I didn't quite know what to expect upon hearing that I was bound for Finland on a 'research' trip. This conjured up pangs of anxiety with respect to the climate (it was minus 16 degrees when we arrived!), as well as waves of excitement about the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights and, perhaps more importantly, meeting the big man himself. Finland went from strength to strength with a wealth of things to offer for both adults and families - and I must admit I have never felt so snug, satisfied and stuffed all in one week!
Sauna, Sauna, Sauna
Finland is a land of three million Fins and five million Saunas. I like those odds. Even Helsinki airport has one - just in case you are having withdrawal symptoms within an hour of leaving Finnish Lapland! This is a real must for any trip to Lapland and with every property having at least one 'sauna department', as they call it, there really is no excuse not to. It's a lovely way to unwind and relax your aching muscles after a day's snowmobiling or husky sledding, or even just a soothing way to end your evening after over indulging at dinner.
Food: Get Stuffed
I was very pleasantly surprised with Lappish Cuisine - not only is it not all pickled, but the array of fish in particular - and its form from smoked salmon, roe, and white fish - is fantastic. Whilst perhaps a bit un-PC , in a very short space of time, I developed a particular penchant for Reindeer both in a sausage and fillet. It comes beautifully cooked with a rich beef taste and seeing them roaming wildly like cows at home did something to assuage my guilt.. The Fin's are also particularly proud of their foraging skills - from a wide variety of berries to mushrooms - with special attention to the Cloudberry, which is so popular that they ship in Thai workers to come and pick them from the local bushes! The berries form the basis of many tasty desserts and delicious liqueurs; the perfect way to finish your evening whilst relaxing in front of the fire.
Accommodation: Wood and Glass
From beautiful traditional Kelo-log chalets, to glass igloos and luxury apartments - Finland has it all. Wood and glass feature heavily in the accommodation selection here to profit from the warmth, whilst also offering views of the beautiful white landscapes. They range from family friendly options in chalets, to adult only properties, such as Beana Laponia - with its own fantastic tobogganing hill and a nearby reindeer farm which turns into a karaoke bar on a Saturday night! Whilst the more grown up offerings include Javri Lodge, which is perfect for real foodies or those wanting to indulge for a special occasion.
I was sat around a lovely dining table allowing my body to digest my first taste of reindeer when I saw; creeping through the garden, a big man in red with a tremendous bushy white beard! I squealed with excitement and disbelief before he appeared behind me in his oversized black boots, with a sack full of treats and stories about us all. We sat patiently waiting for our turn to sit on his knee and get a Santa-selfie and were handsomely rewarded with gifts and, even better, a very warm fuzzy feeling for the magic of Finland. Finland is all about releasing your inner child and there is something bizarrely liberating about this fairy-tale snowy land which allows you to do this to the max!