Anyone who knows me will probably associate me with sunny, warm climates (filming A Place In The Sun), but last winter I was somewhere a lot colder – Lapland in Finland!
I’d been once before with a group of very sick children to support the When You Wish Upon A Star charity four years ago.
So last year, when I found out Monarch had started offering mini-adventure breaks to Lapland after Christmas, I decided to go with my family to put a smile on the faces of my children Rocco and Tahlia.
Feeling festive: Lapland is known for its dazzling subarctic wilderness, ski resorts and natural wonders, including the midnight sun and Northern Lights (pictured)
When you think of Lapland you think of a pre-Christmas visit to see Santa. Monarch still offers this, but if you decide to go after, you can still see Santa and there are also many other amazing things to experience.
We stayed at the four-star Levi Spa hotel as it seemed to be the most family-friendly – we were happy to discover we’d made a great decision.
The rooms are all set in large, lodge-type buildings spread throughout the grounds. The hotel reception and restaurants are in a separate building a short walk from the bedrooms, so you have to put on lots of warm clothes to walk to breakfast.
The family accommodation is ideal, with a room with a double bed and then an adjoining room with bunk beds for the children. As an alternative, suites have twin beds, a room with a sofa bed and a private sauna in the bathroom.
Although it was minus 7C outside, I never felt cold. I wore three layers (including thermals) and my ski gear, and I also had a good pair of Siberian snow boots. I made sure the children were wrapped up well, too, with lots of layers and ski clothing.
However, the great thing about this package holiday is you don’t need your own ski clothes or boots because Monarch provides everything for you.
Sleigh to go: You can meet Santa and his reindeer
When we landed at Kitilla airport we were greeted by one of our two resort guides, Steven Faulkner. His partner in crime was Aimee Weatherall and they couldn’t do enough for the guests and recommended some great restaurants, even though we were staying on a full-board basis.
Kuura was a lovely restaurant to dine in. Situated at the bottom of the ski slopes, the interior was stylish and the food was well presented, reasonably priced and very tasty. We also dined at Hotel Levi Panorama, which is at the top of the cable car, by the side of the ski slopes and next to the Arctic Dining Experience Igloo and The Samiland museum. The restaurant had a great little play area for the children.
Yes, you read that correctly – ski slopes… you can ski in Lapland. As you can imagine, I was in my element just as much as the children were. With reindeer rides, snowmobile excursions, sledging, skiing, spas, Santa and some fine dining, there is something for everyone.
Good times: One of Laura’s favourite excursions was the Lapland Safari on a snowmobile
There are about 45 pistes in the resort and you can buy a lift pass and hire ski equipment from Zero Point in the centre of Levi. It’s relatively inexpensive compared with other resorts and the skiing is pretty good, albeit a little chilly. We even got little Rocco on skis and he loved it.
One of my favourite excursions was the Lapland Safari on a snowmobile to a reindeer farm. With only four hours of daylight each day, we started our tour as the sun was beginning to set at about 4pm.
Good times: TV host Laura Hamilton pictured on the piste with her son and husband
My husband Alex and I went on this trip on our own. It was romantic and magical, driving through the forest with trees covered in snow and the light from the snowmobile shining on them. After we arrived at the reindeer farm, we snuggled up in a sleigh and were treated to a ride.
Another excursion that is a must is a visit to the Ice Hotel. A 40-minute coach ride from Levi, it is incredible. Complete with its own chapel, ice slide, bar, restaurant and 20 rooms and suites, it is redesigned and rebuilt each year. On the evening of our visit the Northern Lights made an appearance. The green misty clouds that light up the sky are a sight to be seen.
In fact they could be seen every night we were there. Sometimes they came out a little too late for us to witness, though, as with two little ones we were usually in bed before 11.30pm.
Our three-and-a-half-day mini-break to Lapland felt a lot longer because we did so much. On the morning before our departure, we made the most of the hotel’s pool and spa facilities. Rocco and Tahlia loved it and they even braved the outdoor pool with Alex, while I enjoyed the warm Jacuzzi.
It’s a travel adventure you will never forget and there is still plenty of time to book for the coming season.
Monarch offers three nights full board at the Levi Hotel Spa from £615pp.
This includes return flights from Gatwick or Manchester and full Arctic experience, including ski-suit and boot hire and activities.
For more information visit monarch.co.uk or phone 0333 777 4740.