We decided to explore Finnish Lapland at the beginning of November 2022 when our daughter was 5 years old. Our Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids included thus plenty of Santa – centered activities, as this was the main focus of our trip: visit Santa while Ilinca is small enough to believe and old enough to remember the visit. Here are the details of our itinerary and some practical aspects that will help you plan your own Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids.
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Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - practical aspects
We set up our visit to Finnish Lapland in the off-season (beginning of November) for several reasons: cheaper plane fares and an opening in our holiday schedules, the opportunity to spend more time with Santa and to avoid long waiting times in the Santa Claus Holiday Village, the possibility to still see snow without it being too cold and too dark.
On the one hand, we did get to experience Santa’s world at our own pace (Ilinca actually went in to say hello every morning) and to enjoy some mild weather days (although rainy). On the other hand, several attractions were not open yet and we did not see any snow during our stay (nor did we see any northern lights for that matter).
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - renting a car
One of the biggest mistakes we made was not looking into renting a car from an international company. We thought that being in one place and booking day trips for the duration of our stay was a good compromise. However, we failed to consider that activities can get quite pricy in Finland and it would have been much more economical to have the freedom to drive around as we wished.
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - accommodation
We stayed at the Santa Claus Holiday Village and it was the best decision we took for this trip. The village is located very close to the airport and a 20 minutes direct bus ride to the city of Rovaniemi. Choosing this accommodation allowed us to be flexible in terms of the Santa-themed activities we did in the village, to retreat back to our cottage when tired or cold, and to squeeze in 1-2 Santa-related undertakings on days when the main focus was somewhere else. As said, Ilinca got the opportunity to visit Santa every morning before we took off.
We stayed in one of the charming traditional cottages, which we loved. They are very well-equipped, cozy, clean, and even feature a sauna and a small kitchenette. We (read Sinan) actually cooked our lunch/dinner a couple of times. For groceries and basic needs, a supermarket is located a couple of bus stops away from the village, on the way to Rovaniemi.
While we were considering going for Santa’s Igloos in order to be able to see the Northern Lights through the glass roof, we were happy in the end that we did not, as the sky was clouded the whole time we were there.
Another authentic accommodation facility we looked into is the Apukka Resort which offers not only a variety of rooms for all tastes but also several activities that can be booked on-site.
For those looking into renting an apartment Rovaniemi city center is the best option. Still, the city itself reminded me too much of the Bremen suburb where I used to live for this to be a viable alternative for us.
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - day 1 - Santa Claus Holiday Village
Santa’s Village is a dream come true for children and adults alike. From meeting Santa to seeing his reindeer and having a chat with the elves or Mrs. Claus, it is the place in which magic is made. Make sure to plan enough time in your Lapland itinerary with kids to cherish and enjoy this attraction.
CLICK HERE TO READ OUR FULL REVIEW OF SANTA CLAUS HOLIDAY VILLAGE (coming soon)
As already mentioned, we booked accommodation in one of the traditional cottages and established our base at the Santa Claus Holiday Village. This allowed us to explore the offered activities in depth and take our time, which would be hard to do during a day trip. While charming by day and by night alike and featuring several unique restaurants, opening times in the village are usually between 10 AM and 5 PM, making it almost impossible to rush through everything in one day.
While some activities will be more interesting than others, little ones will need time to unwind in between and to process the magnitude of the experience. Thus, it is our recommendation to either reserve 2 days at the village or to decide beforehand to skip some of the activities and just focus on the main ones.
Besides visiting Santa, Ilinca spent time writing letters and postcards at Santa’s Post Office and crossed the Arctic Circle several times over. She also enjoyed the playgrounds on site quite a bit. All these activities are free of charge.
Coming to the paid activities, the highlight for us was the Elf Hat Academy, a very nicely crafted magic class in which the children could participate. Ilinca was also quite taken by the reindeer sleigh rides. However, if you have limited time in the village, you could consider skipping the short reminder sleigh ride in the Santa Claus Village and visiting an authentic reindeer farm instead.
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - day 2 - Rovaniemi
Visiting Rovaniemi is a great way to experience the realities of life at the Arctic Circle. While touring the city center only takes about an hour, you can spend an afternoon exploring the Arktikum Museum and Science Center (plenty of interactive activities for kids) or, in the summer, taking a canoe tour with a local and visiting the heritage museum.
While our visit to the Arktikum was cut short by a major tantrum (to be expected if you plan a Lapland itinerary with kids), Ilinca did enjoy shopping for traditional souvenirs at the Lauri Handicraft Atelier and an amazing lunch at the Rosso Rovaniemi, a restaurant with plenty of entertainment options for little visitors.
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - day 3 - into the wilderness
To explore the breathtaking nature around Rovaniemi, to understand a bit more about the soul of Lapland, and to get out of the Christmas cheer for a while, on our third day, we took a day trip hiking Vikakongas with Nordic Unique Travels. We visited their office in Rovaniemi city center the day before and met our guide Marko was amazing in helping us choose an itinerary that was suitable for a 5-year-old.
Click here to book the exact tour we did hiking Vikakongas with Nordic Unique Travels
Marko picked us up at our hotel in the morning and drove us to the location of the hike. He was well-informed about the area and he kept us all entertained, fed, and hydrated during the entire time of the hike. Sure, there were times when Ilinca needed to be carried and complained, but overall the promise of marshmallows by the fire convinced her to keep going.
Personally, I am so grateful Marko agreed to take photos of us during the hike, so there are actually cool family pictures of the three of us from this day. We ended the hike with a barbeque at a traditional outdoor place and this was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had so far.
If I am being honest, for us as adults this hike was the highlight of our Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids. Our experience would not have been complete without it, and we therefore wholeheartedly recommend you to try getting off the beaten path and doing a wilderness tour while in Lapland.
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - days 4 and 5 - day trip suggestions
As mentioned, we regretted not having rented a car. for our time in Lapland. There are several amazing day trips to take from Santa Claus Holiday Village, like the Ranua Wildlife Park , the Korouma Frozen Waterfall, and the Luosto Amethyst Mine.
Depending on your interests, any of these destinations would fit great to extend a Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids.
Alternatively, an extension of your Christmas experience at the Santa Park might make a nice addition to any Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids. Unfortunately for us, the Santa Park was closed when we visited (opens mid-November onwards).
Finnish Lapland Itinerary with Kids - final thoughts
We have added our Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids to the growing list of our favorite destinations, together with Slovenia and Andalusia among others, where we would gladly return as there would always be something more to explore and experience. Shall you have questions, comments, or want to share your experience with a Finnish Lapland itinerary with kids, we would be very grateful to hear from you in the comments below!