Forget the beach and trendy boutiques. Wrap up warm and head north to Lapland for a winter safari of a lifetime TELL SOMEONE you are going on holiday somewhere dark and cold this winter and they will probably say you are mad. However, they might gladly swap the beach and parasol if they knew how much fun you could have without the sun in Finland. Watching the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is a breathtaking spectacle and going on a winter safari makes a change from joining the throng at congested beaches and crowded museums. Finland is not suffering from the effects of mass tourism, so a trip to one of its Lapland resorts to try reindeer driving or skating on frozen lakes under the moonlight is a chance to really get away from the MTR's rush-hour crush. The lack of daylight and the sub-zero temperatures make Lapland even more of a contrast. Well in the Arctic Circle, Lapland's winter days are known as the 'blue hours', because the land is cloaked in a dim veil of twilight and the sun never shines. Paradoxically, the sky at night can be at its brightest. Lapland is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, a lightshow that takes place in the dead of night. While the appearance of these shimmering magnetic storms of green, red, blue and violet is unpredictable, it can be seen in southern Finland about 20 times a year, and in Lapland as many as 200. The best time is in February and March or September and October in the Kilpisjarvi area. Midnight is the best time. The aurora is caused when the solar wind - clouds of ions or high-energy charged particles given off by the sun - come into contact with the Earth's magnetic field. This magnetism sucks down some of the ions into the outer atmosphere, where they collide with gases to produce the colourful glows. The Northern Lights can be seen from some of Lapland's winter resorts, where days can be spent enjoying a variety of outdoor pursuits. Popular are driving reindeer, feeding them and learning about reindeer husbandry, one of northern Finland's most traditional occupations. Dog-sled safaris are available for hours or days, involving driving a team of huskies across snowy emptiness. Kick-sled safaris and snowmobile safaris from short beginner trips to expeditions to the Tuntsa highlands and Finland's eastern border with Russia are also possible. Finland's lakes and coastal waters freeze in winter, becoming enormous, natural ice-skating rinks. In addition to enjoying figure skating amid the quiet wilderness, skaters can take part in organised games such as ice hockey. Cross-country skiing is popular in Finland. Illuminated trails allow skiers to venture out during the dim daytime hours and late into the night. Among thousands of kilometres of ski trails are family-friendly routes winding their way through population centres, while back-country trails can be followed by those looking for a bit more adventure. Downhill skiing, telemarking and snowboarding are also possible. The skiing season runs from November to early May. Alternatively, leave the skis in the cupboard and have a go at some Nordic walking, a form of exercise that has become popular with skiers, especially during the summer months. Walkers use their ski poles to help them keep up a fast pace and to give their upper body a work-out. Alternatively leave the poles in the cupboard too and hire some snow shoes to leave well-trodden trails to head into the forests or wilderness. Equipment and advice is available for ice fishing. Another popular Finnish pastime is ice-hole swimming. At the other extreme, warm up in a sauna, another traditional Finnish pastime. At some saunas, users can step outside to roll around in the snow to cool down. Lapland is home to Santa Claus, so a trip to Korvatunturi, the mountain according to Nordic legend that is his home, is high on the to-do list for families arriving for holidays over Christmas.