The official residence of Santa Claus himself and the line that marks the beginning of the Northern Arctic Circle is Santa Village in Rovaniemi, Finland.
I must admit, I was hesitant to attend the Santa Village as we had the day before attended Santa Park. As a 26 year old woman, there was only so much excitement I could build about the big man in red and I felt I was in store for a same same experience as the day before. My friend insisted this was SO different as this was all outdoors and there was a lot to do in the area. As we had a lot of time to kill, I was happy to oblige. I was also delighted that there was no entry fee! WAHOO! Something free in Finland.
I must say I was more than pleasantly surprised. This was one of the highlights of the trip and a fantastic village of entertainment for all ages. It was so beautifully decorated and actually looked better in the darkness with the giant Christmas trees lit up and the dazzling lights sparking in the trees.
First stop was the “official” post office of Santa Clause. From here, you can post a card which will be stamped with the official and only stamp of Santa Clause and the North Pole, a novelty in itself. We saw the elves hard at work sorting letters, the countries boxes filled with letters from children all over the world and many people dedicated writing letters to Santa and home to family and friends. I of course had to send off my greetings to family, simply as a once in a lifetime souvenir and our little traveler helped me post them.
We went on to some souvenir shops, of which there were many, and I have to say across the board this was my major disappointment with Lapland and Finland. The souvenirs were generic and not particularly relevant to the area. I expected in such a unique place that they would have some special gift and mementos that mentioned all the experiences. Many of them appeared to be readily available in all shops around Finland and could have come from anywhere in the world. More on this later.
So it was time to meet Santa again. I must say, the entrance and build up was spectacular. We walked through a cave and ice tunnel to a large room. We went upstairs past a giant clock, counting down to Christmas. We then saw a hall of fame of famous visitors to Santa’s office in prior years. An elf then snuck out and played along, hiding from us, and poking his head around, enticing us to Santa’s meeting room. We went along and were told we would have photos and a VIDEO of our encounter with the big man in red! We entered the room which was filled with presents and wonderful decorations. I felt excited and nervous again and hugged our little traveler as we again tried to coax him to say hello to Santa. He was a kind and jolly man, very aware of Australia and thanking us greatly for coming so far to meet him. He was the perfect embodiment of the Santa we always dreamed of catching at our Christmas tree as he delivered our lovely presents. It was another nice encounter and I felt warm and happy after we left. We purchased our photos and videos and got lots of extra bonuses on our USB, including music and photos of Santa Village.
We played on the ice slide and my friend missed the memo about the ice and did a wonderful stack! I took the little traveler down the slide and he cried “Wee Wee Wee” all the way down. It’s a pure joy to travel with a little person and see their wonder and amazement at everything. It’s all so new to them and even the simplest things can make them so happy. I hope I can always maintain some of this childlike wonder.
Another thrill of the village was seeing the blue line that marked the beginning of the Northern Arctic Circle. I climbed a top the globe like structure and imitated sitting on top of the World. I tell you now, it’s not easy to climb on and it’s not recommended to try and plank it. I believe this was not the intention of the structure but it was too much fun to resist!
One other let down was that we didn’t reach the museum on time as it closed at 5pm. Largely due to me excessive souvenir shopping and hunting for an adequate souvenir for my brother who collects them. There were also no reindeer which my friend had expected to see. We couldn’t visit the reindeers in stalls unless we paid for a sled ride. Again, these finished at 5pm so unfortunately we missed out entirely on meeting Santa’s reindeer in any of the locations we visited. It would be nice if they were more accessible but they are a key moneymaker of the winter season and so are protected in pay only areas.
Finally we enjoyed a delicious burger, recommended by the staff as the best in Rovaniemi! And we had to agree. A hot chocolate and a burger after a hard days Santa sightseeing was much deserved. Also greatly enjoyed by all of us!!
This was a wonderful experience and really was the perfect example of the Winter Wonderland. I couldn’t get the song out of my head as we walked around. I’m so glad my friend encouraged me to go and to share this incredible adventure and childhood fantasy with her and her beautiful family.