Inspiration Andrea González

A visit to Santa Claus

Rovaniemi, located in the north of Finland near the Arctic Circle, is the gateway to Lapland, of which it is the capital. It is world-famous for being the official residence of Father Christmas. Come with us on a trip to the village of Santa Claus, his Elf School and the Arktikum science museum. Then explore further afield, looking out for the northern lights and sledding through the region’s loveliest parks.

In the midst of near unspoilt Finnish Lapland, a place populated by impressive reindeer, is the village of Santa Claus. The place is relatively remote from the daily hustle and bustle, which may be why Santa Claus officially established his office here in 1985. Since then, he receives visitors 365 days a year, chatting and taking pictures with children. Kids can also take along a letter to Father Christmas that they can drop it at the village’s Post Office (which belongs to the Finnish postal network). Here, elves are responsible for managing the correspondence Santa receives (up to half a million letters per year) and for sending visitors’ parcels and Christmas greetings from their offices, always with the special postmark from the Arctic Circle. Inside the village, you can also find Santa Claus’ reindeer and visit gift shops and restaurants. Admission to the village is completely free.

Santa Claus Village

Nearby is SantaPark, a theme park where you can see Santa Claus’ house, where he lives with his elves. Just seven kilometres from the centre of Rovaniemi, SantaPark’s main attraction is its Elf School, where both children and adults can learn the most valuable secrets and skills of Santa Claus’ helpers, from tiptoeing to decorating gingerbread cookies, or speaking a few Elven words. All students who study hard receive their very own diploma. This theme park opens its doors for the winter season on 23 November. From here, you can visit the Secret Forest of Joulukka, where the elves have their Christmas Control Centre to ensure that the most magical time of the year goes smoothly and, sometimes, you can also spot Santa Claus himself here.

The Arktikum Science Centre and Museum, which belongs to the University of Lapland, is located on the banks of the River Ounasjoki. It is very important in the cultural life of Rovaniemi and is notable for its large glass dome. It is divided into two different spaces: the Lapland Museum, which offers a tour of Finnish and regional history – including a description of how the two 20th-century world wars affected Lapland (which suffered a Nazi invasion) – and the Arctic Centre, which shows the scientific progress made in studying the northern lights. It’s quite interactive, so it’s great for visiting with children.

During some 200 nights a year, from autumn to spring, Rovaniemi enjoys the northern lights season, one of the region’s most recognisable hallmarks. The best conditions for appreciating this spectacle of nature are a dark and clear sky and a place far from the light pollution of large cities. In Rovaniemi, you do not need to be far from the urban centre to enjoy the northern lights. Some of the most popular places to see them include the Arctic Garden, located just behind the Arktikum Museum, and the summit of Mount Ounasvaara, a 45-minute walk from the centre of Rovaniemi, where you can enjoy a typical Finnish natural landscape. Apukka Resort, with its crystal-roofed cabins perfectly integrated into the surroundings, is also perfect for contemplating the famous aurora borealis.

From December to April, Apukka Resort also offers sled rides – pulled by either reindeer or  huskies – which venture into the region’s snowy forests as peacefully as possible. Sometimes, , you can even see the northern lights on one of these rides. It’s the perfect finishing touch for a family getaway to the place that’s alive with the magic of Christmas.