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Family travel: is there an adventurous way to see Santa in 2021?

Finnish Lapland presents the crowd-pleasing solution to families looking to seek out Santa this Christmas. We take a look at the best trips and times to book.

Published 18 Aug 2021, 06:07 BST
The Baltic Travel Company offers five days at Camp Ripan, staying in a cosy, modern cabins, ...

The Baltic Travel Company offers five days at Camp Ripan, staying in a cosy, modern cabins, with a sled tour through the frozen forest to meet Santa.

Photograph by Inghams

For a Christmas-themed trip that pleases both parents and children, the best advice is to use Santa as the excuse to head off to explore all that Lapland has to offer. We’re talking husky-sledding, meeting Sami reindeer herders, snowshoeing through sparkling boreal forest, ice fishing, snow mobile safaris and more. And to beat the Santa scrum, the time to book is now.

Where is the ho-ho-ho hub?
The Finnish Lapland village of Rovaniemi is considered Santa Central — home to an Elf School, what’s deemed to be the official Santa post office and Santa Claus Village, plus the plastic fantastic Santa Park. This is where the bulk of Santa packages travel to — offered by the likes of TUI and Transun.

What about Lapland experiences beyond the theme parks? 
While there’s no doubt that most kids get a kick out of Rovaniemi’s Disney on Ice-style experience, if you stray beyond the confines of these two theme parks, there are plenty of places across Finland that provide more authentic Lapland experiences, not to mention the Sami regions of Norway and Sweden, most offering the chance to sprinkle some Santa stardust where needed.

When should I book?
Now. There’s more reason than ever to think outside the pre-packaged box when it comes to selecting a Santa-themed travel experience this winter. With many families having postponed the big trip last season, demand for the classic Christmas break will be stretched by re-bookings. This sort of trip is something that can only be delayed for a certain amount of time before children get too old and the Santa spell wears off, so operators are expecting something of a scrum for tickets in whatever windows of travel that the pandemic allows this winter.

“Lapland is proving it's the place to visit this coming winter and next,” says Inghams CEO, Joe Ponte. “For this winter, 75% of Inghams seven-night Lapland Holidays and more than 90% of Santa Breaks are booked [as of June 2021]. And we have already added more trips and opened bookings for Lapland 2022/23 to keep up with demand.”

Where should I book?
One of the most popular adventurous Lapland destinations is Levi, some two-hours north of Rovaniemi, but for a more ‘remote feel’ Inghams recommends a stay at Muotka Wilderness Lodge, set deep in the Finnish Lapland hinterland, way north of the Arctic Circle in the Sami region around Inari. This family-run property around 10 minutes from Saariselkä village on the edge of Finland’s pristine Urho-Kekkonen National Park has minimal light pollution so increased potential for Northern Lights spotting right on the front door, which is ideal for those youngsters who won’t tolerate hanging around in the cold for prolonged aurora hunting. Other snowy activities include husky, reindeer and snowmobile safaris, and snowshoe or cross-country skis on 185 miles of prepared trails. Plus, Christmassy experiences such as gingerbread baking, tree decorating and a visit from Santa. Seven nights costs from £2,738 per person, flying non-stop from Gatwick into the region’s hub airport of Ivalo.

How should I book?
“To meet Santa but bypass the crowded Disney-esque resorts, head for the snow-soft forests and fells of northern Finland,” says Tim Williamson, from Responsible Travel. “But whichever region of Lapland you visit, for the best experience, stay a bit longer. Twenty-four-hour fly-bys benefit no one. Four or five days — with Santa as one part of a broader cultural experience — will be much more enjoyable and will benefit local people far more. Better still, choose a local guide for a glimpse into the rich culture, history and traditions, and try not to miss spending time with the Sámi community.” Responsible Travel’s five-day family adventure holiday with the chance to meet Santa, staying in the Finnish Lapland town of Kuusamo, costs from £2,315 per adult, £1,495 per child (ages four to 11), all-inclusive. For more information on how to book family trips to Lapland responsibly, check out Responsible Travel

And what about further afield?
Kiruna, capital of Swedish Lapland, is a boreal region that includes the Ice Hotel, Sami villages and plenty of places to get out and experience family-friendly winter activities. The Baltic Travel Company offers five days at Camp Ripan, staying in a cosy, modern cabins, with a sled tour through the frozen forest to meet Santa, from £1,355 per adult and, £930 per child (ages four to 12).

What age children do these adventurous trips suit best?
Active Lapland trips generally suit families with children aged around four and up. Many of the activities, along with the cold will generally exclude toddlers, although robust youngsters often enjoy the excitement of simply being in Lapland. Most operators do not recommend travelling with a child under two years old.           

Other operators offering adventurous Lapland trips for families include Best Served Scandinavia Discover The World Nordic Experience and Scan Adventures

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