Santa’s Lapland - 2 nights from Bristol
When I was told I was off to meet Santa in Lapland, I immediately felt like I was a child again! Looking through the itinerary and seeing other people’s pictures had me all excited, and I thought I knew what to expect, however it was so much more...
I arrived at Bristol Airport after a very early start, surrounded by families in their Christmas attire and despite lack of sleep the excitement was everywhere. We boarded our very special charter flight and played Christmas quizzes, sang Christmas songs and the 4 hour flight quickly passed. Upon arrival in snowy Ivalo, the doors opened and there were more gasps of excitement as we all disembarked onto the snowy tarmac.
After clearing customs and collecting our bags, we boarded our coaches for the 30-minute transfer to Saariskelka, passing snow topped trees and watching the sun set en route. I was based at the Tunturi Hotel sharing a 5-bedroom apartment on a Half Board basis, although there are a number of hotels to choose from in the resort. Our room would have been ideal for a large family with parents, children and granparents or 2 families of 4/5. We had a sauna and hot tub!
We collected our included snowsuits and boots from the safari shop, then then set off for our optional excursion, the Northern Lights Adventure. This was a snowmobile expedition into the woods in search of the Aurora Borealis with a break for hot berry juice, gingerbread and story around the fire. We had lots of snow that evening so didn’t manage to see the lights, but it was so much fun! After our excursion we returned to the hotel restaurant for dinner which included meatballs, potato, salmon, salad and a choice of desserts whilst hotdogs and fries were available for the children. Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate was also on offer and we settled back into the hotel for a much-needed rest before our busy second day.
Top Tip 1:
Wear plenty of layers and a second pair of gloves under your gloves provided as it can be very cold at night - when we set off it was -18 and snowing. Ensure your insurance covers you for any activities and if you wish to drive the snowmobile you must take your driving licence.
After breakfast, where we could choose from cereals, toast, hot and cold options such as potato omelette and meats, we boarded our coach for our Adventure Day at the Arctic Circle Centre, about 20 minutes away. Here we could spend the entire day ticking off activities from our Lapland passports such as ice fishing, ice hockey, tobogganing and of course the big 3 - A magical Reindeer Sleigh ride, Husky Sled ride and the search for Santa himself. There were warming refreshments available throughout the day such as hot berry juice and pancakes, and dinner was also included. The only timed activity was our husky sled ride so we had plenty of opportunity to get everything else done around that. We decided to stay on the Reindeer side of the centre in the morning and then headed over to the husky side for our ride just before so we could enjoy that then have lunch in the allocated restaurant.
The huskies were so excited when we arrived, they couldn’t wait to take us all out for a run in the woods and afterwards we were able to stoke them and take photos. Families could choose to swap 'drivers' at the half way point if they wished. Then after dinner, we set off in search of Santa himself. I wont give too much away here, but it was MAGICAL! And yes I was on the good list!! We then boarded our shuttle bus back to our resort where the families enjoying the SANTAS MAGIC trip had their Gala Dinner.
This evening, we headed up to the Star Arctic hotel to have a look around, this is the property above Saariselka where guests staying on the SANTAS AURORA package stay. Here there are some glass roofed cabins where guests can literally sleep under the stars! On this alternative package, guests have many of the same experiences however they are slightly different. We went to the Wilderness Centre where guests have their 'adventure day' and gala dinner and were once again greeted by the sound of huskies who couldn’t wait to take us out on a run. I was lucky enough to hold one of the 9 week old puppies, and had lots of cuddles from a beautiful husky called Tramp. Here we had our evening meal but again, due to heavy snow we sadly didn’t get to see the lights. We returned to our hotel after a long and amazing day.
Top Tip 2:
Pop your mobile phone in a sock and keep it close to your body to keep it warm, and as you will want to take lots of photos, wear touchscreen gloves under your gloves provided so you can still access the camera. Wear lots and lots of layers, as you can take these off, but you can’t add to them once you’re out and about!
As guests ate their breakfast and got their final activities in before returning their snowsuits and boarding the return coaches, we took a wander around the resort to get a feel for all it had to offer. Guests on a 3-night package could add further optional excursions or simply enjoy the day in the snow. We picked up some gifts and returned to the airport at about midday for our return flight to Bristol. The children were all talking about what they had done the day before and holding onto their husky and reindeer cuddly toys! Our flight home was slightly quieter after all the fun of the previous 2 days and upon arrival we set off back home to tell our families about all our adventures we had. It was truly an amazing experience!!
Top Tip 3:
If you have ski goggles or similar for the children, pack these for the trip as if it is snowing, they are a good way to protect your face whilst you’re a passenger on the sled or driving the husky sled as they are quite fast!