloo and in the cabins. To be honest I’d stay in the cabins over the igloo.
We went in Feb half term a couple of years ago as “Santa invited” our twins after receiving their Thank you letter. It was amazing as not busy, no queues, we had AGES with Santa – just us in his hut in a forest for over an hour and didn’t see any other Santa’s (friends had trouble explaining the many Santa’s they saw around Rovaniemi a few years ago and so many signs for tours etc). It was also guaranteed deep wonderful snow, an amazing experience. We stayed in Saariselska, a 2 or 3 hr drive North of Rovaniemi which was a fab thing to do too.
We did Lapland in Feb 2020 and absolutely loved it, happy to share feedback and itinerary, what we enjoyed more that the touristy Santa Village was a private encounter with Santa and the elves in the magical forest of Joulukka, worth every dirham spent! Plus the husky safaris are lots of fun if you do the properly managed ones (instead of the short ones offered in the village).