Snow-covered Finnish Lapland is braced for a record number of tourists this festive period, with an uptick in flights scheduled for December. A rise in visitors from Asia is fueling growth and helping the home of Santa Claus become ever more popular.
During the winter months, temperatures can drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius in Finland’s northernmost region. But that hasn't prevented this destination from becoming a hot choice for tourists.
According to the region's tourist board, its roughly 62,000 inhabitants welcome almost half a million visitors every year, mainly from abroad. And many of them come to see the Santa Claus Village. Over 350,000 people, from as far and wide as Australia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates, visit the village every year to enjoy the snow and get in the festive spirit.
Santa Claus talks to the Caballero family from Itay at the Santa Claus Village in the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, Finalnd December 15, 2016. /CFP Photo
Hana Yokobatake, a visitor from Japan said: "This experience is priceless for us, and in Asia we cannot meet Santa Claus and see Aurora (Borealis)."
According to Finavia, which operates Finland's airports, Finnish Lapland is braced for a record number of flights this December, reaching air traffic volumes not seen since 2007.
Sanna Karkkainen, the managing director, said: "The dramatic growth seems to come from Asian countries. China is a nice increase. But I must say that also there is a huge interest from European markets and of course for the Christmas season it is from the UK especially."
Customers enter a restaurant in the Santa Claus Village in the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, Finland, December 15, 2016. /CFP Photo
At Santa Park, festive visitors descend into a Christmas-themed cavern, complete with post office, ice bar and "elf" school.
As night draws in, Santa Park visitors are treated to a "Magic Christmas" stage show that includes these trampolining "elves."
Diane Grant, a visitor to Santa Park, said: "Until you actually come along and you see the snow and just the elves, and the atmosphere, and the Finnish people and things, it's just completely different. You can't put it into words what it feels like, it's magical."
Santa Claus waits for visitors at the Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, Finland December 15, 2016. /CFP Photo
The nearby Arctic Tree House Hotel opened in November with 37 private wooden suites.
The idea is to soak in the snow-covered, arctic landscape and perhaps even catch the shimmering Northern Lights.
They're already fully-booked until mid-January, and over 80 percent until March.