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The Happiest Country in the World

9 mins. read

Published in the Navbharat Times - Page No. 3 on 23 December, 2023

It was a setting straight out of a storybook. The crisp air carried a sense of tranquility as I watched the soft snowflakes gracefully descend from the sky, adding to the enchanting scene. The frosted branches of nearby trees glistened in the gentle sunlight, and there was a magical sparkle across the landscape. As I strolled along the snowy path, the only sounds were the satisfying crunch of my footsteps and the laughter of children playing in the snow. The trees, chalets, roads, and everything in sight were blanketed in pristine, freshly fallen snow, transforming the entire area into a picturesque winter wonderland. Stepping into the warm, cozy wooden chalet, I noticed beautiful decorations in red and green. If there was any one place that felt like Christmas anytime of the year, it was here! I could even hear the reindeer bellowing outside.

Anticipation hung in the air as I stood in line, holding my breath in quiet excitement. When my moment arrived, the child in me overtook everything else, and with infectious enthusiasm, I eagerly approached the figure before me. My heart raced up and down as I was living my dream! Right here in front of me in his resplendent red and white robe stood Father Christmas with a gentle smile on his face. His eyes, the kindest I had ever seen, crinkled at the corners with a twinkle of merriment. His long, flowing silver beard and hair framed his benevolent face perfectly. In a voice as soft as falling snow, he beckoned, "Come, my child." In an instant, I found myself transported, seated next to none other than Santa Claus himself. The enchantment of the moment enveloped me, a memory I treasure forever.

The city of Rovaniemi in the Lapland region of Finland is the official home of Santa Claus. Visiting the Santa Claus village in Rovaniemi in Finland was a magical experience, and the debate about whether Santa Claus exists or not was laid to rest when I reached Rovaniemi! After all, everyone needs some magic in their lives! What I loved about this place is that it felt like Christmas 365 days a year. The spirit of Christmas was very evident here, creating a superb festive atmosphere. The feelings of joy, happiness, and generosity associated with Christmas seemed to be in the air wherever we went! I had the golden opportunity to meet Santa Claus many moons ago, and yet it feels like yesterday. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that visiting Santa Claus village filled my heart with hope and happiness, and I even posted postcards from the post office here, which would be delivered to my family and friends at Christmas!

With my heart full of gratitude and happiness, I found my way out of Santa’s grotto straight to the Arctic Circle. As I stood on the arctic circle, not only did I take a selfie here but I also picked up a certificate that said I had stood on the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle may be an imaginary line that circles our earth at approximately 66.5 degrees north latitude, but the happiness of standing on it was very real! I felt like crossing the arctic circle was like finding the key to the hidden treasure that lay beyond the circle. You may wonder what’s the big deal about the arctic circle. Well, the Arctic Circle is a very important geographical boundary where the Earth experiences extraordinary phenomena such as the midnight sun and polar night, giving the entire region a very distinctive climate and ecosystem that cannot be experienced elsewhere on earth. The entire Lapland region at the very north of Finland, Norway, and Sweden is really special, and you can experience some very special holidays here. Just imagine going in summer when there is sunlight for all 24 hours as the sun never sets and then visiting again in winter when you may hardly see the sun but can have the opportunity to experience the phenomenon of aurora borealis or northern lights. You can really consider yourself lucky if you can experience this amazing display of nature's beauty when predominantly green and sometimes purple or red light dances across the dark skies due to the polar rays of the sun colliding with the Earth's atmosphere. Just as I write this article, I was seeing the beautiful photos posted by Veena World's tour manager Rahul when his group could see this celestial phenomenon on the first day of their tour itself when they reached Tromso in Norway! Since it is a natural phenomenon, we at Veena World always make sure that our tourists have the maximum chance of seeing the northern lights, so the itineraries are expertly designed so that the maximum stay is beyond the Arctic Circle in Lapland across Norway, Sweden, and Finland. I, on the other hand, have been slightly unlucky as I couldn’t stay long enough to see the northern lights in Lapland, and the only other chance I had was in Canada when we went to a remote place away from light pollution go the city hoping to catch the lights, but after 2 nights of staying up, all we saw was lights of the faraway trucks passing by! Knowing fully well that it was, after all, a natural phenomenon and we really can’t control nature, we still enjoyed the winter out there!

Very often, many people avoid a holiday in winter as they feel they won’t be able to bear the cold, but the one thing I have learned after many trips to different cold places across the world in winter when the entire area was covered in snow from Finland to France to Antarctica even is that layering clothes is the best protection from the cold, and if you cover your ears and feet, you not only don’t feel so cold you actually start enjoying it! When else will we enjoy the snow and the fantastic activities that you can enjoy only in the snow!

It was in Lapland itself that I saw a reindeer for the first time. The children’s Christmas song,“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” started playing in my head as my gaze met the reindeers who looked at me inquisitively! And very soon I was dashing in the snow, seated in a sledge, and the reindeer was pulling us around. What a fun way to ride through the snow! Could there be a more perfect image of Christmas than this! It was needless to say that I had fallen head over heels in love with my reindeer and Rovaniemi. No wonder then that later at dinner that night I was a little shocked to see reindeer meat being served at dinner! But learning about the Sami people who live beyond the Arctic Circle and how they have adapted to the harsh conditions here was simply fascinating! 

Later on, I also had a chance to visit Kakslautten which is about 2 and half hours drive from Rovaniemi. Nestled in enchanting Lapland region of Finland, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort offers a truly extraordinary experience with its iconic glass igloos. A marvel of innovation and comfort, these glass-roofed accommodations redefine the boundaries between nature and luxury. Imagine lying in bed, surrounded by the pristine Arctic wilderness, and gazing up at the expansive night sky adorned with the mesmerizing dance of the Northern Lights. 

We quickly discovered that, much like winter's enchantment, a return in the peak of summer was essential to experience the phenomenon of the midnight sun, transforming the entire landscape as it dons a new attire of lush greenery. Upon reaching Helsinki for our journey back home, we learnt of the Finnish people and their seamless access to natural beauty and the outdoors, their well-honed work-life balance, commitment to social equality, and the overall high quality of life. It's no surprise that this country is consistently ranked as the happiest place on Earth, and it's easy to understand why even Santa Claus himself chooses to call it home! Christmas may come once year but its spirit can be felt here all around, at anytime you visit. Merry Christmas everyone!

December 22, 2023


Sunila Patil
Sunila Patil

Sunila Patil, the founder and Chief Product Officer at Veena World, holds a master's degree in physiotherapy. She proudly served as India's first and only Aussie Specialist Ambassador, bringing her extensive expertise to the realm of travel. With a remarkable journey, she has explored all seven continents, including Antarctica, spanning over 80 countries. Here's sharing the best moments from her extensive travels. Through her insightful writing, she gives readers a fascinating look into her experiences.

More Blogs by Sunila Patil

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