For our first wedding anniversary I sat for ages thinking what to get my husband. The traditional theme is paper, I knew I wanted something a little different, but what? That's when it hit me, a plane ticket, that's paper! So I set about choosing a holiday. I could have picked any where, chosen to do anything, but there was some place I knew we both wanted to go, Lapland. We have both always wanted to see the Northern Lights and as it was close to Christmas I thought it would be a truly magical experience.
My husband was surprised and very excited. I had bought him a guide book too, again a book = paper, and we began planning our trip. We were staying in Rovaniemi, which is in Finland, and often referred to as the official home tome of Santa Claus. This really was going to be Christmas.
The plane was decorated with tinsel and played numerous Christmas songs. It was lovely listening to all the children on the plane become aware of the surprise of where they were going. It is quite possibly one of the happiest flights I have ever been on and after just over 3 hours our plane landed to snow.
Suddenly there was a huge sense of excitement and all the children [and adults] wanted to get off the plane. We were greeted by our designated Elf, and taking to our lodge. Very beautifully named Christmas Cottages. The cottages become our base, and were simply beautiful. Providing a lovely place to relax and unwind in. There was a local store nearby meaning we could stock up on supplies and everyone was very welcoming.
We had pre booked our activities, and were given our itinerary. Everything was organised for us, a stress free holiday, perfect.
First on our agenda, a taster session. This was great we could try each of the activities for free, Husky rides, Reindeer rides and snow mobiles and if coming to Lapland for just one day this really gave you a taste of what to expect. We tried each and this confirmed we had booked the right activities for us, everything! In true Lapland style we celebrated with Hot Berry juice.
The taster session soon drew to a close and the Elves took us to our next destination, the Arctic Circle.
Rovaniemi is around 5km South of the Arctic Circle and I felt very lucky to have not only gone, but to have been part of a crossing ceremony. We entered a dark traditional house with a wood burning fire in the middle. The ceremony was performed and the story was told about why Rudolph has a red nose. Our noses were then coated in black soot from the fire, which will glow on Christmas to help Santa find his way.
Activity 1 - Husky Rides
There can be only one word to describe this and that is Wow. The main ride took place at night, and was a little too dark for my camera to capture, but it was simply magical. The dogs work together pulling the sleigh through the snow. There is a real sense of speed as the cold wind rushes past your face, and a real thrill as the speed mounts. The smell from the Husky is one that will stay with you forever, the thrill and enjoyment from the ride will leave you forever with a smile. A truly magical experience.
Activity 2 : Reindeer Rides
There is something rather special about a Reindeer sleigh ride through a snowy forest. A feeling of peace and true magic fill every ounce of you. Much slower and calmer than the Husky but yet equally exciting. This is where I made a wish.
Activity 3 : Snow mobiles
Perhaps not as magical as the other two but this was simply fun. Pure power and speed, not in the same way as the Husky and had the definite thrill factor. I really loved the snow mobiles, and this was our best night to see the Northern lights, but sadly it wasn't to be.
Rovaniemi is beautiful. We explored the natural history museum, Arktikum, which was really fascinating. Of course we had to take a photo of the most Northern McDonalds, and yes its pretty much the same as any other but still.
As might be expected there are some wonderful Christmas decorations and a great market. I picked up some lovely decorations and some Christmas presents from here. There are a great selection of shops, activity/excursion shops and restaurants.
The Jätkänkynttilä bridge with its eternal flame over the Kemijoki river, is simply stunning at night when it is all lit up. The river was frozen and just looked beautiful. There is something truly magic about Lapland. It never really got 'light' and was in a constant 'grey' almost a dusk feel to it. This just added to the experience.
The parks and walks near by added to that wonderful escapism feel and just gave chance to unwind and relax. Beautiful to explore.
There was one final place for us to visit and that was to see Santa.
This is somewhere I am now really looking forward to taking the girls. They will love it! As two adults on our own with no children, it was lovely to go and look around but perhaps not quite the same magical experience as with the kids. Still we baked cookies with Mrs Claus and wrote a post card home. We even made time for drinks in the Ice Bar
Our final night was celebrated in style with a full Christmas dinner. Santa even came too. The looks on the children's faces as Santa came into the hotel driven by his reindeer on his sleigh was fantastic. There is no doubt this was the real Santa.
A warm log fire was started
Santa took off his coat and hung it with the Boys and Girls coats
Before taking it in turns to speak to each of the Boys and Girls. As the only couple present without children we decided that we wanted the children to see Santa and we were not going to go up. However Santa had other ideas and his Elf came to get us. He spoke to us and asked what we wanted for Christmas and I told him. It was the same as what I had wished for on the reindeer rides.
Lapland is a truly magical place, and it is a holiday that is still fresh in my mind even after several years. I cannot wait to take the girls to Lapland, they will truly love it.
Oh and in case you are wondering what I wished for and did it come true, I can say it did but not straight away. In fact 9 months after asking Santa my wish came true....