AS I stared across the vast white landscape ahead I was greeted with a row of strange looking green houses majestically peeping out of the snow.
Welcome to a unique hotel in Lapland where rooms are encased in glass igloos! These wonderful buildings were the brainchild of the owner of the Hotel and Igloo Village Kaksluttanen, Mr Jussi Eiramo. And like the weather, they are seriously cool!
They are surprising easy to reach. A two and a half hour flight from Manchester with Finn Air takes you to the beautiful city of Helsinki and from there its a short one and a half hour hop to Ivalo in Lapland.
A short taxi ride through the stunning scenery, where snow just drips beautifully off the forest trees in the Urho Kekkonen National Park, takes you to the hotel which boasts glass and snow igloos and log cabins. And being in Scandinavia, there are saunas on tap to help you ease the strains of the day away.
Not that stress seems to be high on the agenda. Maybe its something to do with the wonderful, crisp air, the crystal clear water or the peace and quiet. Here you can leave your troubles behind and enjoy yourself.
The glass igloos are small, but very intriguing. Jussi invented them 13 years ago and even though they have now been copied elsewhere, his are said to be the best. After bringing your luggage by sleigh, you enter the small door and the cold leaves straight away. The igloo is as warm as toast. Its a simple design with an ensuite small toilet and wash basin. The bedroom is the hub of the igloo and as you lie on your bed, you can look up towards the sky and gaze at the stars.
Part of the reason you go to Lapland is in search of the Northern Lights. Unfortunately for me it was too cloudy during my visit or so I thought. On the return flight to Helsinki, the cabin lights were dimmed and we were all told to look through the window and there they were, treating us to a real show of colour!
As well as the high class igloos, the hotel hasa lovely log restaurant, serving everything from elk to reindeer. Its all well cooked and served beautifully and along with the hearty breakfasts, sets you up well for the activities ahead. Jussi has also just opened Santa’s Resort nearby for the little ones to visit Father Christmas.
But with all the snow about, the outdoors is where you head for. And there is plenty to do from driving snow mobiles to husky and reindeer safaris.
In the nearby town of Saariselka, Joiku-Kotsamo Safaris run by Timo Palonoja offers a host of fun including the snow mobiles, safaris and ice fishing in the winter, plus a programme of Christmas activities and canoeing, mountain biking and gold panning in the summer.
Timo and his wife Armi, Sami reindeer herders , are a couple of gems and they are the only firm in the area which offers traditional tours, with both dressed in the colours of their culture. With a business card boasting that Timo is a “master of all experiences’’, I knew we were in for fun!
Kitted out in winter gear supplied by Timo, I joined the reindeer safari and wiled away a few hours being transported through the forests on the back of sleigh driven by reindeer. These loveable creatures really are magical. They work hard and eat well! Reindeer moss from the trees (or fairy dust as my children call it!) is soon swallowed up and as they ate, we enjoyed a forest coffee round a home-made fire.
From there we were whisked up by the reindeer to a beautiful yurt like cabin made by Timo from forest wood and housed inside was a welcome warm fire and a delicious lunch of salmon soup prepared by Armi. There was a chance to feed and make friends with the reindeer and enjoy some good old-fashioned Sami hospitality.
And that is what sums Lapland up, beautiful people in a truly beautiful and magical part of the world!
To reach Lapland, you can fly to Ivalo via Helsinki, with Finnair, Norwegian and via Copenhagen with SAS. For more details and tourist information, log onto www.visitfinland.com
For more information on the Hotel and Igloo Village Kaksluttanen, log onto: www.kakslauttanen.fi The nearby town of Saariselka is only 15 minutes away and details of accommodation and activities can be found via www.saariselka.fi
For airport accommodation try the Rantasipi Hotel, via www.rantasipi.fi