In March 2018 Jules travelled with one of our tour operator partners and Finnair to the far north of Finnish Lapland to see some amazing new wilderness lodges and glass igloos. contact us for your own Lapland Adventure!
Over to Jules ...
As the plane descended into Ivalo airport, following winding snow filled valleys and banking round the corners it felt like we were in a James Bond movie! Landing on a runway of compacted snow and ice, we expected to be freezing and slipping around (as we had been back home the previous week, when the 'beast from the East' had confined us to our tiny village for a week with a huge snow fall!) ... but instead we breathed in fresh, clean air under Finnish blue skies and walked easily on the well maintained runway, even though the temperature on the small terminal building was showing -17C.
Quickly exiting the small airport, we met our local guide from the Inari-Saariselka Tourist Board who was with us for the week and sped along to our first stop which was Aurora Village nearby. We were amazing to see people driving at normal speeds along the frozen roads, but again, there is a huge difference in the 'dry cold' and the organisation from a country well used to whiteout conditions and nothing seemed to stop everyone getting around! The local fuel station catered for mostly people on skiddos rather than in saloon cars! This area is the furthest north in Finnish Lapland which we can access by direct flights from London Gatwick and it's very close to the Russian border ... much further and you would be in the Arctic Sea! Whenever I see or hear Murmansk I think of Michael Palin for some reason!
Driving into the lodge we saw reindeer dotted amongst the trees, we learned that the ones which roam free are all owned by families in the area and that the ones in the 'coral' inside the lodge were separately owned by Aurora Village. Expecting staff to take our bags to our rooms we were surprised to be offered plastic toboggans ... fun was had as we all slid around with our bags and pulled them to our personal 'Aurora Cabin'. Self transfer sleigh ride!
Inside the Aurora cabins (and they are all the same as they are made by the same company throughout the region!), it's very cosy. The problem with Lapland is that they cater so well for the weather you are constantly taking layers on and off and the cabins and lodge lounges are boiling in comparison to outside! Each cabin has a double bed located under the glass roof with a small sofa and desk area plus a small bathroom ... a point to note - there are no baths in Lapland! I asked Maria (our guide) if she had a bath at home and she looked horrified - why would they want a bath? Most Finnish people do have a sauna in their bathrooms and a shower. Later that night (exhausted from a very long day) I still couldn't sleep as I was imagining the Northern Lights in the sky above!! I thought I saw a pale streak but couldn't be sure ....
The next morning after breakfast, we were packing back into the mini bus when someone pointed out a huge, steep toboggan run into the frozen river beside the lodge. Much hilarity followed as we took turns to throw ourselves down the icy slope in huge two man plastic sledges!! (All in the name of research ...)
Next day we headed off to check out the Wilderness group of lodges, starting with Wilderness Hotel Nangu, a new adults only boutique hotel in a very quiet setting with the largest icicles I've ever seen! This cosy log cabin style small lodge has a lovely lounge bar area, we enjoyed gorgeous cake and coffee before having a look around.
Onwards through snow filled forests and back onto the 'main' road, we arrived at Nellim Wilderness Lodge which we have been sending our clients to for many years now. After a hearty home cooked lunch we toured the rooms and facilities (and had another go at throwing ourselves down an icy slope on toboggans!).... There are a range of log cabins and apartments here, plus some more Aurora cabins of a slightly different design. Nellim is a favourite in December with families as they do cater extremely well for young children here and have a very magical Father Christmas experience!
Further around the shores of Lake Inari, we arrived at Inari Wilderness Lodge which is a newly opened hotel in a stunning location on the shores of a huge frozen lake (with ice a metre deep and around the same size as Belgium!). The huge main building here is home to a large but very cosy bar with open fires and comfy sofas. The restaurant serves excellent local food buffet style or a la carte if you request it and has floor to ceiling glass windows looking out across the frozen lake.
There are 8 large log cabins to one side (which sleep up to 6 people), a block of standard rooms and 12 Aurora Cabins on the other side (where we stayed). High on most peoples travel bucket lists is to see the Northern Lights - we were lucky to see them on our second night at Inari ...
At Lake Inari we had a beautiful cloudless day on snow mobiles where we enjoyed endless white vistas before entering the forest to build a fire and try some ice fishing! We had a morning in Inari town itself (which is tiny!) and visited 'SIIDA' the Sami Museum and Nature Centre and a lovely lunch in an award winning historical hotel (Kultahovi). That night we were taken by guides on snow mobiles towing us in a large sleigh across the frozen lake in the dark where they set up an 'Aurora camp' and we watched the night sky as the streaks of the Northern Lights started to appear... another word of warning .... don't drink too much as it's not fun trying to lower your outer heavy all in one snow suit to use the very dark and very cold long drop loo!!
Later that night we were treated to the Aurora overhead at the hotel! Of course late at night after the excitement of the Northern Lights, Finnish hospitality was too rude to refuse as we sampled the delights of the Lapland Vodka bar!
Leaving Inari we travelled to Saariselka where we had lunch at a new fjell top hotel - The Star Arctic Hotel. There are duplex suite rooms here or Aurora Cabins and when the weather is clear (it was overcast the day we visited) you have amazing views from the top of the hill and there is a cable car linking it with the ski resort of Saariselka below.
From Saariselka we were kitted out again in thermal clothes and travelled into nearby forests where we met a traditional Sami family at their Reindeer Farm and we enjoyed a peaceful sleigh ride through the snow with them (I spent the hour with a 'trainee' reindeer behind our sleigh snorting down my neck!).
For our last night we stayed at Northern Lights village just outside of Saariselka where we met some huskies and sampled the gorgeous 'Ice Bar' (where you can chose to eat if you wish, but beware your food will soon get cold!!) before heading back into town for our last evening where we enjoyed the local night life and a fabulous meal in a local restaurant.
The next day we sadly said goodbye to our local guides and headed back to the distinctly milder and soggier version of late winter back in the UK!
Dog sledding, cross country skiing, snow shoes, toboggans and more can be enjoyed in this incredible wild and remote region of the far north of Lapland.
We stayed in and saw a variety of different Aurora Cabins, 'Aurora Bubbles' or 'Glass Igloos' (They are all the same!). Contact us for a choice of the perfect place to get cosy and watch for the Northern Lights!
CONTACT US FOR ALL YOUR HOLIDAYS TO LAPLAND.
Ice Hotels, Aurora Cabins, Non-commercial Santa in Lapland, Northern Lights, Arctic Adventures, Family holidays or romantic honeymoons - everything we do is personally crafted for you.
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