It’s that time again! Continuing our mission to inspire and inform Grown-up Travellers we present the latest in our series of articles containing ideas for alternative things to do and see in well-known destinations.
So far we’ve shared our tips on London, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Berlin. Then we featured Oslo, Paris, Amsterdam, Chicago and Istanbul. We then focused on Australia and you can check out these guides to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney before coming back to Europe and to Belfast.
This time we’re veering away from the major tourist cities to cover an emerging ski resort that should be in your sights when planning your winter holiday…it’s the turn of Levi in Finland.
Finland? Well I guess you’re pretty much guaranteed snow, right?
Snow and a surprising amount of sun if you time it properly. But not only is Levi great for both downhill and cross-country skiing, but its very location means it has plenty of other attractions you won’t find in Chamonix…
Levi is Finland’s largest and fastest-growing ski area. Thanks to its location in the Arctic Circle it has an extensive ski season lasting from October to May with great snow conditions; it also boasts the country’s only gondola lifts. Although skiing is the main lure for travellers, this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this town has to offer.
So make sure you include a few days to discover some of the unique experiences this town offers. Here’s what there is to do:
5 things in Levi you can’t do in the Alps*
*admittedly I haven’t thoroughly checked this and they probably have an igloo somewhere, but I’m willing to stand by my claim for the rest of them
Walk on water and see the Northern Lights
Image (c) Magdalena Bujak
Just 300m outside Levi is a large lake that’s frozen all winter long. A short stroll from your accommodation, through the woodlands, and you’ll find yourself walking across the lake. The feeling of complete wilderness and serenity can only be topped if you’re there to witness the northern lights on a clear night.
Why not try a Finnish extreme sport while you’re at it – ice fishing? You’ll need plenty of warm clothes and a serious amount of patience (leave that watch behind) but it’s a relaxing activity and if you get a catch you’ll have something to boast about down the pub on your return.
The lake is also a great place to see the Northern Lights on a clear night due to the absence of artificial light in the vicinity and finally cross this experience off your ‘bucket list’. Head to the south side of the lake when conditions are right so that you’ll be facing north with a vast open space in front of you providing the perfect backdrop for the Northern Lights.
Visit the Tiikun Tii Pii
Image (c) tiikku.com
By far the most interesting culinary experience in the region is the Tiikun Tii Pii . This traditional Lapp hut is just one mile from the Levi city centre (a little more by car). Drop all your reservations about this being a tourist trap (so it is – so what?) and enjoy the hospitality instead.
First you’re greeted with a drink as you arrive into the cosy, fur-lined hut. Then, watch and learn as traditional meals are prepared before you – local favourites include Seljanka (nettle) soup and reindeer steak followed by Lappish cheese and flambered coffee.
Traditional storytelling never runs dry and neither do the drinks (BYO alcohol is welcome) – it’s a guaranteed good time!
Image (c) reindeerandfishing.fi
Step into Santa’s shoes on a Reindeer Safari. Wind through the snow trails in a traditional sleigh pulled by Santa’s very own reindeer. OK, they’re local reindeer, but the kids don’t have to know!
You’ll enjoy hot drinks and pastries on the ride up to the Levi Fell, from where you get sweeping views down to the town below. Don’t forget your camera (and warm clothes, of course) to record your trip.
You’ll learn plenty about the traditional lifestyle in this part of Finland and how vital reindeer still are to the community. It’s a slightly different safari to the ones you get in Africa, but there you go.
Sleep in a luxury igloo
Image (c) leviniglut.net
The Golden Crown Levin Iglut offers you the chance to spend the night in a luxury glass igloo. It’s much more comfortable than the ice version, and allows you to lie in bed watching the arctic sky – you might even be lucky enough to fall asleep under the Northern Lights.
Alternatively you can stay in the Kammi – a luxury villa partly built into the landscape with superb views. Either way, you’ll have an unforgettable time; enjoying the splendid isolation and peace of the untamed wilderness yet with all the comforts of a high-class hotel.
This unique Arctic experience is found just 10 kilometres from the busy holiday resort of Levi yet feels a world away.
Dog sled through the Arctic
Image obtained from Flickr.com under Creative Commons (c) Magic Foundry
Many local tour operators organise dog sledding safaris which again offer visitors a unique adventure. Just 10 minutes from the town in the village of Köngäs you’ll find Levi Huskypark.
There are a variety of trips available but no matter which one you choose, you’ll soon be speeding across the untouched, pristine Arctic snow in a sled pulled by pure Siberian huskies. To hear some incredible stories make sure you chat to the owner of the park who is a legend in dog sledding, Reijo Jääskeläinen who started dog sled safaris in Western Lapland more than 20 years ago.
He has won six Finnish and three Scandinavian Championships in dog sledding and four victories in the Nordic Marathon. As well as many other achievements he also completed a 700 km dog sled expedition in Greenland with Eskimo guides.