If you are looking for a holiday a bit different than usual, why not consider visiting Lapland? Lapland or Sapmi is an area which overlaps parts of Norway, Finland, Sweden and also includes the Russian Kola Peninsula. It is truly a real Winter Wonderland! In Rovaniemi you can even visit Santa Claus or cross the Arctic Circle. We decided to visit the less touristic part of Finnish Lapland “Yllasjarvi” and to leave Rovaniemi for another time.
We started our trip in Helsinki – a trendy waterfront city with some Russian influences – offering broad boulevards, fancy cafes and nice restaurants (there are even 5 restaurants with Michelin stars in Helsinki). What strikes you straight away when you arrive in Finland is that it is cold, very cold 🙂 Luckily we had blue sky and very sunny weather which made it a bit easier to handle. Helsinki is a paradise for art lovers but is – with is many designer shops – also the place to be for shopaholics. Shopping mall Stockmann is definitely a MUST for shopaholics.
You can also take a ferry to one of the islands nearby Helsinki. Suomenlinna Island is a very popular excursion and has one of the biggest sea forts in the world. The waterfront is very beautiful and special during winter time. Everything is frozen, boats are stuck in the ice and you can walk over the ice from the one end to the other. Nearby the port, there are two fish markets (one in open air & one covered) the salmon soup over there is highly recommended.
We stayed in the Best Western Premier Hotel Katajanokka, conveniently located close to the port. The hotel used to be a prison, luckily our room did not look like a prison cell at all but was very comfortable and even had a sauna in it 🙂 From the hotel it is about a 5 minute walk to the waterfront and a 15 minute walk into town. Visiting Helsinki is very well manageable on foot.
From Helsinki we took a flight to Kittila Airport. You need to take a special one as the plane need to be able to land on ice. Even from out of the plane, you can already see the grandeur of Lapland, beautiful white landscapes wherever you look. The sky in Lapland is just magical.
We booked our stay with Lainio Snow Village and booked as well several activities with them. We did not exactly know what to expect but we were very excited as we were going to sleep a night in the Snow Village, go on a Snowmobile Safari, go ice fishing, go on a Husky Safari and of course do some Cross Country Skiing as well. A shuttle from the Snow Village picked us up on the Airport.
I heard somebody say that they liked the Snow Hotel in Sweden better, I cannot compare as I have never been there. I can only say that Lainio Snow Village is truly amazing. It is quite remotely located but in a stunning Winter Wonderland setting. The hotel garden has many beautiful ice sculptures. The Hotel is rebuild each year and open from end November till about April. I thought is was cold in Helsinki but here in Lapland it was even much much colder. With thermal underwear and a special thermal suit they provide you, you don’t feel the cold anymore.
The Snow Village has also an ice restaurant/bar which is quite a unique experience. Everything is made from ice (the tables, the chairs, the bar and even the glasses …). A few shots out of ice glasses will soon warm you up but drink quickly … before your glass melt 🙂 There is also an Ice Chapel where you can get married, quite a unique experience I guess. After dinner & a few drinks in the ice restaurant/bar we took a Sauna and then … we were ready for our night in the SnowHotel.
As we were nearly the only ones staying in the Snow Village that night, we could pick any room we wanted. We took one of the ice suites but to be honest with all the additional sculptures in the room, I think it was even colder than in a normal ice room. With the special sleeping bags you do not really feel the cold but it is something you need to get used to. To stay warm you need to go completely – including your head – in the sleeping bag. If it is really to cold, there is also a warm room where you can go to. As we were nearly the only ones in the Ice Hotel that night, the warm room, showers etc. were sufficient but not sure whether it will be sufficient if the hotel is full. In the morning they come to wake you with warm cranberry juice and then after a hot shower, you receive your certificate that you survived a night in the snow hotel 🙂
The rest of our stay we stayed in the Teepee Cabin. I do not know how the other cabins look like but the Teepee is something truly special. Should you ever go there, definitively splurge for the Teepee as it is so amazing and guarantees a very romantic stay. There is a sauna, whirlpool, complete bathroom … the bedroom is upstairs and has huge windows all around, so you can look at the sky while lying in your bed.
*Image of Northern lights in Lapland via Shutterstock