Since 2010, I have been wanting to visit the "Igloo hotel" and I cannot believe we've made that come true! It was an incredible experience and not many can say they've been on a holiday to the Arctic Circle, so I'm so glad and blessed that we could do this trip. :) Heading to the Arctic, although rewarding is a difficult trip - both in terms of planning for the weather as well as monetarily. It has probably been our most expensive holiday (perhaps on par or slightly less than our honeymoon. But our honeymoon was a 3 week holiday while we were only at the Arctic for 5 days!)
There's a lot to write about, so we've broken this blog post into "tips" instead! :) Here we go...
6 Tips for your Arctic Circle getaways (Finland):
Chances are if you are trekking all the way up north to the Arctic Circle, you’re going there for the Northern lights. However, the famous magical nights are a very rare phenomenon and don’t appear in the sky every night. Sometimes, there’s days that pass without any occurrence so don’t expect to see the lights on your trip. And make sure you have plenty of other things you can do so you don’t get disappointed if you don’t spot them :) If you do, that’s just a cherry on the top ;)
Saariselkä is quite touristy and you’ll find plenty of winter activities to keep you busy! We recommend the husky, reindeer and snowmobile but there are definitely a few more we would have loved to try out! We highly recommend Lapland safaris for your winter activities. They were incredibly email friendly and responsive - something you value when you’re planning a trip of a lifetime! They let you also keep their winter gear for the duration of your holiday, if you book more than 1 activity with them! We didn’t wear the ski suits but definitely used their gloves on days we didn’t have any safaris planned. They also pick you up from any hotel in the region and drop you back. Not only that, they actually pick and drop you up from anywhere in the region. So if you’re planning to go to a restaurant for dinner after the activity, they would be more than glad to drop you there! It’s brilliant because taxis are very expensive!
To that point, just to give you guys an idea - a 3-4km taxi drive will cost you about €15 euros. A taxi from the centre of Saariselkä to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort (the famous igloo hotel) will be around €40.00 (2018 Jan prices). So plan your pick up and drop off by your safari transfer services. We were changing hotels one night and we took our luggage to Lapland safaris before an activity (via their hotel pickup) and asked to be dropped to our new hotel and avoided a €45 euro hotel transfer cost! ;) cheeky but hey! Every bit of saving helps as this is quite an expensive holiday!
This was our first activity and to see real life reindeers against a beautiful snow clad background is something you only imagine in children’s Christmas books! Everything about this was absolutely gorgeous. Each sleigh carries 2 people and you get a reindeer for yourself! The entire ride is 45 mins (a lap around the reindeer farm). After which, you’re greeted in a traditional Sami teepee with a hot fire and some hot berry juice to warm your self up. The whole thing is so picturesque and we’d highly recommend doing this in the morning so you get to see the little bit of sunrise and get better photos during the day! Pro Tip: Some of the reindeers don’t have their antlers so try and choose a sleigh with a reindeer that has them so you get better photos! ;)
This is a fast paced activity and quite an adventurous one. From Saariselkä, you ride all the way to Ivalo. Once you get there, you get to go inside an actual igloo! (They remake the igloo every year!) Inside the igloo, you watch a quick video of the Northern lights and the science behind it. You’re also taken to a teepee with a warm fire and some freshly bbq-ed sausages! Yum! If you’re lucky you’ll spot the lights here or on your way back through the mountains and fields. Pro Tip: Since you ride at quite a speed, it gets REALLY windy. Make sure you have a face mask and a scarf. Also, the driver gets leg and hand warmers due to the engine, so whoever drives stays warmer! You do have a chance to swap drivers at any point you want though. :) The instructors are really nice and are always helpful if you get stuck in snow or if you’re not comfortable at any point. If you have limited days, we’d recommend doing this activity at night so you don’t waste photo days + get a chance to see the Northern lights when you head up north.
You’re greeted with SO MANY barking and howling huskies when you get to the spot of the husky ride. They are continuously howling away while the guide teaches you how to ride and sit in the sleigh. Again, 2 people go on together - one sits in the sleigh and the other stands behind - actually riding and driving it. You'll notice that the huskies aren’t the gigantic Siberian huskies you've imagined in your head but actually mix breeds and quite small. We later learnt that they are anywhere between puppies and 6 year olds. Apparently they do love running and quite enjoy the activity and are treated really well - but you do end up feeling really bad for them as they are literally pulling your weight plus the weight of the sleigh up a mountainous track with ups and downs. On an up-hill, the driver standing behind is requested to get off and actually run and push the sleigh to help the dogs out. The dogs are also trained to look behind at you if they need help! Pro Tip: Make sure you request for 'boy dogs' and to be at the front of the pack. These are stronger huskies and you actually go quite fast! We actually did two rounds of riding and the first time had girl dogs and it was a very slow ride. For our second round, we got boy dogs that actually compete in racing and run 200kms a day! The second ride was amazing! Another tip: The person who is standing behind and driving is kept warmer by the running and pushing of the sleigh, so try and take turns so you stay warm. :) The dogs are also absolutely mental and follow the snowmobile driver in the front and sometimes may try and over take the sleigh in front if you’re not the first sleigh behind the snowmobile. It does feel a bit scary when you turn back and there’s 6 barking and howling dogs just running towards you - but the dogs are really friendly and don’t really want to do anything else but run! We also got lunch afterwards - really filling soup and sandwiches and also got to play with the new born puppies during lunch! :) Was a great experience but we ended up feeling really terrible about the whole thing and wouldn't really want to do this ever again.
Are you planning your Arctic Getaway? We are more than happy to give you guys tips or chat to you about any questions you may have. Leave a comment below or reach out to us on our Instagram page @100autumns_ :)
Lots of love, S&V
Don't know what to pack for the Arctic? Read here