Snow Holiday in Finland
Staying in a glass igloo in the artic circle has always been a dream holiday destination. True to form, our dreams don't always turn out the way we envisage but my very short stay in Ivalo, Finland was one of the best experiences of my life.
Read the full account of my Finland trip below, or scroll to the bottom for Highlights, Essentials to Pack and Top Tips.
Travel day with flights from Manchester to Helsinki, followed by Helsinki to Ivalo. I should have arrived in Ivalo around 7.00pm however, when the plane started circling, I knew something was wrong. I had been watching the planes flight path on the airlines App and we were circling the same spot for about 20minutes.
The captain finally announced that we were unable to land due to arctic storms and we would be heading back to Helsinki. We could try again tomorrow.
My Finnish, snow holiday dreams were suddenly fading. Instead of sleeping in a cosy snow covered log cabin, I would be staying in a budget hotel in Helsinki. But better to be safe and live to tell the story, right?
The days activity should have been husky safari sledging however due to my no show (hardly my fault since the plane couldn't land), I was unable to take part. It's worth saying that no refund was issued, the resort really didn't care about my transportation issues.
I finally arrived in Ivalo about 24hours later than I should. It's worth noting, Ivalo airport is very small with one runway and arctic storms are a real thing, so prepare for some pretty intense turbulence if you are a nervous flier.
When I arrived at my log cabin, suddenly the stress of the last day mattered no more. It was every bit the fairy-tale, snow covered dream I was expecting. With a choice of double bed or bunk bed, I opted for the top bunk, of course.
I didn't have very long in the log cabin as I moved to a glass igloo for the final night. The log cabin was spacious and had its own sauna. Sauna is a huge part of Finnish culture however I didn't get to make the most of this. The resort also had smoke saunas open to all guests, again I didn't get chance to try this.
Activities for the day were riding a snowmobile and reindeer safari. The snowmobile ride took place during the day. It was a 2hour session on woodland tracks. You can only operate the snowmobile if you have a full, valid drivers licence. If you've done quad biking or any other activities of this type in other destinations, snowmobile is much the same. It was a great experience however if you want more freedom and to go quicker on your snowmobile, look for excursions of around 4hours.
The reindeer safari took place in the evening and the idea was to be pulled along in a sleigh by reindeer, to hunt out the aurora borealis. Sounds delightful, however in practice this was sitting uncomfortably, slowly freezing solid while unhappy reindeer got stuck in the snow. Some of the animals were in great distress which was unpleasant to witness. This excursion had to be cut short and altered which was the right thing to do for the animals however the resort offered no compensation for the activity not being at all as advertised.
I ended the day with a night in a glass igloo. This has been a dream of mine for many years and it is one of those occasions where the reality doesn't live up to what I thought it would be like. It was something different, don't get me wrong but it was a little underwhelming. I think if you are lucky to see the aurora while staying in one, this would make your holiday. However, the aurora are elusive and only shine for the most auspicious of travellers.
I had one full day in Ivalo which I made the most out of. The resort had sledges that you could borrow so I spent a good half day throwing myself down hills on my plastic toboggan. I've always loved the snow so spending a day in a frozen paradise ticked a lot of boxes for me.
The snowmobile was worthwhile but I would definitely opt for a longer excursion for my next Scandinavian adventure.
The resort was stunning to look at however the service was shaky at best. There was only a buffet rather than al et carte restaurant which was advertised when booking, and they weren't the most understanding when it came to the issues with the excursions.
Overall, an incredible experience and enjoyable holiday.
Snowmobile excursion is a must
The location itself
Essentials To Pack
Base layers - thermal leggings and top
Weather proof coat and over-trousers
Thermal hat and gloves
Snowsuits and boots may be provided on excursions but check with your holiday provider
Don't wash your face in the morning, the oil on your skin helps to stop you getting cold
Experience the sauna, a staple in Finnish culture
There is no such thing as too many layers of clothes, wear two pairs of socks
Don't wear jeans/fashion trousers or delicate shoes. It may seem obvious but I saw so many travellers turning up to excursions in outfits you would wear to a mall.