23 December, 2016

“Christmas is not a season” beamed my Finnish guide with a twinkle in her eye, “it is everyday in Rovaniemi.”

I’m in Santa Claus’ Main Post Office. In Lapland. And it’s Christmas time. *excuse me whilst my inner child jumps up and down*

I’ve been sent here for my first ‘fam trip’ where I basically have to familiarise myself with all this winter wonderland has to offer. It’s a tough job.

So cue Wizzard’s ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’, grab some mulled wine and prepare to hear the 7 things I learnt visiting Lapland at Christmas:

Letters sent to Santa actually end up in Lapland 

As we bundled into the Post Office in a scrum of bobble hats we were greeted by the smiling head post mistress. Dressed in her elf clothing, she informed us that this charming post office receives a whopping 32000 letters a day. Now I’m not sure about you, but I didn’t realise that letters to the merry man of the moment actually got to Lapland. Sure it’s a nice gesture to post your letter, but it was news to me that they actually end up here. Any letters addressed to Father Christmas, Lapland, or anything like that are lovingly forwarded on to here. So spare a thought this Christmas for the friendly full time elves that individually open and respond to every single letter.

Read more: The beginner’s guide to travelling alone

It’s not as cold as you think

First up I should point out that it is cold, there’s no denying that. But given the snowdraped horizons and minus temperatures, it didn’t feel as cold as you might think. This is because, as we were told by numerous Finnish people, it’s a dry cold so the limited humidity makes it feel much more pleasant than the biting wet cold of the UK. That said, as I husky sled through the forest of Beana Laponia, my hands turned numb and my iphone turned off altogether. There was also a minor A&E outing when one of my fellow fam trippers decided to do snow angels in her swimming costume (some cloudberry vodka may have clouded her judgment…)

Lapland has really cool hotels

When I was told one of the main purposes of my trip was to do ‘hotel inspections’ it didn’t sound too thrilling. But how wrong I was. From transparent igloos (with ‘aurora alarms’ that wake you up for the Northern Lights) to amazing arctic treehouses, the hotels we saw were nothing short of amazing. We stayed 2 nights at the Arctic Treehouse where I genuinely felt like I’d stepped into a James Bond movie. After being given the key to my suite, a guy with a shaved head, piercing eyes and a furry puffer coat drove me through the dark forest to my luxury ‘nest’ in the trees. These elevated cabins are entirely transparent along the far wall, so you can gaze out at the snowy trees and the Northern Lights (if the skies are on your side…)

Saunas are a big deal

Saunas are for Lapland what swimming pools are for L.A. They’re an integral part of their culture and a huge part of everyday life. All hotels had one, if not one for each room. For a truly authentic Finnish experience, you call it a sau-o-na, whack yourself with birch leaves and um, wear nothing. Us Brits were having none of the latter, but we happily hit each other with birch branches.

Read more: Our favourite spas from across the globe

They eat reindeer here

Fresh from meeting Santa, it was time for lunch. And served up before me on a posh oatcake was some reindeer mousse. I’m no vegetarian, but having just walked past a pen of cute reindeer this was somewhat confronting. It was the first of many meals involving reindeer, yet as our eyes widened in slight horror, our amused guide informed us this is normal in Lapland and is in fact the only meat she eats. Apparently it’s more sustainable than other meat due to the large numbers of reindeer…but maybe not one for Christmas day, Rudolph’s been very helpful after all.

The people are incredibly friendly

Just as you’d expect visiting Lapland at Christmas, the festive cheer here was apparent in every one you met. Yet not in a cheesy here-to-please-the-tourists kind of way, but in a genuinely welcoming way. From my guides (and Santa) in this photo to the hotel owners, elves and husky sledding instructors, each person was remarkably self assured with a playful sense of fun. Their stunning Christmas card surroundings just added to the charm.

Read more: Is a group tour right for me?

Lapland sounds awesome in the summer

In contrary to the idea that Christmas is everyday here, the summer actually sounds pretty blissful in Lapland. Unlike the handful of daylight hours that we saw visiting Lapland at Christmas, the sun burns bright throughout day and night. People come from far and wide to see the ‘midnight sun’, as well as berry picking, swimming in sparkling lakes and beautiful wilderness walks. That’s my next fam trip sorted, Lapland: the summer sequel.

Ready for your own Lapland adventure?

Check out our Flash Pack group tour to Finland!

Read more

Why your 30s and 40s are the best time to travel with your parents

Read more
Ed Stafford: adventure will help you grow

Ed Stafford: Being positively selfish is the key to personal growth

Read more
Street food healthy eating

8 of the world's tastiest street foods that are actually healthy

Read more