As winter approaches and the nights get longer, you might be wondering where to travel this Christmas break, so here is a little suggestion. Last December, I indulged a little by taking a very short getaway to Lapland. I had plans to be in Finland at the time, so when I discovered flights up north were just €50 (£35) for a return, I knew I had to finally go.
I stayed in the small village of Saariselkä, built for tourism – think of a tiny, wintery Benidorm – so most hotels and guesthouses are located there. However, on arrival it was clear that this was not your typical tourist hub, despite the abundance of families holidaying in search of Santa Claus. Every corner of the village, even the local supermarket and post office were calm and quiet, with a kind of silent , beautiful, Finnish charm to it, as Christmas music played softly.
The lack of sunlight was even more mesmerising than I had anticipated, creating an almost surreal ambience. During “daytime” (from roughly 10:00 to 14:00), beneath heavy cloud cover, the atmosphere had a bluish hue to it, reflecting off the icicles hanging from every ledge. At night, the soft glow of Christmas lights in the midst of light snowfall was truly a sight to behold. I am fairly sure that up until then I had been throwing the clichéd expression ‘winter wonderland’ around without doing it any justice at all, because it’s literal description is what my time in Lapland represented.
And then, the silence. The heavy snowfall acted as an insulator, muting every noise: once away from the main hotel complexes, in the forest, the hills or cross-country ski tracks, all that one can hear is just silence, interrupted occasionally by whooshing of skis or the snow crackling beneath one’s boots.
When it was time to leave, passing through the blinding white countryside on the buswas nothing short of magical, and some wild reindeer sightings made it even more special. Finally, and surely not to be forgotten: if you’re luckier than me at all, chances are you will get, on top of all of this, a gorgeous display of the Northern Lights.