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Columbus Travel Guide Lapland

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More than Santa’s home and not best known for its warm temperatures, Lapland is the Christmas holiday destination of choice. It’s a vast, awesome wilderness with huge clear skies and plunging temperatures; bring plenty of layers and an extremely thick coat. You’ll need them.

Lapland isn’t a twee, saccharine place - it’s laid-back, capable and very deadpan - and it’s had to struggle to maintain a sense of identity. Getting to grips where it actually lies geographically is tough; the original semi-nomadic Lapland extends from Norway through Sweden and Finland to the Russian Kola peninsula. It’s the northernmost region of Finland, if that helps you get your bearings. You know, where people come to hunt for the Northern Lights and Santa (often at once).

The people in Lapland are relaxed and easygoing. This is a country where living healthily comes naturally to people - nearly everyone enjoys winter sports and clean living is the order of the day; and when you live in a small village high on the hills, why wouldn’t you? The character of the place is best explained through the story of the Sámi people, who have been surviving in the barren landscapes of Sámi Land – what we call Lapland – for as long as 4,000 years.

Their ancestors produced the Vikings, who behaved pretty badly as they made their way across most of Europe - but the surviving Sámi ancestors are a peaceful people who are very proud they’ve never been involved in a war. You’re in safe hands.

Fast facts

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Currency

Euro
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Plug

220-240 Volts
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Population

181,815

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Lapland in the summertime:

Don’t be fooled into thinking that Lapland is only gorgeous in the winter; summer, the excess of light means you’ll always be able to explore the mountains and endless space. The Midnight Sun (the sun doesn’t go down during June and July) will make you feel pretty strange; day and night bleed into one, so you can keep going for as long as your energy lets you.

Summertime berries

Norwegian Lapland:

This is a varied region that extends across borders, showcasing hidden wonders as it extends. This area is great for cruising, and is also brilliant for people seeking out natural beauty. There are rocky islands, fjords and peaks made for climbing and hiking; very good for those of you who might be seeking an active holiday.

Sunset in Norwegian Lapland

Sámi culture

The Sámi are the original inhabitants and if you really want to get to know Lapland, it makes sense to make friends with the people who were here first, and know it best. Many of them still work with reindeer to earn their livelihood - for their meat, skins and milk. You’ll experience traditional Lapland dishes, singing and shamanic drumming if you pay them a visit, so make sure you set some time aside to get to know them.

Huskies

Swedish Lapland

The one thing that can ruin your experience of Lapland are the crowds, especially when you’re trying to watch the Northern Lights or experience nature at its finest. Swedish Lapland in January - is much quieter - and you’ll get a taste for the vast frozen expanse of snow and solitude. January’s also a good time to visit as you’ll get to enjoy the stunning, sapphire-coloured semi-darkness that falls every day; plus, the daytime sunlight makes colours much brighter, so you’re in for a visual feast.

Northern lights

Travel like a local

Cultural differences and the language:

There are just over 180,000 people living in Lapland; the main language spoken is Finnish, followed by Sami and Swedish. Of the Sami languages, Northern Sami, Inari Sami and Skolt Sami are spoken in the region.

Here’s a handy hint; if you're sledding and hear “Varo!”, be alert - this means “Watch out!”.

Lapland’s population identify strongly with nature, as a) nature can flourish, as the area isn’t hugely built up and b) nature feeds them. Their culture is interwoven with nature and the ways they have harnessed it, and made a living from it.

Look out for the traditional Lapp costume, with all its vivid colours.

Shopping and gift buying:

Lapland is a great place to find locally-made souvenirs which will benefit local people when you buy them. The ‘Sámi Duodji’ label shows that products have been made by local Sámi craftspeople.

So, what’s up for grabs? Keep your eye out for pendants and trinkets carved from reindeer antlers, knitted mittens and reindeer skin slippers. The Arctic Circle Mall and Kauppakeskus Sampokeskus are two good places to start if you’d like to bag a few bargains.

Currency and your finances:

We’re afraid that you’ve got to be pretty well-heeled to enjoy yourself in Lapland; a beer can cost up to £6 and spending a day with a local family can set you back over £120. Even a basic lunch will cost you around £7. When it comes to getting about, be prepared to dig deep - snowshoes cost £14 a day to hire and a full day husky safari will cost around £140. Better start saving now. Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll be using Euros. Purchase them in the UK, as in Lapland you will have no access to banks/cashpoints.

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