Lapland is for life, not just for Christmas

Think of Lapland and what pops into your head? Santa? Elves? Reindeer? How about skiing, snowmobiling and northern lights? Lapland has tons to offer aside from festive breaks and is a great choice for a grown up holiday. Lapland isn’t just for kids. 

The other half and I came to Lapland for our honeymoon, in search of adventure and wanting to avoid cliché destinations like the Maldives or the Caribbean that aren’t typically LGBTQ friendly. It’s taken us 10 years, but we’ve finally returned and fallen in love with the place all over again!

Most people recoil in horror at the thought of minus 20c, but (and as much as I enjoy a relaxing, sunny holiday) there’s nothing quite like experiencing something so extreme and alien to what you can experience at home. After all, isn’t that what travel is all about?

We were originally going to Switzerland, but as there was a lack of snow and the hottest January day on record, we changed last minute to Lapland. 

Looking at hotels, most got shaky reviews for food, but the Lapland Hotel Sirkantahti was the cheapest option and included half board. We reasoned that even if the food was crap, we hadn’t spent any more than if we had booked self catering so had nothing to lose by booking half board. 

One prerequisite was that we had to have a room with a private sauna. This might sound indulgent, but it’s actually fairly common for hotels in this part of the world and there’s nothing quite like a hot, relaxing sauna after being out in the cold or on the slopes all day. 

It turns out, our choice of hotel panned out. It’s in a cracking location, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Levi and less than 10 minutes from the ski lift. Immeljävi Lake – the best spot to see the northern lights away from the false lights of the town, is also also about 10 minutes walk away. 

The room was fairly basic, Scandi style with wet room shower and the all important private sauna. The underfloor heating in the bathroom is a lovely touch. The bed was perfectly comfortable and there is an armchair as well as a chair at the dresser. Another handy feature is the drying closet, ideal for drying wet clothes quickly. 

Whilst admittedly not holding out much hope for the food, we thought the quality was excellent and didn’t have a bad meal all week. 

For each sitting, there was an excellent selection of salads. Lots of veggies, but also pasta and rice salads. I loved the olives, cheese and sun dried tomatoes antipasti. 

The salmon in bernaise sauce was absolutely delicious. The salmon just melted in the mouth, so lovely and soft. The pork stew was also really good and the thinly sliced roast beef in red wine sauce and garlic potato gratin were stand out dishes. The highlight pudding was definitely the cheesecake. The blueberry cake was good but a little dry around the edges. 

Some of the options were a little odd in terms of how Brits would put a meal together, but that’s what can happen when catering to multiple nationalities. The hotel seemed really popular with French, Dutch and German tourists and we were of only a handful of Brits at the time of our visit (2 weeks before February half term, so it could be very different when UK schools break up). The hotel publishes the weekly menu on their website so that gave us an idea of what to expect and also see if we think we might want to eat out one night. 

As we had a couple of early evening excursions and an overnight stay at the Northern Lights Village, we asked if we could swap our dinner buffets for lunch buffets and they accommodated that without any issues. I’m not actually sure how they monitor who’s having which meals as no one checked when we went for lunch instead of dinner. 

One thing about the food in Lapland is that it’s generally not as hot as you might have at home. I noticed this on our first trip, but didn’t have any major issues this time. The hotel buffets were fine. 

Levi is a great little town with so much to do. Some would argue skiing (hill and cross country) are the main attraction, but this is my second time in Levi and haven’t managed to find time to ski with all of the other activities on offer! 

We were supposed to do an evening snowshoe tour on our second night, but as the weather was forecast to be a bit rubbish, they moved us to our arrival day. Despite being up since 3am, and the flight being an hour late, we didn’t have any issues with the change. 

The tour was excellent. It was an absolute treat, walking through the dark forest with just our headlamps for light. How the snow glistened in the light was magical. 

After about 30 minutes, we reached a hut on the shore of a frozen lake. We warmed by the fire and had hot berry juice and sausage. The alpine toilet was…interesting! We were keeping our eyes peeled for any activity in the sky, but it wasn’t to be, so made our way back through the forest and, finally, to bed!

We really enjoyed walking the 766 steps up the ski slope to the Panorama Hotel and Samiland Museum. The cafe at the top is a great spot to refuel before trotting back down. Make sure to explore the trails at the top though, a true winter wonderland! You feel a million miles away from anywhere, snow covered trees and thigh high snow, it’s just breathtaking.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, a hike up the other big hill in the area (Levi isn’t mountainous), Kätkä, will actually leave you breathless! 

The trail is only about 2 miles each way from Levi, but it gets the heart rate up and the views are spectacular. It’s technically a snowshoe trail, but the snow was quite compact for us and we managed to get almost to the summit before the snow got too soft to walk on in normal hiking boots. The trail is signposted only so far so we just followed the footsteps after the directions ended. There was a more gentle option, signed with blue tape, which didn’t climb the hill. 

As trying to see the northern lights was a key part of choosing Levi, most of the excursions we’d booked were in the evenings in the hunt for the aurora. A bit of a let down though, was the husky sled experience. 

The most expensive trip we booked at nearly £500, we spent all of around 30 minutes with the dogs and spent more time sitting in a hut eating sausage and drinking berry juice. We’ve enjoyed husky experiences before in Levi and in Canada, but this was a real disappointment, especially for the cost. We didn’t even see the northern lights. 

We returned to the same farm the following night for a horse drawn sleigh through the forest, which was altogether more enjoyable. Nowhere near as expensive as the huskies and the journey also lasted about 30 minutes, but the host gave us an intro to the horse, the history of Finnish horses and the slow pace of the journey was lovely. Despite fairly clear skies and great views of the stars, still no sign of the northern lights.

After a pit stop back at the hotel. We headed back out to the Immeljävi Lake, away from false light, to try and see the aurora. We stomped around the lake for a bit, but the cloud was stubbornly thick so we headed back to the hotel. 

As soon as we got back, the cloud started to lift – weather changes quickly here – so we headed back out to the lake to see if anything was visible. And there it was!

The cloud had cleared, the sky was dotted with hundreds of stars and prancing around them was the green dust of the aurora. The atmosphere on the lake was electric, the crowd oooing and ahhing as the lights danced above us. Although we’d seen the lights before, they were a deciding factor in coming to Lapland again so to see them was incredible. It’s so hard to describe what the lights are like – you really need to see them for yourself to appreciate their beauty. The videos on my facebook page give a small glimpse. 

We stood, in minus 15c on the surface of a frozen lake, enjoying the spectacle, for around an hour, until the clouds retuned and blocked our view. 

We’d done snowmobiling a couple of times before, in Lapland and in Canada and it’s brilliant fun! We wanted to add a different dimension on this trip and chose to do an evening tour, hoping to see the northern lights.

It was damn cold that night, minus 18c! I’d made the mistake of putting on too many layers and nearly overheated after putting on the protective overalls issued by the tour company. After removing a layer, I felt more comfortable and joined the group for the briefing on how to use the skidoo just as the green lights started to dance above us. 

The group was quite large, with some people as passengers and some single riders. Some riders weren’t that confident on the machine and, although they were speed limited to 40kph, some struggled to get over 10kph. That was quite frustrating. No sight of the lights as we made our way through the dark forest and across frozen lakes, but the sky was crystal clear with ice particles glistening in the headlights. 

After about 45 minutes, we stopped at a hut for a hot drink and a donut before setting off back to Levi. 

Some of the less confident drivers swapped to passenger and the pace on the way back was much faster, barely dropping below 40kph. So much fun! Luckily, the lights made an appearance so we made a brief photo stop to enjoy the show. 

After getting back to Levi, we headed back out to the lake but despite the freezing temperatures and clear sky, there was only the faintest wisp of green above us. We had warmers in our boots and gloves but still couldn’t stay out for long. The lights didn’t seem to be in the mood so we made our back to the warmth of the hotel and bed. 

We’d booked Ice karting which operates a free bus from Levi to the Ice Park as we’d enjoyed go karting before and this looked like another fun activity to try. 

After getting wrapped up in thermal suits and a brief safety talk, we headed out on to the track for an exhilarating 15 minute race. The little machines really got some speed up and I ended up in the snow barriers a couple of times! By the end of the 15 minutes, I could barely feel my hands – it was minus 20c – so we had a break by the fire with some hot berry juice. 

We then hit the track again in the reverse direction, and I’m not sure whether the direction or the change of vehicle made the difference but I barely crashed at all and flew around the track. 

There’s snow tubing on the same site which looked fun, but we didn’t do it and headed back to Levi for lunch. 

There’s so much to do in and around Levi. I’ve still never learnt how to ski, and I quite like the look of cross country skiing, so might have to come back to give that a go. You can also do ice swimming which looks super fun. 

We also enjoyed an overnight stay at the spectacular Northern Lights Village which deserves a review of its own!

Date of trip: January 2023.

This trip was booked through Ingham’s ski company. 

7 nights half board at Sirkantahti Hotel was £1049 per person flying from Manchester (Gatwick and Bristol also available). 

Excursion prices, per person;

  • evening snowshoe safari was £70
  • evening husky safari was £240
  • evening horse sleigh safari was £60
  • evening snowmobile safari was £110
  • ice karting was £60

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