I first visited Lapland back in 2011 and promptly fell in love. If you’ve ever wanted a magical Narnia-esque winter wonderland, complete with husky dog sleigh rides, snowmobiling, sitings of the Northern Lights and extreme temperatures that have you wrapping up like a mummy, then Levi in Finland is the closest place to it. We’ve skiied, Ski-doo’d, visited the Ice Hotel and fed reindeer, and it never gets old – the vast amount of snow seems to make everyone revert back to being a child and they’ve always been fun holidays with great memories.
Anyway, since then, we’ve visited quite a few times – which is unusual as I like to go to new places – and one thing I always get asked is: ‘isn’t it really expensive?’. Well folks, the answer is no, not if you do it right. Obviously it’s never going to be a totally cheap-as-chips holiday, but there are ways you can get the price down. We’ve tried it a few ways, sometimes staying in a cabin, other times staying in a hotel. We’ve gone with friends who have children and also visited with just adults, and what’s right for one isn’t necessarily the dream holiday for another, but if you’re thinking of going, here’s a few things to keep in mind…
Everyone always thinks that to get the true festive experience you need to go before Christmas, but that’s not the case and if you go after the 25th December the price drops dramatically. We usually go in January and you can still do all the things you would before Christmas, plus the town still has all its Xmas decorations up. The kids can still see Father Christmas, the Elves Hideaway is still open and it stops the post-Xmas blues from setting in!
2 BOOK INDEPENDENTLY
The town of Levi is about 14km from Kittila airport, which makes it a great destination if you don’t want to have to travel far with kids (or big kids). We’ve always flown from London Gatwick (it takes about three-and-a-half hours) and there are several airlines that fly direct, such as Finnair and Norwegian. You can, of course, book directly through a company such as Inghams, but we’ve found the cheapest way of doing it (if you can be bothered to research a little) is to book your flights and accommodation independently. Skyscanner and Expedia are the route we normally go down. Once you’ve arrived, you can either get the bus from the airport for around £4 (but you’ll need to check the bus times coincide with your arrival time), or a taxi for about £30. It takes around 20 minutes.
The same goes for accommodation. We’ve found that going through a site such as Booking.com works out cheaper than a package deal and you also get to pick what type of accommodation you want to stay in – we’ve tried cabins, hotels and apartments and they all have different benefits. These are three of the places we’ve stayed and why we liked them:
Immelmokit cabins: these are set in a wooded area and are picture perfect. We loved that they have their own fire and it really made it feel like a special wintery holiday to be staying in a rustic cabin. The cabins are set near to a frozen lake, which we were told is the best place for spotting the Northern Lights (we’ve seen them three times now!), so it’s easy to wander out when it’s a clear night. It’s slightly longer walk into town though, so if you want to be central, there are closer places.
K5 hotel: a fab hotel that has reindeer outside in a central pen and a really nice bar for drinks. You can go half-board here too and it’s right by the town and slopes.
Levin Alppitalot: this was my favourite as the chalet was just so close to everything. We had a balcony that overlooked the main ski run, there was a communal boot room, and it was right by all the restaurants in town, so not too much walking when we were tired at the end of the day.
3 GO DIRECT TO SOURCE FOR EXCURSIONS
You can easily book your excursions through a travel operative but sometimes going direct to source is cheaper. Not for everything, but for some of them, so it’s worth checking. The Elves Hideaway, for example, costs twice as much if you book through the rep. The same with snowmobiling, which we booked direct. Husky dog sledging, on the other hand, worked out cheaper through the rep – we waited until we got to Levi, found the Inghams rep and asked if they had room on any of their trips. Sometimes if you’re an add-on for a trip they don’t have fully booked they’ll let you have it at a cheaper rate.
Not everything has to cost the earth either. Obviously skiing and snowmobiling aren’t cheap, but you can balance it out with other, more affordable activities. For example:
• Use your ski lift pass to go up to the top of the fell and walk the snowy scenic route to the hidden cafe, where you can toast sausages over a fire and drink hot berry juice while looking out on all of Levi.
• Sledging is BIG in Levi and you can get sleds from the supermarket for about £10. There’s a kids area but we tried sledging down part of the main ski run at night as it’s still floodlit – the walk up is a killer and don’t underestimate the speed you’ll go down!
• Spa Water World is at the Levi Hotel Spa in the centre of town and has something for everyone… swimming pools, indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, heated and cold plunge pools, a water slide and waterfalls. It’s 22 euros for an adult.
• You can also do bowling at the Levi Hotel Spa and at night it turns into ‘glow’ bowling! Only 10 euros a person.
4 EAT SMART
Eating out can be costly, but for us that’s all part of going on holiday. What we did the last time we went though, was to do a mix of both eating out and in to keep costs down. If there’s a big group of you and you’ve been out all day doing winter activities, you’ll no doubt be pretty tired, so staying in with a home-cooked meal and a glass (or two) of vino can be the perfect end to a busy day. Alcohol tends to be quite expensive in Finland so we actually took a few boxes of wine with us in our suitcases, which sounds odd but was actually a really good shout for the nights in.
When you are eating out though, here’s a few places I’d recommend:
Northern Cowboy is a Mexican restaurant that’s great for tacos and tequila.
Restaurant Pihvipirtti does great reindeer steaks for anyone that can bring themselves to try them.
King Crab House does good fish and seafood.
There’s also a really cheap pizza place in town that I can’t remember the name of, but it’s delicious and quick!
So, that’s about it except for a few other bits of advice. Firstly, take good thermals – the temperatures can drop to well below -20 and it’s worth investing in some good under layers to keep you snug or hiring a thermal suit when you’re out there. Although a snow holiday doesn’t appeal to lots of people, I’m usually so wrapped up that I’ve never felt cold, although you do notice when you go indoors and get wet cheeks that your eyelashes must have frozen!
Secondly, remember there’s limited daylight in Finland and you often get a gorgeous pinky glow – photo-taking is a must as the scenery is so incredibly beautiful.
The skiing is limited as it’s a fell rather than a mountain, but there are so many other activities you’ll never get bored. Horse riding, ice fishing, snowshoeing, the Snow Village, reindeer rides and night safaris, the list is endless.
Until next time beautiful Levi…