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Nothing says Christmas like a trip to see Santa in Lapland. Here’s everything families need to know when planning a trip.

Published November 20, 2023

6 min read

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Where’s the best place to see Santa?

You can visit his twinkly grotto 365 days a year at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, just five miles south of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland — and a 3.5-hour direct flight from the UK. The resort runs an Elf Academy, welcoming ‘little helpers’ and offering reindeer-driven sleigh rides. It’s also home to Santa Park, which features an ice-sculpture gallery and elfin workshops making gingerbread. If you want to venture out of town, there’s husky sledding and aurora-chasing.

Finnish Lapland has other bases for December Santa breaks. Among them are Suomo, in the Ruka Valley, the ski resorts of Levi and Ylläs, and Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, a Sami heartland in the region’s north west. It’s also possible to visit Santa in Arctic Sweden; most package trips go to Kiruna and tend to be a bit pricier than those in Finland.

Do I have to book a tour package? 

It’s easy to arrange an independent trip to Rovaniemi, but if you’re heading elsewhere it’s often cheaper and simpler to book a package. Check exactly what’s included, as some activities are optional. Most operators include cold-weather gear, so you can pack light. You might also need specific winter travel insurance to cover activities such as snowmobiling and dog sledding.

How much will it cost? 

Typically, a three-night, all-inclusive package in December with flights, transfers, accommodation, meals, a private session with Santa and daily snow activities will cost around £1,500 per person. Travel companies usually only offer a 10% discount for child places. If booked separately, flights can cost as much as £300 one way in December.

When should I book and how long should I stay? 

Plan up to a year in advance, as popular trips and Christmas dates get booked up in a flash. You’ll snag better deals on flights by booking early, too. Most trips only run in December, when the flakes fall and Northern Lights shimmer. Allow three or four nights and think of Santa as the springboard to an active trip in the Arctic.

What’s the best age for kids to go? 

The extreme cold — daytime temperatures can dip as low as -25C in December — can be tiring for tots. And most activities, such as dog sledding and reindeer sleigh rides, for instance, are off limits to under-threes. Other activities, like snowmobiling, may be unsuitable for under-eights, so check the small print.

Five Santa breaks for families

1. Levi, Finland 

Levi’s high fells and snow-frosted forests are your base for this three-night escapade with Inghams. You’ll get to meet Santa, visit the elf hideaway and make gingerbread. There’s a choice of accommodation — upgrade for a cosy log cabin or lodge — while activities such as dog sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and snowmobiling are extras. Prices from £693 per person, including flights and self-catering accommodation.

2. Överkalix, Sweden 

This three-night trip with an easy transfer from Luleå Airport includes a private Santa visit in a hidden cabin in the forest, dog sledding and Sami storytelling. Other festive activities range from decoration-making to gingerbread icing in a traditional lavvu hut. Prices with Discover the World from £1,059 per person full board, including winter activities and transfers but not flights.

3. Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, Finland 

Head deep into the Arctic with specialist operator Santa Claus Trips on a four-night break to remote Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park, home to Sami reindeer herders. There’s plenty of festive sparkle included in this package, with a visit to Santa, husky and reindeer sleigh rides and snowmobiling, plus the chance to see the Northern Lights come out to play. From £1,349 per person, full board, including flights and most activities.

4. Ruka Valley, Finland

Visiting Santa and his magic post office, learning festive tricks at Elf School, reindeer sleigh rides, dog sledding and plenty of snow fun are all bundled into this neat three-night package to Suomo in Finnish Lapland’s Ruka Valley. Kids are in their element — as are adults channelling their inner child. Prices from £1,075 per person with Canterbury Travel including return flights, accommodation, resort transfers and all meals and activities.

 5. Kiruna, Sweden 

Ramp up the festive spirit with this five-night Christmas break (from 22 to 27 December) with Baltic Travel Company to Camp Ripan in Kiruna. Justifying its price tag, this one includes a snowmobile tour to collect a huge Christmas tree to decorate, a visit from a sack-wielding Santa, a smorgasbord of Arctic treats — from herring and salmon to smoked reindeer and meatballs — on Christmas Eve and a torchlit procession to church for early mass on Christmas Day. Prices from £1,965 per person including­ return flights, chalet accommodation, half-board, spa entry and Christmas activities.

Published in the December 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

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