In late March the whole OTMT sales team packed their bags for a long weekend exploring snowy Finland.
This was personally my first time to Finland unlike the rest of the team so I was really keen to see as much as I possibly could, visit our existing destinations as well as meeting some new providers and checking out some hotels. Throughout our adventure we were lucky enough to see and stay at unique hotels and partake in wonderful Arctic activities!
Our first stop was Rovaniemi, known for being the Capital of Lapland and the hometown of Santa Claus himself. On arrival we made our way to the world famous Santa Claus Village, it’s Christmas all year round here which means there is no lack of festive spirit even in March! Not only is it possible to meet Santa and get a photo take with him but you can also send stamped postcards from his main post office, check out the impressive Christmas exhibition, the Elves’ Toy Workshop and get a photo as you physically cross the line into the Arctic Circle which runs straight through the village.
We then moved onto the unique Arctic Treehouse Hotel, a new hotel to us and one we were all really excited about – it didn’t disappoint! The individual hotel suites are staggered up the side of a hill in the depths of a pine forest allowing each suite an unspoilt view of the snow-encrusted trees and the sky. If the Aurora was out you would be able to watch it through your floor to ceiling window whilst lying in bed – it doesn’t get much better than that, trust me!
Our next port of call was a local reindeer farm, first a traditional Lappish ceremony is performed on the guests to banish any negative spirits, you are then introduced to the beautiful reindeer before heading out on a short sleigh ride through the forest. On your return to the camp you can enjoy a hot drink and traditional cinnamon bun before receiving your certified reindeer driving license from your guide!
The time had come to make our way to our accommodation for the night, at Off The Map Travel we’re all about unique overnight stays and our rooms for the night were no exception! The Arctic Snow Hotel is located less than half an hour away from Rovaniemi city centre but is set in a secluded Arctic wonderland right next to a picturesque frozen lake. You are greeted by the warm glow of the glass topped igloos when you arrive at the hotel, as you walk through the entrance pillars (made completely of snow, obviously) the main hotel comes into sight. Much like the world famous ICEHOTEL in Swedish Lapland, the Snow Hotel is made entirely of snow from the bed frames to the dinner tables! Each suite is individually designed and coloured lights are set into the ice giving every room a different theme. It is hard to say what the best part of staying at the Snow Hotel is, the 3 course dinner at the ice restaurant, the jacuzzi/sauna area and snow sauna which is unique to the Snow Hotel and can be rented privately, or physically staying overnight in a giant igloo! It is the entire experience which is so unique and unlike anything else you have or will ever do – truly a night to remember! If sleeping sub-zero isn’t your thing the Snow Hotel also 20 cosy glass igloos which are a perfect for Aurora spotting! They even have a Northern Lights alarm which goes off if the Aurora appears so you can look up from you bed at the sky and watch the show!
After a delicious breakfast at the the Snow Hotel we jumped in our car and made our way to Yllas which is roughly 3 hours north of Rovaniemi. When we arrived into Yllas we met up with our guide who was taking us out on a day of snowmobiling through the surrounding fell. Snowmobiling is such a great way to admire the impressive Arctic landscape as well as being exhilarating! Towards the end of our excursion we stopped at a traditional Kota for lunch, it will always amaze me how the guides are able to whip up some of the yummiest meals using local ingredients and delicacies seemingly out of nowhere. We laughed, ate and drank lingonberry juice around the roaring fire with our group before continuing our journey back to base camp. We had the most glorious weather whilst in both Rovaniemi and Yllas, this is not uncommon for the months of March and April – this makes for perfect weather for snow-based activities as the sun is shining and the snow conditions are still very good!
Kilpisjarvi is a destination we already sell and is a firm favourite with all the team. It was my first time visiting this secluded village and all the providers face to face. Kilpisjarvi is bordered by the Kilpisjarvi Lake and the Saana Fell which is sacred to the Sami people. Unfortunately by the time we had arrived the weather had taken a turn as it can do in the Arctic, this meant we were unable to head out on any activities. Kilpisjarvi is right by the 3 border point between Finland, Norway and Sweden so several activities are based around this attraction such as snowmobiling and Northern Lights sleigh rides! We took this opportunity to explore the resort and check out all the different accommodation types. The resort is completely family run making the service and the entire experience really personal and friendly.
Kilpisjarvi is perfect for those travellers keen to visit more than one Arctic country, it works really well as a combination trip with Tromso in Norway as it is located so close to the border they are only 2 hours apart. These two destinations work very well together as provide the contrast between the dramatic Norwegian mountain scape against the fjords and rolling Finnish landscape. If you fancy covering Finland, Norway and Sweden this is also very easy. On this familiarisation trip half of the OTMT actually started in Swedish Lapland and met up with the rest of us in Finland before we travelled onto Norway together for our flight home – all three destinations are very different, all with individually unique activities and accommodation to explore, also how cool would it be to be able to tick all three off your bucket list in one trip!?
If you’re interested in a multi-destination adventure check out our example itineraries to find out what cross border trips we can offer you!