Finland’s frozen north has never been easier to reach. Discover a world of epic landscapes, delicious food, and thrilling winter activities
Winter comes long, hard and sparkling white in the Arctic Circle. The first snows appear in October or November and continue until May. The Finns claim four winter seasons: First Snow, Polar Nights (Christmas Season), Real Winter, and the Season of Crusted Snow, so you're spoiled for choice.
Not only is the snow pristine, but Levi also claims the purest air in the inhabited world – and there is nothing like a snowshoe trek on the fells, through birch and pine forests and across frozen lakes, to clear the lungs. Around Levi there are 20 kilometres of winter hiking trails. Book a tour guide and head out into the twilight with a headlamp: you may hear the cry of an owl or yelp of a fox... or pure silence.
With around 200 aurora borealis sightings a year, the chances of seeing the northern lights in Levi are high. The longer you stay outdoors after dark, the better your chances. Take a moonlit snowshoe hike, cross-country ski (there are 230 kilometres of trails), or horse ride through the frozen landscape. A more sedate option is to ice-fish on one of Levi’s frozen lakes or enjoy the night-sky from an outdoor hot tub – preferably with a glass of wine in hand.
To really maximise your chances of seeing the northern lights without freezing, treat yourself to one of the glass igloos or sky-view cabins in the area. North of Levi, Northern Lights Ranch sits in pure wilderness with minimal light pollution. With a glass roof and ceiling-to-floor windows in the ranch cabins, you’ll see a sky crammed with stars and meteor showers – and, if you're lucky, a display of the northern lights.
The Danes may have claimed hygge, but winter comfort is so integral to Finnish life that they don’t feel the need to name it. If you head out on a guided snow safari – whether by skidoo, on horseback, or on a reindeer or husky ride – the chances are you’ll stop off somewhere to warm up in a woodland hut or by an outdoor fire with a hot berry drink or steaming coffee.
Laplanders embrace the long, dark days of winter. They wrap up warmly before stepping out into the twilight or darkness to hike, ski, fish or even ice-swim – warming up afterwards in the fierce heat of the traditional Finnish sauna or by a roaring log fire.
Around 12,000 reindeer roam the Kittilä area. At the reindeer farm at Levin Poropalvelu, the herders explain all about the life of these beautiful creatures before letting you loose with your very own reindeer and sleigh. The reindeer are trained to loop the track around the lake and skirt the woodland, before delivering you safely to your starting point. Warm up by the open fire in the wigwam at the end of the ride with hot drinks and spicy biscuits. Alternatively, try your hand at mushing with a husky safari.
It’s not all peace and tranquillity in Finland's far north: Levi offers plenty of adrenaline-packed activities. With 43 ski slopes, there are numerous options for beginner and intermediate skiers. A number of snowmobile companies in town offer safaris combined with everything from aurora chasing to reindeer sleigh rides. Lapland Experience offer a snowmobile trip with ice-fishing – and a chance to warm up in a lakeside cabin with food and hot drinks.
Even more exhilarating is the Awa Ice-karting racecourse at Sirkka, where you can test your ability to handle snow and ice on the track’s bends. When the day is over, check out the nightlife in the centre of Levi. Head to one of the karaoke bars: the Finnish love of karaoke is almost equal to that of the Japanese. If you want to be at the centre of the action, Levi Suites in town is a good accommodation option.
Reindeer, elk, waterfowl and fish are often served with wild mushrooms and berries at Levi’s finest restaurants. At Jängallä, locally-sourced food is creatively combined and presented: dark chocolate and blackberries; cucumber, cloudberries and sourmilk; or a moose paté with smoked juniper berries and rhubarb.
Even the Italian-style Classic Pizza Restaurant provides a Scandi twist with mushroom truffle and reindeer meat toppings. For the ultimate food experience head for the underground Saamen Kammi serving up a buffet around a great open fire. Reindeer comes in every variation: stew, steak and spare ribs, even reindeer heart. The evening ends with Sami entertainment – the atmospheric yoik singing and drumming – an ancient Shami chanting that’s interjected with the howls of wolves.
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