WE HAVE THREE WEEKS IN DECEMBER FOR CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS, THE NORTHERN LIGHTS (IS ICELAND WARMER THAN NORTHERN SCANDINAVIA?), AND A FEW DAYS SKIING. WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND? M. ANGGAWAN, NARWEE, NSW
Both Iceland and northern Scandinavia are within the northern lights zone, however, according to Tietse Stelma of 50 Degrees North (fiftydegreesnorth.com/) this region is subject to clouds and stormy weather until mid-December, so you'd be better off leaving the northern lights experience until the end of your journey. Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland in northern Finland, has good air connections with Helsinki, and this could be a prime choice.
For the rest of your journey I suggest Innsbruck in Austria. Set on the floor of the Inn Valley on the banks of the Wipptal River and ringed by the snow-covered peaks of the Nordkette mountain range, Innsbruck has wonderful Christmas traditions. Its narrow laneways are patrolled by princesses, giants and beasts from the Austrian fables while glittering crystal trees light up Maria-Theresien-Strasse, the city's main boulevard. A few days before Christmas the city stops for the Christkind Parade featuring more than 500 small angels and herdsmen. Focus of the action is the Christkindlmarkt, which takes place on the cobblestones of the Old Town's main square. Must-do trip is the ride aboard the spectacular Hungerburg funicular to the Christmas market high above the city at Hungerburg Castle. Traditional components of the Austrian Christmas include cheesy dumplings, hot doughnuts and spicy gluhwein.
Innsbruck has hosted the Olympic winter Olympics twice and the city's Olympia Ski World has nine world-class ski resorts with varying terrain suitable for skiers of all abilities. For more information see the official Austria tourism website austria.info
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