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WILLIS LIU / FLICKR
WILLIS LIU / FLICKR

Sleeping under the Northern Lights

Sleeping under the Northern Lights

In the heart of a snow-covered wilderness, around 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, awaits a truly unique hotel: the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort. iFly reporter Iris van den Broek spent the night here in a glass igloo under the Northern Lights. 

Explore Kakslauttanen
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Iris van den Broek
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Iris van den Broek

“Your igloo is right here,” the receptionist says and circles the location of my glass accommodation on a map. I look out of the window to the mountains of snow and then glance at my suitcases. She sees my quizzical look and laughs. “Don’t worry, you can use the sleds for your luggage.” Of course, your suitcase on a sled. Just push off and glide. This hotel is an experience right from the start!

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    Iris van den Broek
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Iris van den Broek

A 52-degree temperature difference

It's the middle of January and cold. Well, at minus 30 degrees Celsius that is the understatement of the year. Fortunately, the glass igloos are equipped with an ingenious double layer of glass that is heated and well insulated, creating a pleasantly balmy indoor environment of 22 degrees Celsius. That is a whopping 52-degree temperature difference with the outside world! When I enter through the tiny front door, I feel like Alice in Wonderland. Or rather, Winter Wonderland. Fingers crossed for the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) to make an appearance tonight.

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Lapp wilderness and huskies

Located in the middle of nowhere, Kakslauttanen is the perfect destination to explore the Lapp wilderness. What could be more fun than a dogsled ride? A team of six excited huskies pulls me through the snowy forests. Through the trees I take in the views of the vast, empty plains of Finnish Lapland. A barren landscape, except for a few pine trees. 

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Iris van den Broek

In winter, the trees are covered in a hard frozen layer of ice, called tykkylumi in Finnish. This coating transforms the trees into bizarre snow sculptures that resemble huge towers of shaving cream or giant wizard hats. It gives the landscape an intriguing appearance.

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The Northern Lights

Lapland is so close to the Arctic Circle that in January the sun barely rises above the horizon. It's dusky all day and dark by three o'clock in the afternoon. The Northern Lights have yet to make an appearance, but at night I am finally lucky! As I savour a delicious Lapp salmon soup in the hotel restaurant, I sense a commotion. People are getting up and rushing outside. That means only one thing: the Northern Lights!  

I bundle up and head outside. At first I notice a dim milky white stripe in the sky. That can't be it surely? Then suddenly the stripe gains some colour and the entire sky becomes green, a bright neon green. The stripes of light are constantly dancing, twisting, turning, and changing shape. Spectacular!  

The Northern Lights remain visible all night. Even in bed, through the ceiling of the glass igloo, I treasure the view that draws most visitors to Kakslauttanen. Surrounded by such magical beauty, it seems almost a shame to go to sleep. 

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Sami and reindeer

When I get up, the Northern Lights have been replaced by a glorious morning sky painted in pale pink and orange hues. Today I am off on a reindeer safari. With a small group of fellow travellers I am taken to a tiny Sami village near Kakslauttanen. A nomadic tribe, the Sami are the original inhabitants of Lapland. We are welcomed by Pentti, who is dressed in a colourful traditional costume and wearing reindeer leather shoes. He has lived his whole life in this small village with twenty other Sami and his herd of 140 reindeer. He greets us, "It's a lovely day, not too cold!" I guess if you live above the Arctic Circle, minus 25 degrees Celsius is indeed quite pleasant.

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Pentti prepares the sleds and we are ready to go. I get comfortable as I wrap myself in a warm blanket. Unlike sled dogs, reindeer don't require a musher. "They always follow me," smiles Pentti as he hops onto the leading sled. And indeed, as soon as he takes off, "my" Rudolf follows. For an hour we calmly glide through gorgeous snow covered forests. My everyday hectic life is far, far away.

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Winter with a capital W

Upon my return and before checking out, I take a stroll through the hotel park. Kakslauttanen is quite extensive; in addition to igloos, there are also wooden cabins you can book. Charming lanterns twinkle along the lovely snowy paths that connect the accommodations. 

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Finnish Lapland is unlike any other place in the world I have ever visited. Also known as the last wilderness in Europe, this region is certainly worth another visit. Here winter is absolutely spectacular, icy and stunning. Winter with a capital W.

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    Iris van den Broek
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    Iris van den Broek
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    Iris van den Broek

“The stripes of light are constantly dancing, twisting, turning, and changing shape. Spectacular!”

KLM

iFly Magazine

March 2017

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