Finland

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!

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!

Europe, Finland, Travel

A Naked Asian In Finland – Taking Things Beyond Finnish Sauna


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One of the most notable Finnish tradition is the sauna experience. It is the norm to have one in every household, almost mandatory. Finnish people hop in the sauna before work, after work and whenever; like a ritual. Typically, you are seated butt to butt next to someone else (usually of the same gender and in a completely non-sexual way) and do not utter a single word throughout the sauna session. I think it makes sense that this is a large part of their culture due to the long cold winters, especially in the Finnish Lapland. I had the opportunity to experience different saunas throughout Finland and I found them addictive to a point (something about the intense sweating and the deep cleansing of my pores) where I wanted to go almost every other day. Luckily for me, most accommodations in Finland including the glass igloos in Lapland have saunas (both private and public).

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Photo credit: Julia Kivelä, Visit Finland

Going naked in the sauna (my experiences)

Being naked in the sauna feels different from going skinny dipping or walking in the wild since everyone around you are naked and in close proximity. There are some saunas in Helsinki (Allas Sea Pool and Löyly) which require all to wear a swimsuit if you enter the mixed gender room, otherwise strip away! Being with a group of other naked people, it felt almost primitive and ‘back to the beginning’ – we are created by God and born without clothes anyway. Everyone has a different heat tolerance level, making it difficult to determine how often to pour the water over the hot stones to steam up the sauna. I have came across where someone threw water onto the stones every 30 seconds, making the heat unbearable and I had to end my session prematurely.

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The hot stones in the sauna (Photo credit: Elina Sirparanta, Visit Finland)

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Photo credit: Eetu Ahanen, My Helsinki

My Löyly experience was one of the best sauna experiences especially jumping into the icy Baltic Sea right after sauna. It was a dip to cool down after the intense steam session, any time spent longer in the water felt like my hands and toes were freezing up.

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

Going naked in the nature and skinny dipping

Taking that aspect of nudity in Finland, I took a step further to experience being away from my own clothes. It is a huge taboo in Asia and whoever is naked in public would most likely end up at the police station for an act of indecency. In Singapore, it is a crime to be naked even in your private homes so long as your nakedness becomes visible to the public. Skinny dipping in Lake Menesjärvi was an idea that came to mind so as to try how it feels like being naked in the wild. I felt more comfortable after my naked sauna experiences. It felt liberating and surprisingly fun. Despite getting some curious onlookers, it was probably due to seeing an Asian rather than a Finn without clothes.

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Going in the lake with only the fishes in there – no other humans

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Here, it reminded me of the episodes of Man vs Wild series. I should have joined Bear Grylls on his adventure!

I am not a nudist by any means, neither do I walk around naked in the eyes of the public but this was truly an invigorating experience if you dare to give it a try. Would love to hear about your experiences! Have any of you tried going back to the beginning sans clothing?