Every winter, as many as 200,000 Brits travel to Finland’s Lapland to meet Santa Claus, go skiing, snowmobiling, ride reindeer-pulled sleighs or experience a husky safari. Santa’s village is located on the Arctic Circle, north of which the sun can be seen even at midnight during the summertime.
During the winter, however, the sun stays below the horizon for most of the time and in midwinter, or the twilight period, light is provided by the moon and stars as well as the magical Northern Lights and a clean, bright cover of glistening snow. Santa’s village is particularly popular amongst families, who can visit Santa’s main post office, the Christmas exhibition and Santa’s Ice Park as well as taking part in other wintery activities.
Lapland’s pure and clean snow cover provides a magnificent setting for all kinds of activities and adventures; those who visit Lapland say that more memorable adventures are hard to find. Most of these adventures pass off without incident, but things do sometimes go wrong. The most serious accidents, in addition to skiing injuries, happen on snow mobile safaris. Snow mobiles have powerful engines and can travel at over 100km an hour – and without a seatbelt on difficult terrain many Brits have lost their lives. The competitiveness of groups of younger men in particular can have catastrophic consequences.
Another thing to remember when visiting Lapland is the quickly changing temperature; the weather can be fairly mild one day, but plummet to minus 35°C (minus 31°F) the next. It is important to check the temperature every morning and to dress accordingly. In fact this is a national pastime and if you spend any length of time in Finland, you will notice that Finns are obsessed with the temperature and thermometers are everywhere: outside every home, on billboards, shops… It is easy to see why this is so – it is not uncommon for tourists to return from reindeer and husky safaris with severe frostbite and even hypothermia. So do dress warm, wear several layers of thermal clothing and plan your activities carefully – if the day is particularly cold, it may be a good idea to postpone your trip into the wilderness.
Down south in the consular section in Helsinki, we also deal with dozens of Brits every winter who intend to get married in Lapland. Kakslauttanen near the Russian border, just over 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, is a particularly popular destination for British couples. If you do want to get married in a snow chapel and spend your wedding night in a futuristic glass igloo, do remember to prepare well and have all the paperwork in order. Sometimes during the excitement of wedding preparations British couples forget that they must produce a “certificate of no impediment” when getting married in Finland. Please check our website for more information on how to obtain one.
On the whole, wintery Lapland is a wonderful place to visit. So come and visit Santa Claus, but wrap up well and do take care whilst you’re here!
Laura Hakala, Vice Consul, Helsinki