As you travel for three quarters of an hour along the road from Levi to Lainio you will see more trees than you have seen in your entire life. The landscape is liberally dusted with deep icing-sugar snow and exemplifies the true wilderness you are in. The cherry on the cake however, is the Snow Village and Snow Hotel in the middle of nowhere.
Built around a central, permanent reception and restaurant area, it is re-built annually by 35 talented snow-builders and ice sculptors. The building is different each year, takes a month to build and lasts only for one winter.
The Snow Hotel has 24 rooms and 10 suites and contains a breath-taking wedding chapel and a honeymoon suite. The bride and groom arrive by reindeer sleigh to add to the occasion.
There is a cool bar – literally, where drinks are taken in glasses made from ice and a restaurant where all furniture is made from ice.
Coloured lighting illuminates the ice walls and connecting snow tunnels, which are intricately carved with figures and designs. The sculpture gallery has ice carvings of all kinds. Everyone will love the indoor ice-slide too. The whole place is very impressive.
This is a visit which cannot be missed.
Yllas has Finland’s highest Fell at 2355 feet with the summit having a beautiful restaurant and cafe. The Sport Resort here is the largest ski resort in Finland. It thus has Finland’s longest ski slopes up to 3km in length, with 63 slopes, many suitable for beginners. There are 330km of cross country ski trails, 410km of snowmobiling tracks and 2 floodlit ski parks.
The weather station at the very top, consistently proves that the air here is the cleanest air in all of Europe. Breathe deep and long for a heady feeling.
I stayed at nearby Iso Hillankukka Log Cabins at Akaslompolo, one of two original Lappish villages in the area. This village in the woods consists of high quality, log cabins, containing from one to seven rooms.
Bafflingly, there are apparently up to 3000 such cabins, all privately owned but managed as Lets. They are placed in small groups amongst the millions of trees, but so well disguised, you would never, ever tell they were there or even see more than a few. It is brilliantly done.
Most cabins have several self-contained en-suite bedrooms with some mezzanine sleeping levels. Shared kitchen and lounge areas make them a great place for groups of friends to stay. The wood burner fires in the lounge are so cosy. Most have a sauna of course.
There is cross-country skiing almost from the doorstep, whilst the village has hotel restaurants, bars, the largest supermarket in Lapland and a small shopping centre.
The Akas Hotel is popular with visitors. It is the oldest hotel in Akaslompolo and is built in the chalet style. It has an appealing look and has a Spa, gym and pool as well as restaurants, bar, dance-floor and a basement night club. Finns love their dancing and karaoke, so a great time is guaranteed.
The most popular nearby bar is the Sports Bar, which is also lively. Try the Salmiakki vodka and licorice shot for a heart-warming and unusual alternative.
Mintu is a Finnish clear spirit which, when tipped into hot chocolate is a smooth minty delight.
Here bar-food more akin to British tastes can be found, if you can’t face reindeer or fish.
For a more up-market dinner, go to Poro, probably the best around. It is a wooden chalet restaurant approached by the snowy lane and lit by multi coloured tree lights outside. There is a wider selection of choice here. Try the steak cutlet, stuffed with blue cheese and accompanied by green beans wrapped in bacon with turnip and a deliciously dark gravy.
Think of Lapland and it is hard not to think of the Northern Lights.
This stupendous light-show is awesome. It is fired by electrical activity from the Sun, but Sami legend has it that a fox running by a river kicked up snow particles which were then lit by sparks from its’ tail. If you sing, the lights will dance for you. I much prefer this version.
Northern Light watching from the local frozen lake is a popular activity and to assist with viewing, the local street lights are turned off at 10pm. The Lights do not appear every evening in winter, the weather has to be right, but there is a good chance you will see them.
Nothing in life is guaranteed though.
Cross country skiing is almost like a religion for most Finns. It is a national sport and a daily activity from the moment they can walk. The fitness benefits are enormous as it is an all-round exercise, working all of the major muscles. You may know about it the day after if you are not used to it however.
My instructors took a group of complete cross country beginners and took us to passable imitators within a couple of hours, so good were they. I was not aware that the trails are actually specially created using machines which leave parallel twin ski-tracks at a depth of around three inches. There are around 330km of trails around Yllas, some of them long distance ones, and all are regularly maintained, something of a mammoth task.
We soon gathered the basics of the actions and movements, propelling style, downhill and uphill techniques and the all- important braking method. We were soon gliding along with only the swish of the skis and panting breath for company. When standing still, the silence is deafening. Arctic wildlife can sometimes be seen.
I loved this activity and will certainly be back for more. All equipment and instruction can be hired locally.
Next door to the cross-country ski-school is the Selva Pyy Sports Bar. It offers a welcome break from your exertions and you must try the salmon soup here. It is tremendously satisfying after a long ski session.
For a special evening treat, a ride in specialist ‘piste-basher’ snow-tractor takes you from the Sport Resort up the slopes of Yllas Fell for a fabulous meal at the very top. On alighting, the long distance views are tremendous. The small but beautiful Kammi restaurant serves traditional Finnish fayre in traditional style. Delicious doesn’t do it justice.
After a drink or two here, some people can mistake the pulsating light at the top of the fell-top mast for a star apparently!
For those with a real taste for snow adventure there are snow-shoeing and cross-country ski trails for beginners and the more experienced alike. The idea that most of us have about snow-shoeing is the sight of a deerskin-clad explorer with tennis rackets strapped to each foot.
The modern way is to use specialist equipment of tubular aluminium with webbing and underfoot steel grips, making it much easier. Each one looks like a small surf-board.
Our Destination Lapland Safari House instructor was a very knowledgeable countryman who took us off up a fell into the tundra for a spectacular trek through ‘snow-candle’ firs and onto the summit above the tree-line. He pointed out numerous animal tracks, identifying each species and telling us all about wildlife ways. If you are lucky, you may see wild reindeer, foxes, arctic hares, wolverine or even lynx.
The off-track, downhill trudge through metre deep powder-snow was a real hoot. We had so many laughs, tumbles and a lot of fun.
Destination Lapland also run snowmobiling trips from the village. Instruction and safety kit is provided before taking off into more hilly woodland terrain around the area. As we came to some remote wooden buildings we stopped and wondered why. A ‘refreshment’ break of course and then into a round wooden Kota with a welcoming open wood fire on which we prepared our hot Crowberry juice and ate biscuits. Our extremely knowledgeable guide told us about local wildlife, survival tips and Finland in general before a bumpier ride back along lesser used trails. Fantastic.
Don’t forget your driving licence folks.
All of the Inghams representatives and the Finnish people I met were bright, friendly and very knowledgeable. Nothing was too much trouble and they clearly take pride in their jobs.
So much to do, so little time. So now it’s up to you.
Well, I did warn you at the beginning of this article, you only have yourself to blame.
My heart has followed all my days something I cannot name? I can now.
Paul was a guest of Inghams. The hotels and all the activities mentioned can be seen at www.inghams.co.uk. Further details can be obtained by contacting 01483 791 114 or by obtaining the Inghams Lapland brochure.
Direct flights take not much over three hours and are from Bristol, Gatwick and Manchester.
Resort transfers are included. These short breaks and holidays are terrific value.
Bookings are now being taken for the remainder of this season and for Winter 2016/2017.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Inghams
- Inghams winter experiences tour to Lapland – Part 1
- Inghams winter experiences tour to Lapland – Part 2