Lost in Lapland
Early Saturday morning when many were still making their way back home after a Friday night out on the town in Helsinki, we were on our way to catch a flight to Ivalo, Lapland - the northern most airport in Finland. It was also the closest one to our dreamy destination,
. We were expecting a really small plane, but to our surprise it was a pretty big and full one. I think the Japanese myth that a baby conceived under the Northern Lights is a happy/lucky/boy baby might have to do something with it :P
The flight was really smooth, and as soon as we began the descent into Ivalo and peeked out the airplane window we realized it was the closest we'll ever get to a real Winter Wonderland. The mostly monochromatic and untouched landscape as far as our eyes could see was just incredible. And, the air so fresh that we could actually hear our lungs thanking us for breathing it. With no luggage checked-in and a small airport we were out in 10 minutes; we were met by the resort rep who drove us down to Saariselka - home to Kakslauttanen. The 40 minute drive was just stunning.
On our way to Saariselka, Lapland
Kakslauttanen: A Cool Concept
Kakslauttanen is an arctic resort in Northern Lapland, which has two villages, the original East Village and the recently expanded West Village. The two villages are about ten minutes drive apart and a shuttle runs between them throughout the day. Both villages have the unique glass igloos famous for aurora viewing right from your bed, and traditional log cabin type accommodations and many people split the stay between cabins and igloos to get a flavor of both. The two villages offer the same amenities, facilities & activities, but the West Village is newer and so has a more open feel to it and the igloos and cabins are more updated.
can only be made on a half-board, per-person basis, and the novelty definitely comes with a premium. Glass igloos were the main reason behind our visit so we naturally chose the igloo over the cabins for our stay. We arrived at the West Village around 8:30 am after a quick stop at the East Village to drop off some passengers.
Happy dance outside the Reception
We knew it was highly unlikely that we'd get to check-in early because of high demand and limited supply of the glass igloos, but we were hoping they had us on the morning Husky Safari that we had pre-booked through the resort so we did not have to wait for it. Nope, the igloo was not ready, and nope, we were not on the morningSafari, which meant we had to wait a bit. Bummer!They were nice enough to offer us a complimentary breakfast while we waited, and it was a nice way to get away from the large but chaotic reception area with people checking in/out, tour guides coming in and people leaving for all the different day activities available to choose from.
After breakfast we left our bags in the luggage room to go for a walk around the resort. It was a clear, sunny, but brutally cold -22 C day. Perfect conditions for aurora sightings so we were hopeful. It was the kind of cold where every time you inhaled, the inside of your nostrils froze, until you exhaled the warm air out :D Never thought I'd be in a place this cold yet be so happy. With not a single dust particle in sight, the surroundings were just perfectly pure. We walked passed the cabins and spotted a reindeer farm; I could not help but go on another guilt trip and think of the kids and how they would have loved them. :P
All bundled up for our walk
After a 20 minute walk and before our ears came off :P we went back to the reception and were happy to find out our igloo was ready, which meant we had about and hour and a half to rest up before our Husky Safari. Yay! We badly needed it. The igloos were a short walk away in a secluded part of the resort for light pollution free views of night skies. We did not have much luggage, but they had these neat wooden sleighs to help carry the big and heavy stuff.
The igloos are not very big with just enough room for 2 people to sleep on beds in the middle, which are adjustable to your liking for aurora hunting right from the comfort of your bed. The igloos are completely made of glass so you have privacy when you are laying on the bed, but not so much when you are standing up inside - something to be noted. The toilet is in one corner, also made of glass, relax it is frosted glass :P The one big downside is the lack of a private shower, which they cannot have because they fog up the glass igloos. We knew about this before we booked and since we were staying for a night only it was not a huge deal for us. Not a fan of shared showers and sauna 5 minute walk away in bitter cold, but I understand there are technical reasons behind it. Overall, it was an extremely unique experience, but know that you will be paying a luxury price to get novelty, not luxury.
The Eskimo in me was SO ready! :P
The inside - Small; the bed - comfy & adjustable;
the views of the skies - absolutely unobstructed
The rest break was refreshing and we were ready for the 2 hour safari. All of a sudden it was not so sunny, and the skies were not so clear anymore. Not a good sign, but our fingers were crossed and we were too excited for the safari to be too worried about the auroras at that point. Thankfully, the safari people provided these gigantic thermal snow suits and boot to keep us warm enough to come back alive :P
We were given a quick lesson on "how to drive a husky sleigh"; it is not rocket science, but you do need to know how to make them go faster, slower or stop. The huskies can be pretty wild, loud and intimidating at first. It was quite interesting when one of our dogs set himself loose before we even started :P They were just hyper and rearing to go, I guess. Because the moment they were set free they were quite as can be. It was amazing how calm and contended they were the moment we took off. I was the driver for the first half because someone was too nervous to be the first one to try it :P And, I definitely enjoyed driving the sleigh more than being the passenger because it was way more fun and had a way better view of all the breathtaking beauty around.
Us with our good-looking pack :)
The safari was just unbelievably enriching and something we'll cherish forever. Just us, the huskies and nature in its most untainted and unadulterated form. The whole experience left us wondering how time can seem to stand still yet fly by so fast that two hours were over in a blink of an eye. We got to interact with the huskies for a bit after the ride, and meet a puppy :) over warm tea and snacks. We were all smiles, frozen smiles that is :P
Our wondrous ride
We returned to the resort to have some more drinks to warm up and rest up before dinner. The preset dinner was actually very good and trying Lappish cuisine went unexpectedly well. I was constantly checking the aurora forecast and it was looking bleaker and bleaker. The skies were not going to clear up anytime soon. :( The resort itself looked gorgeous at night, but despite endlessly gazing down into the infinitely vast cosmic void :p, the northern lights betrayed us. We went all in with a one night gamble and lost. Not all bucket list items can be checked off easily, and we knew that was always a very real possibility. But knowing that did not make it any less disappointing. The one thought that cheered us up was our aurora hunt will have to continue on another trip.
Night time at Kakslauttanen
The next morning it was nice to not have an early morning flight for a change and sleep in. We had a nice and relaxed breakfast before we made our way back to Ivalo around noon to catch our flight back home. We would LOVE to go back to Lapland to try some more of the countless activities it offers. God willing, we plan to return soon for a longer stay maybe around Lake Inari to hopefully improve our aurora odds, and the next time we will definitely not be forgetting our two lucky charms behind <3 :)