Finnish Lapland: discover two of the best ski resorts for families this Christmas
With Christmas around the corner, you'll want to book in some time to visit Santa Claus himself. And for the ultimate festive trip, little comes close to Levi and Ylläs in Finnish Lapland.
A trip to Lapland is the ultimate winter wonderland experience. Here, snow-shrouded river valleys and lakes lie below spruce-carpeted fells, whose peaks reveal sweeping views over the Arctic landscape. Sprinkle some Santa stardust over this scene, and it becomes even more magical.
Along with all the Father Christmas trimmings, trips to the two ski resorts of Levi and Ylläs come with the chance to encounter Sámi reindeer herders, go husky sledding and snowshoeing through frozen forests, take snowmobile safaris and, if you're lucky, see the Northern Lights paint their otherworldly spectacle across the night sky.
Three ways to enjoy Levi, the festive heart of Finnish Lapland
Surrounded by wilderness, Levi is Lapland’s unofficial Christmas hub. The bustling ski resort’s festively lit streets are lined with pretty souvenir shops and cosy cafes, bars and restaurants — all within easy walking distance of each other. Located around 112 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in western Finland — but just a 30-minute transfer from Kittilä Airport — this is an authentic yet accessible Lapland destination. Below, we recommend three of the best ways to explore Levi.
1. Hit the Hideaway
Collect your complimentary thermal suits and boots, and you’re off to meet the man himself. Take a jaunt through the snow to find the Elves Hideaway, where each family gets a private meeting with Father Christmas, so make sure you have your wish list ready. And save some space in your backpack for a special souvenir gift — one for all young visitors, be they naughty or nice. Along with the Santa encounter, there’s a chance to attend Elf School, where kids can make Christmas decorations, play traditional games and help the elves bake gingerbread biscuits. And once school’s out, there’s yet more festive fun to be had tobogganing through the snow to meet Comet the reindeer.
2. Meet the huskies
Transporting supplies, local passengers and international visitors, husky sled teams are an integral part of life in Lapland. And a special excursion to a cosy home in the wilderness beyond Levi offers the opportunity to learn about the local, time-honoured way of life, gathered around a campfire inside a traditional Lappish-style kota hut, where reindeer hides are draped over furnishings and the smell of spruce and pine fill the air. A highlight of any visit is the chance to meet the husky puppies — all fur and excitable energy. Then it’s time to meet the working husky team — you’ll hear them before you see them, howling and barking in gleeful anticipation of their run — and enjoy a 1.3-mile sled ride through the sparkling, winter landscape.
3. Ride with reindeer
A trip to Lapland is a treat for animal lovers. Along with the chance to whizz through the wilderness on a husky-led sled, part of a great-value day excursion involves taking families out to meet some of Santa's reindeer deep in their secret, forest hideaway. Here, local Sámi herders, whose culture and traditions have been preserved for centuries, will teach you about their communal, reindeer-focused way of life. From lasso-throwing and herding to understanding the mysteries behind these beautiful creatures’ ability to thrive in such a harsh climate, there’s much to marvel at. Top it all off with a fairytale reindeer ride across the snowy landscape, cuddled up inside a blanket-laden sleigh with hot fruit juice and biscuits to keep you going.
Three ways to enjoy Ylläs, Lapland's picture-perfect region
Home to seven fells and two villages, Ylläsjärvi and Äkäslompolo, the traditional Lappish region of Ylläs has log cabins dotted throughout the forest where chimneys puff woodsmoke from pine-fragrant fires. And with such unspoiled natural scenery, the skies here are minimally affected by light pollution making it the ideal location for aurora viewing. Situated 40-minutes south of Kittilä Airport, Ylläs is also home to a handful of low-key bars and restaurants. Here are three reasons to spend time in this picturesque resort.
1. Light up your Christmas spirit
Over the festive season, candles light up Ylläs’ streets, casting a magical glow on village houses. From here, it’s just a short ride out to Santa's Elves Hideaway to enjoy supervised festive games, cook on an open fire and join the elves as they show you how to bake traditional Finnish gingerbread biscuits and craft Christmas decorations for your tree back at home. Once Elf School is over, head outdoors to catch the snowmobile train (on the hunt to find Santa), meet Comet the reindeer and go tobogganing in the snow. Once you’ve found his secret location, families have a private appointment to meet Santa himself, who’ll have a special souvenir gift waiting for all his young visitors. If that's not enough, families can also look forward to a Festive Feast on the final night, which includes a Christmas dinner and a children’s disco.
2. Wonder at the wilderness
Levi might be Finland’s best-known ski resort, but Ylläs also offers great ways to enjoy the snow. Combined excursions to go husky sledding and enjoy a reindeer safari provide the perfect opportunity to explore this pristine part of Lapland, while learning about traditional Sámi culture with the herdsmen who’ve long lived in this part of the world, farming reindeer and driving dog-sled teams. Cosy up in a kota hut around the open fire and drink spruce-needle tea while hearing tales of Lappish life. Then it’s off into the snow to meet the dogs, their puppies and the sled drivers, to race through the wilderness, perhaps spotting a moose as you go.
3. Get your heart pumping
Set on the edge of the Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, at 7,730ft above sea level, Ylläs is one of the highest fells in Lapland, offering spectacular views across Finland and, unsurprisingly, superb skiing conditions. Enjoy downhill skiing on quiet pistes and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing through the woods, both of which can usually be managed after basic instruction on a ‘ski-taster’ package. And if you don’t want to travel under your own steam, motor out into the wilderness on an exhilarating, 16-mile snowmobile ride across frozen lakes and forests. Snowmobiles are easy to pilot and children (ages eight and over) either ride pillion with an adult or are towed in a sled behind a guide. And, of course, there’s the simple pleasure of tobogganing and snowball fights to be had in the snowy surrounds of your log cabin, warming up with a traditional Finnish sauna afterwards.
How to do it
Inghams offers three- and four-night Santa Breaks in both Levi and Ylläs — prices start from £959 per person for three nights in Ylläs, and from £1,059 for three nights in Levi.
For those who want to discover the more experiential side of Lapland, Ingham's seven-night Lapland holidays offer the opportunity to extend your stay; guests can book a wealth of other excursions such as ice-karting, horse-riding safaris and visiting the Sámi Museum at the Inari Village.
All programmes include a welcome pack prior to arriving in Lapland, which includes luggage tags, information about the holiday, letters children can write to Santa (which will be read by him on the day) and invitations to Lapland to help parents do the big reveal to children. For more information and to plan your trip, visit Inghams.co.uk
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