Norway to LAPLAND, FINLAND!! ‘Arctic Circle Tripping’ part 3 (March 2022)
Y’all LAPLAND was so very DOPE!
Flight – We had to be @ the Oslo Airport @ 7am so we again took the Flytoget Airport Express as early as we could open our eyes & get-up. It was again easy breezy except for the many bags that we carried.
We flew Finnair from Oslo to the Helsinki Airport & then on to the tiny little Ivalo Airport, which was closest to where we would stay in Saariselkä.
**Side Note** – The Helsinki Airport was the 1st airport where we’ve ever seen a dedicated ‘smoking area’ INSIDE of the airport! No, we don’t smoke!
Accommodations – Were igloo-like! I chose the Northern Lights Village Saariselkä for its proximity to the airport, the appearance of the ‘rooms’, for the many different experiences that they offered & the fact that they allow you to BORROW snow gear. We’d already packed too heavily & imagine what our bags would’ve been like if we had to bring along outdoor winter attire! Also, they have RT pick-up from the airport that’s included in the package also. We stayed for 4 nights.
From the ‘NLV’ website: ‘Basic equipment for outdoor activities is provided by the resort at no extra cost, for both overnight guests and people participating in activities. This includes thermal overalls, boots and gloves, as well as experience-specific gear such as helmets/balaclavas for snowmobile safaris and cross-country skis and snowshoes for active experiences. Overnight guests may keep the gear throughout their stay, whilst guests participating in experiences only, are asked to return the gear after the end of the activity. Please bring good base and mid-layers, namely thermal underwear, a fleece jacket or wool sweater, a beanie, a scarf, wool socks, as well as lighter clothing for possible warmer days.’
We then took a taxi from the airport to the ‘resort’. The driver drove quickly & with expertise through snowy conditions & lots of snow on the ground! The roundtrip taxi was included in our package & takes about 20min each way.
We got there later than we preferred (7pm-ish) since there’s only 1 or 2 flights from Helsinki to Ivalo/ day, but we did get there in time for the dinner buffet! I WAS DELIGHTED TO SEE SO MUCH SNOW ON THE GROUND! Over a foot in most places! And if you weren’t watching your step, you could fall into snow that was up to your knees! (**interesting Lapland article**)
Check-in was quick, easy & they actually gave us a SLED to take our (many) bags to the room, but since we were going to eat the buffet before it closed down, they took our bags to the room for us!
Once we ate, we began the short(ish) trek to our room. There was snow, snow & more snow – I was so happy! (Even though I hate being cold!)
The ‘room’ was everything that I thought it would be! Just so amazingly cute! There was a mini bar with lots of good things that were a separate cost. Despite all of the windows & single digits outside, it was still very warm. Now there was a bit of a watery mess in the bathroom while showering, but it didn’t take away from our love of this room!
There’s an Ipad on the wall that allows you to push a button to melt the snow on the windows for your viewing pleasure. It takes just a few minutes!
Food: The 1 restaurant served buffets for all 3 meals. You could choose packages with ‘Full Board’ or just breakfast & dinner. All 3 meals each day were varied & delicious. We even had ‘Reindeer Soup’ for the 1st & last time, lol! Tasty, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I was eating reindeer, so I just had 2 bites. However my favorite was their ‘Blue Cheese Soup’.
The ‘drink’ menu wasn’t extensive, but there was a bar & you could get wine by the glass or bottle & a few cocktails. There were also lattes & a fancy hot chocolate for an additional fee.
Experiences @ the Northern Lights Village – There’s a number of ‘experiences’ & different lengths of them, but we chose these 4:
Aurora Hunting – We did the 4hr total excursion by the Russian border that was VERY cold, but so VERY worth it!! And we did get to see the Northern Lights!
Snowmobiling – For 2 very cold hours, but so worth the experience! I was nervous as I drove alone, but quickly got the hang of it. I would absolutely snowmobile again, but maybe only for an hour! At 1 point I wasn’t sure how we made it as we were riding in near white-out conditions for more than a few minutes!
Husky Safari (10km) – This was the shortest duration @ 1hr long & it was absolutely FRIGID. It was worth it, but something that I never, EVER have to do again!
Reindeer Express – We chose the 25min long ride & it was cute, unique, but something that I don’t need to do again.
Souvenir Shopping – There’s a cute ‘souvi’ shop on the resort grounds that’s only open for a few evening hours on certain days. We were there on a day that it was open & I did get resort specific souvi’s. There are also just a few souvi shops out in town that you can walk to. They’re not too far from the hotel & we did find 3 of them total. I think there had been a few more, but there was a recent fire that forced some places to close. Like their ‘ABC Store’, better known as ‘Alko stores‘ in Finland, lol.
Side Note – There is also Tax free shopping in Finland if you permanently reside abroad & you spend over a certain amount. You may need to ask for a Tax Free Form wherever you’re shopping (merchants won’t always offer it to you), & the form is turned in @ the Helsinki Airport when leaving the country. (Of course if you’re flying from another airport, google where to find the office to turn in your form.) Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to locate where you should turn the form in, too! This location was difficult for us to find in the Helsinki Airport.
THE AURORA BOREALIS – The month of March is an excellent time for viewing the aurora’s & we were lucky enough to see them 2 nights in a row! The 1st night was on the paid excursion. Not only was it worth it, but we also met a wonderful family: Nils, April & their 2 sons.
I always thought that the aurora borealis would be highly visible to the naked eye, but not these sightings in Lapland. They were only visible through taking pics of the sky with our phones! Some of the pictures that we took appear photoshopped! They were not!
The 2nd night, we were fortunate enough to see them from the windows in our room! We had no idea that they were going to be visible that night, but one of the boys from the family that we met messaged Floyd on Insta. What a treat! We took some really amazing pics & Floyd even went outside & got an unintended, but amazing picture of a couple who were viewing the lights themselves! The ipad on the wall in the room was supposed to notify us somehow if the aurora’s were going to be visible, but there was no notification. Just so thankful that we met the super nice family!
After 4 days, it was time for the long trek home! We flew from Ivalo, back to Helsinki. We had about a 6hr layover in Helsinki, so we got on the train from the airport & went to explore ‘downtown’ Helsinki for a bit. It was actually just long enough to grab a good bite to eat @ a mall there, for me to do a little shopping & to walk around just a bit. We then took an evening flight to Turkey for an overnight layover.
We stayed in the Istanbul airport & booked a room @ the YOTELAIR (Airside). They were super busy & not the nicest front desk people, but the Yotel there is nice, pretty big, super clean & the Istanbul Airport is huge! There’s 2 different Yotels there – 1 that’s LANDSIDE & 1 that’s AIRSIDE.
Landside Yotel: ‘This YOTELAIR is located landside of the airport, before immigration and passport control. Guests who are in transit must pass through immigration and passport control in order to access the hotel, and in certain instances, a visa may be required.’
Airside Yotel: ‘To stay ‘airside’ means that you do not pass through any immigration or border controls before you depart for your next flight.’
So, if you’re an international passenger & you have a few hours layover where you want to rest in a hotel room & you WON’T be leaving the airport, choose Yotel (Airside).
You can also pay for a very small buffet breakfast (we purchased in advance) that wasn’t really worth it to us. It appeared that ALL of the shops & eateries in the Istanbul Airport were open 24hrs (something that we’ve never seen in the US!) & you can get some very good looking Turkish snacks/ food outside of the Yotel.
This is where we flew Turkish Airlines back to JFK, New York & yay, it was worth it!
This concludes ‘Arctic Circle Tripping’! A must do on anyone’s ‘Dope Destinations List’! Very much worth the money & cold temps!