Have you ever thought about taking your children to visit the “real” Santa Claus in Lapland but been put off by the price? Well don’t hesitate, it really is amazing and worth every penny
We visited Lapland in December 2009 and it was the most amazing experience, truly magical. We opted for a four day Magical Interlude tour with Canterbury Travels (www.santa-vacations.co.uk) staying in an open plan log cabin at the small ski resort of Luosto. The Luosto Log Cabins were warm and cosy set amongst the trees and contained large bunk beds built into one wall, a mini kitchen, fireplace, bathroom and sauna. They also had a heated cupboard for drying your outdoor clothes so you were always warm and dry. Most houses in Finland have their own sauna and the locals swear by rolling naked in the snow afterwards! If, like my husband, you decide to give it a try just make sure your neighbours aren’t having a late night cigarette on the balcony next door first!
All meals were provided in a separate large log cabin five to ten minutes walk away but you get plastic sleds to pull tired children along. The meals were good hearty food and there was plenty of choice. Luosto itself is small and tranquil but has lots of extra activities available, such as sleeping in a real igloo, night skidoo rides to see the Northern Lights and drive really fast (my adrenaline junky husband again!), or skiing on the slopes behind our cabins.
The first day was mostly spent travelling to Luosto, although singing on the aeroplane and the occasional elf by the side of the road did liven up proceedings! On arrival you get your warm outer clothes, which are all-in-one ski suits and most certainly needed. It was minus 30C on our first day, although it did “warm up” to minus 10C the next day. The middle two days are chock full of activities and the last morning is left free for you to book something locally if you wish. We booked a husky mushing session for the last day and it was definitely worth the extra money to drive your own team of huskies through deep snow in the middle of the wilderness. My husband managed to crash our sled in to a tree (there he goes again!) but nobody was hurt other than his pride!
Fun in the snow
Now on to the most important stuff… searching for Santa! The middle two days of our trip were spent visiting several different locations by coach to search for Santa in places such as Mrs Claus' house, the elves sorting office, etc. We met lots of different elves including some of Santa’s most important helpers! The thought and detail put in to each place and character was amazing, I’m not going to spoil it for you but it was incredibly realistic and well done. At each stopping point there were several activities to enjoy such as skidoo rides, sledging, snow shoes, horse sleigh rides, reindeer sleds, husky sledding etc. There was also hot berry juice and open fires to keep you warm! Toilets were available on the coach or in the log cabins where we stopped for lunch. Although there must have been other groups moving about between the different activities we never saw them and never felt rushed or herded. At the end of each day we were dropped back at a log pub in Luosto where the adults could enjoy a hot gluewein whilst the kids were entertained by a magician or mad scientist. What a perfect way to end a busy day!
The Santa visit
We knew we must be getting closer to Santa and we even saw him on his sleigh in the distance once but couldn’t quite catch him up. Finally we took a 15-20 minute skidoo ride through the trees to a large isolated house where we were lucky enough to find Santa at home! Each family had a private visit with Santa and not a queue in sight. Santa had the letters our children had written to him, gave them both the exact gifts they wanted and were secretly filmed for a DVD to take home. Obviously the elves had some help from us in making sure Santa had just what our boys wanted, but it made the experience extra special and personal so that our boys know they have seen the real Santa.
Canterbury Travels may be one of the most expensive tour operators to visit Lapland but you certainly get what you pay for. Our trip cost almost £5000 for the four days but that included everything apart from drinks and local activities on the last day.
We had an absolutely magical experience. Some people weren’t very impressed by the food but for simple, home-cooked, local dishes we enjoyed it. Our boys were aged four and seven years and they enjoyed every second of the trip. There were a few children slightly older or younger but the majority were within this age range.
So if you’ve been thinking about going to Lapland then all I can say is just do it, you won’t regret it!