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Planning a trip to Lapland and Santa in Finland!

One of the most magical winter trips you can ever take is to Lapland in Finland to see none other than Santa Claus himself. Many people rarely get to experience a white Christmas, which is why taking your kids to Finland is one of the best experiences you can ever provide them with.

Planning a trip to Lapland and Santa in Finland!

I recently took my girls to Finland, and even my eldest daughter—who was 10 at the time—had that sparkle in her eye that all parents recognise. You know, the sparkle when your kids realise on Christmas morning that Santa has been.

For me, the moment my kids met Santa—which I may or may not have cried at—was the cherry on top of this most incredible Christmas getaway. 

Two girls meeting Santa in Levi
Santa at NLV Levi – the cabin is now even cosier as it has been painted.

Planning a trip to Lapland and Santa in Finland

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As with all holidays, taking a trip to Lapland to see Santa in Finland requires some planning. But luckily for you, I’ve got all the relevant information you could possibly need to make your holiday/vacation that bit easier. 

From reindeer rides and Santa experiences to pricing and the best areas to stay, here is everything you’d need to know about visiting Santa in Lapland, Finland. 

Where is Lapland?

Lapland is often referred to as the northern part of Finland. However, Lapland also occupies parts of Sweden, Norway, and Russia.

Covering an area of 100,000 square kilometres—most of which is in the Arctic Circle—Lapland is a region that is governed by all four of the countries it spans across.

What Is the Best Month to Visit Lapland?

Although Lapland is an incredible destination all year round, the best month to visit—for the ultimate Christmas experience—would be December.

Winter season in Lapland begins in December and runs through to March. However, November could also be a good month to visit as many of the Santa experiences kick off at the start of the month with several in January – making that a more cost effective option.

Some even last all throughout the year, but seeing Saint Nick in July wouldn’t really have the same effect, would it? 

Winter also brings with it plenty of snow for activities like husky sledging and skiing, as well as the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights. 

How Many Days Should I Spend in Lapland?

The number of days you should spend in Lapland will really come down to your budget and the amount of activities you want to experience. However, an average stay in northern Finland is around four days

Four days will give you plenty of opportunities to head off on a Santa experience, ride a husky sledge, take part in a snowmobile tour, and see the Northern lights without feeling rushed. But if you wanted to ski as well, for example, you may need to add on a few extra days to accommodate. 

Can You Fly Direct to Lapland?

Some flights are seasonal, with Santa trips and ski trips available on charters with TUI to Lapland. etc. Tui fly to four different airports in Lapland – Kuusamo, Kittila, Rovaniemi and Ivalo.

Their direct flights to Kittila Airport depart from 11 airports, while if you’re flying to Rovaniemi Airport, you can pick from a selection of nine airports to take off from. Plus, you can fly into Kuusamo Airport or Ivalo Airport from London Gatwick and Manchester Airports. 

Alternatively, you can fly direct from London and Manchester—as well as other cities around the world—to Lapland. There are two airports, Kittila (KTT)( near Levi and Yllas,)and Rovaniemi (RVN), that are closest to Lapland.

Finn Air offer connecting flights via Helsinki. However, we personally took a different route, which I’ll explain shortly. 

Kittila is the closest airport to both Levi and Yllas (roughly a 16-minute drive to Levi and a 30-minute drive to Yllas), making it a great option for families flying in from the UK. Flight time from London to Kittila will take roughly 3 hours and 30 minutes. 

Alternatively, there is an airport in Rovaniemi (RVN) (a 2-hour drive to both Levi and Yllas) for families who want to explore Rovaniemi before heading further up north. 

As I mentioned earlier, my family took a completely different route and actually flew into Helsinki in southern Finland before making our way to Rovaniemi.

Girl walking through Helsinki Airport

Helsinki is a nine-and-a-half-hour drive from Rovaniemi (11.5 hours from Levi), but we took an overnight Santa train which dropped us off in Rovaniemi at 7:30 am so we could explore the area and Santa Claus’ Village before making our way up to Levi.  

Night Santa train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi
beds on the Night Santa train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi
food on the Night Santa train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi
bathroom on the Night Santa train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi

How to Get From Helsinki to Rovaniemi

If you do decide to first top in Helsinki, then you’ll need to figure out how to get up to Rovaniemi and Levi. You can obviously fly from Helsinki to Rovaniemi airport, which will take an hour and 20 minutes. Or you can do what we did and get the overnight Santa Express train. There is actually nothing Santa ish about the train, bar the image on the outside – BUT it is a fun experience which we all loved.

How to Get From Helsinki to Levi

To get from Helsinki to Levi, you’ll instead want to fly into Kittila, which will take one hour and 40 minutes. From Kittila, you can rent a car or take a bus or a taxi to Levi, as the drive is only 16 minutes.

Catching bus from rovaniemi to kittila- Levi
Catching bus from rovaniemi to kittila- Levi

How to Get From Rovaniemi to Levi

To get from Rovaniemi to Levi, you could book a bus or hire a car. Both forms of transport will take you just over two hours. Roads are quiet, and buses have toilets on them and are easy to use.

What Month Does It Snow in Lapland?

Snow in Lapland can start falling as early as October and lasts all the way through to April. The best months for snow, however, are from December through to March, with the snowiest month of all being January.

trees in the snow

Can You See Northern Lights in Lapland?

Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. And it can thank its position above the Arctic Circle for that.

You can see the Northern Lights in both Yllas and Levi—either on a Northern Lights tour or just by visiting places like the Northern Lights Village. 

Northern lights between the trees

What Time of Year Are the Northern Lights Best in Lapland?

The best time of year to see the Northern Lights in Lapland is mid-August through to April. As the Northern Lights make an appearance for nearly 200 nights of the year, you’re almost guaranteed a sighting if you’re booking a winter Lapland trip. 

In terms of the best time of day to see the Northern Lights, 10 PM to 2 AM will give you the most spectacular view of this natural atmospheric phenomenon. 

What Should I Wear in Lapland?

During a winter trip to Lapland, you can expect freezing temperatures all throughout the day, which is why it’s important that you wear the correct clothing. Here is a rough packing list of what to pack and wear throughout your trip:

  • Thermal base layers
  • Warm wool or fleece jumper
  • Waterproof or snowproof trousers
  • Waterproof insulated jacket
  • Insulated boots
  • Thermal gloves
  • Scarf
  • Hat
  • Wool socks
Girl with a blue sledge on the snow with pine trees in background getting ready to go Sledging by our Airbnb

Which Part of Lapland Is Best?

There are a few must-visit places in Lapland. But in my opinion, Levi, Yllas and Saariselkä are definitely the best. These northern towns have Santa Experiences, skiing opportunities, and chances to see the northern lights.

So if you only have a short time in Lapland, focus it on Levi, Yllas and Saariselkä. 

hut covered in snow set among trees

Where Is the Most Christmassy Place in Lapland?

As various towns in Lapland are kitted out with Christmas decorations, chances to meet Santa, reindeer rides, and of course, snow, narrowing down the “most Christmassy place” is somewhat difficult.

If you’re travelling to Lapland with kids, then Rovaniemi, Levi, Yllas and Saariselkä are up there as the most Christmassy.

Two girls meeting Santa in Levi

Which Is the Best Santa Experience in Lapland?

We only tried one Santa Experience in Lapland, so it’s hard to give an accurate answer. However, we absolutely loved the Northern Lights Village Santa Experience in Levi. And I’d definitely book it again.

The Northern Lights Village Santa Experience takes place in Levi and Saariselkä. Saariselkä has consistent brilliant reviews whereas Levi is generally very good. They’re run by the same company but the Levi operation is only a couple of years old – they do occasionally have issues with young looking Santas which made me nervous! We went to Levi NLV Santa the first year operating but decided to risk it and glad we did!

Both places, the visit lasts for 3 hours. The experience called “Searching for Santa” involves a reindeer sleigh ride, gingerbread cookie making, and meeting Santa in his cabin. 

We all had an amazing time on this experience. The cost is roughly £130 per adult and £65 per child. 

We booked independently and saved £££ by booking flights, accommodation and attractions separately.

Upon arrival, if you don’t have your own thermal clothing, it is provided. Including overalls, Boots & Mittens. During your trip to the Northern Lights Village, you’ll head off “Searching for Santa”.

Throughout the experience, you’ll help the elves, meet Santa’s reindeer, take a reindeer ride, a heated sleigh ride, make gingerbread cookies, decorate Christmas trees, and meet Santa himself and maybe receive a gift if you are good!

Kids receive a gift each, (and parents one to share). It’s an intimate experience, we had two other families with us in the cabin making gingerbread and each family has about 10 minutes with Father Christmas. A magical experience in every way.

Have Santa come to you!

An alternative is having Santa come to visit you. Try these places.

Searching for Santa in Levi on a reindeer sleigh ride

How Much Is a Reindeer Ride in Lapland?

A reindeer ride in Lapland costs around £130 per person. To save some money, however, look into Santa Experiences that have a reindeer ride included—as we did at the Northern Lights Village.

Sure, the ride will be shorter, but you still get to experience what it’s like to be in a sleigh for a fraction of the price and less time to get cold!

When Should I Book Lapland?

In all honesty, you should book Lapland as soon as you’ve decided that you want to go. As I’m sure you can imagine, accommodation and experiences book out fast.

So the earlier you can book, the better! Not only will you secure all the attractions that you want to do, but it should also be considerably cheaper. 

What Age Is Lapland Best for Kids?

Although all children will love Lapland, the best age to take your kid is 5 to 9 years old.

You have to remember that Lapland is cold, and children under the age of 5 may struggle with such a significant change and the getting into and out of cold weather gear. Toddlers also can’t fully appreciate the entire experience. And as you’re paying a lot of money, you obviously want them to understand what is actually going on. 

My girls were 6 and 9 when we visited Lapland, and I think they were the perfect age. They understood the entire experience, were able to deal okay with the cold, and they could participate in other activities like skiing. 

Is Lapland Good for Adults?

Lapland is a great holiday for adults—whether you’re travelling with kids or not.

Obviously, if you’re travelling with kids, you get to experience all things Christmas. But even if you’re travelling solely with adults, you can ski, snowmobile, see the Northern Lights, head out on a husky ride, and have drinks in an ice bar. And hey, there’s nothing stopping you from visiting Santa and his reindeer too!

Where Should I Stay in Finland?

Finland is one of Europe’s largest countries, which can make deciding where to stay extremely difficult. I’ve managed to narrow the best places to stay down to five towns/cities. So here are the pros and cons of each, as well as different things to do in the area. 

Levi

Levi in northern Finland was one of our favourite places in Finland as there are so many things to see and do. The area is also absolutely stunning.

There are plenty of accommodation options—all at different price points. Plus, Levi is extremely easy to get to—it’s just a 15-minute drive from the Kittila airport—which is crucial when travelling with kids.

Things to do in Levi: 

  • See the Northern Lights
  • Take part in a Santa Experience (We did the Searching for Santa Experience at the Northern Lights Village)
  • Go skiing as Levi is Finland’s biggest ski resort
  • Reindeer rides
  • Snowmobile rides
  • Husky sledge rides
  • Ice fishing
  • Sledging
  • eat at the Pancake restaurant!
Levi viewed from above from the mountain
Levi

Ylläs

Yllas (particularly the village of Ylläsjärvi) is another great option for families. Ylläsjärvi is roughly a 40-minute drive from Levi, meaning you could even tick both areas off during one trip.

Due to how close these two villages are, the things you can do in Ylläsjärvi and Levi are fairly similar. However, you will find that things in Yllas are more spread out as opposed to Levi, where everything is within walking distance and central in terms of restaurants, ski lifts etc.

The village you choose will really come down to your personal preference. Levi is easy to navigate but also a ski resort ( still magical!), and Yllas gives more of a traditional feel.

Saariselkä

Saariselkä is one of Finland’s most northern villages, which lets you experience the country’s true beauty. The reason many people come up to Saariselkä is for the Northern Lights, as the town’s northerly location provides one of the best chances to see them.

But another attraction that draws many people in is the area’s igloo hotels. Saariselkä has the most igloo hotels in all of Finland. And staying in one is one of the best experiences you can have in the country.

To get to Saariselkä, you can either drive from Levi yourself, get a bus from Rovaniemi, or fly into Ivalo from Helsinki. 

Things to do in Saariselkä: 

  • Skiing one of Saariselkä’s 15 slopes—all of different difficulty levels
  • Ice fishing
  • Northern Lights
  • Stay in an igloo hotel
  • Toboggan
  • Angry Birds Theme Park
  • Santa Claus experience at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Rovaniemi

We got the Santa Express Train into Rovaniemi from Helsinki. And although the train and Santa Claus’ Village were a great experience, I probably wouldn’t go back to Rovaniemi again as it is city which lacked the intimate feel of Levi..

We found that the Santa Claus village fun with lots of little places to explore, included walking over the Artic Circle and posting a post card which had that on the postmark.

If it is your first time in Finland, then you may want to cover all bases and tick it off your list as the Santa Claus Village is fun, but if you are experiencing a lot of this elsewhere, you may want to skip it.

  • Husky rides
  • Reindeer rides
  • Santa Claus’ Village (has plenty of Christmassy-themed attractions)
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Snow slides
Outside Helsinki Christmas Market
Helsinki Christmas Market – it was a bit warmer here as the snow had melted!

Helsinki

We flew into Helsinki from the UK. And although we only had a short amount of time in the city before our train arrived, it was great to see Finland’s capital.

If we do return to Finland, then I’d probably book a night or two in Helsinki so we could do a bit more exploring. It seems there are many cool kid-friendly things to do in Helsinki. So I wish we spent more time there.

Things to do in Helsinki: 

  • Helsinki Zoo
  • Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress
  • Suomenlinna Toy Museum
  • Linnanmäki Amusement Park
  • Helsinki Icepark
  • The Museum of Natural History
  • Sealife Helsinki
  • Christmas Market if visiting during December

What Christmas-Themed Attractions Are Available at Each Place in Finnish Lapland?

There are so many Christmas-themed attractions in Finland. But here are some of the best in each area. 

Levi

  • See the Northern Lights
  • Santa Experiences—particularly the Searching for Santa Experience at the Northern Lights Village
  • Skiing
  • Reindeer rides
  • Snowmobile rides
  • Husky sledge rides
  • Ice fishing
  • Sledging

Ylläs

  • See the Northern Lights
  • Santa Experiences
  • Skiing
  • Reindeer rides
  • Snowmobile rides
  • Husky sledge rides
  • Sledging 

Saariselkä

  • Santa Experiences—particularly the Searching for Santa Experience at the Northern Lights Village
  • Skiing
  • Ice fishing
  • Northern Lights
  • Stay in an igloo hotel
  • Toboggan
  • Santa Claus experience at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

Rovaniemi

  • Husky rides
  • Reindeer rides
  • Santa Claus’ Village
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Snow slides

Helsinki

  • Christmas Markets
  • Helsinki Ice Park
  • Santa Express Overnight Train to Rovaniemi 

The Best Way to Book a Holiday in Finland

The best way to book a holiday to Finland really comes down to your budget—and patience. I know booking holidays can be stressful as there are so many different components to think of.

So its understandable that some people do prefer to book package holidays which include your accommodation, flights, and transfers.

For those booking package holidays, compare the prices of a “ski holiday” to a “Santa Experience holiday.” Ski holiday packages are often longer (7 days as opposed to 3 or 4) and cheaper than booking a Santa Experience package to the same exact town.

You could honestly save thousands booking onto a ski holiday and separately booking a Santa Experience. So keep that in mind when researching different companies and packages!

If you are planning to book the holiday yourself, then one of my top tips is to create a check list. On your check list include everything from your flights and hotel to your activities and transfers so that way you don’t forget anything important.

DIY trips do usually work out far cheaper than a package holiday. And for me—as someone who loves planning trips—I think booking it all yourself makes the experience even more exciting. 

Good to Know if you DIY

  • Plan in advance – at least a year in advance is ideal, or at least to plan what dates things are released
  • Know when flights, trains, experiences are released. eg NLV Santa experiences will give hotel guests priority, so book as soon as you can. Santa Night Train tickets are available about 3 months in advance of travel date.

What Do I Need to Know Before Going to Lapland?

There are a few things you need to know before going to Lapland. And one of the first things is the weather.

Many people underestimate how cold Lapland actually is. But in December, temperatures can reach -10°C. So it is crucial that you pack the correct clothing and prepare for below-freezing temperatures. 

The second thing to know only really applies to those looking to hire a car. If you do hire a car in Finland, then be prepared for snowy/icy roads. And the potential of reindeer crossing unexpectedly. 

And the third thing that’s worth wrapping your head around before travelling is currency. In Finland, they use the euro.

Is It Expensive to Go to Lapland?

Compared to other holidays, it is somewhat expensive to go to Lapland. However, it really depends on the activities you do, which airport you fly to, and the accommodation you choose.

Here is a rough breakdown of prices if you manage to secure good prices – so you have a rough idea of how much you’d be looking to spend: 

  • Return flights from London to Kittila (December) – £300 – 500 pp
  • Return flights from London to Rovaniemi (December) – £400 pp
  • Return flights from London to Helsinki (December) – £100 pp
  • Helsinki to Rovaniemi Santa Claus Express Overnight Train – Prices start from £60 per cabin (sleeps 2 but can get cabin next door)
  • Bus from Rovaniemi to Levi – £25 pp one way
  • Car Hire – from £70 per day
  • Reindeer Sleigh Ride – £130 per person
  • Husky Sleigh Ride – £140 per person
  • Northern Lights Village Searching for Santa – Adults £130 and kids £65
  • Levi Ski Pass – Adults £29 and kids £19 per day (gets cheaper if you purchase numerous days)
  • Levi Ski Hire – Adults £31 and kids £20 per day (gets cheaper if you purchase numerous days)
  • Northern Lights Tour – £98 per person
  • Accommodation in Levi 3* – £181 per night for a family of four
  • Accommodation in Levi 5* – £780 per night for a family of four
  • Ski Gear – Package holidays usually provide this in the price. Alternatively many of the attractions either include it in the price or it can be an add on.

Lapland and Santa in Finland FAQs

Is It Worth Going to Lapland for Christmas?

Yes, it is worth going to Lapland for Christmas.

Lapland is one—if not the—best places to visit for Christmas, thanks to its cold weather, Santa Experiences, and Christmas-themed activites. 

Are 2 Nights in Lapland Enough?

Two nights in Lapland is enough; however, you may feel slightly rushed.

If you’re tight on time, then you can certainly get all the top Lapland activities done in three days/two nights. But for the best experience, I recommend staying for at least four days in total. 

How Far Is Lapland From the UK by Plane?

By plane, Lapland is roughly 3 to 3.5 hours away from the UK

Where Do You Fly Into for Santa Lapland?

The best place to fly into for a Santa experience in Lapland is either Rovaniemi or Kittila.

Rovaniemi has the Santa Claus Village experience. Whereas Kittila is close to the resorts of Levi and Yllas, which have a handful of Santa experiences to choose from.

We chose the Northern Lights Village Search for Santa experience in Levi. 

How Many Layers Should You Wear in Lapland?

In Lapland, you should aim to wear four layers: base, mid, insulation, and outer layer. Temperatures in Lapland drop below freezing, so ensuring you pack and wear the correct clothing is extremely important. 

Can You Wear Jeans in Lapland?

You can wear jeans in Lapland. However, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Once jeans get wet, they stay wet, which is a recipe for disaster when temperatures are below freezing. Instead of wearing jeans, opt for a thermal base layer and waterproof trousers to trap your body heat and keep you dry in the process.

What Are the Odds of Seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland?

On a clear night from September through to March, your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Lapland are pretty high

What Is the Best Month to See the Northern Lights in Finland?

The best months to see the aurora borealis in Finland are December through to March from 10 PM to 2 AM.

Which Is the Best Santa Village in Lapland?

The best Santa Village, in my opinion, is the Northern Lights Village Saariselkä or Levi

During our three-hour experience, we got to help the elves on a quest, enjoy a reindeer ride, ride on a heated sleigh, make gingerbread cookies, drink some hot chocolate, decorate Christmas trees, and finally meet Santa himself who gave us a gift.

Girl decorating gingerbread shapes in Levi Finland before meeting Santa

Can You See Father Christmas in Lapland in November?

Yes, you can see Father Christmas in Lapland in November.

In fact, in Rovaniemi, you can see Father Christmas all twelve months of the year! Other Santa experiences, like the Northern Village Lights, open from mid-November. January is another option too!

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