The main tourist areas (more than 23,000 beds) are located in two villages either side of Yllästunturi fell. Ylläsjärvi in the south next to the lake of the same name, while Äkäslompolo lies north. It’s a wild landscape of mythological lakes, misty fells and statuesque trees. And snow as far as the eye can see. Blindingly white. I love the pristine landscape and the silence. About 80% of Finland is covered in forests – home to bountiful nature and wildlife, including moose and brown bears.
We stop for lunch at Restaurant Rouhe in Äkäslompolo village near the frozen Lake Äkäslompolo. I have a fabulous seafood platter and a bite of my friend’s enormous pizza.
There are a great meat and fish selection here, and a massive drinks menu: Väinö Pale Ale and a Waahto Brewery Blondi Ale are highly recommended. The perfect carb boost before our first adventure at Wild Motion Husky Farm.
Wild Motion Husky Farm
It would be an understatement to say I’m excited: a husky sled ride has been on my bucket list since I was 12. And today it’s finally a reality. Wild Motion is owned by Tanja Notko and she and her team have been breeding huskies here since 2001. We’re togged up in cosy red and black thermal jumpsuits with hats, gloves and scarves. Our guide Olli demos how to sit and stand on the sled. Then with a yelp from these beautiful dogs we’re off on a 5km ride in the stunning Pallas-Ylläs National Park. I have the biggest grin on my face. Our is six beautiful Siberian huskies. These gorgeous animals are built for speed and endurance, and can over up to 40 miles a day.
The brake is operated by a wooden bar by my foot. It takes some agility to focus on the dogs ahead and slow down when we descend slopes. Then push off again and jump on. I love it! We stop to change mushers. The snow is several feet deep: cue starfish and play. This is amazing! You can take all-day rides here or shorter circuits.
Ours was just a taster which left me wanting a whole day and a night out in that pristine snowscape. It’s hard work mushing but being outside and far far away from my laptop, I can already feel my body and mind relaxing. After the exhilaration, we get to hug and cuddle these gorgeous beings. My heart is melting. I want land. And a husky or two. A return to Lapland perhaps?
In the warmer summer months they have the training. I imagine smuggling one out one of these cuties, but my London apartment might be a little small…
Luxury Lodge L7, Äkäslompolo, Lapland
Huskies very much on my mind, we drive to our next stop, Luxury Lodge L7 in Äkäslompolo. Our driver skilfully negotiates the snow-covered track and I zone out watching the Lapland of my dreams speed by: meditative and quiet. The only accompaniment Finnish tunes on the radio – a folkish air that lends even more myth and magic to our surroundings. We are 170km north of the Arctic Circle.
Luxury Lodge L7 borders the Pallas-Ylläs National Park on the shores of Lake Kukaslompolo – and I feel like I’ve stepped into my very own Lapland fairytale. There’s no sound. Just pure brilliant white stillness. Even the snowclad pine trees stand like silent sentinels. Luxury Lodge L7 is surrounded by more than 28 hectares of private forest that lives and breathes timeless mythology. Trolls and centaurs in the area? For sure!
Seven is a magic number for the Qvist family owners of L7: They have seven grandchildren, Äkäslompolo has seven fells and the lodge has 7 well-appointed bedrooms – each with its own bathroom and living area.
The walls are huge pine tree logs creating an intimate cocoon against the dazzling white elements outside. And the views? Deep deep snow and trees and stillness. The heart of the lodge is the beautiful large sunken living room with its stone fireplace and separate dining area. My large bedroom suite feels like a separate log cabin. I could move in here. The family also own the 120-bedroom Hotel Ylläshumina down the road in Äkäslompolo.
The Arctic experience continues at supper after an invigorating sauna and outside hot tub. Dipping in and out standing in the snow a la Wim Hof is a life-affirming experience.
Sauna is at the heart of Finnish culture. Everyone we met raved about them and almost every home has one.
The food at Luxury Lodge L7 is superb: delicious beetroot soup with goat’s cheese cream. Followed by roasted artichoke and sauerkraut mayonnaise. Our main course a Lappish delicacy: tenderloin of reindeer, root veggies with barley, garlic puree and dark cranberry sauce. Bay leaf crème brulée with home-made raspberry sorbet followed; all accompanied by an excellent Napa Valley Black Stallion Chardonnay and Jurtschnitsch Austrian Riesling dessert wine.
Tucked up in bed later, I gaze out at the overcast sky.. asking the trolls and the Gods to part the clouds and make the Aurora appear for us…