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Five things to do in Lapland when there's no snow

The Independent logo The Independent 04/12/2018 Matilda Battersby
a herd of cattle walking across a snow covered field © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

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I must have checked the weather forecast in Lapland an average of 20 times a day in the run-up to our Christmas trip of a lifetime.

For months, I had told my five-year-old that we were going to visit Santa in the North Pole (although, technically Finnish Lapland is nowhere near). Except, as the forecast and news articles kept telling me, there was no snow this year.

Video: Rovaniemi webcam on Arctic Circle shows no snow in Lapland as Santa season gets underway (The Independent)

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Lapland has experienced the mildest November for 60 years. When my family and I touched down on the runway at Rovaniemi Airport last week, the city billed as “Santa’s hometown”, all we we saw was ice, salt and slush. The surrounding pine forests had a dusting of the white stuff, but the city of Rovaniemi looked modern, square and unprepossessing. It clearly needed a dollop of snow to soften its harsh contours.

“Where’s the snow, mummy?” my son asked. Hoping to avoid disappointment, we headed out to see the sights and discovered that, actually, there’s plenty to do in Lapland with no snow.

Visit Santa Claus Village

a close up of a cage: lapland no snow © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited lapland no snow A 15-minute taxi journey from Rovaniemi brought us to a series of red-painted log cabins. They included Santa’s Post Office, which receives millions of letters addressed to Father Christmas year-round. Here was an opportunity to cross into the Arctic Circle (and take a selfie, of course) and visit Father Christmas’s House.

An elf called Pinecone welcomed us, entrancing my son with a tour through the elves’ workshop. Father Christmas was huge and convincing, with a long, curly beard and commanding voice. (But what was he most impressed by? “Father Christmas’s stripy rainbow socks.”) Elsewhere in Santa Claus Village there was real snow. It was was last year’s stored snow, but we picked up and played with the icy chunks regardless. 

Free entry

Get a husky ride on a summer sled

a person riding a horse in the snow: no snow Lapland © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited no snow Lapland Husky rides on snow were cancelled, but we had an incredible time being pulled by a team of dogs using summer sleds with wheels. Bundled up in whole-body ski suits, we sped through country lanes surrounded by yet more pine forest. Our son was delighted by the fluffy, high-energy huskies, with red booties on their paws, who howled like wolves and seemed desperate to run off with us.

€129 (£115.03) per person

Visit the Arktikum Museum and Science Centre

Despite having no snow, we learned all about Arctic conditions, Sami tribespeople and the animals that can survive in extreme temperatures at the Arktikum Museum and Science Centre. A huge domed glass building, the Arktikum is also a great place to see the Northern Lights on a clear evening. Much of the exhibition involves ancient theories about the phenomena and its influence on Lappish culture and religion.

Entry €13 (£11.59) per adult, €9 (£8.03) child

Do the Northern Lights reindeer sled tour

Desperate to catch our own glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, we kept our son up way past his bedtime and took him out into the countryside. Dressed in huge padded ski suits, we piled into traditional wooden sleighs pulled by reindeer. A network of snowy paths (the snow was stored under wood shavings last winter) gave us a taste of the frozen beauty of this landscape although it was too dark to see much.

A curious reindeer from the sledge behind ours kept bumping alongside us to say hello, his antlers coming perilously close. We looked up into the inky skies hoping the Northern Lights would appear, but it was too overcast. Finishing off with a campfire, coffee and a cinnamon bun, we agreed that the trip had been worth it nevertheless.

€133 per person

Visit the Santa Park

a large teddy bear: rovaniemisanta.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited rovaniemisanta.jpg In Lapland, there is no such thing as too much Christmas. Hoping for a glimpse of more elves, we visited Santa Park. More commercial than the neighbouring Santa Claus Village, it is less charming for adults but entrancing for little ones. It is also, mercifully, indoors.

My son attended elf school, which involved a brilliant 20-minute lesson by “elf professors”. We decorated gingerbread biscuits, made our own tree decorations, visited an ice sculpture gallery and learnt about how Father Christmas sorts the naughty children from the nice ones.

€218 (£194.39) for a family ticket

Travel essentials

Getting there

Norwegian flies to Rovaniemi from £49 one way.

Staying there

Hostel Cafe Koti has family rooms from €219 (£195.29) a night.

Gallery: Crazy for Christmas? New York is your ideal destination for holiday season (EasyVoyage)



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