A dream destination for children at Christmas, Finnish Lapland has a lot to offer adults too. From sledding to hot berry tea, here's what will have you wishing for winter all year long...

Finnish Lapland is other-worldy. The snow is so deep it doesn’t just cover everything, it feels as if the place—a mammoth, never-ending, breathtakingly beautiful petrified forest—is made of snow.  

It was -38C two days before our party arrived, by which time it had warmed up to a mere -15.  Gloves and hats are required for the shortest journey to avoid digit and head freeze, and the air is so pure it’s like inhaling champagne. It’s dark most of the time, so awash with twinkly lights and lit-up tree.  But there is nothing garish about it. It’s magical.

The Spa Hotel Levitunturi is Levi’s flagship hotel, just three minutes away from the village centre and the ski lifts. It boasts a “spa water world” with pools, massage jets, aqua jogging jets, pebble walks for aching feet, and an outside jacuzzi connected to the main pools by a watery tunnel, surrounded by tiny white twinkly lights. If you use the sauna in the spa, don’t bother wearing your cozzie. If you are shy, most of the rooms have saunas. 

 

Staying active in the snow

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Sledding with huskies was sublime. Piva, who owns the dog sled complex, accommodates sled rides for disabled people as well as the able-bodied. The excited huskies jump ecstatically up in the air, twirl and land in the snow. We got into pairs, with one of us behind the sled, using body weight to balance and steer it, and one sat inside under reindeer blankets.

And we were off, going at a steady pace through the wilderness, riding over rock-solid frozen tundra and iced lakes. In two hours we covered five miles, but I wasn’t bored for a second. I didn’t stop smiling. 

Driving through the wilderness at night on a snowmobile was pretty special too. I felt like an extra in a James Bond movie, and we got up to speeds of 40mph on the snowy woodland tracks.  Our refreshment stop was the Snow Castle, complete with ice sculptures, an ice bar and even a wedding chapel.

 

Eat and ski

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The speciality at the King Crab Restaurant is arctic seafood, where the crab is sweet and soft. The mussels are blue (from cold?) and delicious. Other menu choices are reindeer meat, which tastes like venison, and creamy salmon and potato soup with dill. 

Eating out is expensive because of the costs of importing, and choices are limited. Pudding lovers will find berry crème brulee, pancakes, decent fruity sorbets and cakes. Hot, reviving, red berry tea is available everywhere. 

Time to ski it all off at the Yllas ski resort, which boasts the highest fell in Finland, at 718m.  The highest trees are covered snow so thick they are like giant arctic monsters with twisted, deformed limbs. For hire are massive padded onesies (called “snow suits”) that keep the cold out efficiently. 

It’s hard to imagine the need to fire the resort’s snow cannons as the snow is so thick and plentiful. The ski lifts are all very well serviced and queueing is minimal, with vastly underpopulated slopes compared to more mainstream ski resorts.  

An overnight stay in a log cabin hidden in stunning dense woodland, complete with log fires, a sauna and comfy sofas, was the best end to another perfect day. We popped down to the pub and enjoyed the local “long drink” of gin and sparkling grapefruit juice, which tastes like a soft drink but is actually very alcoholic.

 

The sky's the limit

Sadly we didn’t see the Northern Lights, but it was fun looking—although it was too cold to stay out peering up hopefully at the sky by the lake for very long. The ideal place to see the lights is via an overnight stay in a glass Golden Crown igloo on the Levi fell.

The 12 heated igloos offer 360-degree views and are built to a high spec, with plenty of luxury crammed into 250 square feet. There are armchairs, a small table on which our hosts had left a bottle of chilled prosecco, a kitchenette, a rainforest shower, and a CD player. The lights are most likely to appear after 11pm, but after a full day’s activities, most of us had conked out by then. 

Ice karting the next day was fun, but I most enjoyed drinking tea round a roaring open fire afterwards, sat on reindeer skins. Russian tourists who’d drunk something a bit stronger than berry tea were whizzing round the “Igloo” circuit at speed, frequently crasahing into the snowy banks.

I gathered a bit more speed while cross-country skiing, and not always intentionally. It’s something most Fins do to keep fit—more of a religion than a national sport. It was exhausting, but as we skied across iced-over lakes fringed by snow-covered trees,  I was over-awed by the beauty and the soundscape, a million miles away from mobile phones, crowds, commuting, pollution, stress and usual everyday noise.

Two guys were making holes in the frozen lake to fish. I’m sure they tittered as we wobbled along, as more seasoned skiers swished past us effortlessly.

 

Winter dreamland

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Dinner that night was at a traditional Lappish place, the Crazy Reindeer Kammi Restaurant, a large wooden hut whose walls were lined with reindeer skins. The “Lappish feast” is cooked around a vast open fire, with baked salmon, reindeer, pork ribs, stews and potato salad. Guests are invited to go up for food 30 times, but three was our limit.  We waddled home feeling a little bit Finnish, but not very thinnish. 

What struck me most about this tour of Lapland (details below) was how much there is to do. I had thought of Lapland trips as a holiday for children, with Santa, elves and fairies, but it was so much more. For anyone who likes snow, the outdoors and a bit of magic, this is the trip for you.  The worst thing was leaving my winter wonderland and coming home.

 

Inghams is offering seven nights self-catering at the 4* Yllås Log Cabin, Ylläs, Lapland from £469 per person departing March 5, 2017, based on six sharing. Seven nights half board at the 4.5* Levitunturi Spa Hotel, Levi start from £749 per person departing March 5, 2017. Prices includes return direct flights from Manchester to Kittilä (LGW is a supplement of £19pp) and resort transfers. For more information or to book visit inghams.co.uk or call 01483 791 114

 

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