Can you imagine being cuddled up in bed with your loved one star gazing into the pure and virgin Arctic sky while patiently waiting for your eyes to witness the majesty of the Northern Lights dancing right above you, all from the comfort of your glass igloo? The burning desiree that we had to experience this lead us to embark on a family journey to Lapland, Finland.
Visiting Finland, especially staying in the infamous and world re known glass igloos in Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, has always been a dream of mine, one of those long and far dreams that you have but never really think they will happen. Not only because of the below freezing temperatures, but due to its remote location the chances of you ending up there are very low unless you specifically make the journey to see this place. With a little one, doing such a trip never really seemed like an option. Now that he turned four and for the first time we decided to travel for my birthday, my husband said “I could choose anywhere I wanted to travel” and since all of my choices ( Seychelles, Maldives, Vietnam, Philippines, Mauritius) where declined for being too far away… (I guess anywhere doesn’t really mean anywhere ha! ) I had to dust off my bucket list for ideas. With a direct flight to Helsinki from Miami, if there was going to be a time to make this dream come true, it was going to be now. As the travel blogger that I am, I read many reviews of this property before making a final decision. Though I read many negative reviews, I was already determined and no one could convince me other wise.
Equipped with a luggage full of winter layers and extreme weather clothing, our little family of three made the journey from the Sunshine State to the Finnish Arctic Circle. From Helsinki we flew to Ivalo (the main airport in Lapland), and drove 30 min to the property where we checked into our 2 bedroom log cabin where we spent our first two nights. Lucky for us we had a rent a car so we drove (5min) to our cabin. Unlike most guests who had to use a snow sledge to transport their luggages to and from their room, as apparently luggage service is not included, so if you need help you need to pay extra per person. Dragging your luggage after a long flight (as almost every guest) in freezing and windy temperatures through the snow for 10-20 minute walk does not sound like something any one would find pleasant. For the price that you pay per night, such simple and basic service should be included or at least offer a snow mobile for the guests to transport it themselves.
The Log Cabin
The cabin that we stayed in was very warm, cozy, nicely designed and spacious completely surrounded by snow and trees, straight out of a fairy tale setting if you ask me. With two small bathrooms, two bedrooms (one with bunkbeds), a small kitchen equipped with some of the basic necessary items such as a kettle, a pot, a few plates etc, a small private sauna, a spacious living area, and your private parking right by your door, the cabin was more than we expected. The happiest one was our little one because he had his own room which doesn’t happen very often when we travel.
One of the biggest disadvantages, however, is that there is no internet in the rooms what so ever. In fact, the rooms are completely disconnected, not even offering a phone. I understand the need to disconnect but between no phone and no internet and a good 10-15 min walk to the reception (in freezing weather if its during the winter), this is very inefficient in case of an emergency. Knowing this in advance from my online research, I brought my own wireless internet modem from Hippocket Wifi. I don’t know what we would had done without this little gem, as I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of being so disconnected especially when traveling with a little one, you never know what can happen. I feel like this is just one of the biggest draw backs of the hotel, as installing modems like these doesn’t seem like an expensive or difficult option and then let the guests decide whether they want to disconnect or not but at least have the option there. And you guessed it , no TV either so make sure to bring a couple of good books or family table games.
Having a sauna in the room sounded great but we learnt that if we turn the sauna on, the heater of all the cabin goes off. Due to this reason we were not able to use it because if we used it at night while the little one was sleeping, the heater would not work and it would get very very cold in his room. Fortunately, the hot water worked very well as this is something that I was also concerned about but I was very surprise to see that the hotel only offers one combined shower gel/shampoo and no conditioner , along with a small shower that got all of the bathroom wet when you showered. Extending the courtesy of offering the proper bathing soaps for the price that you pay is a common courtesy in my opinion, as is also offer cleaning service. Yes you read it right, they don’t come and clean your room or do your bed. Fortunately they do come and take out the trash.
The Glass Igloo
We spent our last night in the glass igloo which we were super excited for. No amount of pictures can prepare you for this experience, in a good way and in a bad way. The igloos are much nicer and cuter in person, and boy they make for great pictures!
The exterior design and concept is no doubt very beautiful but its not very efficient so we are glad we only spent one night there. Just like our cabin, there is no internet, phone or tv, no cleaning service and you have to bring your own luggage here .They are much further away then the cabins so its a good 15-20 min walk dragging your luggages which I cant even imagine doing with the little one at -11 F temperatures , or even walking to and from the restaurant a few times a day. For this reason one of the two best decisions that we made was renting a car and bringing our own internet modem. Especially since the main reason that people stay in the igloo is to watch the aurora, you need internet to monitor the aurora activity and sign up for apps to get alerts.
The igloo is very small and offers two small twin beds (they added a twin inflatable mattress for the little one), a tiny bathroom and a little corner for luggages… thats it. And yes you saw the pictures right, the bathrooms have no showers.The showers are located outside the igloos around a 5-8 minute walk away, so be prepared to commute from your igloo to the common showers and back and possibly freeze with your wet hair.
The idea of watching Aurora from our igloo was the reason we stayed the night here but unfortunately we were not able to see any even though the sky was clear. Auroras are very sensitive to light , if there is a lot of light, called “competing light” you will not be able to see them, and unfortunately since the igloos are all next to each other you can see the lights from your neighbors when they are on. We knew that there was the possibility that we wouldn’t see the Northern Lights so this was not an issue. The difficult part for me was sleeping with so much light from your neighbors, and the outdoor lights.
Food & Hotel Amenities
Breakfast and dinner is included in your nightly fee which is a huge bonus. The breakfast is simple and easy: eggs , ham and sausages, dried cereals and breads with jam. Good for mostly everyone except vegans. As we always travelled prepared, we were happy we brought our own goodies such as peanut and almond butter, bananas, and vegan yogurts which we bought at the K Supermarket in Ivalo. We were actually surprised that they carry vegan yogurt everywhere in Finland, even at the tiny little airport of Ivalo! The dinner is simple; a three course menu with two options for entree: vegetarian and non vegetarian. (Desert and soup are vegetarian for everyone which makes it easy). As the food is pre made, they can not cater to any other dietary needs besides vegetarian and non vegetarian so as a strict vegan this was a huge challenge. I prepared myself mentally for this, and though the soups that I had where vegan friendly and I skipped the desserts, one of the days the only entree offered was veggie stuffed tortelinni with tomato sauce but even though I like to believe other wise, I am sure the tortellini dough was made with egg.
Not willing to take more chances, we visited Laanilan Kievari restaurant less than 10 minutes away from the hotel. We had a beautifully prepared 3 course vegan menu which consisted of Matsutake mushroom soup (the most expensive mushroom in the world!), sweet potato and black beluga lentil entree and a delicious yet healthy berry dessert. All homemade and exquisite, and by far one of the best meals we had in Finland.
Though the hotel is huge, compromised of an East and West Village, besides the reception, rooms and restaurants there isn’t much anything else for the guests to do or even hang out without having to pay extra. Without internet, TV, phone, pool, or place to hang out in the hotel (especially if you are staying in an igloo), doing an activity is going to be inevitable. This is where your vacation can take a sharp turn and become very expensive.
Being the most popular tourist excursion/activity and as a vegan, I was curious to do it myself to review the activity and share my experience with you but also to see for myself how the animals where treated. For 2 adults and one little one, the activity comes at a hefty price tag of around 350 euro for 2 hours (from pick up to drop off at reception- ours ended up being about 1:30 hours total, approximately 40 min actually dog sledging). Though it is cheaper to book directly with Husky & Co, the hotel doesn’t allow bookings or pick ups in the property that are not done directly with them.
Dog sledging was super fun, and our little one absolutely loved it. The best part is getting to pass through the trees all covered in snow, watching the dogs have tons of fun, and at the same time admiring the beautiful sunset. The huskies all looked healthy and well taken care of, and I didn’t see any dog that seemed sick or mistreated. In my opinion; however, the puppies did seem to need a bigger fenced area to run around as there where to many pups in each fenced area, especially since puppies are very playful and full of energy. Though I am not a fan of participating in these actives where animals are used for entertainment and don’t think I would participate again, I am glad I did so I could see the well being of the animals for myself and share it here with you.
We were mentally prepared not to see any Northern lights and kept our expectations down, all while deep down eagerly praying to see them. In the hotel, there is a lot of “competing light” which basically means there is a lot of light in your surroundings so unless the Aurora levels are strong, its better to go search for them in a more secluded area. If you don’t have a car, you would have to book an Aurora Hunting tour which comes at a hefty price tag per person. Since we had our own ride, we asked many locals for advice, drove to a secluded location only 10 min away from the hotel and not only witnessed the beautiful Aurora lights but also got to admire the incredible and pure virgin Finnish sky. This spot, for both my husband and I, has become one of our favorite spots in the world not only because of the Aurora but also because we have never seen a sky with that amount of stars before!
Should You Vist?
As you can see, staying in Kakslauttanen is without a doubt a very unique and beautiful experience that comes with a few disadvantages. If you really want to make the journey there, I believe the key for success is to be well informed and prepared prior to your trip. This can drastically improve your experience there. Like us, take your own modem wifi, rent a car if possible, load up some snacks and groceries, go aurora hunting on your own, if you have to choose one activity then choose dog sledging, one night in the igloo is more than enough and if you have time, do what we regretted, and spend a few nights at Kakslauttanen and then continue at a more budget friendly property to continue exploring the Finnish Lapland.