There's little doubt that Lapland is one of most magical places in the world. The snow-covered scenery, reindeer, cosy log cabins and candlelit forests make it Christmassy all throughout winter, but visit during the festive period and you'll have all the ingredients for a perfect Christmas: Santa Claus, snowman-building and stories around crackling fires.
Stretching along the Arctic Circle, Lapland spans Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Finland and Sweden are the most popular destinations for holidays in Lapland, and offer husky sledding, Northern Lights displays and even skiing.
So where, how long and how much does it cost for a Christmas break in Lapland? Levi, Yllas and Rovaniemi are popular places in Finnish Lapland, while Abisko, Kiruna and Jokkmokk are some beautiful places to visit in Swedish Lapland.
Christmas breaks start from around £600 per person for three nights (flights and accommodation; activities extra), which is enough time to meet Santa, go snowmobiling and experience a reindeer sleigh ride or two. But real Christmas lovers may opt for a four, five or seven-night break to give themselves more of a chance to catch the Northern Lights, meet the Sami people and spend a night in an ice hotel. Inghams, Simply Northern Lights and Nordic Experience offer a range of festive holidays covering the best winter activities.
For those who want to get active and explore the breathtaking landscape, there are some adventurous things to do when you're not relaxing by an open fire sipping hot berry juice. Activities Abroad tells us that one of the top trends this winter is families getting active on holiday. Family trips are increasingly about unforgettable shared experiences, such as getting out and hunting the Northern Lights, rather than kids clubs. The travel company's Family Northern Lights Hunt at Christmas in Finnish Lapland includes snowmobile sleigh rides, husky safaris and snowshoe treks - ideal for fussy teens who don't want to spend all of their time with the man in red.
There are some great deals for Christmas holidays in Lapland too. Inghams is offering seven nights' half-board accommodation at the three-star Hotel Crazy Reindeer in Levi from £999 per person, saving £89 per person on a 21 December 2014 departure (includes flights), plus a free snowshoeing experience to see the Northern Lights.
While there, families with young children can visit Santa's private hideaway deep in a candlelit forest and enjoy a private meeting with Santa, an afternoon of games and activities at one of Santa's workshops, and cooking on an open fire in the spectacular wilderness.
If you're after a Santa-free holiday this Christmas, try responsibletravel.com's Magical Christmas without Santa in Lapland trip, which costs from £1,695 for seven days including flights on 20 December. Ideal for families with older children, you can still be surrounded by a winter wonderland and try all of the best activities without the meet and greets with Santa. The unique holiday is about getting to know the real people of Lapland, their culture and the landscape in which they live, with snowshoeing, husky sledding, learning wilderness skills, ice fishing and a reindeer sleigh ride on Christmas morning.
For a super luxurious family holiday with tiny tots, head for Kakslauttanen in Finland to the magical Hotel Kakslauttanen and Igloo Village. With Tots Too, young families travelling with children can have a bespoke itinerary created and take advantage of the Nanny Too service for a few hours' downtime. A three-night stay costs £3,416 for a family of four on a half-board basis.
Lapland isn't just for kids either. Adults can experience a holiday in Sweden that will really make their friends jealous - by staying at the famous ice hotel. Located in the idyllic village of Jukkasjärvi, the original ICEHOTEL is lit with twinkling lights and decorated with snow-laden trees. On Christmas Day, a special torchlight procession and traditional carol concert takes place in the picturesque village church, plus there is husky sledding and snowmobiling to experience, as well as the iconic ICEBAR. Four nights from 23 to 27 December 2014 costs from £1,289 per person, including one night in a Snow Room and three nights in a warm Kaamos room, plus flights with Discover the World.
Pictures: Lapland's Christmas wonderland
Christmas in Lapland: Where to go and what to do
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Britain's rainiest cities
Christmas in Lapland: Where to go and what to do
It rains for an average of 170.3 days per year in Glasgow, making it Britain's rainiest city. 112cm of rain falls here very year.
It rains on 154.4 days per year in Huddersfield, with an average yearly rainfall of 102.84 cm of rain. While there is more rainfall in Preston and Cardiff, Huddersfield has more rainy days.
It rains on 153.2 days per year in Preston, with 103.36cm of rain.
Manchester sees an average of 151.7 rainy days a year, with 86.7cm of rain.
With 115.9cm of rain annually, Cardiff is the city with the highest amount of rainfall. It rains on 148.6 days per year on average.
With 148.8 days of rain per year, Carlisle sees an average of 87.21cm of rainfall.
It rains on 145.7 days per year on average in Rhyl, with 81.41cm of rainfall.
Gloucester has an average of 145.6 days of rain per year, with 83.34cm of rain.
Blackpool has an average annual rainfall of 88.27cm, and it rains on 145.5 days per year.
It rains on 144.3 days per year in Liverpool with 83.66cm of rain.
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Family days out for summer
Christmas in Lapland: Where to go and what to do
Families visiting London's ArcelorMittal Orbit in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 24 July and 31 August will be able to engage in a range of daily activities curated by visual artist and art educator Natalie Ryde (previously artist in residence at Kensington Palace and art educator at Hampton Court). Using the ArcelorMittal Orbit as inspiration, kids of all ages will be shown how to use their imagination with a variety of methods from cutting out, sketching, painting and building - whether it’s sketching the London skyline or making their very own ArcelorMittal Orbit. Activities will take place from 2-4pm each day of the school summer holidays and will be included in the entry price.
No need to wait until 5 November to enjoy firework displays as this summer you can enjoy watching amazing pyrotechnics without your woollies at the British Firework Championships on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 August in Plymouth. The event is believed to be Britain’s most spectacular fireworks display and features six top pyrotechnics companies who set off four tonnes of fireworks over Plymouth Sound as they battle it out to become the British Fireworks champion. Plymouth’s Hoe offers the perfect viewing platform for this truly incredible competition.
The Hat Fair in Winchester is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the UK’s longest-running street arts festival. The festival will be taking place from 4 to 6 July, with all performances free for all to watch. During the fantastic day out for families, there will be a range of performers from acrobatic feats to theatre acts and music, with the best 'hatters' from around the world. The only money festival-goers are asked to part with is money for the performers' hats, hence where the Fair got its name!
Fancy taking to the water and watching dolphins, seals and birds? A Bay to Remember offers wildlife watching boat trips in Ceredigion, which are a safe and an exhilarating experience for all ages. Trips depart all year round and last one to two hours, making them child-friendly. You can regularly see bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise, grey seals and a wide variety of birds as you explore the amazing coastline of Cardigan Bay.
Blenheim Palace has an action-packed summer, with events and activities for families from 26 July to 31 August. The Palace, grounds and parkland will be taken over by knights on horseback, living history characters, Punch and Judy shows, circus skills workshops, petting zoos and a myriad of arts and crafts. The permanent attractions include the giant Marlborough Maze, Adventure Play Area and newly renovated Butterfly House and are wonderful to explore and rediscover.
The only 20th century pier in the UK, Southwold Pier is the perfect day out for all the family. With two cafes and restaurants the Pier has something for everyone from traditional fish and chips, homemade cakes and Suffolk ice-cream. Spend the day browsing through the Pier’s three boutique shops which includes an exclusive collection of accessories from designer Zandra Rhodes - especially for fashionable mums. Children can enjoy playing traditional arcade games or the weird and wonderful Under the Pier Show, a collection of homemade inventions exclusively designed for The Pier by master inventor Tim Hunkin. The arcade games and simulators such as the Booth of Truth and Rent a Dog are unique to The Pier. This summer, street artist Pure Evil is in residence at the pier on 3 and 4 July, and Jaques of London pops up for croquet-on-sea in August. It’s the perfect British day out – with a twist!
The London Dungeon is hosting a Summer Carnivale from 26 July to 31 August, with showmanship, spectacle and plenty of scary fun as the attraction presents its very own carnival starring a cast of colourful characters ready to amaze and astound. Roll up, roll up as the show begins with the Dungeon's Victorian 'Barkers' announcing the mesmerising entertainment inside - from the amazing 'knife throwing' torturer to the discombobulating Hall of Mirrors. Guests can test their strength lifting strong man dumb bells or on the High Striker - will they be as weak as a plague victim or as strong as an axe-wielding executioner? Then look into the future with a fortune card dealt out by the Dungeon's flea-infested fortune teller – and watch out for the resident cockroaches and rats in their colourful carnival-themed lairs. Once inside, there are 18 shows plus two riveting rides to enjoy as 1000 years of London's murky past is brought to life with a special carnival twist. Marvel at Mrs Lovett and her fabulous pies, escape the clutches of Sweeney Todd, meet an escapologist whose enthusiasm knows no bounds and attend the trial of the hirsute bearded lady.
Sherwood Forest comes alive with the spirit of Robin Hood from 4 to 10 August, when the annual Robin Hood Festival returns to the infamous forest in Nottinghamshire. Every year, visitors come to experience the ancient forest come alive with music, theatre and free fun for all the family. Try your hand at archery, see falconry displays and watch Robin Hood himself as he takes part in skirmishes and jousting displays around the forest. Don’t miss this special opportunity to see Robin Hood and his legend come to life in the heart of his homeland Sherwood Forest.
Spot kingfishers, herons and other wildlife and explore backwaters as you meander down the River Thames in a canoe this summer. Henley Canoe Hire offers Canadian canoes for hire and there is a selection of carefully designed routes for a day out, with drop offs at convenient places up and down the river. Stop for a pub lunch or enjoy a picnic while on your day out in a canoe that can hold up to three people.
Get down to the beach in the heart of Nottingham this summer, when the Nottingham Riviera returns to beautiful Old Market Square from 19 July to 2 September. Pull up a deckchair on the sand, enjoy popular seaside rides and entertainment, chill in the beach bar over a cocktail or splash about in the paddling pool area on site. There is also a live music line-up to keep the whole family entertained.
Thundering tropical storms, icy winds from the North Pole, a real iceberg and a bone-shaking earthquake bring the extremes of planet Earth and beyond to life at Edinburgh’s Our Dynamic Earth. Situated at the foot of Edinburgh’s spectacular Salisbury Crags,it is the only science centre dedicated to telling the story of planet Earth, taking visitors on a journey through life and extreme environments. Walk through captivating galleries, experience interactive exhibits and go an unforgettable tour to witness the creation of Earth. Don't miss the Showdome, a must-see cinematic experience, which gives the sensation of movement and 3D without actually moving or wearing 3D glasses.
It's game on for a summer kaleidoscope of fun and exciting activities at the Belfast Hills heritage festival running from July 28 to August 2. Hop on the landscapes and legends bus tour of the Belfast Hills or explore McArt's Fort on the Game of Thrones walk on Cave Hill, where Celtic kings were crowned in ancient times. Get the kids out for some puddle and pond dipping at Ligoniel Dams, enter an enchanted world making 'fairy doors' at Mossley Mill and forge your own junior Celtic collars - all the rage in the Bronze Age - at the Ulster Museum.
From 28 to 31 August 2014, the historic town of Falmouth in Cornwall is set to host renowned Tall Ships Regatta, welcoming over 47 ships, including 12 of the magnificent and mighty square-rigged Tall Ships, from a myriad of nationalities including Spain, Holland, Portugal and Russia. The event will make maritime history as for the first time ever the race will take place solely in English waters. For the first three days, the ships will open to the public for a unique opportunity to explore on deck and learn about life on board these giants of the sea where fortunes were won and lost. Expect a swathe of swash-buckling pirates marauding and seasoned sailors dancing the hornpipe in the streets.
This summer is the perfect time to learn to ride a wave or two, and who better to teach you than Wales' two-time surf champion? Ingemar Cressey offers surf lessons all along the south Wales coast and runs the only surf school in Wales accredited by the Academy of Surfing Instructors, the Australian-based world standard in surf education. Families can learn to surf in a group session and beginners of all ages are welcome at Cressey's Surf Academy.
Get set for adventure and discover a lost world at Eden this summer at Eden Project. From 21 July to 16 September families will be turned into true explorers as they track down and discover amazing things about the giant beasts that used to rule the planet at Dinosaurs Unleashed. In the Crater of the Tyrant King, you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of an ancient exotic landscape (including a moving T-rex devouring its Triceratops prey). The Dig Pit is where you can dig deep into the past to uncover a dinosaur skeleton, and see how humans discovered and pieced together this world by finding fossils. And the Dinosaur exhibition has items that have never been on public display before, such as real dinosaur eggs, a fossilised brain, a whole skeleton and a real T-rex tooth. Find out why scientists think they were so BIG and why they believe they were wiped out 65 million years ago.
T-Party, a free family fun day in the heart of Telford Town Park, Shropshire will have an action-packed programme of activities with something for everyone on 2 August. Expect to find strolling players, puppets, story-telling, games, arts and crafts, musical workshops and market stalls, plus a variety of food and drink for all to enjoy. Family entertainers will include street theatre, with the hilarious Granny Turismo and the Lovely Bugs, who will perform an interactive and aerial dance display within a six-metre-high rig and giant spider’s web.
Fell Foot Park, nestling at the southern end of Windermere, offers the perfect family day out. You can canoe down river, skim stones, build a den, hunt for bugs, let the children loose on the adventure playground or simply enjoy the wide open spaces and relax with a picnic. Whether you like to take to the water or keep your feet on dry land, there are activities to fill a whole day at Fell Foot Park.
Head to Butterfly World in Chiswell Green, where the kids can get up close to 800 butterflies in the Tropical Butterfly House, checking out the colonies of leaf-cutter ants in Ant World as they go about their daily jobs to keep the ant city functioning. They'll get the chance to handle the insects in the Insect Study Centre, which includes stick insects, cockroaches, snails, locusts, mantis, caterpillars and chrysalises. In the Bee Hut, kids can learn all about the lifecycle of bees and watch them live in their hive on bee cam. There are also 19 designer gardens for kids to have great adventurs in running through willow tunnels, climbing on the huge, wooden climbing frame, and zooming down the giant slides. This summer, there will be daily arts and crafts sessions focused on nature, such as how to make a bug hotel or a miniature gardens, wildlife talks, summer jazz concerts (23 August) and photography courses (27 July, 31 July and 17 August).
This summer, the world's only underground trampoline arrives in Wales in the form of Bounce Below. Open from 4 July, the attraction is a massive network of bouncy nets in underground caverns twice the size of St Paul's Cathedral. Visitors at the trampoline, near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, are taken to the impressive 200x60 foot cavern by an old mining train and kitted out in special overalls and a helmet before being let loose to bounce, climb and slide in the unique setting. The walls are kitted out with technicoloured lights which illuminate the subterranean background with vibrant colours.
For a memorable full day out for all the family, there's no better place than Warwick Castle, celebrating its 1,100th anniversary this year. With live actor attractions, Horrible Histories Foul Fayres and, from 19 July, horseback jousting knights - as well as huge birds of prey, swordsmen and 30-feet high towers of flame - there's plenty for everyone at this historic attraction. There's even a Gaol deep underground and the spine chilling Castle Dungeon for the brave hearted.
What better to chill out than by watching a movie at the beach? Brighton’s Big Screen is a free outdoor beach cinema that is showcasing a mixture of movie classics and recent box office hits on the gigantic 40sqm screen this summer including: The Hunger Games Catching Fire, The Lego Movie, Dirty Dancing and Jaws, plus top live sporting events including the World Cup, Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix. There is a fully licenced cantina-style bar as well as frozen margarita machines, popcorn and a selection of great food.
Take the Red Funnel ferry to the Isle of Wight for a day and visit the island's original zoo, the Isle of Wight Zoo, which specialises in big cats. Set in the ruins of a Victorian fort built to protect the coast, the zoo now offers views across the sandy beaches of Sandown Bay – in days gone by, the zoo keepers even used to walk tiger cubs on the beach! Today, visitors can see tigers, lions, primates, lemurs, wallabies and even owls – with tours available to meet the keepers and their animals. Prices start from just £15pp, for a family of four (two adults and two children) including return vehicle crossings to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel, with a special discount on tickets when booked with Red Funnel ferry crossings.
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Christmas in Lapland: Where to go and what to do
Conan the giraffe is a regular culprit for photo bombing at Six Flags Adventure Land, New Jersey, USA. The cheeky giraffe decided to interrupt a couple's special moment by photo bombing their picture. Deirdre Mead and Jonathon Itskov were delighted with their hilarious snap.
This playful beluga whale really loves the camera.
This cheeky meerkat photobombed a group of fishermen's catch of the day picture in Namibia.
Alexis and Steve Espey got the picture of a lifetime when a 'flying' dolphin photobombed their wedding photo at Marineland Dolphin Adventure in St. Augustine.
Snowball, the camera-loving whale was so desperate to get in the frame that she even photobombed a snap of her friend.
Tourist Junichi Masuda, 34, from New York, was taking a snap of the world famous Incan city Machu Picchu, Peru when an opportunistic llama popped his head up at exactly the right moment.
Amanda Leigh and her husband Patrick were posing for photos at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, USA, when 11-year-old beluga whale Juno swam behind them and flashed a big grin.
A scene-stealing sloth dropped in on a group of school kids who were taking part in an International Student Volunteers expedition in Costa Rica giving them an unforgettable holiday photograph.
Diver Alex Mustard got the perfect picture after a super-cute smiling seal photobombed his underwater snap off the coast of Northumberland.
Melissa Brandts and her husband got a surprise visit from a curious squirrel at Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.
Before you ask, a photographer did not risk their life to get up close and personal with this pair of jungle cats, the photo was taken on a remote camera on wheels.
This happy hippo certainly isn't camera shy, flashing his pearly whites alongside this equally smiley tourist.
Just horsing around...
This party crashing seal wasn't about to let the penguins have all the fun.
Photographer Andrey Nekrasov, 42, captured these amusing images while taking underwater pictures of the two belugas.
With uncrowded ski slopes, plenty of blue runs and well-groomed pistes, Lapland is the perfect place for beginners and intermediates to ski. There are good ski schools with friendly, English-speaking instructors, plus snowboarding and a few black runs and off-piste routes for advanced skiers. Cross-country skiing is popular in Yllas and Levi, with miles of well-marked trails through the scenic Arctic wilderness. Inghams' ski packs include a six-day local area pass for £115 per adult, ski and boot hire for six days for £79 and three days ski instruction for £75.
Some of the local food specialities are reindeer, game, salmon, Arctic char and berries, like cloudberry and lingonberry. Finland's highest restaurant Yllaskammi sits at the top of a ski mountain in Yllas and is covered in snow in winter making it a unique place to dine on local dishes, including minced reindeer with mashed potato, berries and pickles. In Levi, the Pihvipirtti Steakhouse is the place to stop for the best reindeer steak around, Bistro K5 at the K5 Hotel serves delicacies like goose and red king crab, and at Restaurant Tonttula, just outside Levi, you can sample tasty fish and meat dishes in a cosy atmosphere with timber walls and open fireplaces.
If you're a lover of dogs or just fancy trying your hand at the traditional means of transport dog sledding, you must experience a husky safari. Dog sledding has been practiced for hundreds of years in Northern Finland and makes for a unique activity. Wingrens Dogsafaris has around 100 Siberian and Alaskan huskies at its base in Kongas, just 10km from Levi. Its husky rides take you through snowfields and mountains while you lead your own team of dogs or enjoy the stunning views from the sleigh.
If you have your heart set on seeing the magical Northern Lights, Yllas and Levi are good places to view them and some top spots with little light pollution include the Yllaskammi restaurant in Yllas and Taivaanvalkeat in Levi. The Aurora Borealis can also be seen from your hotel in the long winter months when there's high solar activity and for a greater chance to see them take a short walk away from your hotel where you're never too far from less light to see the dancing lights when they're out.
Make your way through the snow-drenched forests of Levi wearing snowshoes and you'll be treated to a unique hike through untouched snow surrounded by hundreds of trees. It's the perfect opportunity to go off the beaten track and get up close to Levi's natural scenery. Plus, you don't need to be a good skier for snowshoeing as it's as simple as walking. Be sure to stop and check out the views over the fells and play in the snow!
You won't want to leave Lapland without relaxing in Finnish sauna. It's the perfect answer to keeping warm without wearing layers of thermals! Traditionally the Finnish take their saunas naked so don't be surprised if you receive strange looks for wearing a swimsuit. The sauna at Taivaanvalkeat, just eight kilometres from Levi, is located on the banks of the Ounasjoki River. When the river freezes over, a hole is made so that the brave can sweat in the sauna before running down to the icy river and jumping in. It's a truly exhilarating experience and you'll love getting back into the hot sauna again.
Explore Levi's wilderness by going on a guided snowmobile safari with PerheSarfait, where you'll cover 25 kilometres of track through unspoiled scenery. On a roaring snowmobile ride you'll drive across frozen lakes, tackle steep drops and enjoy riding through the forests. The different safaris available with PerheSarfait include one with a visit to a reindeer farm, a trip around the whole Levi fell with amazing views and the Swanshore safari, where you'll stop in a cosy hut for a reindeer lunch. If you're determined to see the Northern Lights, head out on an evening safari. Snowmobiling is quite easy to learn but you will need a full driving license to drive one. Inghams offers a return snowmobile transfer with an overnight stay at the beautiful Lainio SnowHotel and dinner for £215 from Yllas and £255 from Levi.
Check out the ice sculptures at the Icium, Wonderworld of Ice (adult €15, child €10). Every year there are different ice and snow sculptures made by Chinese artists that combine themes from Finland and Lapland.
Race round an ice karting track. If you're a fan of go-karting, you'll love doing it on ice and driving around a circuit trying not to spin into the banks of the snow!
Explore the nightlife in Levi. Head to Bar Ihku for karaoke, drink beer in the sauna-style seating area at Pub Holmola and check out the nightclubs that make up Levi's lively après-ski scene.
Try the donuts. The delicious, cardamom-flavoured sweet treats are perfect with a hot chocolate or warm berry juice when you need a break from skiing.
For the ultimate Arctic experience, the Golden Crown accommodation, just outside Levi, is set on a hillside and has a kammi (the main house built into the hill) with two bedrooms, a lounge area, sauna and hot tub outside, plus four luxurious glass igloos. Spend the night in one of the igloos where you'll sleep under the stars and fingers crossed, the Northern Lights. The igloos have motorised beds so you can feel even closer to the sky and have power showers, a kitchen and heated glass so the stunning views are never restricted by condensation. If you fancy braving the cold and sleeping in an ice hotel, Lainio SnowHotel, just 15 minutes from Yllas, has impressive sculpted ice rooms and suites and is part of the Lainio Snow Village with an ICEBAR, ice chapel and restaurant. The four-star Levitunturi Spa Hotel (from £729 per person for seven nights half board including flights from Gatwick and transfers) in Levi has stylish and cosy rooms and suites, an array of spa facilities, children's activities and a bowling alley.
With Lapland being home to many reindeer, a visit to a farm is a must so you can feed the animals and glide through the snow like Santa on a sleigh ride! Samin Porotila in the village of Venejarvi near Yllas has over 100 reindeer in winter and lovely owners Sami and Marjut make your visit even more enjoyable with their warm hospitality and true Sami heritage. In the couple's museum you can buy artwork by Marjut, reindeer skin rugs and souvenirs made from antlers. Outside, there's a huge fire where you can keep warm after feeding the reindeer and be shown lassoing skills by Sami.
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Winter breaks without skiing
Christmas in Lapland: Where to go and what to do
Winter time in Bled is truly magical. The snow-covered castle and island of Slovenia's famous lake look simply stunning in their fine Alpine setting, with miles of paths, covered with snow all around the frozen lake so you can go on romantic winter walks. Popular with skiers and non-skiers alike, Bled is a winter paradise with a wealth of activities including winter hiking, dog-sledding, snowshoeing and ice skating. Stay at the Grand Hotel Toplice.
If you love camping and the great outdoors, you'll want to experience the Aurora Safari Camp in Lulea, Swedish Lapland. The tents at the camp use the traditional Nordic tipi design from the indigenous Sami people but with 21st century materials and construction techniques. They're snug and comfortable with plenty of room to move around and wood fire heaters, as well as a special lounge tent to dine and relax in a group with a full bar. While at the camp, you can go dog sledding, elk spotting, canoeing and snowshoeing. Aurora Nights offers a three-night weekend trip with return flights from Gatwick, Heathrow or Manchester, one night at the Aurora Safari Camp and two nights at the cosy Sorbyn Lodge, gourmet meals and dogsledding from £1,295 per person.
See a completely different side of Tuscany to the rolling countryside in the summer, museums and piazze on a winter walking break in the Garfagnana Valley. The Tuscan hidden gem is ideal for snowshoeing and getting up close to the amazing mountain scenery. Nestled between the 'marble mountains' of the Alpi Apuane and the rolling Apennines, the valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Explore offers a Tuscan Winter Walks and Snowshoeing holiday in Italy. Depending on the level of the snowline (usually from 800 to 1200 metres above sea level) you can expect three or four of the walks to involve the use of snow shoes - suitable for beginners with equipment and instruction provided. The holiday departs in February 2015 for eight days starting from £899 per person including return flights, seven nights in agroturismo accommodation with breakfast, eight other meals, transport and the service of a trek guide.
For a night in the Alps to remember, sleep at the magical Igloo Village in the heart of La Plagne at an altitude of over 2,100m. Sip mulled wine around the camp fire, tuck into a fondue feast with cured meats, cosy up with a loved one under Arctic-weight duvets in a two-person igloo, or share a larger igloo with friends and family. Over a dawn breakfast, you can savour the silence and watch the sun rise over Mont Blanc. Book a stay via the La Plagne Tourist Office from £85 per person for dinner and bed and breakfast.
For a cosy winter break with a twist in Sweden, visit the island of Hinderson which is surrounded by the frozen sea. Travel by snowmobile across the ice from the port city of Lulea on the Gulf of Bothnia to Jopikgarden hotel, a romantic retreat on the small island. Explore some of the region's 700 islands before returning to Lulea to try a number of unforgettable excursions, including an exhilarating hovercraft ice tour or a trip to see the magic of the Northern Lights. WEXAS Travel offers a four-day holiday from £750 per person, including return flights from London, two nights in Lulea, one night at Jopikgarden and return snowmobile transfers from Lulea to Jopikgarden.
During the winter months, the far northern Japanese island of Hokkaido is covered in powder snow, transforming the country's second largest island into a real winter wonderland. The Sapporo Snow Festival takes place in February (5-11 February 2015) with huge snow sculptures overtaking the city, along with snow parks, plenty of food and local beer. The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is another celebration of snow and is magnificent to see the city decorated with lights. Check out the local wildlife by boarding an Icebreaker ship off of the Shiretoko Peninsula and floating through the drift ice that attracts hundreds of huge Stellar Sea Eagles in the Sea of Okhotsk. And don't miss witnessing the Japanese Macaque bathe in the hot springs deep in the mountains of Nagano. InsideJapan's tailored Winter Highlights trip takes in the best of the season on a 14-night tour from £3,000.
Far inside the Arctic Circle in the heart of the northern Norwegian Fjords and Lyngen Alps, the boutique Lyngen Lodge offers a touch of luxury and a true snowy escape. Accessible by two ferry journeys, you don’t have to go too far to see the Northern Lights as the chances are they are in the sky directly above your head! While staying in the Lyngen Fjord, there is a plethora of activities to keep you busy, from snowshoeing, dog sledding and cross-country skiing to ice fishing and a sea safari. Back at the eight-room lodge, there’s an open fire, sauna and outdoor hot tub, perfect for relaxing in as the Northern Lights provide the evening entertainment. Simply Northern Lights offers a three-night stay at Lyngen Lodge from £1,425 per person, based on two sharing, with flights from London to Tromso (via Oslo) and transfers included.
For a snowy holiday with a difference, head to northern Spain where the Picos de Europa Mountains rise up to above 2500m and the peaks have snow almost year-round but guaranteed in the winter months. The National Park has no ski resorts so you don't have to share it with the crowds and there are spectacular views to enjoy on winter walks. Casas Cantabricas offers stays at El Hoyal from £75 per room, per night.
You don't have to travel too far for a snowy escape as some of Britain's most beautiful corners enjoy plenty of snow throughout winter. Escape to the Lake District where you can stay in a luxurious Scandinavian lodge on a serene country break in one of the region's most stunning valleys. CoolStays offers stays at Langdale Estate lodges from £98 per night. The lodges are perfectly located for a romantic break or adventure getaway, with trails through magical woodland glades and walks to take in the local scenery. Once you return to your lodge, you can relax in the steam room or indulge in a massage at the spa.
For a rail journey to remember, look no further than Switzerland for its spectacular snowy scenes and epic landscapes during winter. Enjoy the majestic winter scenery from the comfort of a carriage on Ffestiniog Travel's 10-day Swiss trip that’s just the ticket for rail enthusiasts. As well as ample opportunity to explore independently by train, post bus, lake steamer, city bus and tram, there’s a full-day excursion from Chur to Tirano in Northern Italy on the Bernina Express, and the UNESCO Rhaetian Railways network to enjoy. Departing 11 February, Snow on the Alps costs £1,660 per person and includes standard-class rail travel to and from Switzerland, a first-class Swiss Pass, transfers, bed and breakfast and the services of a tour leader throughout.
Experience the mystical beauty of Lapland on an authentic adventure in northern Sweden. The remote, close-knit community of Kangos is located 150km north of the Arctic Circle and is surrounded by picturesque pine forests and situated close to the Lainio River. On a seven-night break with Inntravel, you'll stay at the Kangos Guesthouse, learn the basics of 'mushing' and drive your own team of dogs over frozen lakes, through deep forests and across the endlessly fascinating landscape. Other activities on the trip include a journey by snowmobile, the chance to meet reindeer and ice fishing.