From igloos to ice-hotels: six cool stays in Finnish Lapland

Lapland has some of Europe’s most unique and beautiful places to stay, designed in harmony with the environment and with the region’s icy winters in mind. Here’s our pick of the best.

The Golden Crown Igloos in Levi are specially designed for viewing the Northern Lights. The glass is made of a special kind of thermal glass that keeps the inside of the igloo toasty even when the temperature outside drops to a chilly -30C.

Photograph by Inghams
By Inghams
Published 30 Dec 2021, 12:00 GMT

In Finland’s far north is an otherworldly winter landscape, with snow-laden forests, deep blue Arctic skies and the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. While Lapland is famed as a destination where families can enjoy the complete Santa Claus experience, it also offers an abundance of outdoor activities (from cross-country skiing to husky sledding), pristine, awe-inspiring landscapes and the unique local culture of the indigenous Sámi people.

Three featured towns can offer these experiences and more with some spectacular places to stay. Levi is a bustling ski destination and a family favourite for trips to meet Santa Claus; Ylläs is renowned for its spectacular natural scenery; and Saariselkä, located in the wild mystical north of Lapland has a unique frontier atmosphere. Read on for our top six unusual places to stay.

Aurora Cabins in the Northern Lights Village, Saariselkä.

Photograph by Inghams

1. Aurora Cabins in Northern Lights Village, Saariselkä

Ten minutes from the small settlement of Saariselkä is the Northern Lights Village. Here, elegant cabins sit in a snowy woodland, ​​​​each featuring a glass window above the bed for expansive views of the night sky. This remote location will give you the best chance of seeing what the Finnish call revontulet or ‘fox fires’, the shimmering blue, green and pink lights that all visitors hope to catch sight of on a trip to the Arctic. If you want to increase your chances, why not join an aurora-hunting trip: strap on snowshoes, tuck yourself into a heated sleigh and head out into the wilderness. There are also photography workshops for camera enthusiasts; the staff here are experts at snapping the Northern Lights, so you’ll be guaranteed to pick up some top tips. From €519 (£440) per night.

The Golden Crown Igloos in Levi.

Photograph by Inghams

2. Golden Crown Igloos, Levi

On a secluded snowy hilltop are a collection of postcard-worthy glass igloos, each one with unobstructed views of the Arctic night sky. A stay at one of these romantic hideaways means you can see the Northern Lights without even getting out of bed. Made from special thermal glass (heated so it doesn’t fog up), these igloos give guests total immersion in the Arctic, but with the benefit of being wonderfully warm and featuring creature comforts like Bluetooth speakers and state-of-the-art coffee machines. As each igloo has a motorised bed, you can position it to get the perfect view of the stars. Opt for the ‘suite igloo’ for even more space, as well as a private terrace and hot tub. There’s also an excellent restaurant onsite that serves local delicacies including Lappish cheese, fresh local fish and reindeer steaks. From €690 (£584) per night.

The Bear Suite at the Lainio Snow hotel, a short trip by snowmobile from Levi and Ylläs.

Photograph by Inghams

3. Lainio Snow Hotel

Each year a team of 50 locals work for more than 350 hours to build the Lainio Snow Hotel, a spectacular engineering feat made from 953,465 cubic ft of snow and ice, and a short trip by snowmobile from Levi and Ylläs. Step inside this marvel to discover an enchanting space, atmospherically lit and adorned with impressively intricate ice sculptures. This is a hotel with a genuine ‘wow’ factor. In the ice bar, order the local tipple of peppermint vodka, served in an ice glass, before tucking into a candlelit meal at an ice table and chairs at the ice restaurant (don’t worry there are fur throws for warmth). For those staying the night, you’ll be given extra-warm sleeping bags before settling down in your room surrounded by magical ice wall carvings. In the morning, you’ll be woken up with steaming cups of hot berry juice before making your way to the warm log restaurant for a buffet breakfast. From €315 (£267) per night. 

The Design Hotel in Levi.

Photograph by Inghams

4. The Design Hotel, Levi

If the idea of watching the Northern Lights from a bubbling whirlpool sounds like your perfect evening, then make sure you check into The Design Hotel. This newly-opened boutique hotel is a collaboration by a group of Nordic artists and architects who took inspiration from the Arctic landscape to create this work of art. Sculptures and light installations dot the hotel and rooms are filled with luxury touches like coffee machines and plush robes. The restaurant uses local and organic produce for its menu, plus it has a large charcoal grill where slabs of reindeer steak are cooked to perfection. But the biggest draw might just be the wellness centre and spa. Here, you can throw some water on the sauna coals and work up a sweat, or slip into the outdoor whirlpool where you can admire the night sky and, if you’re lucky, the dancing lights of the aurora borealis. From €2,182 (£1,849) per night.     

Log Cabins in Ylläs.

Photograph by Inghams

5. Log Cabins, Ylläs   

It's easy to imagine Santa and his elves live in log cabins just like these. Dotted among the trees, in the idyllic valley of Ylläs, are these picture-perfect cabins, each topped with a thick layer of freshly fallen snow and with a cosy glow emanating from their windows. Here, you can live out your Lapland fairytale — go on a Santa break where you’ll not only be able to meet the man himself, but also meet his reindeer and make gingerbread with the elves. Next up, join in tobogganing or have a snowball fight, and after all these snowy shenanigans, take a plunge in the cabin’s private sauna. Ylläs is also a famous Finnish ski destination, making it ideal for adding in some piste action too. From €530 (£449) per night.

The Muotka Wilderness Lodge in Saariselkä.

Photograph by Inghams

6. Muotka Wilderness Lodge, Saariselkä

Surrounded by silent, snowy forests, this family-run lodge sits on the edge of the Urho-Kekkonen National Park, one of Finland’s largest protected areas. In this remote spot, far from sources of light pollution, there's an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights. But that’s not the only thing to get excited about here. With Lapland’s pristine landscape on your doorstep, this is where you can partake in all manner of winter wonderland adventures. Make friends with the local huskies who’ll race you into a pink and purple sunset; hop on board snowmobiles for an adrenaline-fuelled safari ride into the wilderness; or set out through the trees on a guided cross-country ski trip. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Finland without a visit to an authentic Finnish sauna — there’s one onsite, with separate times for men and women; or, available to book privately. Muotka has a unique frontier vibe, so it’s especially ideal for adventurous travellers looking to get away from it all. From €2,537 (£2,149) per night.

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