Finland is not usually considered a real budget destination, but when I stayed in Rovaniemi in northern Finland a few Christmases ago, I was pleased to discover that a few things there were either cheap or free. And one of the free activities was visiting Santa’s Village on the Arctic Circle.
Now, you might say that visiting Santa’s Village is just for kids, but I would strongly disagree – I am living proof that adults want to do that, too! It may not be everybody’s cup of tea but even the simple achievement of being right on the Arctic Circle is fun. It’s easy to get there by public bus from Rovaniemi (no need to join a tour) and my tip is to arrive early in the day. We were there before the tour buses arrived and we got to have a relaxed chat with Santa himself – and there’s no charge. Santa impressed me by being multilingual and also having a pretty impressive geographical knowledge when he asked about where his visitors were from.
While much of Santa’s Village is a bit on the touristy side, there are some other interesting parts to check out. I was fascinated by the Post Office and the fact that thousands of letters arrive there every day from children all over the world, regardless of what address they put on – some just had “Santa Claus, North Pole” and they’d made it. The letters are sorted by country of origin and there are statistics up on a blackboard about where the majority come from – the year I went, the “winning” nation was England.
Visiting Santa made me feel like a kid again – and that’s a great feeling to have while you’re travelling! And it really put me into the Christmas mood.