“Finland is a rich country. What did they have? They have Nokia phones and plywood. How did they get so rich? Because they are free.”
Hello and welcome to the Arctic Circle. I’m specifically referring to käslompolo and Ylläsjarvi, which are located on opposing sides of the mountain from the Ylläs ski resort and in the municipality of Kolari in Finnish Lapland. The snow here is of a different kind. Each snowflake is finely sculpted and shimmers when it catches the sunlight or headlight rays.
It falls from the sky like a little flying dandelion seed, the sort you blow on to make a wish. It positions itself as though it knew where it’s going.
Layer after layer, the snowflakes combine to produce small blankets of powdered sugar, similar to the silt on a lake bottom. This is done all over the ground, on every tree, rock, roof, and fence post.
I’m amazed as they cling to my camera on their journey down. “They actually each have their own shape,” I marvel, “and they’re so gorgeous.”
How have I gone my entire life without experiencing a true winter? I immediately feel starved rather than smugly believing that growing up in Southern California gave me an advantage in avoiding winters. Having said that, I can picture a scenario in which I spend every winter in this snow globe universe.
But, winter in Finnish Lapland is not like any other. It’s not like the après-ski parties and enormous gondola-filled slopes of Austria, which I also enjoy. Here is the place to go if you’re searching for something a little different.
Finnish Lapland is unique in that it appears to be immensely secluded, deeply tranquil, and blissfully calm. You had to come here to grasp what makes it so unique, but I immediately recognized that it’s the stillness that you won’t find anyplace else.
I’ve felt it in the empty desert, at the summit of a lonely hiking route, and now in the silence of a frigid forest.
It’s on the Ylläs ski slopes, which are coated in snow clouds, with cotton candy trees and the impression of being alone. It’s like a storybook dream world decked up in white, and it’s so soothing that you wonder whether you might live happily ever after.
I know it’s summer in certain areas of the world, and there are warm beaches with sand so hot it burns your feet when you walk on it, but I don’t want to be like that in this glittering white heaven.
The areas of Ylläs, Käslompolo, and the surrounding area are reminiscent of the Arctic films I saw on television years ago, thinking to myself that nothing could be so isolated and yet so accessible to mankind. Now I understand, but it can!
The thought of -30 degrees worried me, but I understood it was only a phobia, and it’s not that dangerous to be that cold. That is, in fact, a godsend. Where else can you find the calm, the freshness of the air, the incomparable pink of the sun, and the sort of snowflake that crackles on your tongue like Pop Rocks when you taste it? It is not difficult to have fun with the correct attire. In truth, you can enjoy the icy surroundings without too much difficulty.
Winter is disliked in most nations throughout the world, yet locals here will tell you it’s their favorite season, and I can see why. The arctic winter provides magnificent quiet and seemingly endless sunsets as the light hovers just above the horizon for hours, never completely rising.
Also, there is an unbelievable amount to do there. Nordic skiing, snowshoeing (day or night), chasing the northern lights, husky or reindeer sledding, snowmobiling, or my personal favorite, downhill skiing are all options.
After all, when you go home to a warm B&B with a reindeer steak waiting for you, you understand that winter carries with it unique pleasures.
A sauna followed by a plunge in freezing cold water, then a drink of champagne in a hot tub. Where else can you take advantage of 40°C water while the stars emerge and snow falls all around you?
Therefore, if, like me, the notion of winter worries you, I’m sure this will alter your mind.
Thank you, Finland, for showing me that winter is also beautiful. With only one trip, you’ve opened my eyes to so many new travel options.
Do it yourself:
- To get there, take a flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi or Kittila. Flights are surprisingly convenient, particularly through Helsinki.
- Although buses and taxis are available, hiring a car gives you entire independence. Driving in such conditions is, shall we say, fascinating, but not impossible!
- Eat: The most typical offerings are reindeer and fish. Apart from the meals at Aurora Estate, the greatest food I tasted was at Pihvikeisari, where everything is handcrafted and locally sourced. It appears to be bad because it has a big souvenirs sign and is touristy, but it’s actually exactly the contrary!
- Stay: There aren’t enough good things to say about Aurora Estate. They only opened a few months ago, but the proprietors are two entrepreneurial young ladies with an incredibly lovely site and a really comfortable B&B, as well as wonderful meals.
- Do: Read my article on the best things to do in Finland!
- Check out my packing list for a ski vacation.
In the interest of full disclosure, this post was sponsored by Visit Finland and Visit Ylläs. The ideas expressed here are my own, and you can be certain that I will never endorse something that I dislike.