From husky rides to blissful saunas – a trip to north Finland is magical

THERE'S no feeling quite like the one you get from being pulled through the snow by a pack of six Siberian huskies.

As they weaved our wooden sled through pine trees in the Narnia-like forest, I was totally mesmerised by how surreal the landscape looked.

And by the end of our 15km trek, I’d been completely swept up in Finnish Lapland’s very special charm. 

Ski with the stars

I ARRIVED in the wilderness town of Levi armed with as many layers as I could find in my wardrobe, plus extra-fluffy socks.

We checked into the Design Hotel Levi, with its quirky art-deco styling, sitting right at the bottom of two of the area’s 43 mega ski slopes.

Serving up a ridiculously good evening spread of dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, such as sautéed wild game and lingonberry mash with pickles, it offered the perfect welcome.

Rooms have rainfall showers, Rituals toiletries and Goodio blueberry chocolate – a national delicacy, thanks to the wild Finnish berries.

Brekkie is also dreamy – think pastries galore, plus wild boar sausages cooked to order. Double rooms at the hotel cost from £185 B&B (Designhotellevi.fi).

I quickly discovered that skiing in Levi is epic, even if you’re a beginner like me.

You can hire skis at Zero Point for £35 a day, and join the ski school from £34 a day (Levi.ski).

Cross-country skiing is an even better workout FYI, so give it a go one afternoon.

Oh and keep an eye out for celebs, too – I spotted footballer Peter Crouch getting his huge boots fitted in the kit room!

Forage your feast

THAT evening we ventured further into the wilderness to our second lodging, Hotel Harriniva in Muonio.

This pad could not look more like a fairy-tale hideaway from Disney’s Frozen if it tried.

Despite its cosy alpine decor and snug drinks bar complete with board games, this stay is all about enjoying the many activities on offer outside, so forget having a TV in your room. Double rooms cost from £106 a night (Harriniva.fi).

Over the next couple of days, our guide Mari took us on some incredible Finnish experiences.

First up was ice fishing in the Muonio river, which starts in Sweden and ends in the Baltic Sea, but handily runs right past the hotel.

Try to catch grayling as you sip steaming tea from a kuksa (a traditional wooden cup). Getting a nip is much harder than you might think, but it’s still fun nonetheless. Trips cost £32 per person.

As dusk fell, we stepped inside a cute wooden hut called a kota to huddle around a huge open fire and cook creamy soup with foraged mushrooms, followed by delicious reindeer burgers with lingonberry mayonnaise – to a soundtrack of traditional Sámi singing and flute playing.

The cook your own experience costs £67 per person (Harriniva.fi).

Saunas have always been a very social space for the Fins, providing a place to chat while feeling totally immersed in the stunning nature all around you, thanks to them traditionally featuring at least one window.

So we hit the Hotel Harriniva’s new Arctic Sauna World, which uses geothermal energy to heat its five specialist saunas based on elements of earth, water, smoke and air, and had a totally blissful afternoon.

Sauna entry costs £23 per person (Harriniva.fi/en/arcticsaunaworld). Don’t forget to brave a dip in the ice lake, too, which despite being literally freezing feels so exhilarating. I’ve never slept better than I did that night!

FYI

THE winter season runs from November to May.

Flights from the UK to Kittilä, via Helsinki, take 4½ hours and cost from £205 return (Finnair.com). Levi is 30 minutes further by road.

Plan your trip at Visitfinland.com.

Ride with reindeer

AFTER the adrenalin-packed experience of husky sledding, which costs £147 per person for 21/2 hours, we visited the Reindeer Forest, a 20-minute drive from the hotel.

Reindeer sled rides cost £138 per person for 31/2 hours including lunch, and offer just as charming views but at a more docile pace.

Or you’re sans kids, I’d recommend the 30km Snowmobile Panorama Safari, from £103 per person for 2 hours.

The final treat came when Mari took us on a snow-shoeing tour to Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park in the hope of spying the magnificent Northern Lights (AKA the Aurora Borealis).

The guided tour costs £80 for 4 hours (Outdoyo.com/activity/aurora-trip-in-pallas-yllastunturi-national-park).

The excitement level was high as we began our midnight walk to see the stars and, hopefully, more. We sipped delicious hot chocolate and waited… and waited.

Sadly, the Aurora Borealis didn’t make an appearance, but my adventure was still utterly magical.

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