I doubt that there is anyone who uses the internet that hasn’t seen the image of the Glass Igloos nestled in the forests of Finnish Lapland? It was years ago when I first saw them, and I was in awe. How amazing would it be to stay in one of those and gaze up at the stars, or even the Northern Lights? I put it to the back of my mind. It was bound to be expensive and I’m not really a fan of the cold. The closest I ever got to a cold holiday was an unseasonal trip to the Dolomites, where it snowed a bit in September.
As the years went on, the desire to head to the snowy landscapes of the North became stronger in that desperate hope to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis dancing through the skies. So finally, after much deliberation about where in the Arctic Circle we should head to, we decided on Finnish Lapland. The draw of the Glass Igloo experience was too much to let pass.
We had saved up for the best part of a year for this bucket list trip to Lapland. We booked flights and the main accommodation back in March 2018, to ensure that we could book the rooms that we wanted as soon as they became available. Our last three days in Lapland were based at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort – home to the very first Glass Igloo village.
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The Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is located 10 km south of the small town of Saariselkä in the far North of Finnish Lapland. Situated 250km north of the arctic circle, the area sees a dark winter where the sun barely rises above the horizon, and a summer which sees the midnight sun shine for two months. It’s really quite special. The nearest airport is Ivalo which is 38km north, and an easy drive (or transfer which can be organised by the resort).
A quick scan of TripAdvisor before booking our bucket list trip resulted in some very mixed reviews. Overall though, a score of 4 out of 5, which is acceptable in my book. There were plenty of ‘Excellent’ reviews, but also a significant amount of ‘Terrible’ reviews. I have been around long enough to take TripAdvisor reviews with a pinch of salt. In general, people like to moan far more than they like to praise. You can gauge quite easily who is complaining for complaining’s sake. I did find some genuinely fair comments in the less favourable reviews, which is why I wanted to highlight this here before I wow you with all of the magical images.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, you see, is priced on a similar level to a five star luxury resort. This is not the expectation you should have when you visit. This is a rural resort made up of glass igloos and log cabins, in a woodland setting in Lapland. If you are expecting bell boys, butlers and room service, this isn’t the place for you. You are paying for the experience and the setting, not the extras that you would expect at that price point. In general, accommodation prices are upwards of €400 per room, per night but vary greatly depending on the style you go for.
The resort is split into two areas – the East Village and West Village.
The East Village is the original part of the resort, which has existed in some form since the 1970’s. The Glass Igloos (20 in total) were added in 1999, and were the first Glass Igloos to appear in Lapland, hence the iconic status. The East Village also features a collection of 35 cosy log cabins as well as a reception and restaurant building. The village is located next to the main E75 road that runs from Rovaniemi in the south to the very north of Finland. Despite it’s near vicinity to the road, traffic noise is rarely an issue. If you are looking for a more low key and authentic experience, then the East Village is where you want to be.
The West Village, which opened far more recently, is located approximately 4km away from the East Village. It’s set further away from the main road and deep in the forest. Shuttle buses transport guests between the villages on request. The West Village was originally opened as a Santa Claus Resort but has expanded over the years and is now significantly larger than the East Village. It’s vast. Featuring a large reception and restaurant building, a field of 45 glass igloos, 22 log cabins and (prepare yourself) 85 combined glass igloos/cabins this is on a much larger and commercial scale.
There is an art gallery on site, the aforementioned Santa Claus Village and a farm which provides the animal based activities (husky safaris and reindeer sled rides). The West Village is constantly expanding with a new Planetarium and Restaurant due to open, as well as a Glass Igloo observation tower which is almost complete. If you are looking for a more modern and bustling resort experience, then the West Village is for you.
It’s really important when booking to make sure you book your accommodation in the correct village, or you may have a very different experience to what you expect. Both villages feel like worlds apart!
Having done my research, I knew straight off the mark that the East Village was where I wanted to be. Less people, glass igloos tucked into the forest, fewer cabins and a far more authentic experience would suit us best. We had booked three nights at Kakslauttanen, the first of which would be in the glass igloo followed by two nights in a log cabin.
Having checked in for the first evening, we were given a map and shown the location of our Glass Igloo, set away from the main section of the resort in the woodland. A number of toboggans were located outside of the reception building, this is how you transport your luggage across to your accommodation. You really don’t want to be dragging your suitcase through the snow, despite the pathways being cleared regularly.
The walk to the igloos took about ten minutes, allowing a little more time for when your luggage flies off the toboggan when you choose to pick up some speed! The route takes a bridge across the frozen lake and up a fairly steep incline into the woodland, where the magical Glass Igloo scene unfolds in front of you. I have to admit that it felt quite special to finally arrive at this destination having dreamt of it for many years. These moments make you appreciate how lucky you are to be able to experience such things.
East Village contains twenty Glass Igloos laid out in three rows on the wooded hillside. The tiered landscape means that the igloos in front of you are set down the hill, allowing for more privacy. A small arched doorway brings you into a lobby area. To the right is a small bathroom featuring a toilet and basin, the left hand side has a storage shelf for luggage. This would probably be the point you question the price point? Where is the shower? Where is the wardrobe? Well, these smaller two person igloos don’t include a shower. There are sauna & shower buildings (separate male and female facilities) located across the lake near the cabins which you can use. It’s probably less that five minutes walk to get to them, but still means heading out in the cold. That aside, once inside, the magical scene from the glass domes become apparent.
The interiors are simply decorated with a tiled floor, two beds which are either located to both sides, or pushed together in the centre to form a double. The beds and their zebra print throws (no idea?) were comfortable and adjustable, so you could raise the ends up, presumably to have a better view of the skies when the aurora was present. There were also tea and coffee making facilities, but that was pretty much it. For privacy there is a low curtain that slides around the base of the domed glass, but you are ‘exposed’ from the shoulders up.
The things is though, you are here for the view, so what more do you need? The romantic notion of gazing up at the starry skies waiting for the Northern Lights to appear is the reason you book to stay in a Glass Igloo.
Spoiler alert: It was cloudy the night that we stayed. Sad face.
The igloos are constructed of a concrete base with a thermal glass dome above. It may be cold outside, but it’s always toasty and cosy inside. Temperatures ranged from -20°C to -10°C during our week in Lapland. The heated glass also works to melt the snow from the dome to give you a clear view outside. Despite the fact that it was cloudy once we returned to settle in for the evening, it was quite special to be inside looking out into the dark night.
A relatively new feature to the resort is that Aurora alert systems have been installed within each igloo and cabin. Presumably there is an element of human interaction with these, but you can at least rest your eyes safe in the knowledge that you will be awoken at the sight of any aurora activity. We weren’t, see above spoiler. I did keep waking in the night, my eyes playing tricks on me. Was that a green tinge on the horizon? No Dylan, go back to sleep!
Morning arrived. In February the sun rises about 8.30am and sets at about 4.00pm. If it’s clear, the skies around sunrise can be beautiful pastel shades of orange, pink and purple. We were in luck that morning. Our walk to and from breakfast was glorious.
Checking out of the glass igloo and into our cabin was a streamlined process. We had to check out by 10am, but luckily our cabin had been cleaned and was ready for us to check in straight away. This was where my research came in handy. Given the limited space in the Glass Igloo, only spending the first night there was always the plan. We could then appreciate the space the cabin offered for the final couple of nights.
We had booked a Large Cabin for two people (Cabin 26), so off we went with our toboggan to drop off our luggage. The cabin felt absolutely huge in comparison to our previous night in the Glass Igloo. A large outdoor decked area leading into an open plan kitchen, seating area and bedroom space with large king size bed. A fireplace was located in the corner. Constructed from Kelo pine, the cabins had a really authentic and rustic feel and were of high quality. There was a large bathroom with a wet room style shower area. This opened up into your very own sauna. A large wardrobe also meant that we could properly unpack. It was quite simply gorgeous.
There was good spacing between the cabins, and given the way they were laid out, it was all very private and you weren’t overlooked. The only exception to this was the small kitchen window which opened up to the man pathway to the rear. The minor annoyance I discovered on a snowy holiday was the need to take your boots and ski trousers off as soon as you come into your room. This was to avoid the melting snow creating pools of water around the room. This cabin has plenty of space available near the doorway to do just that. Winner.
I loved spending time on the deck looking out into the woodland. It was really peaceful. I also did some experimenting with my new lens ball.
The best thing about coming back to the cabin at night was the opportunity to have a roaring log fire. What a relaxing way to spend the evening. This ‘Firewood Service’ was a chargeable extra at the resort, where they provide you with some wood and send a man over to start a fire for you. Quite unnecessary really, as Pete made his own on the second night, which was actually much better. It did make an already warm cabin even hotter, mind you! Had to be done though, didn’t it?
We had a couple of days to pass at the resort – most of that time was taken up strolling around the hiking trails which head deep into the woodland. They follow the trail of cross country ski tracks which head off the resort. We were told, politely, by one cross country skier that we shouldn’t be walking along them as they were purely for skiing but the resort map called it a hiking trail, so as far as I am aware, you don’t need skis to hike?
It took about ten minutes of walking along the trail to reach the edge of the resort before heading properly into the forest. With the sun sitting so low in the sky, the snowy forest scenes were stunning. The trees cast long shadows into the clean and untouched snow. I constantly wanted to run into it, but knowing it was about three feet deep, and once you get cold you are cold, I chose to just photograph it’s beauty instead.
A brisk walk in the chilly air called for a warming lunch. There was one restaurant at the East Village which served breakfast, lunch and dinner. The building also acted as a gift shop, grocery store and bar. Breakfast and dinner was included within the room rate, as were hot drinks throughout your stay. Breakfast was a standard hot and cold buffet, with pastries and my new favourite thing – Karjalanpiirakka, a rye dough pastry filled with rice porridge. Delicious.
Dinner was a three course table service set menu, with a choice of two dishes per course. Mains were generally meat (reindeer) or fish based, and the desserts were fantastic. An à la carte menu was also available as a replacement or supplement to the set menu, at an additional cost. The standard lunch in the area seemed to be a soup and salad buffet lunch for about €15.00. Vegetable or fish soups, with amazing warm rye bread and tasty salad options. Just what you needed to warm you up.
The restaurant area was tiered with three levels of seating, making it feel quite cosy. A large roaring log fire in the corned helped with the cosy atmosphere. There was a bar area set further down away from the main restaurant area as well as a couple of side room dining areas, presumably for busier periods or groups.
As previously mentioned, the resort runs a shuttle service between both villages. These can be booked free of charge at the reception area, either for a specific time or to coincide with other people transporting between villages. We chose to take a trip across to the West Village to explore and see how it differed to the East Village. We also ate at the restaurant at the West Village one evening – this is something that can also be arranged at reception.
The shuttle takes about ten minutes to arrive at the West Village. Once off the main road, the journey takes you through the forest until you arrive at the centre of the resort to the main Reception & Aurora Restaurant building. Passing some of the log cabins along the way, it was clear to see that there was less spacing between cabins which were very near the road.
The interior of the building is large and grand, and reminded me very much of a mountain lodge. It’s clear that this area needs to cater for far more people. Decoration was lovely in the restaurant area, and despite the more commercial feel, it still maintained a really nice atmosphere.
Through the restaurant, to the end of the building is an awesome selling point of the West Village – the Glass Igloo Bar. In much the same style as the accommodation igloos, the bar features a glass domed roof where you can stare up at the stars while enjoying a drink (or three). We spent a couple of hours in here – beware that when it gets dark outside, it’s also dark inside. Any light would be reflected on the glass, making the whole experience pointless. The bartender did have a little torch he provided with the drinks menus!
We explored the village and the more we wandered, the more we realised how large it was. From the main building, you can take a walk across the frozen river and up to the Santa Claus Village. The area seemed to be closed in February. We had a look around and saw Santa’s Home as well as the large Celebration House, an additional restaurant area during peak times. It was all very charming but it felt more like a theme park than a wilderness retreat. At this point, I did remind myself that I was in Lapland, which funnily enough is geared up for visits from many children. This is the kind of place that creates that magic for them.
From this area you can look across at the area that houses the 84 newer Kelo-Glass Igloos. These are a combination of the log cabin style accommodation and glass igloo attached to one side. They sleep up to six people and are a great alternative for people who can’t decide which accommodation they prefer. They do come at an additional cost obviously!
Walking back towards the main restaurant building, we chose to take a quick look at the Glass Igloos situated here. These were located approximately ten minutes walk in the other direction, behind the main building. The West Village features 45 Glass Igloos, some two person igloos as per the East Village, whereas the others are four person igloos. These are larger, and have space for a double bed in the centre, as well as single beds to both sides. They also feature a shower area, which is definitely a selling point. A major difference between the igloos here compared to the East Village, is that they are located within a large open field, in six rows. I personally think this loses the element of charm that the East Village layout offers, tucked into the forest.
Heading back to the main building to wait for our shuttle bus, it was nice to admire the gorgeous scenery. That’s definitely one thing both villages have in common.
In summary, I think both the East and West Villages have something to offer different types of guests, but they have a very different feel to them. East provides quite a chilled out experience, whereas the West seems more modern and bustling. It would work well for families or groups staying over, especially in the run up to Christmas. The winter activities are all based from the West Village too, so for convenience, it would be the ideal location. If I were to return, I would stay at the East Village again. I preferred the laid back vibe and the smaller layout.
And how was it as a bucket list experience, I hear you ask? Did it live up to the expectations? Well, quite simply, yes. We loved it. I’m glad I had done my research so knew what to expect, but it was a magical ending to our Lapland break. It would have been better has those pesky Northern Lights appeared, but we’ll just have to visit again wont we.
We booked our stay at the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort directly via their website booking system here. It’s also possible to book a host of winter activities through their website too.
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