Europe's northernmost resort, Saariselka is found within the arctic circle and when we visited in February it felt like a frontier to a winter wilderness. It's a great place for beginners and intermediates as the downhill slopes are wide and amazingly quiet - no queues to be seen - although the fells are more limited for advanced skiers. We were hooked on cross-country skiing and snow shoeing - miles and miles of starkly beautiful woods which you have almost to yourself. Come prepared for the cold (it was down to minus 20 during the day, at which point our eyelashes froze), but you'll be rewarded with views across to Russia, glimpses of the Northern Lights, and a 1km free sledge run down from the lift station. Pack balaklavas and then thaw out in the saunas, or the teepees warmed by log fires at the bottom of the slopes.
Levi is north of the arctic circle so good snow is pretty much guaranteed but it's only 20 minutes drive from the airport. Due to the long nights the slopes don't open until 10.00 am so there's no rush in the morning and almost no queues for the lifts. It's easy to be the first down a pristine slope or you can take advantage of flood-lit slopes after dark. At the bottom of each slope there is a wooden tipi with a roaring log fire where you can warm-up as the temperatures are usually below zero or barbeque your lunch. There are also plenty of mountain bars and cafes. The slopes probably won't be testing enough for advanced skiers but there are plenty of red runs for intermediates and also opportunities for other activities such as cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Try the Hotel Hullu Poro - it means Crazy Reindeer - not only for the name. You can get a room with an en-suite sauna, the food is good and they have their own night club.
There is no experience more surreal and more unique than seeing local people in Lapland singing karaoke. It is more melancholy than the Portuguese Fado, yet more entertaining than Las Vegas. Break off the tourist trail to watch the women arrive on ski-doos, then peel off their helmets and overalls to reveal black cocktail dresses and little dancing shoes. The karaoke is a window into the minds of Arctic people. The choice of songs is a chapter in itself: where else will you hear 80's big hair heavy followed by Lady Gaga, Frank Sinatra, then a Russian ballad? The Finns say that in Lapland no normal rules apply, and I would have to agree.
Tanen Karaoke, every Wednesday at 34 Samperintie, Savukoski https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=243277692933
or Wanha Mestari, Jaakonkatu 2-4, Kemijarvi, +358 16812588
Google map: bit.ly/uK3ded
All I can say is just go there. You may be cold but will not be disappointed. Yllas, in Finnish Lapland, far into the Arctic Circle, is the place I love.
Temperatures plummet to minus 25 degrees C – and that’s in the day, but don’t be put off by this. Dress for the weather and you will fall in love with the place. The lack of daylight hours in winter, with daytime sunrise and sunset, just adds to the beauty.
If its fun you are after, you have a choice. Downhill ski, cross country ski, husky dog sledding, ice fishing, reindeer sleighs, snowmobiles – you need a week here to do it all. Meet the local Sami people, who will invite you into their huts and make tea over an open fire in a blackened kettle.You cannot possibly get bored.
The choice of pristine snow and the silence that comes with it is another option, with miles of walking trails that cannot be beaten for peace and solitude.
There is of course the option to be a big kid and travel to Santa’s post office in Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home, where you can meet him any day of the year. Here you can arrange for the ‘real’ Santa’s letters to be delivered to the kids!
Add to this the wide range of first class hotels, romantic log cabins, blazing log fires and you have it all – well nearly. I stayed at the Hotel Akas, a very friendly and atmospheric hotel in the traditional unspoilt Lappish community of Akaslompolo, near Yllas.
The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) are a spectacle not to be missed. Normally appearing in the night, my hotel agreed to give me a wakeup call when they appeared. Believe me; it’s worth missing some sleep for.
To me Lapland conjures up many memories – the beauty of the sky, the sparkle of the snow, and the magic of the silence. I will return.
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