This remote retreat in Finland makes an ideal base for adventurous families who long to see the Northern Lights, ELISA ELWIN writes
When the Inari Wilderness Hotel opened a series of luxurious Inari Arctic Chalets in December 2019, we wanted to be among the first to stay, while catching a glimpse of the magical Northern Lights. This family-owned and run business exudes personal attention, under the caring watch of Jouko and Mari Lappalainen.
Inari is around 45 minutes’ drive from the Ivalo Airport, which has daily Norwegian Air flight connections to Helsinki (1.5 hours duration) during the winter season, and weekly flights with Finnair year round. Alternatively, you can take the train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi (approx. eight hours), then continue by bus to Ivalo (an additional four hours). Hotel shuttles are available for the transfer from Ivalo.
The Inari Arctic Chalets are perfect for a family of four, with a double bedroom and a convertible sofa where the kids can snuggle in. They’re smartly decorated in a Finnish style, with highlights including a cosy gas fireplace, panoramic north-facing windows and a private internal sauna where you can revive at the end of the day. Larger families can opt to stay in one of the Inari Log Cabins, which feature a downstairs double bedroom, and an upstairs loft with three to four single beds.
One of the main reasons we ventured to Inari was to see the Northern Lights, and what better place to experience them than the lakeside Aurora Camp? Beginning with a sleigh ride from the hotel, it’s an unforgettable evening sitting fireside with hot chocolates in hand as the Aurora Borealis seemingly dances in the sky above. It’s important to remember that there are no guarantees you will see the Aurora Borealis on your visit, and it really is a case of being there at the right time. But the hotel does everything it can to ensure guests are not disappointed. An Aurora Alert device is offered at check-in, which makes a beeping sound when the Aurora Borealis has been spotted in the area. Another activity the kids will love is meeting and feeding the reindeer at the nearby Sámi reindeer farm, while learning about the culture and life of a reindeer herder. Try your hand at playing traditional Sámi sports, and jump aboard a sled for a reindeer-pulled ride.
FOOD AND DRINK
As well as offering panoramic views across the waters of Lake Inari, the hotel’s restaurant serves up traditional Lappish cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is included in the room rate, while the a la carte menu features dishes such as Reindeer Carpaccio, Arctic Fish ‘n’ Chips and Grilled Chicken & Halloumi Salad. For a culturally enriching dining experience, the hotel organises authentic Finnish meals with local Sami women, offering a unique insight into their way of life.
There are plenty of ways to explore the Inari Wilderness Hotel’s stunning surrounds in the winter months, with everything from ice fishing trips to husky safaris and snowshoeing treks on offer. But it’s important to be prepared, as temperatures regularly drop to around -18°C! If visiting in the summer or autumn, there are some magnificent hikes for immersing in nature and the opportunity to pick blueberries and cloudberries fresh from the forest. To delve into the region’s indigenous culture, the Sami Museum in Inari reveals their deep connection with the natural world and how they’ve survived in Lapland’s freezing climate for centuries. The Inari Wilderness Hotel provides thermal overalls, boots and gloves in a variety of sizes. That being said, it’s best to pack your own thermal underwear, fleece jacket, beanie, scarf and woollen socks, as well as light layers for warmer days. Avoid cotton-based clothing as it easily absorbs water and takes a long time to dry!
The writer was a guest of Inari Wilderness Hotel and 50 Degrees North.