In December of last year I fulfilled one of my biggest bucket list goals. I decided a few months prior to this trip to focus my time and money over the next couple of years on completing the absolute “must dos” . Thanks to National Geographic Magazine over a decade ago, an aerial view of an igloo in Finland, coupled with images of Santa’s reindeer made me dream of visiting this country.
Since I had some time off work booked for December, I strategically crossed some Christmas/winter goals off my list, including a trip to Finland (stay tuned for an upcoming blog on Germany).
Because I live in Canada and because of the 2 hours of daylight a day in Lapland (sunrise at 11am, sunset around 1pm), my to do list was very focused. I didn’t have an interest in skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding or snowmobiling. If you have time for this, then of course I absolutely recommend (although personally I would feel terrible having those poor huskies whisking me around).
If you have kids or are a kid at heart and want to be in the Christmas spirit, then I would recommend a trip to Santa Claus’ village in Rovaniemi. It is known around the world as the official hometown of Santa.
My main objective for Lapland included sleeping in a glass igloo and feeding reindeer. With my limited travel time (I coupled it with Austria and Germany, with 1 week total off work), I catered my itinerary to this. I specifically wanted to stay at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort which would allow for accomplishing these goals (and it was the hotel featured in the magazine). This hotel is about 30 minutes from Ivalo airport. It is definitely one of the most expensive hotels I’ve ever stayed at (700 Euros a night for 2 people – approx $1000 CAD) but worth the experience of a lifetime.
Weather should be something that is factored into your trip planning, in addition to taking into account the amount of hours of daylight. With that in mind I chose to fly into Ivalo, Lapland 1 day before staying in the igloo, and flew out the day after checking out of the igloo in order to maximize my time at arctic resort. .
As we were in Germany prior to Finland, we took a flight from Munich to Helsinki, then Helsinki to Ivalo. As expected, there was issues with the weather. The Captain attempted to land the plane at Ivalo airport but due to poor visibility, had to turn around and land in the nearby town of Rovaniemi, which is a 3.5 hour drive from Ivalo. The airline was great in organizing meals and a bus to drive us to Ivalo. I was happy I didn’t book that as the night for staying in the igloo as we left for the airport in Germany at 8am, but we didn’t arrive in Ivalo until after 2am! We were exhausted and would have been sad if we weren’t able to maximize our time in the glass igloo.
On the bus drive from Rovaniemi to Ivalo, we got to see the lights of Santa’s village from the road. I could tell this would be a magical place to visit with kids, so if you have extra time, I would suggest also visiting this town.
We stayed at Hotel Kultahippu both the night we arrived in Ivalo as well as the night before leaving Ivalo. This hotel was conveniently less than 10 minutes taxi drive from the airport. We booked it through booking.com.
In addition to the convenience, the rooms were large (for 2 people) and clean. In fact, the first night we got a room in the new building with a balcony and our own Finnish Sauna. Too bad we didn’t have time to enjoy it. We checked out first thing in the morning so we could attempt early check in or at the very least roam around Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort.
SLEEPING IN A GLASS IGLOO
As mentioned above, this was my main reason for wanting to visit Finland. One also has the option of also staying in a chalet, snow igloo or more recently kelo-glass igloo (a combination of a glass igloo and chalet).
Check in is usually 3pm (long after the time it gets dark in December) but we got lucky and our igloo was ready for us at 11am. We were able to check in and enjoy the 2 hours of daylight inside the igloo and surrounding property. Check out is 10am so technically most people would miss daylight hours if only staying at the igloo for 1 night. The staff likely won’t be able to guarantee if you request in advance (I tried) but in person they are super accommodating (if possible) and friendly.
There is a possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Our igloo was even equipped with an alarm for the lights, but we didn’t see any. We did, however, get to enjoy watching the snow fall via the glass roof. The resort provided dinner and breakfast, so with the exception of leaving for meals, we maximized our time in the igloo. I anticipated being cold but it was in fact quite warm. The beds are heated and they provide tea/coffee/hot chocolate. There are no showers in the igloo, however, so be sure to plan accordingly.
The 10 year old in me was keen to complete my Christmas wish list by feeding reindeer in the “North Pole” in December. Kakslauttanen Arctic resort is split into the East and West Village. The West Village has Santa’s Home (not quite as big as Rovaniemi), reindeer farm, ski chalet, and more accommodation. The resort offers a variety of activities including a reindeer safari. I toyed with the idea for a month but ultimately felt guilty to have these beautiful creatures pull me around.
They also offer a tour of the West Village which includes feeding the reindeer, visiting Santa’s house etc for a fee and at 4pm. But upon talking to the front desk, they agreed to charge me for a private tour of the reindeer farm, where I could focus on just feeding them, and also do so during daylight hours. We were able to schedule this after we checked out of the glass igloo. It was literally everything I could have asked for. The reindeer are such smart yet gentle animals!
I personally enjoyed my time in Lapland and felt like it was a complete dream come true. I would, however, recommend a few more days (especially due to the limited daylight hours) and a few more activities to make it a complete winter wonderland experience.
*** Please note nothing in this post is sponsored. Everything was paid for by me and my travel companion. This post is to offer my authentic experience and personal advice.