The winter wilderness of Finland
Dec 06, 2011
Lapland is an Arctic wonderland, writes Ruth Jackson, boasting good skiing – downhill as well as cross-country – snowshoeing, dog sledding, reindeer sleigh rides and other outdoor activities.
One of the region’s best resorts is Yllas in northern Finland. This tiny village offers miles of cross-country ski tracks as well as surprisingly good downhill skiing, although the easy terrain is best suited to beginners and intermediate skiers.
For a beautiful trip through the wilderness, try riding in a reindeer sleigh. There are few things more magical. It requires minimal effort: just wrap up against the cold and let the reindeer do the hard work. If you’re prepared to put in a bit more effort, you could try your hand at dog sledding. You may not get to enjoy the scenery as much – it flies past in a bit of a blur – but this is a memorable, adrenalin-pumping experience.
Finally, one activity you may overlook but really shouldn’t is strapping on snowshoes and heading out into the forest. Walking in snowshoes is surprisingly easy – it took me about three minutes to get the hang of it. Take a guided tour with Lapland Safaris and you’ll snowshoe your way through the forest of the national park to a wooden shelter where your guide will prepare reindeer soup for you. Finland’s cuisine doesn’t end there. From salmon soup to cinnamon buns, it’s all delicious, hearty and perfect after a day out in the snow. For some of the best examples of Lappish cuisine, visit Aurora Restaurant in Yllas to try everything from fried salmon and Lappish cheese kebabs to fillet of reindeer.
As for places to stay, here are three well worth trying. If you’re after somewhere mid-range with proximity to the slopes, Yllas Saaga is ideal. Rooms are spacious with balconies overlooking the ski slopes and there is an indoor pool to relax in at the end of the day. Rooms cost from £129 per night.
For a little more luxury, book one of the new lodges at the secluded hotel Yllashumina. Its beautiful wooden buildings boast central open fireplaces that are visible in the bedroom and the sitting room. Lodges cost from £171 per night.
A third option is the SnowHotel. This huge snow structure is built each winter using around 1.5 million kilos of snow and 300,000 kilos of ice. The food in the restaurant is delicious – be sure to try the elk and reindeer meatballs. The bedrooms are a tad cold and basic, but also unique. Rooms cost from £103 per night.