Over the Easter break a few friends and I decided to head up to northern Finland to catch the last of the snow, experience the magic of the Game of Thrones themed Snow Village and have some outdoor adventures in Finland’s stunning northern-most province. With 4 commercial airports in Lapland, flying is by far the most convenient, fastest and often cheapest means of getting to and from the north. Here are the top 5 things we did on our trip.
1. Skiing & sightseeing at Ylläs
Ylläs not only boasts two of the best cross-country and downhill ski resorts in Lapland but is also a beautiful spot to visit for those who are less winter-sport inclined. There’s a cable car at the Sports Resort which can be ridden by sightseers for a 10€ fee. If the view from the ride itself weren’t enough incentive, there’s also two cafes at the top, amazing views and the chance to go snowmobiling.
2. Aurora hunting & reindeer riding in Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi, a city at the southern end of Lapland is large and busy compared to other more sparsely populated regions, and as such feels a little less relaxing than the rest of Lapland. Possibly most famous for the Santa Claus Village– an amusement park dedicated to all things Christmas, Rovaniemi also has many interesting tours and activities to do and a range of accommodation options.
During our visit we took a reindeer safari through the forest and spent an evening at Apukka Aurora Borealis Resort where we were able to try out some traditional Finnish winter activities like snow-shoeing, tobogganing, a circular sled and a snow ‘train’ over a frozen lake. While we waited for it to get dark enough to glimpse the elusive Aurora Borealis (northern lights), we kept warm by an open fire in a traditional Lappish tent, where we roasted sausages and drank hot blueberry juice. The newly opened Apukka resort also boasts cabins with glass roofs (for comfort Aurora spotting!), ice cabins and even a seemingly impossible ice sauna.
The ice sauna and cabins at the Apukka Aurora Borealis Resort
3. Experience the beautiful national park and winter trails at Saariselkä
Heading further north, Saariselkä again regains the feel of being immersed in nature. There’s a small village with everything you’d need for a short stay, including cross-country ski rental. We stayed at Kuukkeli Porakka Lodge and it was exactly the type of charming log cabin, among the snow and pine trees that I’d hoped for. The place also had it’s own log sauna- best enjoyed with intermittent snow frolicking!
Post Sauna cool off!
The main attractions in Saariselkä revolve around the love of skiing. The downhill skiing resort is the northernmost in Europe and provides a stunning backdrop for snowboarding or skiing. To snowboard all day cost me around 80€ including board, boots, helmet and a lift pass. There’s one long chair lift and multiple smaller t-bar and platter lifts. As a snowboarder surrounded by extremely competent skiers, I now have a slight phobia of t-bar lifts. Somewhat reassuringly, I’m not alone in this and here.
Then there are the cross-country trails. Wow! An array of beautiful paths of varying distances, for beginners or experienced skiers. You can rent skis from the village for around 15€ for 24 hours. There are huts along the way (with open fires and wood supply) if you need to stop for a snack or to get warm and there are also cafes, restaurants and nearby towns to stop at.
4. Enjoy some solitude in a lakeside cabin in Inari
If after all this winter sport activity you want to relax and unwind, then a cabin in the Inari area is perfect. I stayed in a cottage for 3 days between Ivalo and Nellim and it was the perfect spot to read, do some yoga, relax and let my soul breath! Of course there was also the opportunity for more skiing on the nearby lake. As I was now addicted, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, especially since my host kindly lent me some skis to explore the area.
5. Sleep in a room made of ice in the Game of Thrones themed Snow Village
This hotel made from ice on the outskirts of Kittilä was by far the thing I was most looking forward to in Lapland. It definitely didn’t disappoint! I loved the experience so much that I wrote a separate post describing our stay.
Lapland is expensive. To give you an idea of what to budget for, on this 10 day trip I spent around 1370€ all up (roughly $2200 AUD). That includes all transport (420€), accommodation (450€), tours & activities (300€), food, drinks & other spending money (200€). Despite being on the higher end of what I normally budget for holidays, the experience was worth every cent!