Europe

Europe, Finland, Hotel & Flight Reviews, Travel

The Best Glass Igloos In Finland (Lapland)


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Deep in the Finnish Lapland lie these magical igloos that usually operate for about half a year from September to March. This is also the period when the sky gets darker during the winter months, coinciding with the Aurora Borealis over the skies of the northern hemisphere. These beautiful dancing lights stretch from Nordic countries such as Norway, all the way to the North American region in Alaska and Canada. Travellers from all over the world venture as north as possible in hopes of chancing upon the mystical green skies, which contribute to tourist booms especially during this time of the year.

Nothing really compares to the sight of the Northern Lights from the comfort of a warm glass igloo. I have heard of many travellers who spend up to two weeks in the Artic Circle only to be disappointed due to either cloudy night skies or low aurora index. On the other end of the spectrum, I have heard of people jumping for joy with tears of happiness when their eyes first glimpsed the lights. I caught my first sighting back when I traveled to Iceland in 2016. They were simply magical and kept you wanting to see more of its spectacular nature. Again, I was blessed to have caught the Northern Lights together with the love of my life this time on my honeymoon trip to the Finnish part of Lapland. Read about my Finnish Lapland road trip here.

Northern Lights Village

If you are looking for a wholesome Artic Circle experience in the Finnish Lapland, look nowhere else – Northern Lights Village is the top choice as it specialises in not just accommodation but creating a uniquely customized experience. It is located in Saariselkä, about an hour’s drive away from Ivalo airport. We visited during the autumn months, away from the winter crowd. Northern Lights tours can be booked and professionally organized by the warm and knowledgeable staff who are ready to go the extra mile to make your experience that much more special. There are two main options for the tours –  a viewing by the lake in Inari or at the border town of Nellim. I recommend to stay a minimum of 2-3 nights to give yourself a good chance of spotting the Northern Lights around the area. If you have a car and want to go Northern Lights hunting on your own, check out Kaunispää to get away from the village lights. The gate of Lapland’s gold fields lies at Tankavaara which is easily accessible by car to find out more about the history of gold mining in Finland. Tours to Inari can also be organized or self-driven. My favourite part of the experience was the husky farm visit at Extreme Huskies. We tried husky sledding on wheels since there was note yet any snow fall in September. If you are looking for a Finnish sauna experience, there is a shared sauna on site to enjoy.

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Indulge in the personalized cabins with a simple touch of luxury

 

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We caught the auroras right outside our igloos!

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The in-house restaurant cooks up scrumptious meals for its guests

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You can see how well the huskies are trained for these runs

Santa’s Igloos Artic Circle

This is the igloo experience to go for if you are heading to Rovaniemi – Santa Claus’ hometown. Located right beside the Santa Claus Village, its location is perfect to explore the surroundings by foot. Rovaniemi city centre is just a short distance away, reachable ideally by car or bus services in Santa Claus village. I recommend to book the family igloos which comes with a private sauna attached to the room as you get to experience a true Finnish sauna at your discretion. There are various activities (other than the magical Santa Claus village) in the area such as ice fishing in winter, husky rides and of course, Northern Lights viewing. Beyond Artic is one of best companies around providing photography expeditions, it is run by a bunch of passionate and adventurous photographers. For a great time hanging out with Husky pups, you can’t miss Bearhill Husky, which is a working dog kernel. The owner of the kernel Valentijin, is super passionate about his dogs and visitors get to learn a lot about the life of a husky growing up and being trained throughout the different seasons. There are also opportunities get up close and personal to play with the huskies, which is a huge plus!

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Aurora across the northern skies right outside our igloo at Santa Igloos Artic Circle. Kp index is about 1-2 that night and we had to look north to find it.

 

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Photography tour with Beyond Artic, shot taken by Juho

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The igloo’s reception and dining area

Levin Iglut

Located in the ski town of Levi, Levin Iglut is one of my favourites when it comes to the comfort of the igloo. I recommend to go for the premium ones with unobstructed views of the valley. Each igloo comes equipped with simple cooking facilities if you are looking prepare some simple meals. Your booking includes breakfast at Restaurant Aurora Sky. A half-board dinner is also available during high season. It is a gorgeous place to explore the wilderness of Finnish Lapland, check out the drone footage below.

 

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Gorgeous view of the valley from our premium igloo

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The sky comes alive at night, a clear night with a good KP index will give you good chance of spotting the northern lights.

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Restaurant Aurora Sky – have you thought about having a meal here while watching the sun go down?

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We had the opportunity to find out more about Levin Iglut from Kristiina who started the place about 3 years ago. She plans to keep the number of igloos constant instead of expanding in order to continue providing a personalised touch to each of her guests’ experience.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort

This is probably one of the most famous igloos in Lapland due to heavy media coverage in recent times. Personally, I did not have the chance to stay there (they are not opened during autumn) but I would love to check it out someday! Nevertheless I visited the area from the outside it definitely looked like an awesome choice to experience igloo living.

 

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Due to our limited stay in the Finnish Laplands, this is all the info we have for now. Have you got an awesome igloo to recommend? Drop a comment and we would absolutely love to check it out!

Estonia, Europe, Travel

Estonia – Tallinn Best Places If You Have 24 Hours


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Estonia is one of Lonely Planet’s best value destinations in recent years. The cobbled streets of Old Tallinn brings every traveler back to the medieval times. A mysterious charm surrounds the Old Town and every street you turn into looks somewhat like the previous one. It is a Unesco World Heritage site and has a rich history dating back to the 14th century. Most people choose to take a day trip from Helsinki (by cruise). But personally, I recommend to stay at least a night to experience the medieval town in order to be able to check out the nice spots around Old Town. If you prefer to be in the city, most of the sights are in Old Town Tallinn.

If you are more of a visual person (or just TL;DR), the top spots mentioned are featured in our vlog below. If not, we hope the details are helpful for your next trip to Tallinn!

Toompea Hill

This is one of the top places in Tallinn to see the colourful parliament houses. Every corner you turn into, might just be your next instagram worthy shot! The Russian Orthodox church Alexandra Nevsky Cathedral is also just around the corner.

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Have you ever thought of posing next to these dreamy buildings?

Patkuli Viewing Platform

As you take your walk around Toompea Hill, check out this platform for a gorgeous view of Old Town Tallinn. The alleys were particularly windy when we visited in September due to its location on top of a hill, so don’t forget to bring along a windbreaker or scarf. The Patkuli platform is simply one of the best sunset spots in Tallinn.

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Save the camera honey, enjoy the view. Indeed.

Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform

Located right beside the Patkuli Platform is the famous “The Times We Had” wall. The wall was painted over recently due to the owner’s decision (unfortunately). We were disappointed but still went ahead to check the wall out. Surprisingly, we saw a freshly painted wall but in a different font; most probably back due to popular demand.

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Town Hall of Old Tallinn

This is where the majority of people aim to visit when one comes to Tallinn. You see restaurants, bars with live music and tons of other happenings in the town hall and its surroundings. If you are lucky, you may catch some Estonians dressed in old school medieval costumes!

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Cobbled streets with colourful buildings painting the scene is a sight to behold in the city centre

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Street scene in old town Tallinn

St Olav’s Church

Check out the 12th century church if you are taking a walk around old town. The top of the church gives you a breathtaking view of the town. Be ready to conquer the spiral staircase to witness the views. Entrance fee is EUR 3.

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Tallinn Cuisine – Rae Meierei

You can’t leave Tallinn without trying Estonian cuisine and the best place to get it is at Rae Meierei. We tried their rabbit meat with red wine and it was a good tasting experience. It is located right by the Old Town Hall and pretty easy to get to. There is a bar at the bottom level and the restaurant is on the 2nd floor.

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Check out the unique restaurant setting

 

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Rabbit steak @ Rae Meierei

III Draakon

This pub is located in one of the four corners of the town hall centre. It gives you a feel of traveling back in time or even into one of the Harry Potter pubs. Best of all, food and drinks cost between EUR 1 – 6, half a kg of ox rib can be served at EUR 10. Cheapest wine and beer around the town hall square can be found here!

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Kalamaja

Located just beside the old town, Kalamaja is a popular district with a Bohemian atmosphere and charm. The new cafes popping up in recent times and the distinct colourful houses keep our cameras busy while you walk around this hipster area.

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Seaplane Harbour

The Seaplane Harbour is a maritime museum located at the coastal section of the Kalamaja district. We went there on a wet weather program and this is an excellent option to find out more about the marine history of Tallinn. Entrance fee is EUR 28.

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For Nature Lovers

If you are able to rent a car for a day and wanted to check out the nature around Tallinn, consider doing the following short trip!

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A round trip from Tallinn is about 200km and takes about 3 hours of driving

Jagala Waterfall

Located just 30 minutes away from Tallinn city, you can find the widest natural waterfall in Estonia. Contrary to other famous waterfalls around the world, it is rare to see other tourists here which means that Estonia is definitely still underrated!

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View of Jagala waterfall from the air shot with the DJI Mavic Pro.

Lahemma National Park

This is a must-go national park in Estonia! Day trip from Tallinn is common. There are plenty of hiking trails. Read on for specific places in the national park to go.

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Viru Bog

One of the must-see bogs in Estonia is Viru Bog and it is located within Lahemma National Park. The boardwalk spans 42 kilometres and it is a good hike from the parking area. You are able to witness undisturbed nature and enjoy the beautiful pine forests. The golden hours (dusk and dawn) are perfect for photography lovers because of the soft lighting in the gorgeous landscape.

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Kasmu Fishing Village

Located in Lahemaa National Park is a fishing village that locals use as their summer homes. There is a sea museum to visit if you are interested in finding out about the maritime history of the area. Kasmu Fishing Village is listed as one of the European places that haven’t been discovered by tourists by Business Insider. If you are looking for food, check out O kõrts in Võsu for great western food with superb price to portion ratio.

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Aerial view of Kasmu village

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That’s pretty much all the things and places that I have experienced during my time in Tallinn. Have you got something interesting to share when visiting Estonia? Feel free to do so in the comments below!

Europe, Finland, Travel

Best Spots To Check Out In Helsinki If You Can Only Choose 11!


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Helsinki is a lovely city with enough attractions to keep you busy for weeks. With such a buffet of choices, how do you pick the best out of all? Taste Helsinki, See Helsinki, Experience Helsinki and Feel Helsinki – these are the four categories to filter out the best spots I have personally experienced. The following are the very best spots from MyHelsinki List. Read about what I was in Helsinki for here.

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The Best Spots – Feel Helsinki

There’s no better way to feel Helsinki than being in it and traveling around like a local. Public transportation allows you to see people from all walks of life and you see the diversity very clearly at the Central Railway Station. The good thing about the transportation in Helsinki is that they can be accessed with the same Travel Card or Helsinki Card. The travel card is also good for the public Suomenlinna ferry which gets you to Soumenlinna fortress. There are four main options and they are rail, metro, bus and tram. The rail gets you to and fro the airport, basically to outer Helsinki and beyond. Metro and buses function similarly and have different routes so it depends on where you want to go. Taking the tram is a good way to experience the heart of Helsinki because they have specific routes which run through the city and it’s a fun way to see the sights. The Journey Planner is a good way to find out how to travel from point A to point B in Helsinki.

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Another fantastic way to travel will be to cycle! Firstly you save time walking to the transportation stop or station, the waiting time and then walking time again to your destination after alighting. On a bike, you get to experience the great vibes on the streets, people-watch and be a part of the happenings – stuff that you may not get to see whilst you are underground on the metro. It gets you to your destination faster, especially if you are moving around the city center. Furthermore, there are bike lanes on most roads to ease your route accessibility. You can choose to rent a bicycle or join one of the bike-sharing schemes available around the city. We are blessed with the pretty Pelago Bikes provided by MyHelsinkiResidence and we took full advantage of it!

 

Bike sharing was launched in 2016 and you see tourists and locals using them often

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The Best Spots – See Helsinki

  • Market Square is one of Helsinki’s most famous markets for some street food and other products such as souvenirs and handicrafts. Drop by early in the day because they close by evening time (at least in autumn). The Ferry Terminal is also here if you are heading to nearby islands such as Suomenlinna.
  • Suomenlinna Sea Fortress (18th century fortress) is a Unesco World Heritage Site and I highly recommend to visit this. You can easily spend a few hours to a day here knowing about the history of Finland the gorgeous walking paths. ‘Open prison’ runs here and inmates work on this island which is frequented by tourists all year round. There is also the Suomenlinna church in which its tower serves as a lighthouse for air and sea traffic. The island can be reached by public ferries at the Market Square and runs throughout the year.

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Cafe Silo on Suomenlinna (right picture)

  • Temppeliaukio Rock Church is literally built into a rock and it is just a splendid creation in the heart of Helsinki. The normal entrance fee is EUR 3. The tickets can be bought inside the church with most credit cards and cash. The tickets can also be bought from the cafe during June, July and August. Some of the souvenir shops in the area also sell the tickets. With an advance ticket from the cafe or somewhere else you don’t have to queue in the ordinary ticket line and thus will have a quicker access to the church.

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  • Amos Rex is one of the newest addition of art venues in Helsinki that has been recently gaining popularity internationally. We visited teamLab’s exhibit and were mind-blown by the creative works featured there.

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  • Kaivopuisto Park is one of my favourite areas to cycle to catch the sunset. There is a point of interest, also the highest point of the park which is the old Ursa observatory. From there, you have the option of looking out into the beautifully clear autumn-y skies for a small fee. Being one of Helsinki’s oldest and most well-loved parks, it is simply a must-go to see and experience Helsinki like a local. Or you can simply go just to have your lunch by the cafes and restaurants whilst people-watching.

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The Best Spots – Taste Helsinki

  • Helsinki Distilling Co produces one of the best gin and spirits in Finland or maybe the world. Sign up for their open tours every Friday and Saturday which gives you a detailed introduction to their distilling process and production. You can’t leave without going for the tasting session after!

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  • Ultima is the place to go to for an authentic Finnish flavour. It is founded by two of Finland’s top chefs, Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen, who wanted to test how effectively a circular economy can work in a restaurant in an Arctic country. They combine top Finnish food tech and most importantly, their ability to prepare delicious food sustainably to produce a flavour explosion in your mouth. We love how more than 90% of the ingredients are directly sourced from local farms within Finland and the menu we tasted was just simply sensational!

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Top notch chefs Henri Alén and Tommi Tuominen were both in the kitchen!

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  • Green Hippo Cafe is one of the hippest joints serving all-day brunch on Sunday. It’s not just a brunch cafe, but one with very healthy selections. There is an outdoor and indoor seating area and is super instagram-worthy! Personally, I have not tried the non-brunch menu. But with such fantastic brunch, I bet it is equally as delicious.

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  • Hoku is a Hawaiian-Japanese restaurant located in Kamppi centre which is in the heart of Helsinki. If you are looking for something Asian or a fusion of East and West, this is the best spot to go to. And on the top of my list is Salmon Teriyaki with rice – best tasting Teriyaki dish ever! Here’s a tip top for this restaurant: go for any of the mains in the menu during lunch and they will be EUR10 cheaper than it is for dinner. You are welcome.

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The Best Spots – Experience Helsinki

There can never be a better place to experience the naked Finnish sauna culture other than the capital Helsinki itself! Read about my post on being naked in Finland.

  • Allas Sea Pool is a good place to relax around the harbour area, they have both the heated pool and the open-sea pool. There is also another shallow pool for dipping which is mainly for children. The saunas, both single gendered and mix gendered are on-site and included with the entrance fee. There is also an outdoor gym for a good work-out whenever you want. The main catch here is the heated swimming pools with the views of the harbour, perfect for sunset!

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  • Löyly has a different concept from Allas Sea Pool though they are both Finnish saunas. There is a lovely restaurant on site which serves a nice menu. Great place to watch the sunset or to have a drink after the sauna session. The attraction here is the platform leading out to the Baltic sea which you can jump in for a cool dip after your sauna session. As a whole, the design of Löyly is unique and is in the Worlds 100 Greatest Places-List by Time Magazine. My best advice is to book in advance because it gets crowded towards evening and they restrict the amount of people inside at any point of time. Personally, I waited an hour just to get in!

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Do you dare to take the dip of faith into the icy water?

The top part of the photo with 2 stairs is where you take the Baltic dip! (Photo credit: Joel Pallaskorpi, My Helsinki)

Did I miss out any spots that you think should be included? Come share your thoughts!