Winter wonderland in Finnish Lapland
This land’s ground is covered in snow for over half the year. During the darkest months, the sun never comes up over the horizon. The land is so wild, there are more reindeer than people. Apparently, this land is just a short flight away from our home. So we jumped into the plane, and 1.5 hours later, we landed in Ivalo, the northernmost airport in Finland. Our destination, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, is a 30-minute drive away.
If you are a travel junkie, you have probably seen photos of glass igloos in a snowy forest—this is what Kakslauttanen is known for.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is located near the town of Saariselkä, some 250 km north of Arctic Circle. There are two areas in the resort—the original East Village and the newer West Village. We chose to stay in the East Village but spent some time wandering around the West Village, as there is a free transfer between them. The East village has large and small log cabins, small glass igloos, and some unique lodgings, such as snow igloos and queen suites with outdoor Jacuzzis. In the West Village, there are large and small log cabins, large and small glass igloos, and Kelo-glass igloos.
Small glass igloos include a toilet, but shower facilities are shared in a nearby building, separately for men and women. Large igloos have a toilet and a private shower. Log cabins are very cozy and comfortable—all have one or two bedrooms, a living room with a fireplace and a dining area, a small kitchen, a private sauna, and two bathrooms. Kelo-glass igloos are log chalets with attached glass igloos—a really fantastic idea that combines the comfort of a log cabin with sensational views of the northern skies. Kelo-glass igloos are great for families, sleeping up to six people.
The main difference between the East and West villages is the overall vibe. The East Village is more authentic, with cabins organically spread in a forest along the various paths. It feels very secluded and remote.
The West village seems very much like a resort—the accommodations are newer, but much closer to each other, especially the log cabins; there are fewer trees in between the igloos and chalets; the reception building is much bigger, with an enormous dining hall; and there are more people. It’s a matter of what you like more.
The West Village is right next to the Christmas Village, with Santa’s Home and elf huts.
For our vacation, we chose a two-bedroom log cabin in the East Village. We were assigned to chalet 18. It is one of the furthest from reception and the restaurant.
Concierge service is not available at the resort. Instead, there are wooden sleds outside of the reception area that you can use to pull your own luggage. It was so much fun! Kids loved to pull our bags and each other, so we used sleds very extensively every day.
The cabin is not luxurious, but very charming.
Glass igloos are the front-row seats to Earth’s most spectacular light show—the Northern Lights. In northern Lapland, the nights are dark enough for Northern Lights viewing from late August to the end of April. Seeing them requires a clear sky and a little bit of luck. It was too cloudy during the nights we were there, so we unfortunately didn’t see the Northern Lights.
The igloos are fun for a night or two, but the log cabins are much more comfortable. We decided not to stay in an igloo.
A night in a snow igloo would definitely be remembered (a down sleeping bag is provided). Kakslauttanen promises that, even if it’s –40C outside, the temperature inside the igloo won’t drop below –6C. Yikes! Still freezing! We weren’t brave enough to try this one out.
Accommodation at Kakslauttanen Arctic resort comes with a half-board meal plan. The breakfast buffet consists of cold cuts, cheese, salted salmon, Karelian pies, boiled eggs, yogurt, porridge, and the like.
Dinner is a fixed menu, although they are more than willing to make substitutions if you don’t like a particular dish. It consists of salad or soup, a main dish, and a dessert. Dinner often includes something from traditional Finnish cuisine: sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam was our favorite. We were there four nights and never had the same dish twice.
We booked two activities by emailing the resort a couple of weeks in advance. The evening before your activity day, remember to check the tour pick-up time on the board at reception. There are no other announcements about it.
The activities we did were a reindeer safari and a husky safari. Two versions of each activity are available—for four hours or for two hours. The longer tour also includes lunch. We did the longer safaris for both. Kakslauttanen Arctic Resorts has a really great service providers for the tours; we enjoyed both of them a lot!
Tours are started with getting your winter clothes. For the reindeer safari, believe me, you will need them! Even if you are wearing several layers of warm clothes, you would still want a winter overall to wear on top of everything.
The reindeer safari is a relaxing trip into the Arctic wilderness.
After the safari, lunch is served in a cozy wooden restaurant right next to the reindeer farm.
Our second tour—the four-hour husky safari—was the highlight of our Lapland vacation! Nothing beats a husky ride through snowy landscapes of forests and frozen lakes, and then at the end of it having a cuddle with your sled dogs!
We were a little nervous at the beginning, as the huskies were eager to run at full speed, but after a first turn, we got used to controlling them. We even managed to take photos while driving the husky sled.
If you can only do one trip, we recommend the huskies.
After the ride and all the cuddles with the dogs, it was time for a hot salmon soup around a campfire. Lunch was served in a teepee, and it was delicious!
We had a few spare hours and decided to visit the village of Saariselkä. There is a bus stop outside of Kakslauttanen’s East Village reception, though taking a taxi is always an option. Saariselkä is small: there is one gas station, one good-size supermarket, a dozen hotels, a few restaurants, and Santa’s office.
Kids were asking to visit the huskies again, so we also stopped by Husky Bar, located 1 km outside of Saariselkä.
Overall, our trip was mind-blowing and totally magical! We would love to return some day.
Good to know:
- Planning a winter wonderland vacation? Did you know that December and the beginning of January are the darkest time of the year in Lapland? The farther north you go, the shorter the daylight length. By the end of February, the day is eight hours long, but if you go during the Christmas period, you will never see the sun. During the polar night, the sun stays below the horizon for six weeks. We think that February and March are the best months to visit.
- The Finnish Meteorological Institute has real-time info and predictions of the Northern Lights at http://aurorasnow.fmi.fi/public_service
We stayed in Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort for 4 nights in February 2016.