Aurora hunting in Finnish Lapland
Rovaniemi, Kakslauttanen, Saariselka, Ivalo, Inari, Finland
If you ask your friends where they spent their last vacation, many of them may say that either in the cottage at a pond or by the sea in Croatia. But why not take it a little further and try something a bit more exotic and bring back home many entirely new experiences? In this article, we leave aside the well-known summer exotic destinations such as Bali, Thailand, Caribbean, and instead, we take a look at the somewhat unusual but exciting example of a winter holiday beyond the Arctic Circle in frosty Lapland. I had the unique opportunity to work for a few weeks at the Arctic resort of Kakslauttanen, 250 km north of the imaginary border of the Arctic Circle. I hope that my knowledge and information will inspire some of you to go on a similar polar adventure.
Many years back, when we first, during one of my pub conversations with my friends, brought up the topic of traveling beyond the Arctic Circle in winter, the idea seemed virtually absurd. On the one hand, we thought it would ruin us financially, and on the other hand, we had a feeling that it would be necessary to organize the whole expedition for that purpose. We never realized the plan.
Now, from my own experience, I can honestly confirm that going on a trip beyond the Arctic Circle is in no way organizationally and financially challenging. A journey towards the Northern lights - the green glow of the Aurora, dog sledding, wild reindeer and white deer herds living in the Arctic tundra surrounded by infinite forests and lakes are within your reach!
In Europe, the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis is mainly visible in northern Scandinavia between November and March. The most favorable conditions occur in November and March in the north of Finland (Saariselka, Ivalo, Inari), Sweden (Kiruna, Abisko) and Norway (Narvik). During the polar nights, happening in these regions in December and January, the probability of seeing the Northern lights is also very high (always depending on good weather and low cloudiness).
Journey to Finnish Lapland
There are several options available to get to Finnish Lapland:
All listed rates are per one person.
Flight Prague - Oulu, with a transfer in Helsinki (Norwegian Air). The price starts at 2,500 CZK one-way (112 USD, including checked baggage).
Bus Oulu - Rovaniemi - Saariselka (Kakslauttanen)
Directly on the Matkahuolto bus carrier website, book your tickets on the route Oulu - Saariselka (Kakslauttanen) with a transfer in Rovaniemi (Matkahuolto website)
You can choose from 4 daily connections. The total journey time is 6 - 8 hours and you pay 52,20 EUR per person, one way (59 USD).
The very same bus goes up to Ivalo (Oulu - Ivalo, 56 EUR, 63 USD). The prices I state here are available only online, I recommend booking in advance in order to get a discount.
Total cost Prague (CZE) - Saariselka, from 3,825 Kč (171 USD)
Total cost Prague (CZE) - Ivalo, from 3,922 Kč (175 USD)
Flight Prague - Ivalo, with a transfer in Helsinki (Norwegian Air). Price from CZK 4,600 one way (205 USD, including checked baggage).
To travel from Ivalo, you have the option, if it is your plan, to use the Matkahuolto bus service.
Bus, Ivalo Airport - Saariselka, 30 min, 10 EUR per person (11.40 USD, one way), 4 daily connections
Bus, Ivalo Airport - Kakslauttanen, 50 min, 12 EUR per person (13.70 USD, one way), 4 daily connections
Bus, Ivalo Airport - Inari, 1 hour, 22 EUR per person (25 USD, one way), 4 daily connections
Total cost Prague - Saariselka, from 4,854 Kč (217 USD, one way)
Total cost Prague - Ivalo, from 4,600 CZK (205 USD, one way)
Total cost Prague - Inari, from CZK 5,160 (230 USD, one way)
Accommodation in Lapland
The question arises as to which destination in Finnish Lapland to pick. It's only up to you what you expect from your trip.
Tourists looking for the imaginary border of the Arctic Circle end up in the capital of Lapland, in Rovaniemi (62,000 inhabitants). North of Rovaniemi, as the last tourist center of northern Finland, you will find just the Arctic tundra with several smaller towns without major tourist infrastructure.
In Rovaniemi expect the minimum rate for a cheap double room around 1,650 CZK per night (74 USD).
Near Rovaniemi, you have the unique opportunity to spend a few nights in a glass igloo (from 399 EUR for two people per night, 455 USD) or in an ice room (€ 260 for two people per night, 296 USD) at Arctic Snow Hotel and Glass Igloos (http: // arcticsnowhotel .fi / northern-lights-glass-igloos-rovaniami-lapland-finland / prices /).
Visitors seeking frosty nature and Northern lights must continue at least 250 km further north to the village of Saariselka. Here begins the true Arctic experience. Saariselka, situated in the middle of coniferous and forests and birch groves, offers a unique opportunity to explore the inhospitable frozen tundra and enjoy winter activities such as skiing (3/5 days for 115 EUR per adult, web), cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and snowmobile tours. The cheapest accommodation is available at 80 EUR for a double room per night (91 USD).
Experience-loving tourists can spend the night in Muotka Igloos (sauna and breakfast included, 490 EUR for two per night, 559 USD).
We had the opportunity to work at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort for several weeks. After reading my article about our work experience at this resort, you will get the idea. Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort - Igloos and Chalets is a world-renowned resort whose history dates back to the 1970s when the millionaire and owner Jussi built a set of wooden log cabins (East Village) on the shore of the lake Kakslauttanen. Since then, a lot has changed, and the resort has become one of the first pioneers famous for its glass igloos, which give you the opportunity to watch the Aurora Borealis directly from the bed. Currently, the resort consists of the original East Village and the newly-built West Village. Here you will find a variety of buildings (180), from simple wooden cottages, through luxurious cabins with a sauna (in one of which we lived) to the glass igloos, for up to 4 people.
Personally, I would not recommend staying at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, since during my time working at the resort I got the impression that the owners only wanted to maximize their profits. All of this at the expense of customers and nature. The choice is up to everybody, the overall experience is definitely unique which you will undoubtedly remember for the rest of your life.
Please see the off-season activity pricelist (June-October) for the illustration. Activities here are definitely not cheap, but the price level of activities in this area of Lapland will not differ in other places.
In the winter season, the price for a small igloo for two people climbs up to 650 EUR per night (741 USD), the price for a small cottage starts at EUR 550 for two per night (627 USD).
Husky farm visit and puppies petting for 39 EUR per person/1h :)
Offseason activities price list - Kakslauttanen
Ivalo as a small tourist hub serves well for shopping (there are several supermarkets, gas stations) and also has an airport. Otherwise, nothing is interesting around here. The cheapest accommodation starts at EUR 65 for two and a night (74 USD).
You can discover an igloo-type accommodation in nearby Aurora Village Ivalo (spacious Aurora Cabin for two for 536 EUR including breakfast and dinner, 611 USD).
This very north-situated traditional town (7,000 inhabitants) is due to its location very convenient for viewing the Aurora and for scientific exploration of the Arctic Belt. The cheapest room is available for 100 EUR for two and night (114 USD).
If you wanna pay some extra, for about 490 EUR, you can stay at Inari Igloos (558 USD, breakfast included).
In this summary, you can see that the journey beyond the Arctic Circle does not necessarily have to tear your pocket, but it is not cheap.
The cheapest 5-day vacation without activities, including the most affordable accommodation in Ivalo and a return flight ticket (from/to Prague), will cost almost 12,000 CZK per person (535 USD).
If you go for the unique glass igloo experience, expect to pay exorbitant 42,000 CZK per person (1,873 USD, 5 nights).
If seeing igloos is your biggest dream, then when I look at the prices, I'd say the cheapest way to get inside is to apply for a housekeeping job at one of these resorts - as we did. You will surely enjoy the igloos and cabins to the maximum, trust me!
Luxurious chalet Queen - Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Kelo Igloo (luxury cabin and igloo combo) - Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Glass igloo for two - Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort