Explore our top tips for an unforgettable 4-day family trip to Santa Claus Village, packed with activities and must-see spots!

A Jolly Festive Exclusive
People standing in the snow of the main square at Santa Claus Village with snow covered roof of Santa Claus Office building and its pointy turret to one side, a large snowman in the square and snow capped fir trees in background with an orange setting sun.

We spent 4 days on a Finnish Lapland adventure to Santa Claus Village. And so should you!

From fat biking through the forest, seeing the Northern Lights, snowmobiling along a frozen river, eating at a restaurant made of ice, going ice karting and meeting Santa Claus, it was heaven on earth for a Christmas fanatic and winter wonderland obsessive.

It wasn’t a cheap holiday but surpassed our expectations in every way, introduced us to amazing new experiences, and has left lifelong happy family memories.  Planning your own Lapland holiday?  Here’s our first-hand thoughts and tips to help.

For more in-depth information, check out our top tips for visiting Lapland on a Budget, 10 things to do in Santa Claus Village for less than €5, and what to take when visiting Lapland in Winter.

Please note this trip was self-funded and organised.  All opinions are our own.  We are not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned.  We were kindly offered extended visits with Santa Claus at Santa Claus Office and Mrs Santa Claus at Christmas Cottage as well as complimentary photos to assist with sharing these experiences with you.

Five Tips For Visiting Santa Claus Village

Our top tips for a visit to Santa Claus Village.

  1. Don’t underestimate the cold! From the need for appropriate clothing to how long it takes to get dressed and how tiring it can be spending time in the freezing conditions, weather is a serious business in the Lapland winter.
  2. Book your must-dos early to avoid disappointment – activities and restaurants get booked up well in advance, particularly in the busy season.
  3. Many activities are available at the village for first-come-first-served ‘taster sessions’ which can be a great way to try further activities when you arrive.
  4. If not staying at Santa Claus Village, get there early to enjoy the quieter time before the tour buses arrive.
  5. Take advantage of free or low-cost activities, including a visit to see Santa! We’ve rounded up our favourite Santa Claus Village ideas under €5 for you.
Tall snow-capped red pillar with thermometer reading -21C standing in a snowy square with illuminated snow covered trees behind.

Thermometer in February in Lapland’s Santa Claus Village

4-Day Santa Claus Village Itinerary

To make the most of our winter wonderland adventure, we planned for 1-2 activities each day. Our 4-day Lapland Santa Claus Village itinerary:

DAY 1

  • Morning: Arrival
  • Afternoon: Lunch at Santamus & Time in Village
  • Evening: Rest

DAY 2

  • Morning: Fat E-Biking Excursion
  • Afternoon: Time in Village (incl. visit to Santa Claus)
  • Evening: Northern Light Safari by Snowmobile

DAY 3

  • Morning: Rest and Explore Village
  • Afternoon: Lunch at Santa’s Salmon Place & Ice-Karting
  • Evening: Visit to Arctic SnowHotel including Dinner at The Ice Restaurant

DAY 4

  • Morning: Husky Dog Sled & Reindeer Sleigh Rides
  • Afternoon: Visit to Mrs Santa Claus & Late Lunch at The Three Elves’ Restaurant
  • Evening: Departure

Tips:

  • Choose your top priority activities and plan around these. You can add taster versions of other activities at Santa Claus Village on-the-day once you arrive (e.g. short husky and reindeer rides). 
  • Book your main activities before you arrive to avoid disappointment.
  • Allow plenty of downtime in between activities – being out in the cold is tiring.
  • Enjoy all the free or low-cost activities on offer too – we’ve shared our top Santa Claus Village ideas under €5.
Winter wonderland scene of snow-covered village with snow-capped fir trees and buildings towards the Santa Claus Village main square and turret of Santa Claus Office with sunset colours in the sky beyond.

Sunset Over Santa Claus Village

Santa Claus Village Activity Reviews

Our thoughts and experiences to help you decide what to add to your itinerary.

Winter Fat E-Biking in Lapland

Our favourite activity of the whole trip!  E-biking on bicycles with off-road winter tyres, aka ‘fat tyres’.  We booked an organised excursion with Lapland Safaris which included transfers to and from Santa Claus Village to the Lapland Safaris centre in Rovaniemi. 

Following a briefing and sorting of clothes (with various outer layers available to borrow), our group set off directly from the centre, crossing the river and heading uphill for a short while on the roadside, before turning off into the forest.

And then the magic started!  It was utterly divine.  Our guide took us through the snow on narrow tracks, weaving our way between snow-covered trees with just the occasional squeaking of tyres to keep us company.  After around an hour in the forest, we arrived at a viewpoint and were treated to the sight of a ‘snow-bow’ – I’d never even heard of this white rainbow, have you?!  It was breathtaking!  As was the surreal experience of working up a sweat in the subzero conditions, but it was so worth it, and the e-bike certainly helped.

Hot chocolate at the Sky Ounasvaara hotel rounded out the 13km trip before we returned to the centre.  Truly amazing!  And that was with a couple of battery challenges early on and a spectacular six falls from my bike in the snow (thank goodness for soft landings!).  Cannot recommend enough!   

People in weatherproof clothes cycling on fat bikes away from camera down a snow covered track in the middle of a snowy forest with tall snow-dusted fir trees on either side of the narrow path and a hazy soft winter light in the sky above.

Fat E-Biking in the Snow, Rovaniemi

Northern Light Safari by Snowmobile

I LOVE snowmobiling!  The thrill of whizzing across the winter landscape with the warmth of the engine guarding you against the cold.  And snowmobiling at night makes me feel like I’m in The Snowman movie – you know the bit when they are on the motorbike in the forest?  I can almost hear the soundtrack as I drive.  It’s one of my favourite things to do, ever.

Again, we joined a Lapland Safaris excursion for our Northern Lights search by snowmobile. Spoiler alert: we didn’t find them.  Did it matter?  Not really – the snowmobiling was the focus; the lights would have been a magical bonus. 

After being kitted out with warm clothing (an absolute must) and a short lesson in snowmobiling, we headed out – a snake of taillights speeding along the frozen river.  We crossed an island and made our way off the river and up into the woods.  The snow laden trees looked mystical in the dark night and, with the engines drowning out all other sound, we were each lost in our own thoughts.

Eventually we arrived at the small camp where two tents housed fires and seating.  It was cold!  The sausages and warm berry juice were much appreciated.  But the boys, who hadn’t had the benefit of heated handlebars in their passenger seats, struggled a little to get warm.  Without the Northern Lights to distract us, the break quite long and we were glad to be on our way again, retracing our steps back towards Rovaniemi. 

Would I do it again?  Without hesitation.  Just be prepared for the cold!

Woman in snowsuit, balaclava and helmet sitting on snowmobile with passenger behind in the dark in a train of snowmobiles on the snow of a frozen river with another train of snowmobiles adjacent.

Hannah on Snowmobile Northern Lights Safari

Ice Karting

Another new experience!  Our elder son is an avid karter so a chance to try ice-karting was a must!  And there just happens to be a track located opposite Santa Claus Village, easily walkable from our apartment.  I acted as photographer as hubbie and the boys took to the track.

The day we visited was extremely cold (-24C) and there hadn’t been much recent snowfall, so the track was very icy.  It certainly meant for the full experience! Quite different from regular karting, there was no ‘if’ you crash in the briefing, it was more about how many times you’d do so!

Once they got the hang of the karts and conditions, they really enjoyed the experience (so much so that my elder son went back for more the next day!).  The two (12ish minute) sessions on the track were broken by a very welcome warm berry juice break and chance to watch other karters.

Tip: No indoor facilities at the track, save for a tent with firepit so come prepared for the elements!  Hands get extremely cold holding the wheel so be sure to bring the best mittens you can find. 

4 go-karts with well-dressed arctic karters lined up ready to head out on a ice and snow covered karting track with snowy forest behind and blue sky above.

Karters Ready To Head Out Ice Karting

Visiting Santa Claus in Lapland

Did you know that Santa Claus – the real one – is available to visit for free every day in Santa Claus Village?! 

How can that be?  Well, you can visit for free.  But you pay for photos (and you pay well!).  It’s your choice: commit the experience to memory for no cost, or splurge for a memento for the memory box. 

But I have to say the concept of a free one-to-one hello with Father Christmas for everyone is neat.  And it has turned Rovaniemi, and specifically Santa Claus Village, into the official home of Father Christmas.  You’ll visit him with your group in his studio where conversations are typically brief to keep the line moving on this first come, first served activity.

Try as I might, I couldn’t persuade the boys to join me visiting Santa.   So, I just took my other half along instead.  And, as a fellow Christmas obsessive in the industry, I was treated to a proper chat with the man in red.  He is the best storyteller, after all! 

Tip: we were advised that the late afternoons are generally a little quieter as most of the tour groups have passed through by then. For our 3pm visit to Santa Claus Office in February, the line was around 20 minutes long.

Visiting Mrs Santa Claus

Mrs Santa Claus also welcomes guests to her Christmas Cottage, though you’ll have to pay for this visit (it was €5pp when we visited).  Again, photos are extra.  It was a lovely experience – we had no queue and didn’t feel rushed at all.  But there’s nothing quite like meeting Santa himself!

Santa Claus in traditional Lappish outfit with woman sitting in middle of room with antique style maps and globes behind and bookshelf full of old books.

Hannah and Santa Claus at Santa Claus Office, Santa Claus Village in Lapland

Husky Park Husky Dog Sled Ride

As we have been fortunate to try sledding with huskies before, we opted for a shorter on-the-day experience.  We took a 2km 8-minute husky dog sled ride at the Husky Park which included entrance into the husky dog park to meet some of the dogs too. 

Whilst an enjoyable experience, it was probably the least memorable of our Lapland activities. We didn’t build any rapport with either our dog team or musher guide in our short ride.  It was nice to meet the dogs though and we were able to stroke a couple. 

Tip: If the Husky Park is on your radar, go their as early as possible to secure your experience.  Timeslots are allocated for later in the day but do get filled quickly.

Woman stroking belly of a husky dog in the snow.

Hannah saying hello to a husky dog

Santa Claus Reindeer Sleigh Ride

The 1km Forest Path reindeer sleigh ride with Santa Claus Reindeer was gorgeous.  It’s a first come, first served queue (outside, but with a fire nearby) although we waited virtually no time at all. 

At around 12 minutes it was a better length than the husky ride, and our guide chatted happily as we went along, telling us about our reindeer.  We even saw an arctic hare camouflaged against the snow by a tree! 

View from a traditional wooden sleigh being pulled by a reindeer with reindeer herder and another sleigh ahead walking along a snowy path in a snow-covered forest.

Reindeer Sleigh Ride at Santa Claus Village in Lapland

Food at Santa Claus Village

We were extremely well catered for in our apartment so didn’t need to eat out much nor visit the supermarket. However, we did treat ourselves to a few special meals and would heartily recommend them!  

Tip: Book for meals before you travel where possible.  Many sell out.   

OUR TOP RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • For best local food: Santamus
  • For best unique experience: Arctic Snowhotel Ice Restaurant
  • For best atmosphere: Santa’s Salmon Place

Santamus

Directly opposite our accommodation in Santa’s Luxury Boutique Villa was the Santamus restaurant.  We booked lunch here for our arrival to ensure we had somewhere warm to wait until check-in.

The restaurant is decorated beautifully with an indoor pond, lots of fir trees and twinkling lights, and an open fire to one side.  The starter and desserts are buffet-style with unlimited return and include lots of local specialities.  For main course, we chose between fish, meat, and vegetarian for a plate delivered to the table.  I had the salmon which was tasty.  You could order alcoholic drinks from the menu.  We had water and tea/coffee which were included in the meal price.

Overall, it was a great lunch with lots of food and a beautiful, unusual setting.

Selection of labelled dishes of local Lappish delicacies displayed buffet style for self service with open fire and fur-covered chairs visible in background.

Buffet of Local Delicacies at Santamus

Santa’s Salmon Place

Santa has great taste in salmon restaurants!  This traditional Lappish wooden tepee is cute as a button, located right next to the Santa Claus Village Post Office. 

Food is, unsurprisingly, salmon!  Cooked in front of you, over an open fire in the centre of the tepee.  We selected a mixture of grilled salmon with salad and bread, and salmon soup.  It was at the pricier end for the portion size, but delicious.  The soup was the firm winner on our table.  And the atmosphere inside the Santa’s Salmon Place tepee was lovely, cosily huddled at small wooden tables around the fire. 

Tip:  No booking available. Tables are first come first served and we were warned there would be a queue.  We arrived 30mins before opening and were second in line. 

Man cooking salmon fillets on grill over an open fire in middle of wooden tepee with large metal chimney above.

Salmon Cooking Over Open Fire at Santa’s Salmon Place

Arctic Snowhotel Ice Restaurant

The clue is in the name: this is a restaurant made of ice, set within a hotel made of snow!  Talk about a unique setting for dinner…! 

We booked the ice restaurant as part of a package, including transfers and a tour of the Arctic Snowhotel.  So pleased we did.  The tour was very informative.  And we had plenty of time to explore the intricately carved bedrooms (they are open to the public during the day), have a go on the ice slide, and drink in the ice bar (where the tradition is to smash your ice glass on the bar wall when you’ve finished!).   

Plus, whilst at the ice bar, the hotel’s aurora alarm was sounded and we were ushered straight outside to enjoy a brief show from the mesmerising Northern Lights. 

Dinner is a 3-course set menu, with choice of main.  It really is a surreal experience: set in a series of cavernous snow-carved rooms, your senses are challenged in every conceivable way. 

The snow construction dampens sound whilst the low lighting gives the setting an underground vibe.  Ice bench seats are covered in reindeer hides to keep bottoms warm(er!) but the cold did build as we ate, and we were grateful to be up and moving again. 

The water in my water glass even began to freeze!  Dessert is served on a literal ice plate (no concerns about keeping that course chilled!).  It was a very special experience and we’re so pleased we had organised it, even if it did take a while to warm up again afterwards.

For more about staying at an Ice Hotel, check out our first-hand tips and thoughts.

Ice table set with ice benches covered in reindeer hides set in a room carved from snow with ice pillars with carved decorations.

Ice Restaurant at the Arctic SnowHotel

Three Elves Restaurant

Lunch on our final day was at the Three Elves Restaurant, in the lobby of the Santa Claus Holiday Village main building.  The setting wasn’t particularly special, but the menu was surprising. 

We shared a beautiful array of arctic appetisers to start – local fish, cheeses, and meats with Scandinavian condiments – before trying reindeer and bear (yes, really!) burgers.  Juicy and a bit game-y, they were certainly an unusual menu option!

Wooden board with Finnish charcuterie selection of fish, meats, cheeses and sauces together with some micro salad leaves.

Northern Lights delicacies at Three Elves Restaurant

Buying Food

There are plenty of restaurants in Santa Claus Village but no general food store.  Snacks and fast food can be purchased at the petrol station on the opposite side of the main road (an easy walk via the pedestrian tunnel). 

The nearest supermarket is K-market Nivavaara, around 3.5km away.  And there’s K-Citymarket hypermarket and adjacent Lidl supermarket, both 7km away on the main road to Rovaniemi.

Gloved hand pouring a shot into an shot glass carved from ice on a counter top at the Ice Bar in the Arctic SnowHotel with another filled shot glass next to it.

Pouring Drinks at the Ice Bar at the Arctic SnowHotel

Where To Go For A Lapland Christmas

Lapland is huge, spanning the northern half of both Sweden and Finland.  So how do you pick where to go?  For an easy self-book getaway Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi in Finland fits the bill perfectly.

Santa Claus Village lies exactly on the Arctic Circle and is the self-proclaimed official home of Father Christmas (with meet-n-greets available every day of the year).

It’s five miles outside of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, and just one mile from the airport with direct flights direct to the UK (we flew from London Gatwick with easyJet).

When To Visit Santa Claus Village Lapland

We visited Santa Claus Village in February and would highly recommend it.

The busiest of the new-year months due to school breaks and Chinese New Year, February is still much less crowded than December, and with lower prices too.

Days are longer which makes activities easier.  And whilst there are never guarantees in nature, the cold, clearer skies of February / March offer the best chance of viewing the Northern Lights.

If you’re looking for festive vibes, you’ll still find plenty.  Partly because of the winter wonderland snowy setting.  But also due to the bounty of illuminated Christmas trees and glögi (local mulled wine) on offer.   Not to mention that Santa Claus is available to meet every day, whatever the time of year!

How Long To Stay In Lapland

3 nights / 4 days felt like the optimum length of stay in Lapland. 

We had time to enjoy a host of activities without feeling rushed.  We could have filled another day from our base in Santa Claus Village and the trips available from there.  However, any longer than that and we would have wanted transportation to explore further afield.

Dressing for the weather and extreme cold did start to tire us.  And the costs add up.  With three nights, we felt we had explored the area well, but left hoping to return one day.

Two people standing on mound of snow with Northern Lights in dark sky above.

Hannah’s Family Watching the Northern Lights

Where To Stay

We stayed in Santa Claus Village rather than Rovaniemi town centre. 

All our activities were within walking distance in the village or included a complimentary transfer.  We even walked from the airport (1.5km).  The location made for easy relaxation between activities and enabled full festive immersion!

Being based in Rovaniemi would have allowed easier exploration of the town.  For example, a visit to the Artikum (Arctic Science Centre & Museum).  There are also more ‘standard hotel’ accommodation options available, as well as self-catering with easy access to food stores.  But for us the benefits of Santa Claus Village itself won out.

Santa Claus Village or Rovaniemi?

Whether to stay in Rovaniemi or Santa Claus Village is down to personal choice.  Here’s our summary of the pros and cons for accommodation in Santa Claus Village to consider.

  • + Full Christmas immersion, year-round!
  • + Most winter activities available on site.
  • + Away from town lights, possibly enabling easier viewing of the Northern Lights
  • + Time in the village at the quieter ends of the day.
  • + Walkable from the airport.

 

  • – Not a ‘cheap’ option.
  • – Further from town transportation links.
  • – No supermarket in the village & limited facilities.
  • – It’s a tourist venue (and perhaps too commercial for some).
  • – Busy during the daytime with tour groups.

Accommodation in Santa Claus Village

There is plenty of accommodation available in Santa Claus Village, from hotel rooms to small lodges, and even glass igloos offering panoramic views of the night sky.

We spent three nights in the upstairs apartment Santa’s Luxury Boutique Villa and loved it.

The villa is located right in the heart of Santa Claus Village, just 50m from the main square and Santa Claus Office.  It comprises two apartments – a 3-bed upstairs and 2-bed downstairs – which can be rented separately or together for larger groups.  The apartment was beautifully appointed throughout and we could happily have stayed there longer!  We had lots of space and were so well (and surprisingly well) catered for that we wanted for nothing.  Check out our full review of the Santa’s Luxury apartment.

White snowbow in blue sky seen from snowy hillside with snow-covered fir tree forest at base and some people in snowsuits sitting off to distance.

Beautiful Snowbow over Rovaniemi Lapland

Getting Around

There are various options for getting around in Santa Claus Village / Rovaniemi:

  • Santa Claus Village itself is not that big – everything is within 15 minutes’ walk.
  • Many excursions offer or include complimentary transfers to and from Santa Claus Village.  Be sure to ask.
  • The village has a bus service to Rovaniemi (with seasonal buses to the airport as well).
  • There’s also a taxi rank in the village, although taxis are reasonably expensive.
  • Rovaniemi airport is only one mile from Santa Claus Village and easily walkable with preparation (see tips below).
  • Car rental is available from Rovaniemi airport, but do be sure you are a confident winter weather driver to handle the road conditions.
  • Rovaniemi town centre has both train and bus stations for travel further afield.
easyJet plane being serviced at a gate at Rovaniemi airport with snow on the ground and snow-covered forest in the background.

easyJet Flight Arriving In Rovaniemi

Walking from Rovaniemi Airport to Santa Claus Village

Rovaniemi airport is about a mile away from Santa Claus Village.  With careful packing and thought to footwear, you can get straight off the plane and simply walk to the village.  We did precisely this.  A few tips from our experience:

  • Wear weatherproof shoes to travel or have easily accessible to change at the airport. (Our son only had trainers and he was struggling by the time we arrived in the village.)
  • Use your SatNav as the white landscape can be disorientating.
  • Keep to the designated footpaths – you are not permitted to walk along the edge of the roads. And with good reason.  We saw several cars skid and crash with the icy conditions.
Hannah standing in front of large thermometer reading -18C in Santa Claus Village at night time with lamp and fairy lights and colourfully illuminated snowy trees behind.

Freezing Temperatures at Santa Claus Village Rovaniemi Lapland

What To Take

Need help knowing what to take to Lapland for a winter adventure at Santa Claus Village?  Here’s our key tips.  But be sure to check out our detailed packing list with free printable checklist.

Clothes For Lapland

When packing for a trip to Lapland in winter, it’s all about layers and moisture-wicking clothes.

Temperatures can fluctuate from around +3C to as low as -40C.  Add in wind chill outside and time spent warm indoors and those are some huge temperature variations.

5 things to consider for your Lapland wardrobe:

  1. Plan for three layers: an inner (base) layer of thermals, a middle layer of fleeces and joggers, and an outer layer of weatherproof trousers, coat, and snow boots.
  2. Wool is best for keeping you warm and moisture away. Avoid cotton at all costs.
  3. Mittens (fingers all together) are much better than gloves (fingers separate) at keeping hands warm.
  4. Ensure boots and outer clothing are a size too big to allow for thick socks and layers and keep warm air trapped inside.
  5. Explore options for borrowing, renting, and purchasing clothing second hand to keep costs down.

Other Items

Our top five must-takes for a trip to Lapland (besides the clothes):

  1. Batteries drain more quickly in the cold. Ensure you have portable power banks, cables, and spare batteries with you to avoid missing those memory shots.
  2. Bring hot chocolate powder, alcohol, and snacks (customs permitting) to help manage food costs.
  3. The harsh environment is not only cold but also very dry and can be hard on skin. Be sure to bring face cream, hand cream and lip salve.
  4. A travel washing line comes in seriously handy for drying wet gloves, hats, and socks.
  5. If travelling before Christmas, don’t forget any special festive items, e.g. advent calendars, Elfie, letters to Santa, Christmas jumpers.

We’ve pulled together loads more information about what to pack for a Lapland holiday.  Plus, download our free printable checklist to be doubly sure nothing gets missed.

Looking for more inspiration?

And be sure to check out our Top Christmas Holiday Destinations – whether you’re looking to lean into the festivities or escape from them entirely, we’ve got a magical Christmas vacation idea for everyone!

We hope these insights and tips help you plan your magical Lapland getaway to Santa Claus Village. Have you visited this winter wonderland, or do you plan to? Share your stories or ask us questions in the comments below – we love hearing from fellow snow holiday enthusiasts!

And if you found this guide helpful, please consider sharing it with friends who might be plotting their own Lapland adventure.  Be sure to check out these tips on managing the costs of a Lapland trip.

What other Christmas holiday destinations have you got on your bucket list?

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