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A Finnish Lapland experience

Located on the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland, famed for being the home of Santa Claus. That’s about as much as I knew about the destination ahead of a fam trip hosted by The DMC Advantage and Arctic Incentives by Lapland Safaris. I was joined by event planners from agencies including Shore Events, Inception Global, River Marketing, BI Worldwide, TMB Marketing & Events, Adding Value and CMM.

We left Heathrow on 11 March and two flights later, via Helsinki, we arrived in Rovaniemi. Having turned up with the biggest suitcase among the group, packed with clothes for winter climes, I realised I needn’t have bothered. After landing, we had a quick and painless transfer to Lapland Safaris’ offices in town to collect our thermals and snow suits, ensuring we were all suited and booted to deal with even the most extreme of weathers. Needless to say, we had pretty mild weather for Lapland when we were there (-6 degrees at most) but as all event planners know, preparation is key.

A 30-minute journey in the twilight through a forest took us to Bear’s Den, a wilderness cabin that can comfortably host up to 40 for dinner or 70 if you want to get very, very cosy with your fellow travellers. There are also five rooms that can accommodate up to 10. The décor, inspired heavily by taxidermy, added to the rustic feel and we had our first taste of Finnish culture with their take on mulled wine – hot ligonberry with a dash of vodka.

The Finns love their saunas and it’s easy to see why at Bear’s Den. Even with the sub-zero temperatures (okay, it wasn’t that cold), we dutifully tramped across the snow in our slippers and robes to the sauna, housed in a log cabin. The hardest decision on the way in was whether to sample some Finnish beer or the Hartwall Original Long Drink, a ready-mixed drink that was developed for the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. The sauna at Bear’s Den is pretty special – with a frozen lake down a snowy path for those who really want to experience an extreme of temperatures. One by one, we each had a quick dunk in the freezing water before retreating – and running on ice to the heat of the sauna.

Dinner was an amazing three-course feast featuring artichoke soup, reindeer with red wine sauce and a white chocolate pudding. We checked into the City Hotel later that evening.

Day two was another early start but none of us really minded as we were being let loose on an ice track at Snow Rally Rings, a 40-minute drive from Rovaniemi. With rally cars, civilian cars, ice karts, snowmobiles and quad bikes to choose from, we quite happily spun around on the ice for a couple of hours.

In the afternoon, we visited Lapland Hotel Bear’s Lodge and the Arctic Snowhotel & Glass Igloos, which offers a snow sauna built entirely of snow, before heading to Levi, a two-hour drive away, our base for the following two nights.