Lapland is one of the most breathtaking, remote and beautiful destinations in the world. Having the opportunity to visit Santa Claus in his North Pole home with our children (Holly 6 and Chloe 9) was a once in a lifetime experience.
Before booking our holiday with Inghams I didn’t realise that Lapland was a region that spans northern Sweden and Finland, I assumed it was a destination somewhere in the North Pole. We chose Levi, a beautiful ski resort in Finnish Lapland deep inside the Arctic Circle as a base for our journey to find Santa Claus.
It was such a memorable moment when we gave the girls their letters from Santa the day before we travelled inviting them to visit him in Lapland. It will be a special memory from their childhood that hopefully they will never forget.
As our plane the ‘Santa Express’ was departing at 6.00 am we made the start of our trip as stress free as possible by staying overnight at the brand new Hampton by Hilton Bristol Airport, which was excellent.
Our flight from Bristol to Lapland was not your typical Easyjet flight, the Christmas themed started as soon as we stepped onboard. Tinsel was draped throughout the plane and the crew were all dressed in Christmas outfits which added even more excitement on our trip.
Our 3 hr 30 min flight to Kittila, Finland was so much fun with on-board games including bingo, singing competitions, drawing competitions and even a race involving each aisle attempting to pass a balloon from the front of the plane to the back. Even the pilots were in on the act informing passengers when the reindeer were helping pull the plane even quicker as we approached Lapland.
When we arrived at a snow covered Kittila airport our magical adventure had begun. We were met by Inghams Christmas themed reps and shortly after collecting our luggage we embarked on our 10 minute coach transfer past white forests and frozen lakes where we arrived at our home for the next few days, the Levi Spa Hotel (you can read our review here).
We were impressed with our junior suite which was perfect for families complete with separate bedrooms, free wifi, private sauna and stunning views from our balcony of the ski slopes. The Levi Spa Hotel is a popular choice with visitors to Levi because of its impressive facilities and location just 300 metres from the beautiful town of Levi and its ski slopes.
The 17 swimming pools were a big hit with the girls and we even braved 3 of the pools which were outdoor. Swimming in a warm pool where we were surrounded by snow was definitely a unique and memorable experience. Other facilities included a 10 lane bowling alley, PlayStation 4 igloos, fun indoor play areas and the most northern Burger King in the world.
After getting kitted out with our thermal all-in-one snowsuits and snow boots which were all included in our Inghams Santa Breaks package, combined with our Berghaus mid-layers, hats and coats we were ready to brave the -19 temperature! It was as cold as it looks in some of our photos and we spent the afternoon exploring the beautiful town of Levi, located 170km north of the Arctic Circle.
The girls loved the fact that they could explore the town on the little sledges that were freely available outside of our hotel and quickly became their favourite mode of transport to get around Levi.
The following day, refreshed from a great night’s sleep we excitedly headed off to the Elves Hideaway located in Kongas, 8km away from Levi. This was the first of our pre planned excursions of our busy itinerary with Inghams.
What made this so special was that this was the home of Santa Claus. With roughly only 4 hours of daylight in Lapland in December, when we arrived it was still getting light yet this set the scene perfectly with candlelit pathways and elves houses dotted across this magical winter wonderland.
The lure of snow activities including sledging was too tempting for the girls to ignore as we arrived and they hurriedly ran up the hill and zoomed back down on their sledges.
We spotted a snowmobile and took a ride through the woods until we arrived at a traditional Finnish Kota. It was great to take a break from the cold weather in the Kota, and had great fun sizzling sausages over the fire.
The highlight of our day was why we travelled to the North Pole and that was for our meeting with Santa Claus. Seeing the look of astonishment when they saw Santa Claus as we entered his cabin was priceless – Santa was everything we could have imagined and more.
The girls were both in awe of meeting Santa, especially Holly who was speechless for the first few minutes. What was great about this private experience was that we could spend as long as we needed. The girls gave Santa their Christmas lists which they read together and had lots of questions to ask Santa Claus, which he answered so convincingly. As we left his cabin, our awestruck children told us that he was definitely the real Santa Claus.
After meeting Santa Claus, one of the elves told us about a secret tunnel that led to the main elf village, and after our snowmobile ride we came across a beautiful ice tunnel with lots of ornate carvings.
After a short walk through a snow covered forest, stopping off for some snow fun we arrived at the village. More excitement was in store as we met some more of Santa’s elves.
In the snow covered elf village we found the gingerbread house where we baked delicious gingerbread cookies with Mrs Claus and made Christmas crafts with the elves at their workshop.
Before the end of our visit there was more sledging on the hill close to Santa’s house and lots of warm berry juice, a Finnish tradition which is now Holly’s favourite drink. When we get home we have to go to Ikea to get more we were told by the children on our coach back to our hotel.
With a total of 43 ski slopes, Levi is the largest ski resort in Finland and is a winter sports paradise. We have never been on a family ski holiday but with the lure of powdery snow and great beginner slopes we took this opportunity to have a private family ski lesson with Levi Ski School organised through Inghams (priced from £69 Adult or Child). (you can read about our learning to ski day here)
My husband and the girls have never skied before and its been over 20 years since I was last on a ski slope but with the expert tuition from Heidi and Max our instructors we quickly gained confidence. We progressed from the very basics of how to walk on our skis and how to snowplough to skiing down the hill by the time we had finished.
We enjoyed this ski taster experience so much we are planning a ski holiday for our next trip away.
After working up an appetite skiing we took the gondola to the top of Levi fell which was a great experience. Lunch at the Levi Panorama Hotel was delicious and offered great views of the ski slopes and the town below.
We had been told that there was a little café (or laavu in Finnish) in the woods in the mountains where we could get some great views of the town below. As we walked through the scenic path crunching across the blanket of untouched snow in a Narnia style forest it felt like we had been dropped into the best Christmas movie.
When we arrived at the traditional log cabin (called a Laavu in Finnish) we were rewarded with some of the best views of Levi below. We listened to stories from Hamish (our Australian waiter with a strong Finnish accent) as we roasted marshmallows on the open fire and warmed up with hot berry juice and tea.
Next to the Laavu was a scenic tower which offered views of the town and the fells that you would likely find on a postcard.
The depths of the snow on top of the mountain were incredible. I had forgotten how much fun proper snow can be as we made snow angels, shook trees and threw snowballs. It was the first time in over 6 years that the girls had experienced proper snow and loved it.
There are more Reindeer in Lapland than people, and we spent the morning of our fourth day at a Lappish Reindeer farm followed by a Husky safari on an organised trip from Levi with Inghams (prices from: £59 Adult / £29 Child) . Waking up in the morning and telling the girls that we are going to meet Santa’s reindeer and ride with Husky dogs was such a memorable moment.
At the farm we met local Sami reindeer herders and were introduced to some of Santa Claus reindeer who were waiting for us. The children excitedly named their reindeer Dancer and Comet and we got settled into our traditional wooden sleigh with warm blankets.
After a quick demonstration by our Sami reindeer herders we set off with our reindeers across and around a giant frozen lake, at various speeds – mummy’s and Chloe’s reindeer in particular raced off at some serious speed.
Afterwards we warmed up with hot berry juice and gingerbread cookies and a warming fire, before visiting the husky safari.
We have always dreamed of a ride on a dog sled in the snow, and this came true when we visited the Husky Dog farm, where we were met with the sound of howling husky dogs eager to start their run.
The speed of eight Siberian huskies as we headed off into the dramatic Finnish landscape was amazing and delivers a totally unique experience. This was the highlight of our trip.
After this experience we were able to meet some of the husky dogs which for Holly in particular was another memorable moment, and she has not stopped talking about this encounter since.
The planning and organisation of our activities from Inghams was excellent and their reps offered a fantastic service throughout our holiday.
That afternoon, we took a ride on a gondola 300 metres to the top of the fell’s western side. Despite freezing temperatures we were rewarded with a dramatic sunset and 360 degree views of Western Lapland toward the fells of Pallas, Aakenus, Olos and Yllas.
Alongside our arranged activities the toboggan runs in Levi were a big hit with the girls and their daddy as they whizzed down the fresh snowy slopes. Afterwards we would warm up with drinks and delicious homemade cakes at our favourite café, the Coffee House in the centre of Levi.
We loved Levi, it was such a safe and friendly town with festively lit streets and great little shops where we picked up some unique Lappish gifts to remember our holiday.
The only thing that could have made our trip even more perfect was if we were able to see the Northern Lights. There was a frozen lake nearby our hotel which offered the best vantage points but unfortunately the weather conditions were not favourable during our visit, which gives us an excuse to return to Northern Europe in the future! However we did get to see a ‘Kaamos’ in Finland which is as the sun sets the sky reveals a beautiful blue haze.
A festive gala dinner on our last evening rounded off a magical and memorable 4 nights in Lapland.
If you have been thinking about visiting Lapland don’t hesitate any longer, it’s a unique location that certainly lives up to the hype. It will be the best holiday your family will ever have, with memories that will last a lifetime.
Video – Visiting Santa in Lapland
We booked our 4 night Santa Break with Inghams who fly to Lapland from Bristol, Gatwick or Manchester. For more information on planning and booking your Lapland holiday, read our Lapland planning guide.