Finland’s Lapland is a truly magical place with so much to offer. Katharine Hay was enchanted on her visit to the region.

I WAS up to stars racing through the pitch black sky.

I feel eight years old again, tossing and turning in the middle of the night, struggling to contain the excitement. I am surrounded by wilderness in Kittila, a region inside the Arctic Circle known as Finland’s Lapland.

After gazing at the view above for a few minutes I pinch myself to double check I am not dreaming.

I lean over to check my phone for the time. It seems wrong to be reaching for modern technology when surrounded by nature at its finest, but I’m eager to know how much longer I have to wait before I can explore this fairytale land. It’s 8.30am.

Breakfast started at 8am. I am already late. I jump out of bed, head muddled thinking how can it still be so dark at this time, the stars are still out?

There’s no need to make the bed, I slept so well I barely moved the snug woollen rugs that hugged me all night.

You’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep at the Northern Lights Ranch, the wooden huts draped in woollen upholstery keep you cosy while simultaneously giving you that outdoor camping experience with their clear glass roofs for stargazing.

I am swiftly out the door and met with another alarming wake up call. Minus 25 degrees.

It nips at your cheeks but the twinkling layer of fresh snow under the starlight assuages the frosty bite. I am reminded breakfast that in Lapland mornings during the Polar Nights around Christmas begin with a dark dawn glow, before they brighten for a few hours and then plunge into pitch black in mid-afternoon.

The lack of light does not stop Lappish people from staying active. They stay remarkably fit despite spending months and months without sunrise.

After a bite to eat we head out for the morning activity. I say morning, the dark sky is still peppered with stars, it takes some getting used to.

We are given snow shoes to help us trek through the Narnia-esque land. But the snow plays an evil game. One minute you feel as light as a feather cruising across it with your modern tennis racket-like shoes. The next, you sink waist deep and find yourself cursing the second helping of reindeer you devoured the night before.

At Christmas time in Lapland you are never treading on thin ice.

Despite the vast areas of complete wilderness, you won’t come across a hungry bear, or so we were told. We layer up in Michelin man-style jumpsuits and hurtle across the snowy plains on snowmobiles, picking up speed through the pristine snow, breathing in air the Lappish claim to be the purest in the world.

We pull up on the edge of a large frozen lake and waddle in our thick snow suits across the ice, like penguins.

Our guide begins assembling a drill which at first seems a little over-the-top for breaking the ice. But you soon realise it is completely necessary.

He starts to pierce the ice and it takes him an entire minute for the industrial, Fusilli-esque drill to reach the water about three ft beneath.

I pull up a small picnic chair and thread a maggot onto a hook attached to a rod which I lower into the hole.

In between little wiggles to tantalise the sleepy carp below, I glance up at the night sky. The dim light makes me wonder if it’s time for a glass of sima, a finnish mead-like drink. I glance at my watch, it’s 2pm. A little early perhaps.

It’s hard not to get into the Christmas spirit when reindeer are everywhere in Lapland. Although they appear to roam wild, every single reindeer is owned.

At Levin Poropalvelu’s farm some are trained to pull visitors in a sleigh across a large iced over lake.

You’re kitted out with rugs and the rest is left up to the reindeer which knows exactly where to take you.

One thing to note if you’re making small talk with the trainers is to never ask a Lappish person how many reindeer they own. It’s considered insulting, as if you’re querying his or her annual salary.

After hours of exploring the outdoors we have a taste of the dining experience in Lapland’s villages.

Half an hour south of Levi in Kittlia, we step into a little wooden cave and then descend into Saamen Kammi, a restaurant run by a Lappish family.

Local produce is in abundance from salmon served on slabs of wood to reindeer meat smoked or sauteed.

The decor takes you back in time with a big open stone fire places and reindeer hides decorating the wooden walls.

To add to it, the owner Niiles sings a traditional Lappish song that resembles the sound of animal cries.

Despite being fiercely loyal to their traditions, Lappish people also love karaoke.

If you pop into any village bar you will likely be asked to join in if you’re not already on the stage belting out some Abba, which appeared to be a popular choice.

After a blast of singing we head back out into the cold and up a hill just outside Killita.

A green tinge shimmers across the skyline teasing us.

The Northern Lights is Lapland’s biggest talking point.

With about 200 sightings a year, there is a high chance you will see the neon colours flood the sky on a clear night.

The adrenalin rush from seeing just a glimmer gives me energy to trudge up the hill even more to get a better view.

Not before long the sky floods with a fluorescent green hue and everyone is left paralysed by its beauty.

We sink into the snow, eyes turning green from the colour of the sky, transfixed.

The memories of this special trip will linger for a long time.


HOW: Finnair flies direct from London Gatwick to Kittilä in Finnish Lapland from 15 December, 2019 to 8 March, 2020. Fares start from £210 return in Economy Class, including all taxes and charges. For further information and to book, visit or call 020 8001 0101.