swedish lapland icehotel accommodation rth


Home Where to Go When Where to go in December

Where to go in December

Where to go in December

Lapland’s winter wilderness becomes a mecca for festive breaks from couples getaways to family fun with Santa. The extraordinary Icehotel – constructed from a mix of ice and snow – opens its doors for another winter season. In the southern hemisphere, penguin chicks start to hatch in Antarctica and summer arrives in Australia and New Zealand.

The world’s coolest hotel opens

Forged using thousands of tonnes of ice from the frozen River Torne, the seasonal Icehotel is reborn each winter in the village of Jukkasjarvi in Swedish Lapland. Sculptors transform its interior into exquisite yet ephemeral ice art – the fabulous suites enchanting guests for a few months before the unique creation melts back into the river. The winter landscape of frozen lakes and snow-covered forests is a pristine playground for snowmobiling and husky sledding, while other activities include ice sculpting, sauna rituals, moose safaris and aurora hunting excursions. Alongside the seasonal (winter) hotel, the permanent Icehotel 365 houses the iconic Icebar, while culinary highlights of an Icehotel break include a starlit dinner in the wilderness and the legendary 12-course Chef’s Table at the Veranda restaurant.

sweden lapland icehotel entrance exterior aurora rth

Synching with the seasons of the Sami

Such is the ever-changing light and patterns of nature in Lapland that the indigenous Sami people recognise eight seasons in a year. The longest, known as Dálvve, lasts from December to March. Fir trees bow under the weight of snow and the polar twilight infuses everything with a deep blue, monochromatic glow. Although few Sami live by the old nomadic ways, reindeer herding is still deeply entwined in their culture. For thousands of years, Sami and reindeer have ebbed and flowed between sea, mountain and forest, following seasonal cues to find food and shelter. During winter, the reindeer browse on lichens, while their Sami guardians huddle in tepee-like laavu tents, fashioning reindeer-hide clothing, or venture outside to go ice fishing, reindeer sledding and snowmobiling.

sweden lapland reindeer with sami vs

Penguin chicks hatch in Antarctica

The vast penguin rookeries of the Antarctic Peninsula and sub-Antarctic islands are busy as chicks hatch and parents are busy feeding them. Penguin chicks hatch first in the Falklands and South Georgia, followed (from around mid-December) by the Antarctic Peninsula. During this time, beaches in South Georgia are festooned with seal pups, and you can also expect to enjoy plenty of whale sightings. With up to 24 hours daylight, December is also one of the mildest months to visit Antarctica. For a truly unforgettable Antarctic experience, combine the surge in wildlife activity, never-ending days and spectacular scenery with a Christmas and New Year voyage.

antarctica gentoo penguin and chicks rh

Summer Down Under

Escape the dark, cold days of the Northern Hemisphere and head Down Under during the Antipodean summer (December to February). It’s hot and humid with a mix of sun and rain in Australia’s tropical north during summer. Access to Kakadu, the Kimberley and Cape York Peninsula can be a challenge at this time of year, but the waterfalls are epic and it’s a more affordable time to visit. Temperatures soar in the Outback, often exceeding 35°C at places like Uluru. This doesn’t put them out of bounds, but you may need to restrict activities to early morning and evening. Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Tasmania and Perth have a much more comfortable summer climate – and you’re never too far from a dazzling beach. In New Zealand, the striking Pohutukawa (dubbed the New Zealand Christmas tree) blossoms adding a festive colour to the summer landscapes.

new zealand northland doubtless bay pohutukawa tree istk

Christmas and New Year

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, Lapland becomes a festive wonderland for families on our Santa holidays. As well as a reindeer sled ride to meet Father Christmas in his log cabin hideaway, you can make traditional crafts with his elves and try out husky sledding or snowshoeing. Festive fun at the Icehotel in Swedish Lapland lasts from mid-December to early January, with a daily programme of events. Enjoy warm, spicy Glogg and freshly baked gingerbread, before browsing the outdoor market for local handicrafts and gifts. A rail journey in Europe, meanwhile, is a great way to visit Christmas markets in cities like Copenhagen, Cologne, Tallinn and Vienna. In Reykjavik, the New Year’s Eve fireworks light up the city for several hours.

bauble on christmas tree istk

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