In Review

Lapland of luxury: where the extraordinary happens every day

Finnair’s daily direct flight from London to Ivalo means the ultimate winter wonderland is now on your doorstep

There are some trips that really are “once in a lifetime”. In Lapland once in a lifetime experiences are ten-a-penny.

While tourists have traditionally flocked to northern Finland in search of Santa Claus, the last few years have seen an explosion of visitors in search of an altogether different experience: be it husky racing, chasing the Northern Lights, discovering indigenous Sami culture or sampling reindeer meat for the first time.

Described as a “year-round paradise” by CNN, which recently ranked it among the most beautiful places in Europe, the Inari region offers luxury, relaxation and thrill-seeking in equal measure – as well as the cleanest air in the world

Located above of the Arctic circle 1000km north of Helsinki, Inari is Finland’s largest municipality but also the most sparsely populated; where it snows steadily for more than half the year, and for the two-month ‘polar night’ it gets light for only a few hours a day with the sun never rising above the horizon.

Yet for locals – and those guests who choose to embrace it – the challenging climate is not cause for depression but rather an excuse to relax and take things easy. Finns were, after all, recently ranked once again the happiest people in the world

Just a 30-minute ride from airport but situated on the shores of the stunning Lake Inari with its more than 3,000 islands, the boutique adults-only Wilderness Hotel Nangu is the perfect place to start.

It boasts a series of stunning newly built log cabins with private saunas and hot tubs with panoramic views of the lake. For something truly special, the hotel’s five Lake Inari Aurora glass-roofed huts sit directly on the ice (or float on the water depending on the time of year) which mean you can fish directly from the comfort of your own room and then cook your catch in the adjoining kitchen. 

@Wilderness Hotel Nangu

Most people visiting Inari choose to stay in just one place rather than move around, meaning most hotels offer a variety of packages, hosted out of their own activity lodges. Snowsuits and equipment are all provided so there is no need to pack heavy ski clothes.

Wilderness Hotel’s five-day Nangu Artic Experience (from £1,280 per person) includes husky safaris, snowmobile tours and snowshoeing hikes, but there is also the option of booking individual activities such as husky racing for those who want to tailor their own trip. 

Of course for many the main reason for visiting Lapland is to experience the Aurora Borealis, and special late-night tours operate to maximise the chance of catching the Northern Lights.

A little more down to earth but nevertheless another must-see is the nearby Design House IDOLI.

A fusion of Finnish design and cooking, visitors can hire out this former atelier on the banks of Lake Inari for private dinners, sampling cutting-edge glass and furniture craftsmanship whilst being waited on by a gourmet chef serving the best local ingredients. Then take a short walk down to the lake-side chandeliered glass-tepee and relax with a glass of champagne and watch the sun go down. (Booking only - £256 per person, minimum four people).

Design House IDOLI @Terhi Tuovinen & Patrick Gosling

If relaxation and romance are not your thing, then the family-orientated Star Artic Outdoor Resort is tailor-made for thrill seekers of all ages.

Situated on the regions highest mountain overlooking the magical town of Saariselka, the resort boasts its own ski slopes as well as Finland’s longest toboggan run. Its new Wilderness Centre located on the edge of the Urho Kekkonen National Park just opened this winter.

It even has the option of snowmobile transport from airport.

From there take an open-air sleigh ride to Restaurant Laanilan Kievari. Set in a rustic wood cabin, the menu serves up a 21st century twist on traditional Finnish cuisine with dishes ranging from arctic char carpaccio and rye tempura reindeer to elk tenderloin. It also comes with its own sauna for those who want to unwind before or after dinner. 

With the sudden influx of visitors, sustainability has become a common buzzword among residents. Recognising the importance of maintaining the fragile equilibrium of the natural habitat there has been a conscious decision to limit the number and size of resorts across the region.

This is also good news for visitors, as it guarantees each activity is enjoyed in near-perfect isolation and not spoiled by hordes of tourist groups.

Snowmobile safaris @Aurora Village

The family-run Aurora Village, with its 28 glass-roofed cottages located around a reindeer enclosure, is a prime example of this ethos. Its personal feel and proximity to the Ivalo river makes is the ideal spot for ice fishing and panoramic sauna and jacuzzi followed by ice-water plunge are a must for any first-time visitor.

While peak season runs from December to mid-January, February and March offer a similar experience but with the added bonus of less visitors and a few extra hours of daylight.

And with daily direct flights from London to Ivalo taking just three hours, it is even perfect for a long-weekender. 

Finnair flies direct from London Gatwick to Ivalo in Finnish Lapland from 8 December, 2019 to 22 March, 2020. Fares start from £210 return in Economy Class, including all taxes and charges. For further information and to book, visit finnair.com or call 020 8001 0101.

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