In Review

A guide to Saariselka

Combine the Northern Lights with skiing and strange eats in Finnish Lapland

Seeing the Northern Lights will become easier this winter, as Finnair launches twice-weekly seasonal flights from Gatwick to Ivalo airport on 14 December. Regular buses serve the nearby resort-village of Saariselka, where aurora-focused hotels are complemented by ski slopes and restaurants serving Lappish cuisine. Be warned, though: at around 150 miles into the Arctic Circle, Saariselka will be a little nippy.

What to see

The Northern Lights season lasts from November to March, peaking in January, with displays most nights. Alas, clouds and light pollution often get in the way; to dodge the latter, stay outside of town at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort (see below), and travel with a specialist UK operator like The Aurora Zone. Their veteran guides know all the best spots.

What to do

Saariselka also offers Finland's best skiing, with 15 slopes and two lifts – albeit without any steep downhills. Most of the action centres around the fells of Kaunispaa and Iisakkipaa, just outside town and served by buses. Other possible activities include reindeer sleigh rides, husky-sledding, ice-fishing, snowshoeing and snowmobile jaunts. Families wanting these should book through an operator like Activities Abroad.

Where to eat

Ever tried sauteed reindeer? The cosy Pirkon Pirtti restaurant serves that accompanied by mashed potatoes, lingonberries and spice-pickled cucumbers, along with pan-fried Arctic char and red king crab. Though rather fancier, Petronella throws in ten-pin bowling alleys, illuminated in a Borealis-like green glow.

Where to drink

There's nowhere else like Saariselan Panimo. Also a microbrewery, this wood-heavy pub serves its own dark and light beers along with cloudberry liqueurs, hot toddies and jellona, a homemade tar-based, liquorice-flavored schnapps.

Where to stay

On the village's fringes, Holiday Club Saariselka boasts Europe's northernmost spa, including a swimming pool and jacuzzis, plus cheerful, functional rooms. If you’d prefer more luxury and less kids, or if seeing the Lights is your chief priority, stay a few miles south at the luxurious Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. Set amid towering pine forests, its stylish "igloos" allow for aurora-watching through thermal-glass domes as one lies snugly – and smugly – supine.

Recommended

The world’s best ski resorts and hotels
Verbier was named the world’s best ski resort at the World Ski Awards 2021
The big trip

The world’s best ski resorts and hotels

A hiking paradise in northwest Greece
The spectacular Vikos Gorge in Greece
The big trip

A hiking paradise in northwest Greece

Native Manchester: an aparthotel with entertainment on its doorstep
The lounge at Ducie Street Warehouse
In Review

Native Manchester: an aparthotel with entertainment on its doorstep

Magnificent luxury hotels to discover in 2022
Six Senses hotel view of pool
The big trip

Magnificent luxury hotels to discover in 2022

Popular articles

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022
Hidden Assets BBC
In Depth

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all won 20 grand slam singles titles
Profile

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams

The Week Footer Banner