Snow, Ice and... northern lights
As winter sets in, embrace the cold with a bit of Nordic know-how. A short break to Sweden, Finland or Iceland to see the northern lights will see you celebrating the season in style. And it’s not only the excursions out into sparkling white landscapes that are thrilling – the hotels will also take your breath away. Eleanor Lawrence introduces the cream of quirky luxe that will leave you wishing for winter year-round.
Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, Finland
You won’t miss a single opportunity to spot the northern lights if you stay here – accommodation is in glass igloos, allowing you to see up into the night sky as you keep cosy in bed! There are also snow igloos, log cabins and kammi, or earth lodges, which are concealed beneath turf roofs. In true Finnish style, many of the cabins offer the added bonus of a sauna.
Situated 250km north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, in midwinter the land here is bathed in a soft, magical glow while the blankets of snow create a soothing silence. Discover this ethereal landscape on reindeer or husky safaris, take a sleigh ride drawn by horses, embark on an adventure in the snow tank or even cruise out into the Bay of Bothnia on an icebreaker. Nocturnal quests in search of the northern lights are a highlight, but if you feel the need to reach even closer to the Arctic sky then the 30-metre-high Glass Igloo Tower will be opening in 2017, offering spectacular views of the surrounding wilderness.
Do you still think about that tree house you had as a child? Do you wish you could crawl back into it and escape everyday adult life? If so, Treehotel in the north-east of Sweden is for you. Accessed via ramps, bridges or stairs, the innovative ‘treerooms’ come in all sorts of shapes and sizes: The Cabin, The UFO, The Bird’s Nest, The Mirrorcube, The Dragonfly and the Blue Cone (which is red). All peek through the tall pines to views of Lule river.
And if the rooms aren’t enough fun for you, get out into the surrounding wilderness on a range of inventive excursions. Have a go at skijoring (horse-pulled skiing – good balance is helpful on this one), explore the snowy forests and fields on a Fatbike, snowshoes, dog sled or even a Segway, and visit the reindeer pastures of a Sami family and enjoy a typical Sami lunch. Finish the day with a soak in a wood-fired bathtub amid the trees and dine on a frozen lake, lit up by candles, the stars up above and, with any luck, the northern lights.
ION Luxury Adventure Hotel, Iceland
Hunker down in ION, a refuge of comfort and warmth surrounded by barren mountains and knobbly Icelandic lava fields. This alien form on the landscape somehow blends seamlessly with the environment. The interiors are large, light and airy with huge windows that let the outside in. Furnishings are simple but of the highest quality and environmentally friendly wherever possible. Invigorating natural spa treatments will leave you feeling at one with the world while the restaurant serves seasonal, sustainable Icelandic fare. In short, everything has been designed with an eye towards harmonising with Mother Nature.
A stay here will leave you refreshed for daily outdoor adventures: challenge yourself with a hike across a glacier, visit the bubbling hot springs and spurting geysers of the Golden Circle, take an Eco Super Jeep tour to active volcanoes, fly over the landscape in a helicopter for stunning aerial views or drive out to deserted spots free of light pollution for a glimpse of the northern lights.
If you’re after a winter wonderland, but one with adult sophistication, then look no further. First created in 1989, this was the very first snow and ice hotel in the world, and every year it’s reborn again. Specially selected artists, chosen from around the world for the originality of their designs, create a wondrous ice installation using ‘snice’ (snow and ice) from the River Torne. In the spring the structure melts back into the river and magically disappears, as if it never existed. Apart from the ice rooms, there is also warm accommodation in rustic chalets, while this winter will see the opening of ICEHOTEL 365, a permanent structure with luxury suites, an ice bar and ice gallery.
Begin your Arctic adventure from the airport itself with an airport transfer by dog sled. From there, the possibilities are endless: venture into the forests on horseback in search of moose, handle your own reindeer sled and slide out into the wilderness, learn how to capture the northern lights on camera and try your own hand at ice sculpting (just a shame that you can’t take your finished artwork home with you).