A beautiful winter sunset in Finnish Lapland

For the second time in as many years, our urge to travel has taken us back to the wondrous winter wonderland of Finnish Lapland.  In winter, Jack Frost nips at your nose, and toes and fingers ache from the bitter cold.  Trees bend, heavily laden with snow and your woolly hat makes your head itch like a flea-bitten reindeer.  But guess what…we absolutely love it!  In 2016 when we visited Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, there simply wasn’t enough time to do all of the winter activities we would have liked.  So, March 2019, we decided to return to Scandinavia but this time with a visit to both Ruka and Rovaniemi.  Our excursions had been pre-booked with Rukapelvelu Safarihouse in Ruka, and Aurora Hunting – Rovaniemi / Levi to ‘hopefully’ see the spectacular Northern Lights.  Just to say, the Northern Lights eluded us in 2016.


After arriving at Santa Claus’ Official Airport in Rovaniemi, hire car collected we made our way to nearby Santa Claus Holiday Village.  On our previous trip we became friendly with the owners, lovely Inga and Marco; and had a little ‘Irish’ gift for them.  Pulling into the Santa Claus Holiday Village car park we could see that there’d been a lot of changes.  A new reception area, restaurant and luxury apartments.  Surprising Inga in Reception we were blessed to receive a guided tour of the new Reception and 3 Elves Restaurant.  Modern yet continuing with traditional Finnish accents throughout.  Huge wooden beams, authentic reindeer hides, cosy snugs, a sizeable mezzanine floor and a well-stocked wine case.  An outstanding piece of Finnish architecture and lit beautifully at night.


After a short while Marco arrived and we all sat chin-wagging over coffee.  Inga and Marco would be leaving Santa Claus Holiday Village for a few days to celebrate (quietly) Marco’s 50th (shhh, don’t tell anyone) birthday.  Lynne was also celebrating a big birthday…40 and, it was also our 15th wedding anniversary!  Chatting about our Scandinavian travel plans to Inga and Marco, they very generously offered us the opportunity to stay at the brand new luxury apartments for a couple of nights…a very early Christmas present for 2019.  Definitely wasn’t on the cards but we gratefully accepted, we’d be coming back to the place that we love so much, Santa Claus Holiday Village.  But not before a few days in Ruka for the girls to ski.  Our temporary farewells were bid with fondness and we began our 200km journey South-East to Ruka.



The  journey to Ruka should have taken around 2.5 hours but actually took us a little under 5 hours!  The stunning scenery in Finnish Lapland gave us far too may opportunities to stop, take photos and marvel at the beauty of this wintry wonderland, and why not?  At the side of the road, and blending almost invisibly into the snowy surroundings; white rabbits as big as Cocker Spaniels; frolic and play.  Reindeer scrub away at the deep snow with their nose foraging for grass.  We seriously love Finland in winter!  Just need a summer stay now and then get a t-shirt with ‘been there in winter, done that in summer’ printed on the front and back!


It was late evening when we arrived in Ruka at the little cottage, booked through Interhome; overlooking the bay of Hietalahti on the Kitka River.  The snow was much deeper in Ruka than in Rovaniemi and it was also much colder.  Our non English speaking host met us outside the cottage, and through the amazing technology of Google Translate; we were able to communicate with each other.  The cottage had been heated pending our arrival and we were thankful that it had.  Not as modern as some of the places we’ve stayed when traveling but the cottage was clean, wonderfully warm and everything we could possibly need.  After lighting the fire the car was emptied and we prepared what we needed for the following days excursion…Ice Fishing in Ruka booked with Rukapalvelu Safarihouse.


Morning came around rather quickly and outside the temperature was -30°C.  Our first holiday excursion was Ice Fishing, or ‘Pilkki’ as it’s known in Finland; booked with Rukapalvelu Safarihouse for 09:00.  It was extremely cold, it was extremely early and it was beginning to dawn on us that maybe Ice Fishing wasn’t the best idea for the first morning of our holiday!  Nonetheless, we dressed like onions (lots of layers) in the hope of keeping the cold at bay.  Overnight there had been a flurry of snow and the car had to be cleared and defrosted.  Unfortunately, our cabin neighbour had parked in front of our car blocking us in.  Politely we asked them if they could move their car, they couldn’t…flat battery!  After jump starting the dead car we embarked on a short 15 minute journey to Rukapalvelu Safarihouse for Ice Fishing in Ruka.



After a great morning Ice Fishing in Ruka, Lily-Belle and Matilda were eager to hit the slopes.  So, after spot of lunch at Hanki Baar, we made our way to the ski hire shop.  For us, this was the worst experience of the entire holiday, the staff were unfriendly and made zero effort to assist.  There was also an overcharge of €40 that we didn’t see until we were back at the cottage that evening (rectified with minimal fuss the following day).  After getting boots, skis, helmets and poles for the girls we took the new Village-2-Valley scenic gondola over the mountain.  As Mummy and I are non-skiers we loved the idea of the Rosa and Rudolf Family Park, an all-family snow park situated in the Ruka Valley.  Perfect conditions for skiing with clear blue skies, sunshine and zero wind.  Ruka seemed like the perfect winter ski holiday choice!


The Rosa and Rudolph Family Park was quiet, as were the slopes.  Not once did the girls queue to use the rolling carpets (24m, 50m, 80m, 100m).  Lily-Belle and Matilda were content going up the rolling carpet and down the gentle slopes of their own accord.  The sun was shining brightly in the sky but it was bitterly cold at -22°C.  After an hour or so skiing we took refuge in a hut halfway up the slopes, or was it halfway down?  Toasty warm and a bbq right in the centre.  We soon learned that Finnish people don’t leave home without a packet of sausages, a knife and a flint of some sort to light a fire.  Skiers arrived sporadically and loaded the bbq with sausages….Matilda looked on longingly, her bottom lip quivering!  And not one person offered her a sausage, poor little mite!


As well as skiing, within the Rosa and Rudolph Family Park was tubing.  Sit on a big inflatable tube and slide down a sloped snow chute.  Feeling the cold air rush your face as you speed down the chute and ride the steep ice wall at the bottom was thrilling and loads of fun!  Darkness soon began to fall and after another hour of skiing, Lily-Belle and Matilda had had enough.  Seeing all of those sizzling sausages had made us all hungry.  Rather than dine out we stopped at Lidl to do a small shop and then returned to our cottage by the lake.   Our evening was spent playing in the snow and scanning the night sky looking for the dancing lights; followed by toasting marshmallows by the open fire and watching subtitled TV.


After a restless night due to uncomfortable beds, we rose in Ruka to another day of blue skies.  Breakfast in the cottage then a few pictures of the frozen lake.  Such a beautiful location to enjoy the nature of Finland and our 15th wedding anniversary.  After a spot of lunch we returned to the slopes in Ruka Village for more skiing and tubing.  The one thing we loved about skiing in Ruka was how quiet the park was in March.  There’s a lot of construction work going on beside the Rosa and Rudolph Family Park but the building work isn’t disruptive to the slopes.  A brand new Ruka Valley Village with apartments and restaurants which should be ready for the 2020 season.  In the evening we had a Starlit Sleigh Ride to look forward to!


Living on the island of Ireland we are very fortunate to live in a rural area with zero light pollution.  On a clear night the stars shine brightly and many of our galaxy constellations can be seen.  How on earth can we top that?  Well, maybe if we had a snowmobile, a sleigh and a reindeer hide for warmth we’d be close!  That’s exactly what we had when we took a Starlit Sleigh Ride with Rukapalvelu Safarihouse in Ruka.  Having already done Ice Fishing in Ruka with the same company, we knew our evening would be enjoyable.  And who knows, maybe we’d get to see the spectacular Northern Lights on our 15th wedding anniversary!



Wrapped up warm it was time to venture outside.  The previous evening Samuli had informed us that it was safe to venture out on to the frozen river (with caution, as some parts don’t freeze).  Treading carefully, ice creaking and groaning; I couldn’t resist venturing out to the centre to take a few pictures.  The girls were more than happy using the sleds on the snow covered slopes of the garden.  The sled slopes were well bedded, we presume by the previous occupants, and fellow travel blogger; the lovely Kate Bridges.  Meantime, Mummy tended to the hot tub like a new Mummy tends to her newborn baby!  In the shed we found snowshoes and…well, disaster!  I sank to my knees in the soft deep snow and the girls fell this-way-and-that…hilarious!


A Cosy Cottage by the River has so much to enjoy; we never got the chance to try out the bbq hut but we
will on our next visit in 2020.  To truly appreciate the cottage you really should stop en route to pick up provisions and not leave the cottage for a few days.  Our favourite activity by far was the kick sleds; amazing fun zipping at speed down the pine tree lined lane!  Lily-Belle and Matilda took to the sleds with minimal fuss and we even had a ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moment when Lily-Belle was unceremoniously dumped off the back of the kick sled and Mummy crashed into the snow verge!  Did Matilda and I stop to assist….naaaaaaaah, we laughed as we slid by to cross the finish line and take the victory!  Kick sled champions of Rovaniemi 2019.


Finally, a little R&R in the hot tub!  Mummy couldn’t get her head around why a hot tub had no bubbles!  I explained (many times) that a hot tub is hot water and a Jacuzzi (brand name) is hot water AND bubbles!  I could have explained astrophysics to a monkey quicker!  After partially heating the water the night before, the hot tub only took a couple of hours to reach 37°C.  Once the hot tub reaches the desired temperature, we only needed to top up the wood burner every half hour.  One couldn’t imagine a more beautiful cottage to be looking out over the frozen river.  The feeling of snow flakes as they land on your head, whilst your submerged body is toasty and warm; is more than invigorating.  Just one word…bliss!  Later in the day we met with our good friend Mikko and his beautiful family.


Back in 2016, when we first visited Santa Claus Holiday Village; the lights failed to put on a show and we left extremely disappointed!  Thankfully though, we did get to meet Mikko whilst visiting Snowman World.  Mikko is an Aurora Hunter and Photographer and through Facebook we stayed in touch and have become good friends.  As a family we were excited to return in March 2019 to meet with Mikko and his wonderful family.  Mikko had also kindly offered to take us on an Aurora Hunt…would we see them this time?



After our amazing night with Mikko and his family, and seeing the Aurora Borealis dance in the night sky; our time had come to leave A Cosy Cottage by the River.  Next stop…Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, just 20 km away.  On route there was an ‘incident’.  Mummy, Matilda and Lily-Belle were on their ipads and phones so I was the driver and spotter for Finnish wildlife.  A brief glance to the left and bosh…I’d slid into the deep snow verge.  Thankfully a Finnish local stopped and pulled us out of the ditch and once again Google Translate came in handy.  Our incident took 2 hours to get back on the road, 1h 58m of head scratching and 2 mins to pull the car out!   Back on the road we stopped off at Yuca, a Mexican Street Food diner in Rovaniemi; for lunch and to laugh at our misfortune!


Yuca was exceptionally busy but thankfully we were seated after a short wait.  Our server Mikko spoke perfect English and we chatted as we looked over the menu.  There’s a lovely story about the ‘birth’ of Yuca and here it is in a nutshell.  Taqueria is a Mexican Restaurant in Tulum, Mexico.  Juha, the main owner of Yuca (stay with me) visited Taqueria and enjoyed the food so much, he invited the owners, Fernando and Fernanda (yup, that’s their names); to visit him in Rovaniemi and help establish one of the best Mexican eateries in Finland.  Although we’ve only tried one Mexican restaurant in Finland, Yuca, we do love Mexican food and eat it often.  The food was excellent, the staff were excellent…Yuca IS excellent!  High quality food at a reasonable price, visit and you won’t be disappointed!


After a fine tapas feast of tacos, tostadas and a dessert of chocolate churros, our final holiday destination was calling, Santa Claus Holiday Village…and we couldn’t wait!  Arriving at Santa Claus Holiday Village the snow was falling heavily.  Entering Reception we bumped into Inga and Marco who were about to head away (birthday boy was turning 50) for a few days of fun.  A brief chat, hugs, farewells and they were away, snowmobiles in tow.  A warm welcome at reception and we were provided with a keycard to our accommodation.  For the next two evenings we’d be staying in the brand new Holiday Suites.  The hotel quality suites are named and decorated tastefully with Lappish themes: Snow, Reindeer, Northern Lights, Red Fox, and Snowy Night.  Our Holiday Suite…Reindeer 204.


They say ‘first impressions last’ and they most certainly do, the Reindeer Holiday Suite was outstanding.  Daylight floods in through the superior windows and glass panelled doors which lead out on to the balcony.  Spacious and elegant lounge and a master bedroom befitting royalty.  Inga and Marco describe the Holiday Suites as ‘hotel like quality’, but I have to disagree, in my opinion, they are more superior than a hotel room.  Each Classic Suite has a separate lounge with a double sofa bed, a luxurious main bedroom with a comfy Finnish-made double bed and wardrobes, a terrace with forest views, and a lavish bathroom with sauna.  There’s also a mini kitchenette and mini dining table in every suite.  Classic Suites are perfect for families of 2 + 2.



After emptying the car and familiarising ourselves with the superb Holiday Suites at Santa Claus Holiday Village, a feed was required.  The new 3 Elves restaurant was preparing to close but thankfully the original restaurant was open and serving food.  Nothing too fancy, pizza and chips to share, and meatballs and chips for the girls.  As we remembered from 2016, all delicious and tasty.  It was a little after 21:00 when we left the restaurant and took a stroll around the deserted Santa Claus Village.  In all honesty, we saw just two people the entire time!  That’s the great thing about the village in March, early evening and the tourists disappear so those staying have the place to themselves (December it’s much busier).  Lily-Belle and Matilda availed of the free sleds and found a huge pile of snow to sled down.  The falling snow was getting heavier!


Morning arrived and after showers it was time to venture out to the new 3 Elves Restaurant for breakfast.  There had been around 6 inches of soft powdery snow overnight, and snow was still falling heavily!  Winter, especially when snow is falling and deep on the ground; is my favourite season of the year.  I felt like a giddy child as I stuck my tongue out trying to catch snowflakes!  To onlookers, I have no doubt that I probably looked like a deranged orangutan!  Chefs worked busily preparing eggs to order and ensuring the breakfast trays were kept well stocked.  Crispy bacon, pancakes and syrup is always a firm favourite with The Callaghan Posse and didn’t disappoint.  Tired, a strong flavoursome coffee was needed, welcomed and drank swiftly…caffeine kick!



After a hearty breakfast we took a short walk into Santa Claus Village and dropped in to Husky Park.  In the first enclosure, through a perspex window; we could see a mother husky being suckled by her new born pups.  So adorable and cute!  Each husky pen has a plate detailing name, age, position within the pack and general info on the dog itself.  Before entering the Husky Park we were warned to remove our gloves before petting the dogs, as the dogs have a tendency to steal gloves straight off the hand.  Of course, we all howled in an attempt to get the husky’s to do the same, which they did.  Hooooooooooowl!

The husky’s pace frantically at times, and howl in an attempt to catch the attention of their owners. They are not sad, ill-treated or cold, they simply want to be part of the sled team and run.  The majority of the dogs are friendly and can be petted, but the odd one will show its teeth as a warning.  What we did was approach the cage, then hold the back of our bare hand just close enough for the husky’s to smell us.  If they accepted us they brushed against the cage and presented themselves to be stroked, if they didn’t accept us, the dog simply growled and walked away.  During our visit in 2016 we took a twilight Husky Sled Ride, on this occasion we decided petting and seeing the dogs was enough.  Next stop, children’s snowmobiling with Arctic Circle Snowmobile Park.


When we first visited Santa Claus Holiday Village in 2016, Lily-Belle was just 7.  Her first attempt at snowmobiling was a disaster!  A quick twist of the throttle and the sudden forward jerk scared her senseless and she refused to carry on!  This time, Lily-Belle was more than happy to open the throttle, but Matilda got the fear…refused to even sit on the snowmobile!  For just €20pp the children get 10 minutes to do as many laps as they can around a small circuit.  As we had paid for two children, Lily-belle got to have 20 minutes of snowmobile fun…and she loved it, even asked if I would buy her a quad when we got home…er, no!


Not too far from Husky Park is Santa Claus Reindeer.  Although we didn’t take a reindeer sleigh ride on this occasion, we did back in 2016, and loved it!  Beside the entrance of the reindeer pen we stopped by the fire pit and warmed our chilly fingers and toes.  Of course, we still had to get a few pictures stood beside Santa’s reindeer….but funny enough, not one of them had a bright red nose!  Seemed Rudolph had deserted his post and gone awol!  Maybe he was in the Post Office?


If you visit Finland and cross the Arctic Circle, there’s something that you should remember to do….and in 2016, we failed to do this task.  And what is that task you may ask…it’s get your passport stamped!  Ok, if you do…you’re doing so at your own risk and allow me to tell you why!  Having your passport ‘unofficially’ stamped by the Santa Claus Village reception is technically classed as ‘defacing or altering’ your passport.  Airport officials are well within their rights to refuse you entry/exit of the country.  Don’t say we didn’t warm you!  With our history of airports, mainly Mummy and past security issues, we really wondered if ‘defacing’ our passports would be a good idea.  But hey ho, what’s the worse that could happen, we’d get to stay in Lapland until new passports arrived.  Passports stamped!  Time for an early evening meal at Santa’s Salmon Place.


Not sure how we managed to miss Santa’s Salmon Place back in 2016…but somehow we did!  Deliciously fresh salmon slow baked in an open fire in the centre of a Lappish tippee.  As the only fish eater in the house, Mummy and the girls weren’t too enthralled at dining on salmon.  The tippee is quite small and seating is limited, but the smells are more than pleasing as the flames lick at the salmon skin.  Food heaven for me, food hell for the girls!  Not all bad though, they did get to eat a delicious scandinavian cheesecake and heart shaped biscuits for dessert.  Who’d have thought that a piece of salmon and a bread roll could taste so good…but it did!  With full bellies we played in the snow before retiring to Reindeer 204 to pack away our winter clobber.  Leaving for home the following day.

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Morning arrived much too soon and we really did not want to leave Santa Claus Holiday Village.  After clearing the car of deep snow, and packing the car, and dropping the room key back at reception; sadly, our visit to Santa Claus Holiday Village had come to an end.  Santa Claus Holiday Village is a special place and we know we’ll return many, many times.  Full of magic, full of wonder, full of the spirit of Christmas….a wintry wonderland that every person should try to visit at least once in their life time.  Until the next time…hei hei!


We’ve already booked to return in 2020.  The stunning wintry landscape coupled with the friendly locals just makes Finland a favourite holiday destination of ours.  We love snow, the deeper the better and the girls love Christmas…what more could we possibly need?

With a very special THANK YOU to:

  • Anna and Samuli – for your exceptional warmth and kindness, your cosy cottage is beautiful,
  • Inga and Marco – for your friendship and for your generosity, hope you liked our little gift,
  • Mikko Lantto and family – for an amazing night filled with laughter, food, friendship and Aurora hunting,
  • Rukapalvelu Safarihouse – for our excursions and for showing us the beautiful way of Finnish life…enjoy the Baileys.

We are very grateful to each and every one of you for your generosity, warmth, kindness and friendships.  Looking forward to returning to Finnish Lapland and seeing you all in 2020.


Finland is becoming my favourite place to visit on holiday.  Last time I came I didn’t do the snowmobile but really enjoyed it this time.  Visiting the Husky Park was my favourite though, I really loved the Husky pups, and wanted to bring them all home.


I really love the snow and sledding down the hills, it’s so much fun.  The dogs were really fluffy and I liked it when the howled at me.

Travel Itinerary

Easyjet:  Belfast to London 2nd March / 11th March 2019 (return):  £246.42 (2A + 2C + 1 checked bag)
Premier Inn London 2nd March 2019:  £65 (1 night)
Easyjet:  London to Rovaniemi (return flights) 3rd March 2019:  £215.38 (2A + 2C + 1 checked bag)
Hertz Car Hire from Rovaniemi Airport:  £343.83 (7 days)
Ruka Cottage booked through Interhome 3rd March – 6th March 2019:  £306.00 for 4 days / 3 nights
A Cosy Cottage by the River booked through Airbnb 6th March – 8th March 2019:  £230.00 for 3 days / 2 nights
Santa Claus Holiday Village Holiday Suites 8th March – 10th March 2019:  Gifted for 3 days / 2 nights

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Information, currency and prices are correct at the time of publishing.

Views, opinions and experiences are that of The Callaghan Posse and are correct at the time of publication.
Photos, unless credited, are taken by The Callaghan Posse for use and distribution by Around The World In 18 Years.
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[disclaimer: Gifted item(s) from Rukapalvelu Safarihouse were provided in return for social media and blog coverage.  Our 2 night stay at Santa Claus Holiday Village was gifted by friends]


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  • Reply
    30th May 2019 at 16:39

    Oh wow so many celebrations at one time!! I am glad to see you had a great time and I love that you used google to communicate ahah!

    • Reply
      Around The World In 18 Years
      3rd June 2019 at 17:26

      Hi Millie, many thanks. There’s so much to do in Lapland in the space of a week, ok, may seem a bit crammed but definitely worth it. Google translate is great….most of the time, although, it can sometimes interpret words incorrectly, some offensive, others amusing lol 🌏 ✈️ ❤️

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