I’ve always really wanted to go to Lapland for Christmas time, even more so once I had kids. So last year, when we hit the perfect age for magic, wonder, awe and amazement aged 9,5 and turning 4 we planned an adventure.
Not being one for package holidays, I of course explored the DIY options. As regular travellers, I wasn’t too worried about any possible challenges, and when I compared the costs I was definitely sold. Price details below, but basically we got 8 nights in Lapland including the full length excursions we wanted for the same price as it would have been to do a day trip from Belfast. Utter madness. Book DIY I tell you, it’s so easy.
A total surprise for the kids, we prepared in stealth many months prior, buying ski suits in the summer sales. Since we met studying a Geography degree, no-one questioned when with authority we declared that it was predicted to be a very cold winter this year. Our kids know that they get the geographical answer to all weather related questions. Suitcases packed, we picked the kids up from school went on an adventure. After check in in Dublin, they worked out the surprise, we were off to visit Santa. Excitement levels through the roof.
The flight with Finnair was very straightforward to Helsinki. It was a little delayed and we had a very short gap between our next flight up to Kittila near Levi. Before the flight ended, the gates for short connecting flights were announced and we were given priority to get off the plane. Cue a quick run across the airport, they waited for us, all aboard to Lapland. Our luggage even made it too! Christmas magic at work!
We arrived very late at night into Kittila and got a taxi to our cabin in Levi, and straight to sleep before up to explore in the morning. Little eyes woke up, peered out the window at the winter wonderland and they couldn’t believe their eyes. So much snow! It was pure white, incredible, really deep snow.
Up quickly, suited and booted up ready to explore. We quickly found the kids land near the Levi Ski resort. A free snowy play ground, perfect for little explorers. We bought a few sledges from the local supermarket, and spend the day up and down the toboggan run, breaking for cups of steaming hot free berry juice in the little cabins. The snow, was soft and fluffy and quite dry – quite different from our snow, and didn’t make snowman in the same way at all! More geography lessons complete! We explored around Levi resort, checking out the Tourist Information, the ski school, cafes, restaurants and shops.
Temperatures were very cold, at the lowest we saw -28 degrees Celsisus. Well wrapped up the children rarely complained. It could be a bit harsh on little faces, we’ve more top tips coming soon in a blog post about how to help with those issues.
Levi Ski Resort
Levi as a resort is perfect for all needs. It’s a ski resort, so cafes, restaurants , ski equipment are all easily available. We enjoyed exploring the resort, the free Sledging at Kidsland, warming up with free hot berry juice afterwards, taking the ski lift up the mountain, and a day in Levi Spa swimming pool. The outdoor warm hot tub in the freezing temperatures was a hit. Plenty to keep us busy and active. The girls enjoyed trying out skiing and took to the slopes well, although it was our coldest day at -28 degrees C! There was more than enough to keep us busy.
We stayed in a cabin that had a drying cupboard and sauna in it. Perfect for warming up after the cold days. We were a 5-10 minute walk from the ski slope, and bought sledges to pull around the kids when legs got tired. We had access to laundry facilities, and the supermarket was across the road. We had a few meals out, but found that with the lack of light, the children thought it was much later than it was, and with the active nature of the holiday they were in bed early. Great for some mulled wine, a sauna and relax with nice food picked up in the supermarket.
Winter wilderness with huskies
Our middle little adventurer is obsessed with husky dogs. Her dream is to be a musher. So going to visit the huskies and experience a sledge ride with them was top of her bucket list. We went with Tundra Huskies for a 5km ride. Initially we were given a safety and information briefing all about the dogs, and sledging with them. Then off we went into the darkness across a frozen lake. The kids went with the owner in his sledge and led the way. We took turns in driving our one. It was harder than it looked. They are powerful, focused animals. Gazing up at the pitch black sky on alight with the stars is something I will never forget. We then got to meet the dogs, and Miss 5 dreams came true. Following this we warmed up in a little hut with sausages cooked over the fires (well that was everyone bar Miss 5 who spent all her time with the dogs!) We also learnt why you don’t play with yellow snow!!
Winter sleigh ride
Little man turned 4 during the trip, and enjoyed a sleigh ride with the black beauty horse on the frozen lake on his birthday. It was fast paced through the frozen tundra forest, no sign of lights nor any sounds over than us cutting through the snow. Cold but magical! Heated up afterwards in a warm hut learning all about the Lappish culture.
Northern Lights Hunting
We saw glimpses of the Northern Lights from around Levi, but Miss 9 and I decided to head away from the light pollution to see if we could get a better look. We booked transport with a local tour company in Levi, and headed about 20 minutes outside the town to a frozen lake. We were appreciative of the igloo with a heater that meant you could wait in it at times to warm up. The lights came out to play! The photos don’t really capture the magic of it, and I think you really need more than a smartphone to truly capture them. Nonetheless wondrous, magic for both me and Miss 9. She’s now an expert on the aureolas borealis.
Santa Claus himself
The day we had all been waiting for a visit to the big man. We visited him at Santa Claus Levi and it was the magic we had been hoping for. We got picked up at Levi Tourist information, and dropped off at the end of the snowy forest lane met by an elf.
Our elf guided our way, past some reindeers and horses until we found a little opening with some houses. They divided us into two groups to go around the activities separately. We enjoyed just our family with our own personal elf. We didn’t even see the other family until the journey back to Levi. First, we attended elf spy school to find out all about how they learn to be secretive and spy, then we crept across to try and spy on Mrs Claus. She spied us, and invited us in for warm berry juice and ginger cookies. We learnt all about how they have lived there for 700 years, and that Santa works hard with the elves to prepare the gifts to deliver across the world. We saw Santa’s writing desk where he reads all the letters, and we learnt all about Mrs Claus looks after him. Santa was resting.
Then we met the main man himself, the one and only Father Christmas. The children could barely speak they were so taken with it all, he knew their names, chatted to them about life and school, told them all about Lapland and told them stories of the antics of the elves. Everyone got a hug with him, as many photos as we wanted. Then a small gift of a Lapland elf was given to each of the children and has been greatly cherished for the past year. It was magic!
After our special meeting, we attended elf school, learnt some Finnish, saw the elves at work in their toy factory, and learnt how baby elves come from wishes into pine cones – we even wished a few ourselves and put them in elf nursery for next Christmas. We then got to meet the reindeers, and experience a sleigh ride with them. We learnt all about what they like to eat, how they survive in the harsh winters and warmer summers, and what they like to eat on Christmas Eve.
We ended the visit with playtime in the snow sledging with the elves, and a snowball fight back to our pick up point. It was authentic and magical. We never felt rushed nor part of a commercial experience. All elves, Mrs Claus and Santa took all the time in the world with the children, and we came away awe that we had met the real one!
Lapland is much more than Father Christmas. It is a winter wonderland of scenery, adventure, culture and relaxation. We enjoyed the Finnish experience, and for our first Winter holiday has given us a flavour of skiing and snow that we will undoubtably do more of in the future. For us, it was a once in a lifetime experience for the Santa aspects, but I would consider a Winter or even Summer return to see what else Finland has to offer. Thanks for all the magical memories Lapland.
The kids thoughts:
Miss 5 – ‘The huskies were really cute. Riding on the sleigh with the huskies was the best thing ever. It was very cold.’
Mr 4 – ‘I liked seeing Santa Claus in his house. I loved turning 4 in Lapland. I liked the cutie pie huskies. I was so cold I wanted to jump into a house sometimes.’
Miss 9 – ‘It was great fun because of the snow. I loved seeing that much snow. Seeing Santa and skiing were my highlights. It was one of the best holidays ever!’
The booking details
- Dates were 15th December to 24th December 2017
- Dublin to Levi via Helsinki with Finn Air – these flights cost £700 for all 5 of us.
- Cabin in Levi – booked through booking.com £700 for 8 nights included a sauna and wonderful fire.
- One nights accommodation in airport hotel – we had a late arrival into Helsinki and early flight to Dublin on way home. We could have sat in airport, but thought with 3 little people and arriving home on Christmas Eve it was £150 well spent.
- We booked 3 excursions through Levi Tourist Office – Santa Visit, Husky trip and Horse Sleigh – it cost £800 for them all for the 5 of us
- Private ski lesson and day ski hire for the girls £120
- Northern Light Hunting tour – 2 of us did this as late and cold- £50 in total through local company in Levi
Total: £2520 for 8 nights arriving home on Christmas Eve compared to £500 per person for the day trip! Easy win for the DIY. Message me if you have any questions. Go, you won’t regret it! Pure magic.