This time last year I was getting ready to embark on a trip to Lapland to see the big fella himself!
My son and I were looking forward to the 3 night break but a little bit nervous and disappointed too as daddy would not be able to make the trip to Finland with us. However, I need not of worried about doing the trip solo as the company whom I work with were and are utterly fantastic. They know the local area exceptionally well and are true destination specialists. All I had to do was cough up, show up and wrap up. They did everything else perfectly, which left me free to relax and indulge my inner child.
There are numerous companies who operate Santa Breaks and each have their own niche/way of operating. There are the search for Santa ones, the day trip ones, the in your face Santa village ones and everything in between but the way this company operate is very natural and authentic. The whole trip from beginning to end was executed to perfection. The accommodations are all of a really high standard, the food hearty, wholesome and moreish and there is plenty of opportunities for mummy and daddy time in the bar or by the fire in your cabin whilst the children play outside in their downtime.
I've booked many trips to Lapland but not having a child myself it wasn't a destination that was actually on my bucket list. Then along came Seth and everything changed. I have travelled a lot and experienced some pretty amazing destinations but I can honestly say that this adventure will stay with me forever.
Let me try to explain why.
I felt that this trip would be for Seth, you know that once in a life time trip that's practically plucked straight out of a fairy tale adventure, the trip that millions of kids Worldwide dream of doing. And, that's what it was. Except, I didn't anticipate that I would love it just as much as he would, me being a sun worshipper and all that. But I did love it, I found the whole experience deeply moving.
Initially, before we arrived in Lapland we were both slightly blaze about this trip and it was only now as we wizzed through the picturesque forests en-route to our hotel that we both decided that this trip was going to be awesome, one for the memory bank.
The landscapes in Lapland are dreamlike, almost like a painting, with candle shaped spruce trees heavily laden with snow and jewel shaped flakes that shimmers like diamonds in the half light of day. From the moment we arrived I felt as though we had stepped through the magic wardrobe and tumbled straight into Narnia, I almost half expected Mr Tumnus to pop out from behind every tree!
My son was equally as mesmerised with the scenery, stating that he had never experienced anything so pretty. Sitting beside him in the coach I could feel the excitement growing inside him minute by minute finally reaching a crescendo when he sunk his feet into the deep, crisp snow. He was like a young buck, galloping, slipping, snorting and skidding around until he was beetroot red.
Not wanting to do things by halves we signed up for all of the optional activities that we could squeeze in, and, the best one by far was the additional husky safari of 9km through the forest at night. Picture the scene-you arrive at the husky kennels to 100 baying dogs, your nostrils and lashes slightly frozen from the snow. Everyone is given head torches so they can guide their team through the pitch black forest. Children sit in the sleigh behind the dogs, they are snuggled up in super warm reindeer skins, the only instructions they receive are to keep their arms inside the sleigh. The only instruction the drivers are given is foot on to stop, foot off to go! And boy, when you take your foot off that break do they damn well go! This activity and the way it was organised was amazing. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
On Santa day we had a ball. We played in the forest racing our sledges side by side and when we were worn out we sat by the fire talking with a Lappish Shaman who blessed us with the burnt offerings from the fire. We made gingerbread men decorations and ate marshmallow off sticks. It was everything a mummy dreams of doing with her child at Christmas but magnified by 1000%
When our time came to see Santa we were gathered from in front of the fire and taken by a sleigh pulled by reindeer to Santa's Cabin which was perched by the side of a frozen lake and set in front of a backdrop of sky high evergreens. As we approached the lodge we could see an elf patiently waiting to greet us. It felt surreal, as though I was re-living a scene from an old black and white Christmas movie.
Now, if anyone has spent five minutes in the company of my son they will know he talks, a lot. Yet when the door opened into that little fishing lodge, my son fell silent. In fact, so did I. I initially felt overwhelmed to "make it count". But I need not have worried because "our" Santa was the real Santa. He was so warm and kind with a twinkle in his eye and big hug for Seth. Whilst we were in the lodge it felt as though time had stood still, we blocked out everything around us and all we focused on was the fire blazing up the back of the crumbling brick fireplace and the lovely tone of Santa's voice which lulled us into a (sort of) semi trance as he regaled us with tales of Lynx and black bear and how he was busying himself for Christmas Eve.
On the way back to the activity hut Seth was silent, all the while looking at his gift from Santa. I, on the other hand, eagerly scanned the scenery and tried to etch it into my memory to recall at my will, maybe in my old age or when I feel that my child's youth is flying by, way too quickly.
Sample 3 night/4 Day Itinerary
Upon arrival at our destination airport we were greeted by the cutest Elves each kitted out in believable, traditional felt and wool clothing. Our elf guides were very pretty and funny with rosy red cheeks and plaited blond hair. In the coach on the way to our hotel the head elf told the children tales of mystical creatures and magical places mostly relating to the local area, Seth sat there listening quietly, eyes wide open.
We were located in a little village close to a frozen lake and after a lovely welcome and a warming drink of berry juice we were each measured up for our snow suits before being shown to our guest accommodation. The hotel was super cute, kind of Little House On The Prairie Meets Ikea, it was toasty warm and very cosy.
Seth quickly found a new playmate and tore off to sledge down a mound of snow that had been shifted from the path. The children squealed with delight at being able to play unsupervised in the thigh high snow. I actually watched him from a distance as I enjoyed a cheeky brandy on the veranda!
Following lunch we had free time to either relax or play in the snow with the children. To be honest I don't think that us parents had much of a say in the matter, no sooner had I put down my fork than I had the sledge rope thrust into my hand. Once everyone was out of breath and hot and sweaty (yes even at minus 25 degrees) we decided to retire to the bar for a relaxing drink before heading out for the husky safari adventure. As the adults chatted away the children played board games in front of the fire, each eager to find out what the others had on their Christmas list to Santa.
The husky safari was amazing. My son is a dog fanatic so was totally in his element. After racing through the forest at a fast and furious pace we all sat down in front of an open wood fire and warmed ourselves with warm berry juice and cookies. I knew that Seth was tired because we had been up since 4.00 am and as he sat cuddling a husky puppy in front of the fire both of them proceeded to nod off. Too cute!
A buffet dinner was taken as a group at our hotel however those who are staying in luxury catered cabins will have their food delivered to them. The food was great, the company better but armed with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate we slipped away and off to bed sooner than most. And, when I say slipped that's exactly what I mean. Ice 1 - Me 0
A fabulous spread was laid on for us at breakfast, there was everything I could wish for including smoked salmon, home made granola, eggs and bacon and much more besides. For those in luxury catered cabins breakfast is taken within your cabin.
It doesn't start to get light until 10.00 hrs so Seth and his pal played close to our cabin until it was time to leave for a full day of fun in the forest. We were transferred to a stunning wilderness location (approximately 20 minutes by coach) for an Arctic Circle ceremony and snow fun activities which included tandem skiing, snowshoe walking, kick sledging, tobogganing and children's snowmobiling. We made gingerbread cookies and Christmas decorations in a pretty log cabin and were served sandwiches, soup and home made rolls for lunch.
Each family received a personal invite for a private audience with Santa. Our scheduled time was 14.00 hrs so it was beginning to get dark which made the snowmobile and reindeer journey to meet Santa even more enchanting. The route to his cabin was lit by candles and as we sped through the forest paths the wind blasted our faces, this didn't bother us though as we were toasty warm inside our reindeer hide cocoon. Seth didn't send his list to Santa in advance of his arrival but many children did. Seth decided that he wanted to hand his list to him in person, just to make sure Santa understood exactly what was what!
We both fell asleep on the coach back to our hotel and woke up just as the coach pulled into the car park. I wanted to go back to the cabin for a quick nap but Seth had other ideas, namely to go for a swift dip in the outdoor hot tub (it was only 5 mins, so he wouldn't over heat ) I love hot tubs anyway but they are even better when its minus 25 outside and you get to enjoy them whilst sipping extra cold champagne.
Buoyed up by the fizz (for the record Seth had berry juice) we sauntered back to our cabin, Seth nudged me and said "hey mum look over there" and as I looked up, across to the street lamp I saw two reindeer walking down the middle of the road, just mooching along taking no notice of us.
We enjoyed a delightful buffet dinner with our new found friends followed by a few beers for the parents in the bar. And, even after a full day in the snow the children couldn't resist snowballing by moonlight.
We enjoyed another hearty breakfast to set us up for the day ahead.
This day is at leisure and we were given the opportunity of participating in additional organised activities which included the following;
A visit to the ice hotel
Cross country skiing
Perch fishing on a frozen lake
A visit to a reindeer herders farm for a reindeer ride through the forest followed by a Lappish tea ceremony with the herder.
In the morning Seth and I opted to visit the Ice Hotel and although it was not yet fully open many of the rooms were completed. After watching a documentary on how it is made I've always wanted to visit it. Each year it's built to a different theme, 2017 being Game Of Thrones. After a tour of the structure I did the obligatory drink at the ice bar whilst Seth spent the next 20 minutes sliding head first down the ice slide. Ice Hotel, Done!
Lunch is served at your accommodation but you can take it at leisure if you decide to arrange your own activity such as downhill skiing.
In the afternoon we opted to do the reindeer safari and thought it was wonderful. We both huddled together in the sleigh swamped in a pile of reindeer hides to keep us warm. The forest was so quiet and still and so were we, we never uttered a word to each other all throughout the ride, we simply clung together, holding hands and smiling. It was a bit parky when we got out of the sleigh so I was looking forward to a good hot brew and a natter in front of the fire with the herder. The tea was spot on, just what was needed but it turns out that the herder spoke no English. He had a lot to say to me though so I just nodded politely and tried to stifle my giggles at Seth who kept asking the herder questions in English but with a Finnish accent, which was hilarious. The tepee was warm and snug and the herder was so kind but we needed to get back as night was drawing in, so, we said our good byes and exited the tepee accompanied by a strong puff of smoke from the fire and, as if by magic we looked up into the sky to see the Aurora Borealis make its appearance.
This was just the icing on the cake, if I had had to leave Iceland there and then I would have still been a very happy lady.
After dinner our group debated visiting the frozen lake to try and catch another glimpse of the northern lights but as it turned out there was no need for us to schlep any further than the entrance to the hotel. Because there it was high in the night sky in all its brilliant glory, the Aurora Borealis. And...Seth was the first person to spot it!
After breakfast the remainder of the morning was at leisure to undertake any optional extra activities that we chose.
Lunch was taken at a traditional local restaurant.
The group gathered together and after being kitted out and fully prepped we headed off on a snowmobile safari through the unspoilt, Lappish wilderness. Two adults shared a snowmobile and children (and those who do not wish to drive) are pulled in a sleigh behind the guides’ snowmobiles. The safari is 25km with a stop halfway in the forest for warm drinks and a snack. As there are two adults per snowmobile, drivers can swap after the stop. This activity is a blast, its fast, fun and exhilarating. But a word of warning try not to prang the snow mobile, as I did!
Depart for airport (short stop en-route for souvenir shopping)
Transfer to the airport
Return flight to UK