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While Santa may top the popularity stakes at Christmas, Rudolph and his 'nose so bright' comes a close second. We take a look at where in the world you can commune with real life reindeer.

WORDS Angela Spiliotakos

This 12-hectare farm, based in the Staffordshire town of Blithbury, offers truly magical reindeer experiences for all ages. Aptly named the Reindeer Man, owner Steve Swinnerton has trained and bred reindeer for over 25 years and has made Blithbury Reindeer Lodge one of the best ways for families to get up close and personal with elk. The award-winning Christmas experience is notably special. Not only can families feed and interact with the elk, but they can also partake in gingerbread decorating with elves, storytime in front of the fire and access into Santa's workshop where kids can choose a gift to take home. There is also a 'Toddler Days' package designed for younger kids. You can even adopt a reindeer!


The traditional, rugged environment of Jackson Hole is home to many animals, including the Jackson Elk Herd, a nationally significant herd. There are many spots and opportunities to discover them, including the Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest.Also worthy of inclusion is the National Elk Refuge, one of the local deer's most important solaces. The refuge provides opportunities to interact with elk, as well as fun sleigh rides for the whole family. There are also other fun activities on offer such as the junior ranger programme, a perfect complement to exploring the renowned winter slopes.


Situated approximately 50km from San Francisco, this cape and tourist hotspot in Northern California is one of the best destinations for an authentic elk experience. While these great deer roam unhindered within the area, the Tule Elk Preserve at Tomales Point offers the best opportunities to see Tule elk wander freely and forage for food. The preserve's main walking trail is just over 8km, and is suitable for most families to explore. In addition to elk-spotting, the magnificient coastline views and fresh sea air makes all the walking especially worthwhile.


The Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is a treat for those who want a special elk encounter. Located 650km north of the mainland, and 1000km south of the North Pole, Svalbard is an untouched wildlife wilderness ripe for exploration. Predominately during the winter season, herds of Svalbard Reindeer travel along mountain slopes for food, giving tourists fantastic opportunities to see them in action. The elk aren't shy, either - staying calm and quiet is the best way to pique their interest. There are many ways to discover Svalbard and its resident elk including treks, cruises and other tours.

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