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04 October, 2012

Lapland Winter Wonderland

Lainio Snow Village
Lainio Snow Village
If you are looking for a holiday a bit different than usual, why not consider visiting Lapland? Lapland or Sapmi is an area which overlaps parts of Norway, Finland, Sweden and also includes the Russian Kola Peninsula. It is truly a real Winter Wonderland! In Rovaniemi you can even visit Santa Claus or cross the Arctic Circle. We decided to visit the less touristic part of Finnish Lapland "Yllasjarvi" and to leave Rovaniemi for another time. 


We started our trip in Helsinki - a trendy waterfront city with some Russian influences - offering broad boulevards, fancy cafes and nice restaurants (there are even 5 restaurants with Michelin stars in Helsinki). What strikes you straight away when you arrive in Finland is that it is cold, very cold :-) Luckily we had blue sky and very sunny weather which made it a bit easier to handle. Helsinki is a paradise for art lovers but is - with is many designer shops - also the place to be for shopaholics. Shopping mall Stockmann is definitely a MUST for shopaholics. 

Helsinki waterfront
Helsinki Waterfront 

You can also take a ferry to one of the islands nearby Helsinki. Suomenlinna Island is a very popular excursion and has one of the biggest sea forts in the world. The waterfront is very beautiful and special during winter time. Everything is frozen, boats are stuck in the ice and you can walk over the ice from the one end to the other. Nearby the port, there are two fish markets (one in open air & one covered) the salmon soup over there is highly recommended. 

We stayed in the Best Western Premier Hotel Katajanokka, conveniently located close to the port. The hotel used to be a prison, luckily our room did not look like a prison cell at all but was very comfortable and even had a sauna in it :-) From the hotel it is about a 5 minute walk to the waterfront and a 15 minute walk into town. Visiting Helsinki is very well manageable on foot.

Snow Landscape
Snow Landscape Lapland

From Helsinki we took a flight to Kittila Airport. You need to take a special one as the plane need to be able to land on ice. Even from out of the plane, you can already see the grandeur of Lapland, beautiful white landscapes wherever you look. The sky in Lapland is just magical.

Lapland Reindeer
Lainio Snow Village Reindeer

We booked our stay with Lainio Snow Village and booked as well several activities with them. We did not exactly know what to expect but we were very excited as we were going to sleep a night in the Snow Village, go on a Snowmobile Safari, go ice fishing, go on a Husky Safari and of course do some Cross Country Skiing as well. A shuttle from the Snow Village picked us up on the Airport.

Ice Sculpture
Lainio Snow Village Ice Sculpture

I heard somebody say that they liked the Snow Hotel in Sweden better, I cannot compare as I have never been there. I can only say that Lainio Snow Village is truly amazing. It is quite remotely located but in a stunning Winter Wonderland setting. The hotel garden has many beautiful ice sculptures. The Hotel is rebuild each year and open from end November till about April. I thought is was cold in Helsinki but here in Lapland it was even much much colder. With thermal underwear and a special thermal suit they provide you, you don't feel the cold anymore.

Ice Restaurant
Lainio Snow Village Ice Restaurant

The Snow Village has also an ice restaurant/bar which is quite a unique experience. Everything is made from ice (the tables, the chairs, the bar and even the glasses ...). A few shots out of ice glasses will soon warm you up but drink quickly ... before your glass melt :-) There is also an Ice Chapel where you can get married, quite a unique experience I guess. After dinner & a few drinks in the ice restaurant/bar we took a Sauna and then ... we were ready for our night in the SnowHotel. 

Ice Room
Lainio Snow Village Ice Room

As we were nearly the only ones staying in the Snow Village that night, we could pick any room we wanted. We took one of the ice suites but to be honest with all the additional sculptures in the room, I think it was even colder than in a normal ice room. With the special sleeping bags you do not really feel the cold but it is something you need to get used to. To stay warm you need to go completely - including your head - in the sleeping bag. If it is really to cold, there is also a warm room where you can go to. As we were nearly the only ones in the Ice Hotel that night, the warm room, showers etc. were sufficient but not sure whether it will be sufficient if the hotel is full. In the morning they come to wake you with warm cranberry juice and then after a hot shower, you receive your certificate that you survived a night in the snow hotel :-)

Teepee Cabin
Lainio Snow Village Teepee Cabin

The rest of our stay we stayed in the Teepee Cabin. I do not know how the other cabins look like but the Teepee is something truly special. Should you ever go there, definitively splurge for the Teepee as it is so amazing and guarantees a very romantic stay. There is a sauna, whirlpool, complete bathroom ... the bedroom is upstairs and has huge windows all around, so you can look at the sky while lying in your bed.

Hot Tub
Lainio Snow Village Hot Tub

The Teepee is located close to the SnowVillage but still you have a lot of privacy there and feel like you are on your own. Outside there is also a hot tub where you can gaze at the stars or when you're lucky even see the Northern Lights ... we did ! It is really an incredible experience. Quite challenging however running in the cold from the Teepee to the hot tub and back :-)

I was very surprised to discover how beautiful a snow landscape is. I first thought it would all look pretty similar but it is truly stunning. The whole experience was like living a Fairy Tale.

Snowmobile Safari
Lainio Snow Village Snowmobile Safari

We took a full day Snowmobile Safari, what a trill ! Driving with a breathtaking speed through woods and across frozen lakes is really a magnificent adventure. You can also take a Snowmobile Safari for 2 or more days. You can even go to the Arctic Circle by Snowmobile, unfortunately we did not have enough time. We also went ice fishing one day, again an unique experience even when we did not catch anything at all :-)

Cros Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing in Yllas Finland

We also did a full day Husky safari, each with our own sledge and huskies. Again an amazing experience. I really hope to be back some day to do a 3 day Husky safari, what an experience ! Our last day we went to Yllas to go cross country skiing. Another great day, in a wonderful landscape ... We did this trip for one week from 26th of Feb till 6th of March 2011. One week was enough to give us a taste of everything but we'll definitely go back to get more ... a 2 or 3 day Husky Safari is high on my wish list now.

When you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
=> Go West Road Trip
=> Costa Rica Road Trip

Freya - Holiday Nomad Travel and Photo Blog


  1. I have long wanted to visit Lapland and your article and gorgeous pictures really bring the experience to life for those of us who have not visted...yet! Wow, an ice hotel...that must have been an amazing experience. The entire trip looks positively enchanting and one day I will get there.

  2. Hi Jeff, you definitely should one day it is so beautiful over there but .... cold really cold ;-)

  3. Great pictures. I've been to Denmark and Norway and am desperate to go to Finland.

    1. Hi Eddie, thank you so much for commenting! Finland is really beautiful.
      Congrats with your new book.

  4. Hey Freya very cool. I would love to stay in an ice room!I will have to add this to the bucket list.

    1. Hi Stephen thanks for stopping by. I saw your post in the Global Bloggers Network.
      I'm a newbie myself, do you have the link to your backpackers blog?

  5. What an amazing, dreamy experience! Everything there looks magical, and I love ice/snow sculptures! Now you got me dreaming of watching the Northern Lights from an ice village :)

    1. Hi Ayelet, it is so beautiful over there. You definitely just try to visit one day.

  6. You've definitely been on some amazing trips! I'm in awe of one trip... and then the next one I read seems even better! Lucky you!!!

    What time of the year did you go? I see plenty of light so it mustn't have been the dead of winter... But still lots of snow and very cold! March?

    I'd love to go that far north! And the idea of a trek in a dog sled or riding in a reindeer sleigh? Where do I sign up! And that ice hotel... brrrr! But brilliant!

    THe only time I've been to a Scandinavian country was a week in Sweden for a conference. I extended my stay 2 days for a quick visit of Stockholm (beautiful city btw!), but what little I saw of the countryside made me want to go back some day! :o)

    1. It was absolutely amazing. We went beginning March and although it was still very cold, we had all week blue sky and sun :-)

  7. I sooo want to do this! Next year hopefully...

    1. I want to do this again, it was so amazing

  8. Just discovered you went to Lapland! Do you often go there? There is a winter stay I'm planning with my blogger friend in Feb 2015. Perhaps we could meet?

    1. That would be awesome, not sure yet about Feb but might be possible.

  9. I so want to do this. But I keep saying that every winter and then other cool trips keep getting in the way... :-)

    1. So many things to see, so little time ... I get the feeling


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Freya - Holiday Nomad