Seeing the Northern Lights has been a dream of mine since I was a kid and I read the book His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (which if you haven’t read, go and do it now!). But the thing is, I hate the cold. I am always chasing tropical destinations and want to move permanently somewhere “winter” doesn’t exist at all, so going to the Arctic Circle was on my list, but not a priority. Until my boyfriend surprised me with a trip to Lapland for our anniversary, and then all my dreams of seeing the Northern Lights suddenly were about to become a reality and I got so excited I cried. I hadn’t EVER been so excited for a trip (he definitely had to suffer the over-excited-Paloma for a couple weeks when all I did was talk about it and jump like crazy and show him photos lol!). Obviously, we knew from the first moment that we had to experience staying in a glass igloo in Lapland, Finland.
There are a few different hotels in Lapland that offer some kind of glass-ceiling rooms, some of them like Northern Lights Village (which we also stayed at!) offer little cozy cabins and half the ceiling is made of glass so you can also see the Northern Lights; but we wanted to try the real all-glass igloos, so we decided to go to the creators of the most popular glass igloos in the world: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. Keep reading this guide to learn how to get there, what to pack, what activities are available and how was our experience staying in a glass igloo in Finland.
HOW TO GET TO LAPLAND, FINLAND
If you want to experience staying in a glass igloo in Finland, and you want to see the Northern Lights, the further North you go the better chances you will have. This is the main reason why we decided to go to Ivalo instead of staying in Rovaniemi or Kittilä, the other, of course, being the glass igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort.
To get to Lapland the first thing you have to do is fly to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. If you book in advance, you can get cheap flights with Skyscanner from any European city. If you don’t want to spend a few days in the city, make sure you get a morning flight so you can catch a connecting flight to Lapland in the same day. Finnair has flights to all the main towns in Lapland and they usually fly 3 times a day, with the latest one being around 5pm.
To get to Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, you have to fly to Ivalo Airport (IVL) and then either arrange a pick up from the hotel or rent your own car at the airport. The airport is super small, just one big room, so it’s easy to find all the rental companies there. If you arranged a pick up from the hotel, there will be a driver holding a sign with the hotel name just as you get out of arrivals area. The hotel is situated 38km south of the airport, and 10km south of Saariselkä.
HOW TO MOVE AROUND LAPLAND, FINLAND
We were very hesitant about renting a car as it was expensive and all the rental companies offered only normal cars and no 4x4s, but we wanted to be able to move around freely so we just went with the cheapest option from Avis. It’s very important to book in advance because prices go up closer to the date, and the cheapest options will be gone so you’ll end up paying a lot (like we did). All the offices for the rental companies are in the only room in the airport so you’ll see them as soon as you arrive, and the cars are parked just outside so it’s also very easy and convenient to get to.
After driving for 5 days in Lapland, I absolutely recommend renting a car. The first day we were a bit scared and didn’t trust the car that much (our drive from the airport to the hotel took us twice the time google map said!), but after the second day we were very confident driving around. All rental cars come with winter tires and spikes, and the roads are really well maintained. There’s this machine that drives around and moves all the snow out of the roads, so driving in Lapland is actually really easy! Just take precautions when it’s snowing as visibility is not great, and you’ll be fine.
Keep in mind Lapland is a very vast territory and everything is far apart, so walking is not an option, and I personally wouldn’t rely at all on public transport. We knew we wanted to explore outside of the hotel and have the option of doing our own activities and not having to rely on any taxis or hotel drivers. After our trip, we both agreed that driving is Lapland was one of the coolest experiences! We were able to go to different places for sunset everyday and even tried to chase the Northern Lights on our own one night (very unsuccessfully though). Driving in those white roads is something you won’t forget!
WHAT TO PACK FOR LAPLAND, FINLAND
This is one of the most asked questions and I had to do some research too before our trip. My personal recommendation would be: don’t overpack, but bring enough layers. I was wearing a full thermal layer (socks, leggings and shirt), and then ski clothes on top. Do NOT wear jeans, they will get wet and you’ll freeze. Just buy proper ski clothes that are water resistant, especially pants, jacket and gloves. A warm beanie or hat is a MUST, as well as proper winter boots that should also be water resistant. Apart from our clothes, I packed some warm packs that you can put inside your boots and gloves to keep them warm.
WHAT TO DO IN LAPLAND, FINLAND
Lapland is the ultimate winter wonderland destination in Europe! There are endless fun activities to do for adults and families. We wanted to experience a bit of everything, so we arranged some of our activities with the hotel and others with independent tour operators. This was our personal choice but it’s not necessary at all, as all the hotels in Lapland offer the same activities which can be arranged directly with them and they’ll take care of transport and logistics (sometimes it’s a bit more expensive though!).
If you want to read more, check out my guide of the best things to do in Lapland, Finland.
HOW TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
I know we all go to Lapland with the dream of seeing the Northern Lights dancing in the sky but, actually, you’d have to be very lucky. If you want to max your chances, head as North as possible, don’t plan your trip around the full moon and preferably go before December and after February. Those months are when it snows the most, and a cloudy sky means you won’t see the Northern Lights. Download an app called “Aurora Forecast” and check their predictions, and just pray for a clear sky and a high kp index!
My personal recommendation would be to book an Aurora Hunting trip, because you’ll be taken much further North so your chances will increase. I don’t recommend booking this with the hotels as they go out every.single.night and they don’t care about the predictions only about getting paid for the activity! We decided to book with Northern Lights Riders and I couldn’t be any happier. They only go out when they are 90% sure that there are good chances of seeing the Northern Lights, and they’ll pick you up at the hotel and drive around 2h North on a warm car. We got our activity cancelled 3 nights in a row and I was so desperate, but the 4th night they called us and arranged the trip and it was AMAZING. They are really passionate about what they do and also pretty good photographers!
STAYING AT KAKSLAUTTANEN ARCTIC RESORT
If you want to experience staying in a glass igloo in Finland, there is no better place than Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. This resort is like a little town on its own so I’m going to try and explain what it’s like staying here as clearly as possible. If you go online and check their reviews, you’ll get a pretty mixed feeling like we did. There are plenty of excellent reviews but also a significant amount of “terrible” reviews. But I have to say, after staying here, I’ll give them the credit they deserve. The rooms are priced like a 5* luxury resort, but it is far from that. The hotel is cool and the design is amazing, but it’s still is a rural hotel in the middle of nowhere in Lapland. Don’t expect bell boys or room service like you’d get elsewhere for this price, here you are paying for the location and the experience.
The resort is divided in two parts: West Village and East Village. They are on opposite sides of the road and no, you can’t walk from one to the other. There is a shuttle bus that runs between them, but we just used our rental car to visit both. It might be the same resort but they are very different from each other. The resort is built inside a forest with a big river and lake across (that was of course frozen), so even if it’s super big you’ll feel in the middle of the wilderness of Lapland.
Upon arrival to the reception, you’ll be given a map and they’ll mark which one is your room, and some directions. If you don’t have a car you can borrow a wooden sleigh to put your luggage on and push it to your room. Depending on the weather this can be a lot of fun or not a very pleasant experience lol. Another advantage of having your own car is that you can pull up next to your igloo/cabin and unload your luggage comfortably. All the stays include half-board, so breakfast & dinner is always included, which is very convenient. Food was quite average from a set menu with two options to choose from, but it was included so hey! can’t complain.
The hotel grounds are open for guests to explore freely, and by far this was the best part of the resort. The natural surroundings are incredibly beautiful, with a magical-looking forest all around, bridges crossing the frozen rivers, and snow everywhere. We visited the reindeer farm and took some photos of the reindeer and gave them a few cuddles, as well as both husky farms (there’s one in the North and one in the South), and played with every single dog we found! It was just soooo much fun. We also found the horse stables where there were 4 horses (you know these all fluffy winter horses) and fed them and took some more photos. You can also rent some snowshoes from reception if you want to venture into the forest or just book some activities to explore more.
EAST VILLAGE – KAKSLAUTTANEN ARCTIC RESORT
The East Village is the oldest one – the original part of the resort that was originally built around 1990. There is a reception and a super cozy and intimate restaurant that I much rather preferred to the big restaurant in the West Village. This one is on three different levels with a fireplace and not many tables, so it’s important to book a time slot ahead during the day. Depending on which Village you are staying at, you’ll be eating at one restaurant or the other.
The accommodation options in the east village are 35 log cabins, which are super cozy with a fireplace and a private sauna, and 20 glass igloos, which were the first one to appear in Lapland, around 1999. The cabins are within walking distance to the reception, but to get to the igloos you need to cross the river, which is a very scenic walk during the day, but at night when it’s snowing and you’re exhausted it can feel a bit tedious. The smoke sauna is also here, which needs to be booked in advance and there’s also an ice pool in the lake so you can swim in it! This was our favorite part of the resort as it felt much more intimate and authentic.
WEST VILLAGE – KAKSLAUTTANEN ARCTIC RESORT
The West Village is the newest part of the resort, which was opened as an expansion of the East Village. It’s further away from the main road on the opposite side and deep in the forest. It’s way bigger than the East Village, with a huge main reception and a massive restaurant decorated as a mountain lodge and everything feels more commercial. In this part of the resort is where all the fun activities take place: there’s Santa Claus House where you can meet him, a reindeer farm, two husky farms, stables with horses, a souvenir shop & art gallery, a Glass Igloo observation tower and a Planetarium. There is so many things to do in this resort that you can be busy for days!
There is a glass igloo field (that felt like a farm lol!) with 45 igloos, 22 log cabins and 85 Kelo-cabins, which are a mix of a cabin and an igloo all in one and have their own reception. Some of the igloos are larger and can accommodate 4 persons, and feature a shower area! We visited the igloo field in West Village to be able to compare it to the other one, and I’d much rather recommend the East Village. The ones here are all laid out in a field, while the other ones are nestled into the forest which felt much more special! Again you have to walk quite a bit to get to the restaurant but it’s such a fun walk through the forest, everything is so beautiful and feels so magical when it’s covered in snow. The West Village feels more modern and more like a resort, if that’s what you are looking for.
STAYING IN A GLASS IGLOO – KAKSLAUTTANEN ARCTIC RESORT
When we arrived at our igloo it was definitely a dream come true! We loved the experience of staying in a glass igloo in Finland and hope that we can do it again in the future. We stayed in an igloo in the East Village, and even though the neighboring igloos also had guests we barely saw anyone else. The igloos are far apart from each other, and there is a ton of snow around them, so people only walk on the roads that have been cleared because if you try to venture around the igloos the snow will be hip-deep and you won’t get very far! So even if they are made of glass it’s very intimate and no one will be seeing you.
There is like a cabinet all around the igloo so you can put your things there and two individual beds in the middle that were put together as a double bed. The beds are adjustable with a remote so you can elevate the back to have a more comfortable view of the sky. The decoration is a bit questionable as everything is gray except for the beds that are red and have zebra print covets on them (¿?). Theres a low curtain that slides all around the igloo for extra privacy.
There is a small bathroom inside the igloo with a toilet and basin, but there is no shower. There are sauna & shower facilities located near reception that you can use, and this is why we chose to stay in the igloo only for 1 night. The room is pretty basic but after all, you are there for the view! The glass is thermal and the heating inside the room is high all the time, so it’s super cozy and warm. Also the heated glass melts the snow so you can have a clear view (even though, if it’s snowing, you won’t see the Northern Lights!).
My favorite feature of the rooms is the Aurora Alert system. You can go to sleep safely, knowing that if there is any Aurora activity the alarm will wake you up! Also waking up at sunrise with fresh snow everywhere was so beautiful. We loved our stay and hopefully one day we can go back!
STAYING IN A KELO-GLASS IGLOO – KAKSLAUTTANEN ARCTIC RESORT
These cabins are the newest addition to the resort and we spent 1 night in one of them in the West Village. They were our favorite accommodation and the one I would recommend choosing. They are more expensive because they are huge but much more comfortable. We loved the design and decoration of the log cabin, it was so cozy with the fire place and the complete bathroom and private sauna were so perfect when we came in freezing after being out for a while. On top of this you have the igloo attached so you really get the best of both worlds!
There is a large seating area with an open kitchen, a king size bed just in front of the fire place and two bunk beds in the corner, and an igloo attached with two more adjustable beds. The cabins are constructed from Kelo pine wood, with a very authentic and rustic feel, that fits perfectly with the natural surroundings. You can park the car just outside and they are quite separate from each other, so you get a lot of privacy. If you want to use the chimney, you need to ask reception and they will charge you extra (I think it was around 15€?) to do the fireplace for you, which I found pointless since they could just provide some wood and we could do it ourselves. There’s no need at all to light the fire as the room is warm enough, but it added to the coziness. There is also an Aurora alarm system on the room.
Overall I liked the resort because it was an unique experience. Staying in a glass igloo in Finland was in my bucket list for so long and finally got to tick it off! It was one of the highlights of our trip, so I would absolutely recommend staying here.
If you want to experience everything Lapland has to offer I would recommend a minimum of 5 nights in the area. If you can only afford 1 or 2 nights at Kakslauttanen, I would definitely choose the Kelo-glass Igloo because it’s just SO much better than the regular igloos. And if you are looking to stay in an igloo but can’t afford Kakslauttanen, check out Northern Lights Village which are cheaper and also amazing!
Let me know in the comments if staying in a glass igloo in Finland is in your bucket list and ask anything you want to know! You can check which travel photography gear I use here, including my camera equipment.
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