Lapland (Finland)

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Lapland (Finland)

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Review of "Lapland (Finland)"

published 22/12/2007 | volcano
Member since : 27/03/2001
Reviews : 141
Members who trust : 3
About me :
Excellent
Pro Lots of fun things to do (santa park, reindeer ride, husky ride, snow mobile)
Cons Inghams could have organised better for snowsuit + boot pick-up & return
very helpful
Value for Money
Sightseeing
Shopping
Nightlife
Ease of getting around

"Lapland Yllas Santa short Break (Inghams)"

Brief summary:

We have booked a Santa short break in Lapland this December (16th-19th, 4 days 3 nights) with Inghams based on the recommendation of a friend. The location is the Yllas skiing resort in a log cabin (half-board) via Kittila airport from Gatwick. The price is around £1700 for 2 adults and 1 child. Excursions (day 2 reindeer safari; day 3 reindeer safari and/or snowmobile safari) cost extra £300-350. Snow suits and boots are provided but not gloves/hat.

Important note: If you are English tea drinkers, bring your own favourite tea bags.

Arrival and check-in:

On the day we flew it was sub-zero (early morning) in the UK and when we arrived there (Kittila airport) the temperature was just a bit lower (-3 degree C) but with lots and lots of snow + ice.

On the coach we were given our welcome pack. This pack included the log cabin check-in and deposit forms. For the deposit form you need to fill in all your credit card details (down to the security code) + DOB (imagine this form falling into the wrong hands…….) as a 'deposit' to the cabin owner during your stay and then the registration form with all the names of the family + DOB + address. It is because they do not have the facility for swiping and storing all the data electronically.

Also in the pack we have a basic description of the resort and the cabins. Time for breakfast is around 7-10am and dinner is around 5-8pm at the Akas hotel. Moreover the welcome pack includes an excursion booking form with date/time/price and a hand-drawn map outlining the location of the log cabins, the Akas hotel and the 'Destination Lapland Safari Office' (for collecting the complimentary snow suits and snow boots). However there are two Destination Lapland Safari Offices. The one near the Akas hotel only provide tourist info i.e. a free local map and advice for activities. The other one (~20 min walk) issues the snow suits and boots.

When we arrived at the resort, the rep briefly showed us where the Akas hotel is and then dropped us off near our cabin.

The log cabin:

We were allocated one of the Musko cabins that is approximately 15-20 minutes walk (with young children 30min) from the Akas hotel. We were given the key (only one, they may charge for extra keys) when we were at the drop off point. The Finish lock is quite different. The key hole is half moon shape and the door locks automatically when it is closed. The rep repeatedly reminded us that we must carry the keys in our pockets when we go out. If we lock ourselves out, the emergency door-opening service will cost us '100 Euro' each time, no negotiation for the charge. They may charge extra for losing the key.

When we were inside, the cabin was already warmed up by underfloor heating - 24 degree C. Also, it feels quite dry. There are plenty of thermostats around to control the temperature in different areas - bedroom, bathroom, living room. The under floor heating elements in the bathroom are stronger than the other area because we can feel the warmth on the floor. In the other areas the tiles are cool. Even though the cabin temperature is a bit high, do not switch off the heating or turn it down too low or open the windows because it will take a long time for the cabin to warm back up (1 degree C per hour). Follow the cabin owner's instruction to set the thermostats for the cabin temperature to stay around 20 degree C for comfort. It will take some hours to cool down. Drink plenty of water while you are in the warm cabin.

Downstairs the cabin has one bedroom with two single beds, a open living room with 2 piece suite and an extra chair, kitchen equiped with all essentials for self-catering - kettle, cooker + extractor fan, pots and pans, plates and bowls and cutlery etc. Towels and sheets and duvet covers are provided too. In the living room there is a real fire place with some fire-wood and TV + digital receiver + VCR. In the bathroom there is a sauna built-in, big enough for 3 adults. Near the entrance there is a drying cupboard big enough for all our snow suits and boots with various temperature settings + timer for quick or slow drying.

Upstairs is like a half-loft conversion i.e. a big balcony with two double beds and a single bed upstairs overlooking the living area and the kitchen. Surprisingly there is a TV + digital receiver too. Since only me stayed upstairs due to a steep-ish staircase with split steps, I have a choice of 3 beds. Ha Ha!

This is the setting of our cabin. Our next door neighbour may have different settings e.g. extra dish-washer.

The resort and surrounding areas

Since there are 500 Yllas log cabins in the village, if you are lost and try to get a taxi (on-call only, no black cabs) back you have to specify the exact name of the cabin e.g. Musko 2/3 rather than just Yllas log cabin. Well, we did not require any taxi journey during our stay. It is nice to walk around and admire the snowy scene.

You can either walk on the cross-country skiing trail or on the main road. Since the daylight at December is around 10am - 2pm, part of the trail and the main road is well-lit. Don't forget to wear appropriate reflectors on when you are walking on the main road. Don't try to cut the journey by crossing the snow off-road because these area can be quite deep - from knee height to adult chest height. Walking through deep snow is hard work and could be dangerous.

To collect our snow suits and boots (optional), we have to walk all the way from our cabin with our warmest clothes + hat + gloves + water-proof shoes/boot to the hotel and then to the 'office' (45 min walk). Then they will issue an overall red/black snow suit and snow boots that fits you in the fitting room. No deposit this time because they have got your details from Inghams.

The snow suit with reflectors is quite warm and have zips for access to your trousers pockets for compact cameras/ wallets/ key etc. Also, it has two big thigh pockets for your gloves, one media zip pocket on the right chest for wallet/camera and one bigger zip pocket on the left chest for camcorder etc.
What about our jackets and shoes? They give you a big plastic bag for them. Usually there are some free plastic toboggans hanging around the door (left by previous parties) so that you can drag it back the cabin. Or, you can buy one in the supermarket for 2-3 euros (10min walk on the way back). The toboggan is a very useful item for carrying your child or shopping and of course sledging.

Around the Akas hotel (village centre) there are lots of places to eat and a supermarket for extra food/drink. A bit further away from the supermarket (opposite to the hotel direction) there is a frozen lake with snow hills that you can do sledging with. In fact you can sledge in most places e.g. behind the Akas hotel, snow hills near your cabin.

The Excursions

1. Reindeer Safari Park (day 2 am)
The park is run by a very friendly 'Sami' (ethnic minority of the Artic circle) family. You can opt for a super reindeer Safari ride (~35min) or mini ride (~10min). Never been pulled by a reindeer before - fantastic ride. The reindeer is very strong - no problem carrying 3 adults (1 handler from the farm) and a child.

While waiting there are plenty of things to do rather than standing in the cold: a snow hill for tobogganing, hot drinks (coffee or berry juice) and snacks (biscuits or bread) on benches next to a fire, feeding the reindeers by hand with moss (they munch it gently off you hands however some of them are fussy eaters i.e. fresh green moss only) . Also, there is a souvenir shop for reindeer horn/skin gifts and an indoor toilet.

2. Mini Husky Safari ride (day 3 am)

We heard the barking and howling of the huskies when we just got off the coach, ~50m from the farm entrance. Once inside we were shown how to operate the husky sledge (it has a foot-brake!). Then we were taken to the huskies. Once they were unleashed you can feel the force. Five speedy little dogs carry us with me driving. On a few occasions the party in front of us was a bit slow and I have to apply the brake with one foot to slow us down - safety distance 10m. Once my foot is off the brake these huskies are flying again. To stop the ride I have to put both my feet down on the brake and yet we were still being dragged for a few feet before it stopped completely. These huskies are very strong. The ride is about 2km, a very good taster.

Then we were taken to a hut with a fire in the middle and were served hot drinks and biscuits. The instructor told us all about these dogs - how fast they can run etc. Apparently there is a 1000km Finland to Norway Arctic husky race every year.

After that we were shown one of the five very cute husky puppies. We are allowed to stroke it and hold it for a picture. This serves the purpose of the husky being used to human handling. Also around the farm there are several very friendly retired huskies on leashes for you to take picture or stroke. However they are a bit strong for very young children and they are a bit playful i.e. snatching gloves off children as well.

One more thing: you can book rides for 5km, 10km or even 50km with this farm privately.

3. Snowmobile Safari (day 3 pm)

Helmets and balaclavas are provided. Only adults are allowed on the snowmobiles. All kids (> 4 yrs old, younger children not allowed for safety reasons) are sitting in a big sledge driven by one of the instructors. Ideally all drivers should show their driving licences but for a 'family' ride of max. speed at 20km/hr we weren't checked. The operation and safety briefing was basic, not mentioning how to tilt you body appropriately around the corners. For the any accidental damage you only pay up to 500 euros.

Since the weather is a bit warm today (2-3 degree C), the track surface is a bit icy and some exposed tree stumps and rocks could cause problems. This is my first time to drive such a powerful vehicle. At one point I squeezed the throttle a bit too hard the mobile crashed into a road sign (luckily the pole was made of wood not steel). I got thrown off the mobile onto soft snow and my wife's right leg was trapped under the mobile on thick snow. The road sign was knocked off and I hurt my right thumb i.e. can't drive any more and even if I can, my Mrs wouldn't let me. These are all the bad news. Good news are: My Mrs and the snow mobile are fine. Thanks to the safety wire - when I fell off, it cut the power of the mobile immediately. For the rest of the journey I was driven by my Mrs.

The total journey was two hours with 2 stops in between. The first stop was at a frozen lake surrounded by the forest with a view of the skiing slope. Nice view. The other mid-way stop was in a hut (fire in the middle) being served with hot drinks and biscuits. Good fun even I was a passenger most of the time.


Included activities:

1. Santa snow park (day 2 pm)

This Santa snow park is near Levi. When we arrived we were given a map by an 'elf'. There are lots to do outdoors: Icelandic horse ride (only 2 horses, children only, quite safe - guided by an 'elf'); kick-sledges to play with; crazy snowmobile train (snowmobile driven big sledge, the ride is a bit rough with lots of humps i.e. end up with a slightly sore bum, not recommended for people with bad backs); horse driven sledge for the whole family and sledging down a snow hill with a bumpy track.

Then Santa arrived at the main house to say hello to the children. He went in and we started queueing to see him, or, buy drink + snack at the shop, or, go upstairs to make some ginger bread biscuits for free. There is no limit of how many biscuit you can make from the small dough. Every family is allowed to have up to 10 min with Santa. There is also a tiny post office for children to buy postcards to send to their friends. If the post office is a bit crowded, you can take to postcards out and write them on the table and then take them back for posting.

2. Dinner with Santa (day 3 pm)

This dinner is at the bigger Poro hotel restaurant (picked by First Choice as their hotel). Buffet style meal included but not drinks apart from after-dinner coffee/tea. After the starter and main meal, Santa, Mrs Santa and baby Santa came to visit the children. He talked about how he became Santa, how many languages he speaks and how people named him in different countries etc. Then he presented a small gift (a small reindeer soft toy) + a 'meet Santa' certificate (with the child's name on it) to each child with time for photos. The children enjoyed this moment very much. Nice touch. After Santa left and we finished our pudding + coffee, there are fun games hosted by the Inghams rep - wrapping parcels with one hand, wrapping parents, singing 12 days of Christmas, find the Christmas sticker under your chair etc, prize for each winner: a small husky soft toy.

The Reps

In general they are helpful and reasonably organised. On the first night when I dragged our jackets and shoes back to our cabin, I couldn't open the cabin door. Even my helpful next door neighbour couldn't do it. So I went to the hotel to ask the rep for help. She gave me the emergency number to call (100 euros charge if there is nothing wrong with the door lock) and also told me to try a couple of tricks first. First trick: if the key hole is not in the vertical half-moon position, use the key to put it into the proper position and then try to open the door. Second trick: the colder/warmer weather may cause the door not shutting properly thus jamming the release of the catch. Push the door in 'hard' and then turn the key to open the door. This does the job for me. Good advice.

We were a bit late for booking the excursions i.e. we can only book reindeer (day 2) + either husky or snowmobile Safari (day 3). We went for the husky ride (11:40am) as this is special for the Arctic circle. Then on the day a few families didn't turn up in the morning husky ride and we volunteered to fill the space and at the same time ask the rep to see whether there is any space for the pm snowmobile. When we arrived at the husky farm the rep confirmed that there were spaces for us. Brilliant!

Something extra

Don't forget to read the guest book as there are some tips for various activities and may be a map for shortcuts too. When I was reading the guest book, I discovered that we were staying in the same cabin as our friend's family. What a coincidence!

From the guest book we learn that there is a place called Lapp Village nearby that provides mini snowmobiles for youngsters (up to 12yrs old). Check it out. You can also try another famous activity such as rolling in the snow naked after a hot sauna. There are quite a few entries in the guest book.

We were there on warm days (1st day sub-zero, the other days up to 3 degree C during the day) and therefore the cross-country paths and the foot-path outside our cabin are quite slippery even with snow boots. During the evening (day 3) they put grids on the slippery paths and also scratched the slippery icy surface as well. Hiring a kick sledge instead of carrying a plastic toboggan would be a good idea for this situation. Or, hire a pair of ski sticks +/- skis to help you walking.

The shops, the supermarket and the restaurants all accept VISA/Mastercard but no chip-and-pin, just sign your receipt.

According to the locals, if the condition is right i.e. clear sky, you don't need to join a mid-night Northern light snow mobile safari to see the Northern light. It is visible everywhere in Lapland. Look for it around 9-11 pm with a clear sky. You may be lucky.

For the payment of the excursions, the best way is to pay by cash in euros. If you pay by card, Inghams will instantly exhange it to sterlings with a poor exchange rate of 1 pound for 1.32 euros. You can exchange euros at the airport for 1:1.375 with Travelex with debit card as credit card has a cash advance fee.

Overall impression

This Lapland trip is a once in a life time experience (>1 if you have >1 child). It is expensive but well worth it. Inghams handled this trip quite well and the flights (to and from Finland) are on schedule. Fantastic!

Further suggestions to Inghams for improvement

On arrival it is better for the coach to make a stop at the Destination Lapland Safari Office to pick up our snow suits and boots and then drop us near our cabin. This will save all of us a lot of travelling time (walking or in a taxi) on the first day. I have heard from another friend that Canterbury travel issues the suits and boots in a sport hall before they drop their customers off to their cabins and vice versa on the last day.

On the last day we have to check out our cabin around 10am. After they pick us up with our luggage, they could have made a stop at the DLSO for us to return the snow suits and boots prior to dropping us off at the Akas hotel. This can be done because they have finished picking us all up before 11am to the Akas hotel and the coach won't depart until 12:15pm to the airport. Also, at the Kittila airport COSMOS has a warehouse on site that issues suits and boots to their customers prior to leaving the airport.

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Comments on this review

  • larsbaby published 23/12/2007
    always assumed this was an expensive rip off, so very interesting to hear the reality. Well reviewed!
  • sweetdaisy published 23/12/2007
    Excellent review xx
  • sghawken published 23/12/2007
    Excellent and inspired reading, of a place i'm always intriguedby. Mind you that being said i'm always facinated by snow covered places.
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Product Information : Lapland (Finland)

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