I was ready to lean into the second half of my trip to Finland. I was no longer anxious about venturing out into the wilderness and cold of the Arctic Circle. It was time to leave the city of Helsinki and travel way north. I was primed and appropriately outfitted for whatever the journey would bring on my trip to Lapland.
Are you ready to join me on my trip to Lapland?
I know you’re going to fall in love with the breathtaking landscapes of Lapland, just as I did.
Brace yourself, it’s going to be very, very cold as we go in search of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, as it is also known. We’ll experience sunny days and frigid nights as we hunt for the Aurora Borealis. Will the AB grace the skies during our stay? Or not? Will the huskies, horses, and reindeer lead the way through the snowy trails?
Will I find my way under the stars from the igloos to the cabins to the lodge and back again without falling on the ice? And what about the Finnish saunas — will I figure out how to work my personal sauna and then slip into my cozy reindeer pjs and fall asleep in my big log cabin bed or under a zebra quilt in my heated glass igloo?
What are we waiting for? Let’s go!
In case you missed my earlier posts, this trip to Lapland was part of my complimentary Northern Lights of Finland Tour, a new small group itinerary from Explorations by Collette Travel.* It was truly a week like no other travel I have experienced.
Flying to Lapland
“We’ll be traveling on a Finnair flight up to Lapland,” said our Collette tour guide Chad. “First we’ll stop in Kittila, a popular resort area. Then we’ll head up to Ivalo where we’ll be staying. These Lapland towns have permanent populations of 6000 and 4000 and are resort towns in the summer too.”
Once on the ground, we boarded a bus for our 50 minute trip to the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. “Our resort has the world’s largest sauna,” said Chad. Ooh, ooh, ooh, this place is amazing. Finnish saunas are a tried and true tradition. No wonder Finland rates as the land of happy people. Supposedly (according to the Helsinki guidebook) there are one million saunas in Finland — one for every five inhabitants. It’s one of the reasons I knew I was going to like Finland. I love anything spa-related that puts me into a zen-like state.
Settling into the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Driving into the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, with snow covered trails, rustic log cabins, and a forest filled with tall pine trees, is exactly what I pictured for Santa Claus’s hometown. It’s magical, simply magical. It’s like being transported into a fairytale land.
There are reindeer, real reindeer. There are elves, real elves. (Okay, maybe there aren’t real elves, but our elf Aurora who took us on a tour sure looked and acted like a real elf. She told us she turns back into her normal self during the summertime.) There are horses, bears, and huskies too. Note that the bears were hibernating for the winter so we didn’t see them.
“Here you’ll be closer to nature,” said Chad. “You’ll be able to interact with the scenery.”
Upon arrival, we had lunch at the Aurora Restaurant in the Lodge. The shrimp soup was tasty and the buffet plentiful. Warm blueberry juice is available at every meal and during outdoor activities.
Then it was off to my cabin #15. Ooh, ooh, ooh, my cabin had a big wooden bed, a fireplace, a seating and kitchen area and a bathroom. In addition, there was an extra room with bunk beds. I felt just like Goldilocks. I sat on the wooden benches. I laid down on the big wooden bed. Then I peeked into the back room to see if there really was a sauna in the cabin. And there it was! Ooh, ooh, ooh, there it was — my own personal sauna.
Experiencing a Finnish sauna
My luggage was delivered by sled. Magda, a staff member, came to show me how to use my sauna. “Go in for 15 minutes and then go out and take a cold shower,” said Magda. “It’s great to do after a cold night outside and before sleep. Your skin will feel like a baby. You will sleep like a baby. It will keep you young.” I was sold after the words “sleep” and “young.” I knew I was going to like this everyday practice of the Finns.
After our first long ride out under the cold night sky in search of the Northern Lights, after my toes almost froze in hopes that the skies would light up in green and blue waves, after seeing the big dipper but not the Aurora Borealis — I turned up the dial on my sauna, grabbed my towel, and in I went. It was the best-ever relaxation. With a cold shower afterwards and my reindeer pjs, I was off to sleep dreaming of Rudolph.
Hiking with huskies
Besides visiting Santa (be sure to read my previous post about my visit with Santa), another highlight of the trip was our hike with the huskies. We were supposed to go dog sledding, but we had to change plans due to the lack of snow.
Our guide Janne shared details about the huskies. “We have 80 dogs here,” said Janne. “They are social dogs. They eat well and are athletically built. They like to pull a sled. The dogs howl a lot, especially after feeding to say thank you.” Several of our group walked the dogs, or I should say the dogs walked them. They are really strong! It was so beautiful to go hiking in the snowcapped forest. It was like being in a winter wonderland.
In search of the Aurora Borealis
The next evening we ventured out in hopes of seeing the AB. This time we went by horse-drawn carriage. It was so cold that each person was given a special winter jumpsuit to wear and blanket for extra warmth. Up and down we bobbed as the horses trotted through the forest. We stopped to have some warm blueberry juice and look up into the night sky. Aurora, Aurora, where are you Aurora? Unfortunately, Aurora stayed hidden.
Sleeping in a glass igloo
Not to fret. There would be one more night to see the Northern Lights. This time I would be staying in the most unique setting of all. This time I would be looking up at the night sky from my own personal glass igloo. The igloo was heated and had a tiny bathroom and internet access. I couldn’t wait to lie face up on my zebra-quilted bed.
As soon as dinner was over, I rushed back to see if Aurora would show up. “Come on Aurora,” I chanted. “Come out and play. It’s my last night in Lapland.” I chanted once. I chanted twice. I chanted three times and then I just relaxed and watched the stars from my igloo. “Okay, Aurora, if you’re not joining me on my last night, then I’m going to the communal sauna.”
That’s exactly what I did. I grabbed my reindeer pjs and went to the sauna. It was such a great way to spend my final evening in Lapland. I met two young women from Australia who were traveling around Europe and then going to live in London. We chatted about our travels and about life. They enjoyed hearing about my blogging and I was equally impressed with their adventures. Meeting interesting people is one of the positive perks of traveling.
Saying farewell to Lapland
“Buckle up! There could be reindeer on the road,” said our bus driver as we drove to the Ivalo airport for our return to Helsinki and then to our respective homes in the U.S.A the next day. While I was sad to miss the Northern Lights of Finland, I was in awe of the vastness and magnificent beauty of this part of the world and glad to have had the opportunity to experience its wonder.
Fast forward to February: “Close your eyes and think of a time when you felt limitless,” said my yoga teacher P during class. My first thought was of Lapland. I closed my eyes and was transported back to the breathtaking landscapes I saw during my trip to Lapland. Limitless. Yes, that’s exactly how I felt when I closed my eyes and looked out at the thousands of trees covered with snow and the night sky covered with stars in Lapland. Limitless. A truly incredible feeling.
P.S. In case you missed my earlier posts about my Explorations by Collette Travel trip you can find them here:
♥ Preparing for an Adventure in Search of the Aurora Borealis
♥ It’s Time to Be Merry: Visiting Santa & His Reindeers In Lapland
♥ Finding Happiness On My First-Ever Visit To Helsinki
♥ An Engaging Tour Of The Old and The New in Helsinki
*Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” Collette Travel provided me with a complimentary press trip on their Northern Lights of Finland Tour. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.