Nearly a week and a half before Christmas, Santa Claus is readying his reindeer for the long journey around the world to deliver presents from his sleigh. In Finland, there’s a village where you can visit jolly Saint Nick every day of the year and take a reindeer sleigh ride of your own.
The Stevens traveled all the way from Orlando to visit Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi. “It’s been magical,” said Stephanie Stevens. “It’s definitely been a longtime dream of mine. I’m a Christmas fanatic. I put up my Christmas tree in October every year.” The couple paid a visit to Santa, who’s a busy man these days preparing for Christmas. “We have been reading the letters from all over the world and writing the answers,” he said. “Taking good care of reindeer, and making the presents.”
The village post office receives more than half a million letters every year addressed to Santa. Sending mail from there gets you a stamp from the Arctic Circle. Santa says this year’s letters tell him children have been nice, not naughty. “To be honest, being good is a bit more challenging for us grownups,” he said.
Rovaniemi in northern Finland calls itself the official city of Santa Claus and the area is expecting a record-breaking number of visitors as 2022 comes to a close. “This season, definitely tourism is catching up from the times before COVID,” said the CEO of Visit Rovaneimi, Sanna Karkkainen.
In Rovaneimi, seeing Santa means dealing with the elements. Temperatures often dip below zero and there are only a few hours of light a day. Visitors can slide into the ice bar to have a cold one, spot the Northern Lights from a glass igloo at properties like Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos where CBS News Correspondent Wendy Gillette stayed for a special rate, learn to guide a sled powered by husky dogs, or take Santa’s reindeer out for a spin, to help get the team in shape for this year’s big ride.
There are direct flights to Helsinki from nine American cities, including New York. The flight from Helsinki to northern Finland takes a little over an hour.