If you are fortunate enough to stay in a glass igloo on a clear night and are fortunate enough, as we were, to see both the aurora borealis and shooting stars from your cozy bed, the experience is fantastic. I imagine it would be disappointing to come this far and pay this much just to look at a starless, cloudy sky.
ACCOMMODATIONS: THE PROS: The glass igloo and cabin we had were both wonderful...Very clean rooms, thoughtfully set up, very cozy & by that I mean genuinely cozy, not real-estate-speak for small...Nice to have our own sauna in the cabin; some have hot tubs...Comfortably warm...You do have to walk a few minutes from the "lodge/restaurant" to your cabin or igloo, but it's relatively short...THE CONS: beds in the cabin were uncomfortably solid & hard (this from someone who prefers a hard mattress)...Hot water is on the sparse side...Our cabin's smoke detector was disconnected...Looked inside the snow igloos; they're pretty small and claustrophobia-inducing for those sensitive to small, dark spaces, but they're attractively set up if that's your thing.
FOOD: PROS: Board is required for 2 meals, and if you don't like the set 3-course included meal, you can order from an a la carte menu & apply a credit towards your bill...Good presentation for dinner main courses, decent salads...Never went hungry, wondering when the meal was coming...Good choices at breakfast, nothing fancy but typical Finnish fare...CONS: If you're a foodie, don't expect much. Helsinki has some world-class dining, and there are supposed to be some good restaurants in nearby Saariselka, but the food here is nothing to write home about. The soup & bread lunch is mediocre, but it is filling if you're hungry. Breakfast and dinner are better.
AURORA BOREALIS: Great for aurora watching when the weather is clear. We saw them both clear nights, twice each night. Be prepared that it's a spectacular and awesome experience, but the colors you see with the naked eye are no match for the intensity and color spectrum in photos (even of the same event, as we learned from checking out other guests' photos). Sometimes they are cloud-like, sometimes you see movement and undulating, sometimes plumes of light appear to beam up from the horizon. Mostly they appeared white with a green or pink/purple tinge, maybe. Very moving, really awesome, but I heard a number of people express a little disappointment about the lack of color. Two big downsides: Even though most people are here for the northern lights, there is no notification system, and almost everyone we met grumbled about that. So it's hit and miss, or people try to stay up all night and go outside every so often to check. This is not as easy as it sounds considering at -30 C and -22 F it takes quite a while to get enough clothing on to be able to check. In the glass igloo, as we found, you could sometimes see the light display right overhead, but sometimes you had to walk outside to clear a stand of trees to see them. ALSO, there is too much light pollution on the grounds near the areas people go to observe the aurora borealis. At the very least, when a display is in process, they could cut the lights, and recommend guests use flashlights to get around (even provide or rent them perhaps).
SERVICE: Meh. PROS: Rooms are well cleaned. Most waiters or waitresses are very attentive and friendly...food comes fast...staff tries to accommodate food requests if they have it on hand (e.g., getting a sandwich for someone at lunch)...Most of the "front desk" staff (see other reviews for details on this odd arrangement) are pleasant and will answer your questions or try to be helpful (IF you ask and IF they have time). CONS: Staff seems overworked and sometimes there are too few people at the front desk (as per other reviews). A couple of the staff are distinctly unfriendly and treat you as if you're bothering them when you ask questions...The way the hotel works is not explained well either in advance or when you arrive. You don't find out until you get there that no one will bring your luggage to your room (I suppose they will if you cannot), that you should plan to use a sledge to pull your luggage to your room/cabin/igloo. This is fine if you arrive in daylight and see what others do, but not if you arrive late, as one couple we met did, with no help or suggestions from the staff. THe person who checks you in might not explain the system for signing up for activties or how you are notified of your time slots (not a hard system, but if you don't know it -- as we didn't -- it can leave you feeling out of the loop)...As one other reviewer noted, you don't find out until the time comes that if you switch from an igloo to a cabin (most guests seem to do this) you will have to be out of your room for a good part of the day. They do have a place to store your luggage, but it would be nice to be prepared for this in advance and arrange activities accordingly...It would be helpful to know how limited the lunch fare is in advance...It would be helpful to have basic medical care available (basics like ice packs, bandaids, ace bandages).
ACTIVITIES: All are hugely expensive. Husky ride (we did the 2 hr. version) was one of the best activities, we thought. Touristy, yes, and the dogs know exactly where to go, one sled following the next, but it's fast, it's fun, and it's very different. Dogs seem to be treated well, seem in good health, and don't appear overworked . The vendor they used for our ride (apparently there are several the hotel uses) stopped to take our pictures with our own cameras. You can switch from driver to passenger. Guide was very helpful, very friendly, answered all our questions at the end (you don't have time during)...Reindeer farm was a total of about 18-20k on a snowmobile (slow at first, high speed on the way back, fun). Not so much a working farm as a pen where a handful of reindeer are kept & fed between rides for tourists. You get a delicious pancake w/lingonberry jam at the "farm," and some Sami items are displayed, but no one speaks about Sami culture at all...Cross country skiing is right outside your cabin or igloo door. The network of trails is extensive in this area, ranging from beginner to expert trails. Equipment the hotel rents seems very good quality.The instructor was excellent, very methodical.
NOTE: Previous review is right: for the money, you'd expect maybe not exactly luxury above the Arctic Circle, but better service, food, attentiveness to guests needs, and organization at the lodge. That said, we're glad we went, we liked the accommodations a lot, and we had some interesting experiences. Plus, the hotel is filled with guests as adventurous as you are.
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- Also Known As:
- Kakslauttanen Hotel And Igloo Village
- Kakslauttanen Hotel Igloo Village
- Kakslauttanen Hotel Saariselka
- Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Finland/Saariselka