Lying in bed and gazing up at the stars, watching the Aurora Borealis dancing around in the sky. How many of us have imagined the opportunity of being able to do that? I’m guessing the answer is quite a few. It was definitely one of my bucket list items – one that I intended to tick off the list in 2019*. Planning a week long trip to Finnish Lapland, 250km north of Arctic Circle was one of the best opportunities we would have. Having done my research and opting for the Saariselka area as our destination, I was looking for a variety of accommodation options, some of which would give us the perfect opportunity to gaze up the Northern Lights. We found one which sounded perfect. The aptly named Aurora Cabins at the Northern Lights Village Saariselka.
*I’m going to get this out of the way immediately to save the suspense. It was fairly cloudy during our visit, especially overnight. A good thing because it snowed every night? This was also a bad thing, because there was no chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis. A bit of a shame, however the purpose of this article is to show that despite the disappointment, the Northern Lights Village provides a great experience regardless.
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Located on the outskirts of the town of Saariselka, the Northern Lights Village is a winter resort with accommodation, facilities and activities to suit all. It’s aimed at the Northern Lights chaser and features glass roofed cabins, a host of outdoor excursions and activities and a number of onsite guest facilities. A relatively compact resort, everything is within walking distance of the car park located next to the main facilities building.
There are 80 guest cabins, located in six rows on a hillside. One of my initial concerns before booking was that from aerial or drone shots, this looked like a large field full of cabins. In reality, given that the whole resort is located on a hillside, the layout means that from the cabin windows there is an unobscured view of the northern sky and a fairly good level of privacy. There is also plenty of space between the cabins. Rated highly on TripAdvisor, this didn’t seem to be a huge problem for people.
The highest row of cabins (Cabins 1-20) on the hillside look out across to the forest. We made our booking 11 months in advance, contacted the resort to request a cabin in this row and they happily obliged. I would definitely recommend this, if you are looking for some great photography shots from inside the cabin.
From check-in at the main facilities building, there are sleds located outside where you can transfer your luggage to the cabin. The furthest cabins away from the reception are approximately 10 minutes walk, but there is an option to drive and drop off your bags if required.
An efficient check-in completed, we grabbed a couple of sleds and off we headed along the snowy track to our cabin. Not only did we have a cabin in the top row, we actually had Aurora Cabin 1 – the first and furthest cabin on the row. The first things I should mention is to make sure you have sensible winter footwear. Even though the snow is powdery. rather than icy, it can be slippery on the hills.
First impressions of the Aurora Cabin from the outside were impressive. Wood panelled, circular cabins with long icicles hanging from the roof. A huge curved window with uninterrupted views of the forest. This was exactly what we were looking for.
Even better, the interior of the cabins were even more impressive. A large open space with a high ceiling and that perfect view out onto the forest. There was a double bed complete with a cosy blanket located directly under the large window. A comfortable seating area, along with storage space and a mini bar took up the remainder of the cabin. Styling was minimalist and modern, but with small touches and details that made the cabin cosy. The cabins also had an en-suite shower room, although given the limited space, the shower effectively sat above the toilet, which wasn’t ideal. The shower room had a heated floor, so any excess water was soon dried. The large glass panels of the windows were heated, so any excess snow could be melted at the touch of a button.
Apart from the small window in the door, the only view from the room was from the northern facing windows. On this highest row of cabins, this offered a good level of privacy as people would have to wade through about two feet of snow to get to the back of the cabin. Walking along the pathways in the evening though, you were able to see into some of the other cabins further down the hill. This is probably something to bear in mind when booking (unless your an exhibitionist!).
Once darkness falls, the cabins come into their own. They look fantastic under the night sky and the interior lighting gives them a great cosy feel. It was great to head up from the restaurant at night, turn down the lights, grab a chilled local beer from the fridge and look up at the skies, hoping and praying for a hint of green to dance across the sky. The resort offers, for a cost, an Aurora alert alarm. You can pick these up from reception and take them to your room. If there is Aurora activity, you don’t have to worry about missing it because you are asleep.
Being a compact resort, even with the snow, it doesn’t take much time to get from the cabins to the guest facilities, which are all centrally located. The main facilities building houses the reception area as well as the buffet restaurant and bar.
As part of the room rate at Northern Lights Village Saariselka, a buffet breakfast and dinner is included. Restaurant Kotu is a large open plan dining area, with a bar to one end and a central buffet display for the breakfast, lunch and dinner offering.
Breakfast is a typical European style continental buffet of cold meats, cheese, pastries and bread. There are also hot options available, as well as some local specials such as Karjalanpiirakka, a rye dough pastry filled with rice porridge. Hot drinks are available throughout the day, free of charge. The buffet dinner menu was on a rotation and featured a wide range of starters, main courses and desserts. The standard and variety of food was excellent. The resort also offered a lunch option of a soup buffet lunch for €15.00 which included vegetable or delicious fish soups, and lovely warm breads. Perfect to warm you up before or after the activities that were on offer. The bar served a selection of local beers, wines and spirits and prices were fairly reasonable.
The dining area was a beautifully fitted out log cabin style room with large lighting displays and a couple of lovely big fireplaces – perfect to sit by and warm up after eating. Large glass windows ran along each side of the room, perfect to admire the snowy scene outside.
For something a little different to the buffet restaurant, the resort offers a fairly unique winter experience – The Ice Restaurant. Built entirely of snow and ice, this domed structure featured a large central bar and dining tables made of ice around the sides. Meals were offered as an up-charge and not included within the room rate, but it was worthwhile spending a little extra.
The Ice Restaurant specialised in local flavours and delicacies, to give you a true taste of Lapland. There was a choice of four set menus – all with three courses. I chose a menu which consisted of a mushroom soup starter, a roasted reindeer sirloin filé main and a Cheesecake dessert. All courses were beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. I had never tried reindeer beforehand. The meat was tender and really tasty.
It was a fantastic experience, dining in the cold environment – kept to a steady -5C. This was significantly warmer than outside, I should add. Once the dining was completed, the Ice Bar was then open to all guests and visitors to the resort, for a small fee. We were in the Ice Restaurant for about an hour before getting a bit cold and my beer had iced up by the end!
Northern Lights Village Saariselka offers a huge range of winter activities. Some of these activities take place on the resort, while others take place offsite. The meeting point for all activities is in the main lobby, where you are met by a guide and provided with warm clothing. Activities include a range of Aurora Hunting options, reindeer and husky safaris, and snowmobile safaris.
We took part in three activities organised through the resort. The first was a Reindeer Safari, which started at the onsite reindeer paddock. After an informative talk about all things reindeer, we headed to meet the beautiful animals before taking a leisurely and gentle ride through the nearby forests. The second activity was a Husky Safari. This was an offsite activity, where we were provided transport to a husky farm deep in the forest. The husky ride was exhilarating and fun, but hard work. Those huskies need your help going up hill – it’s not all about sitting back and relaxing!
Our final activity was a Snowmobile Safari. Once again, we met at the lobby are before being transported across to the Safari House in Saariselka. We were provided with warm clothing and safety gear before heading out on a 50km ride across the fells and through some of the most stunning winter forest scenery I am ever likely to see.
Given the overcast weather forecast we chose not to partake in any Aurora Hunts. Instead we drank beer and longingly started up at the skies from our lovely cabin.
For more detailed information on these activities and many more, check out this post.
It’s worth taking some time to explore the forests and trails around the resort. We took a wander for a couple of hours and headed from the main building and down towards the Reindeer Paddock. We passed the Sauna and Ice Pond of the resort, which has limited opening hours, and explored the nearby trails. There are cross country ski tracks and snowmobile routes that pass through the resort. While we were out exploring we barely saw any other guests, so felt like we had the wilderness to ourselves. It’s really important to wrap up warm when you head out into the forests. During our stay the temperature ranged between -18c and -11c. It was really important to keep our hands and face covered, as you soon get very very cold if not. With the right clothing, these severe temperatures don’t really affect you at all.
We absolutely loved our time at the Northern Lights Village. The staff were friendly, the cabins were stunning and the overall atmosphere of the resort felt really special. This was part of a larger bucket list holiday to Lapland, where we also had the opportunity to experience other accommodations in the area. This included the bucket list Glass Igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, located a few miles away.
Read my article on the bucket list Glass Igloo experience here.
Northern Lights Village is located on the outskirts of the small town of Saariselka in the far North of Finnish Lapland. The nearest airport is Ivalo which is 26km north, and an easy drive (or transfer which can be organised by the resort). For further information about the resort, and to check out prices, see their website here.
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