Exploring the Arctic Circle in Style
Before the world was ravaged by a once-in-a-century pandemic and before we knew that a year of lockdown was ahead of us, we ventured to the Arctic Circle to search for a glimpse of the elusive Aurora Borealis. Our trip was cut short by four days, but we still managed to experience the absolute winter wonderland that is the Lapland region in Finland.
Long story short - we woke on our second day at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort to the news that the US was shutting its borders to all non-citizens. At the time, Gearoid hadn’t yet received his green card and was only on a work visa, so we were afraid he wouldn’t be let back into the country. After several moments of pure panic, a dash of chaos and many failed attempts to contact the airlines to rearrange our flights while miles away from civilization in the Arctic Circle, we simply booked all new flights and cut our trip short by about a week. It was a huge disappointment, as we didn’t end up seeing the northern lights, but we did make the most of our few days in the Arctic.
If you’re looking for an experience where you’re completely immersed in an endless and pristine snow covered forest, look no further than the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, located in Finland’s Lapland region and just within the Arctic Circle. It’s not an easy place to reach from the US, so we flew direct from LAX to Helsinki and explored the beautiful city perched upon the Baltic Sea before taking a domestic flight to Ivalo. Our resort had organized an airport transfer, which was super handy because the roads were absolutely treacherous with zero visibility due to a massive blizzard - we were in the Arctic, afterall.
We arrived to the four star Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, a sprawling property with villages dedicated to the different sections of log cabins, igloos ad kelo-glass igloo (part log cabin, part igloo) and once we were all checked in we were surprised to find that we had to pull our own luggage in a sled to our kelo-glass igloo on our own. There was a blizzard outside, so we bundled up and took it on as part of the experience. Each village is massive, yet they check you in, give you a key, a map and sled for your bags and set you off on your own. We were lucky it was still light out, or I don’t think we’d ever have found our cabin.
Once we arrived in our kelo-glass igloo cabin we were surprised to find a rather dull cabin, where we also had to pay $10 for a bundle of firewood. But nonetheless, it was accompanied by a brick fireplace, kitchenette, a teeny tiny sauna and igloo section for all types of Arctic viewing. We were a bit taken aback at this stage, as the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort labeled itself as a luxurious, indulgent property with experiences and amenities to match, but within our first few hours it became clear it was simply a self-catering cottage set up and not much more.
Included in the price tag of about $2,000 a night was breakfast and dinner, so after arrival we made our way down to the restaurant for a meal. Turns out that the included meal was simply a shabby sort of buffet, or you could order proper food from a menu, which of course was not included, and overpriced for mediocre food. The restaurant itself was more of a mess hall with some of the worst service we’d ever experienced. We were shocked and disappointed by the restaurant overall, as going for a nice meal is one of our favorite ways to spend our time on holidays. At this stage we felt that Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort was completely oversold based on its website, but decided to make the most of the time we had in the beautiful place we had travelled so far to enjoy.
So enjoy we did, by wandering the snow-covered grounds and booking some excursions offered by the resort. Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort partners with local companies to provide all kinds of explorations to fully immerse yourself in the frozen forest experience. After we rebooked all of our flights to get home we essentially had one day to pack in as much as we could, so we booked snowmobiling during the day and dog sledding in the evening. The staff at the resort were super helpful in helping us book, cancel and reschedule some of our activities, which was a relief. Both excursions were an amazing experience and we’re delighted we got to see some of what the region has to offer.
Overall, we would not recommend Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort if you’re looking for a luxury experience in the Arctic wilderness, most amenities are bare minimum, everything costs extra, even with the overpriced nightly rate, and it’s essentially nothing more than self catering cottages with a food hall and activities center. Worst of all, we had paid upfront, so when we asked for a refund due to the pandemic for our remaining 3 nights, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort refused, leaving us thousands out of pocket. However, if you set your expectations relatively low while paying a fortune, then perhaps you’ll have a better time than we did.