Winter doesn’t get much more atmospheric than in Scandinavia’s frozen north. But where to go to find that classic snowy landscape? The World Santa Claus Congress might have decreed that Father Christmas’s real home is in Greenland, but the travel industry has largely decided that the big guy resides in Lapland. So unless you’ve got a heap of ho-ho-ho spirit packed in your suitcase, a Greenland break could be pretty glum. And if you’re travelling with children — and without a herd of reindeer — travelling to the North Pole just isn’t practical.
The Lappish town of Rovaniemi, with its Disney-style theme parks, can, however, leave many serious travellers cold. Instead, wrap up warm and head out into the wilds. Discover landscapes lit by the mesmerising Northern Lights, accessible only by husky- or reindeer-drawn sleds. The Lapland of travellers’ minds is largely a scene of rurality, and for this, you’ll need to get out into the densely forested wilderness. This is best done on an organised tour.
Alternatively, head to Lulea, a pretty Swedish town that acts as a perfect base from which to go on drives along ice roads, excursions to meet reindeer-herding Sami communities, Northern Lights safaris and trips to idyllic Arctic Circle towns such as Kangos. These can all be arranged locally.
Finally we’d recommend the quaint Finnish ski resort of Ylläs. Bordering the eponymous national park, it’s another easy-access base within the Arctic Circle. Red clapboard cabins and a vast range of icy activities truly set the scene.
Lap it up
Simply Sweden: For expert-led wilderness safaris and Sami village stays across Lapland.
ScanAdventure: From low-key Santa experiences to high-octane snow sports.
Published in the December 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)