Grizzly bears, lake swims, the midnight sun...when summer rears its head for three magical months in Finnish Lapland, a whole new world of possibilities opens up. I recently returned from a trip with Visit Finland, where I got a chance to truly experience the best of summer in this spectacular country.
I began 250km north of the Arctic Circle in Ivalo, home to the northernmost airport in Finland (after a missed flight connection and an un-planned night in Helsinki...but we won’t mention that!). On arrival, we were treated to a delicious lunch of wild mushroom soup and fresh arctic char from the lake whilst overlooking the beautiful Lake Inari. We then got a tour of the Wilderness Hotel Inari, all chic log cabins with a log burner and stunning views of the lake – perfect for a family. They offer endless activities, from fat biking to canoeing, and come winter, there's wonderful aurora cabins where you can view the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed.
Aurora cabins at Wilderness Hotel Inari
After lunch we transferred to Finland’s largest national park, Lemmenjoki, home to the indigenous Sami people of Finnish Lapland. It was a true wilderness surrounded by rugged fells, but is most renowned as a gold panning area. After a boat trip on the river we visited a Sami reindeer farm and were given a fascinating insight into reindeer herding.
Reindeer at Lemmenjoki
That night, before settling into our hotel, Santa’s Hotel Tunturi, we were treated to a delicious meal at a local restaurant, Laanilan Kievari. The restaurant is run by two brothers and all the food was cooked by their very talented mother, consisting of fresh local produce and complemented by the best wines from around the world.
Lobby, Santa’s Hotel Tunturi
It was this evening that the adventure truly began, as we embarked on a hike in Urho Kekkonen National Park where we enjoyed some champagne at a cabin in the midnight sun – it doesn’t set in Finnish Lapland for two months between May and July, so I'd definitely advise an eye mask to get some shut eye!
Midnight sun at Urho Kekkonen National Park
The following day, after a hearty breakfast, we went on a fun fat biking trip across the fells and tried our hand at fishing and kayaking on the lake. Then, it was time for a traditional lakeside lunch served on an open fire.
Lunch served by the lake at Urho Kekkonen National Park
The second part of the trip saw us move further south to Kuusamo, where we had a stunning tour of Iisakki village, a collection of 10 glass villas each equipped with kitchenette, shower and toilet – truly the perfect setting for observing the spectacular surrounds.
Glass villa at Iisakki Glass Village
This afternoon we embarked on one of the most thrilling parts of the trip – a river rafting adventure on Kitka River in the heart of Oulanka National Park, before a short hike along the Little Bear Trail and the most delicious salmon soup served by the river. Then, for our final night, we were welcomed with another home-cooked Finnish dinner of elk and reindeer prepared with local fresh ingredients at family run property Isokenkäisten Klubi, in the most peaceful setting by Lake Heikinjärvi and just 2km from the Russian border, also home to a seven-star smoke sauna.
View from Isokenkäisten Klubi
This evening’s activity was another thrill; a four-hour bear watching trip with Karhu-Kuusamo. We were lucky enough to see eight adult bears and three baby bears!
After the excitement of the evening, we returned back to Isokenkäisten Klubi where we tried out their famous sauna and had a dip in the beautifully shimmering lake. I'd really recommend this property for those looking for a digital detox and somewhere to unwind for a few days.
Swimming in the lake at Isokenkäisten Klubi at midnight
On our final morning, we were treated to an authentic Finnish sauna experience with both smoke and juniper saunas, followed by a dip in the lake and lunch before our flight home. Finnish Lapland in the summertime was truly a peaceful, refreshing and wholesome break; a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of London. The Finns are immensely proud of their beautiful country and it was wonderful to experience their nature-led culture, along with the wild food and, naturally, some sauna sessions.