Our obsession with the Northern Lights
Louise and I are obsessed with the Northern lights. We have twitter alerts set up on our phones and regularly drive out to the mountains at god knows what hour in the vague hope that we might catch even a glimpse (check out our post on seeing the Northern lights in Banff if you want some helpful tips on how to see them!).
We’re spoiled to have them in our back yard, but seeing them in Southern Alberta is a relative rarity. Even as far north as we live, we’re still on the very outer southern boundary of what’s considered Northern Lights territory. Using the past few years as our bar, I’d say it’s normal for us to get a really strong light show once per year, and then half a dozen other relatively weak shows (give or take).
Why go all the way to Finland to see the Northern Lights?
We’ve always known that if we really wanted to see a proper light show, we’d have to head further North into the arctic circle.
To get inside the Arctic circle, there are relatively few options, particularly if you want to stay in relative comfort or luxury. In the Americas, you can head north into the Yukon, Northern Territories or Alaska, or in Europe, you can head to Scandinavia.
That’s why, when the chance for us to stay at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finnish Lapland came up, we dropped everything and jumped straight on the next flight over!
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
Maybe you haven’t heard of Kakslauttanen, but you’ll almost certainly have seen the photos. The resort is famous for its unique glass igloos and cabins designed for decadent Northern Lights viewing.
It’s an enormous hotel designed to bring all of your winteriest fantasies to life; Northern Lights viewing, reindeer rides, dogsledding, snowmobiling (all of which are also possible at night while simultaneously chasing the Northern lights), saunas and a Santa’s village. There’s even a planetarium under construction. It’s a pretty impressive operation considering it’s deep inside the Arctic Circle and is, for all intents and purposes, in the absolute middle of nowhere.
Aside from how beautiful it looks, anyone that’s chased the Northern Lights the conventional way will tell you how much of a gamechanger being able to see them AND stay warm at the same time is. My fingers still tingle whenever I think about some of the coldest winter nights I’ve spent out chasing the Northern Lights.
The glass igloos finally make Northern Lights hunting accessible to anyone that values their fingers and toes.
And the best part? You don’t actually have to stay up all night waiting for them to appear; your room has an actual Aurora Alarm that’ll wake you up if/when the aurora is firing on all cylinders.
Our stay at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
When we arrived, we didn’t really know what to expect, other than the obvious aforementioned glass viewing rooms, so we were absolutely blown away by the scale of the resort. There are dozens of glass igloos and cabins, and they’re all facing North for perfect Northern Lights viewing.
The actual resort itself is very walkable though, and once we’d checked in, it was just a 3 minute wintery walk to our cabin. To get your bags to your cabin, you can either have them chauffeured over or drag them over on one of the many sledges lying around the resort. They’re actually pretty fun, and Louise and I made a decision early on to basically only travel by sledge (btw if you’re from N. America, sledges are the British way of saying sled).
Finally, time to relax
Our travels for the past two months have been epic beyond my wildest dreams, but they’ve also been exhausting. We must have taken over 20 flights and our bodies have absolutely no idea what timezone they’re in. We were in dire need of a rest, and as we’d spent most of our time in Asia, we were also in dire need of the cold.
Two months in a muggy, humid climate makes you long for the crisp, dry air that you only really find at higher latitudes.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort was exactly what we’d been looking for; A beautiful winter resort with a variety of undeniably exciting (yet fortunately, mostly seated) activities.
Here are a couple of activities that we were able to try out while we were here:
If there was anywhere in the world that we were going to go on a Reindeer safari, it really had to be Finland. Finland is home to an average population of around 200,000 Reindeer, predominantly looked after by the indigenous Sami people. Reindeer are a quintessential part of Finnish culture and learning about their importance is an absolute Lapland must-do.
Also, as the self-proclaimed home of Santa, we couldn’t not go on a sleigh ride, could we?
The Kakslauttanen Reindeer Safari starts off by outfitting you with thick boots, gloves and overalls, before quickly whisking you away to the Reindeer enclosure.
We were then introduced to Sigmund, a beautiful one-antlered Reindeer that would be driving us around for the next 30 minutes. After making our introductions, Sigmund then took us on a super relaxing jaunt through the forest.
At times we were pretty convinced he was trying to flip our sleigh by running it up the snow bank, but fortunately he wasn’t successful. It’s a lot of fun, and the perfect relaxing activity we were looking for after the previous day’s journey.
After our ride, we had an opportunity to feed our greedy Sigmund some lichen and meet some of his friends. Reindeer don’t really like being stroked, but apparently their fuzzy antlers get a bit itchy so a good scratch is always welcome.
The final part of the tour was a campfire chat about the reindeer and Sami culture with a hot juice and biscuit, followed by a tour of some traditional Sami buildings.
Apparently the Sami have words for virtually every kind of reindeer you can imagine; for example, a 4 year old, male, castrated Reindeer would have its own word. Not surprising when they have over 300 different words for snow!
Overall, it’s definitely a tour we’d recommend, and aside from learning a lot about the indigenous culture, it just generally really enjoyable. If it was -30C, I might think twice about doing it, but our ride was very mild, comfortable and beautifully sunny.
Dogsled Aurora Hunting
I know we said we’d already been dogsledding in Canada, but having the chance to potentially do it under the Northern Lights was too good an opportunity for us to pass up!
Unfortunately though, the night we’d booked was completely and utterly overcast, so the Northern Lights were completely off the table. But really, they would have just been the icing on the cake for us.
For obvious reasons, dog sledding in the dark is infinitely more exciting than doing it in the day time, and actually the dogs seemed just as excited as we were, regardless of how late it was.
After a short briefing about the controls (the controls being…a footbrake), and various safety measures, we were surprised to learn that we were going to be operating the sleds by ourselves. This wasn’t something we’d been allowed to do in Canada, so this time we felt a lot more like legitimate dog mushers (even if the dogs did all the steering themselves!).
We blasted through the dark frozen forest, seeing nothing but our dogs illuminated by our headlamps. Louise helmed the sled for the first half, and then I took over for the rest. It really was incredibly straightforward, and not once did I feel out of my depth.
It’s honestly all a bit too high octane to legitimately hunt for aurora, but you’re given a 20 minute break with tea and biscuits where you can step outside the Teepee and look for them.
As a final added bonus at the end, our guide appeared with a 2 month old husky puppy in each arm and handed one to us to cuddle.
It was a shame that the northern lights weren’t out for us, but it absolutely doesn’t detract from the experience at all. I’d 100% go again and would highly recommend it if you’re out here.
What’s the food like?
We can’t write a review of our stay without mentioning the amazing food we had at Kakslauttanen each night. Our stay was half board, meaning we were provided with breakfast and dinner each day.
The breakfast was mostly continental style with local herring and enormous slices of smoked salmon, and the dinner, although from a set menu each night, absolutely knocked our socks off.
There are two types of accommodation at Kakslauttanen; the glass igloos and the cabins. The glass igloos are designed almost entirely with northern lights viewing in mind, and as a result, you get a tiny toilet and very little living space. They come in small (sleeps 2) and large (sleep 4) but you do get a 360 view of the Lights when they’re on, and that’s probably why you’re visiting, right?
The cabins are a lot bigger and sleep up to 6 people. They’re definitely more comfortable and come equipped with a mini kitchenette + stove and your very own sauna (we tried doing the hot/cold Scandinavian style sauna but the snow was a little bit solid – see below). They also have half glass domes for viewing the Northern Lights.
All beds found under the glass viewing domes are electric and can be sat up for easier viewing. It does feel a little like you’re in a hospital bed, but they’re extremely comfy.
Both the igloo and the cabins come equipped with electric beds that can be raised to make viewing the Northern Lights as comfortable as possible – seriously, they’ve thought of everything!
Skip to the end to find out about prices, or check here for more info.
How to get to Kakslauttanen
Kakslauttanen is located about 30 minutes from Ivalo Airport in Finland. We transferred via Helsinki and then flew another 1hr 30 minutes to Ivalo. The hotel has a free transfer from the airport, or you can rent a car from the Europcar rental centre just outside the airport.
How much does it cost to stay at Kakslauttanen
Prices are relatively steep; the small glass igloos start at around 940CAD per night and sleep 2; the Kelo Glass igloos (cabins with attached igloos) cost around $1200CAD and sleep 6. There are also regular cabins available as well. Price varies significantly depending on the time of year.
Activities are an additional cost and paid for at the time of booking.
You can check out the most up to date prices and options here
Overall, I’ve got to say that this hotel is remarkable and I would definitely consider it bucketlist worthy. We’ve never experienced such comfortable Northern Lights watching, and think the concept here is fantastic. Would definitely recommend.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort was kind enough to host us, however all opinions expressed in this post are our own