Simon has recently returned from a truly incredible FAM trip to Finnish Lapland hosted by our DMC partner Arctic Incentives, a division of Lapland Safaris – the leading provider of activities and safaris in Lapland. Lapland Safaris is headquartered in Rovaniemi and they also have offices in Levi, Yllas, Saariselka, Luosto and Lainio. They own several hotels across Lapland and also the amazing Lainio Snow Village located close to Kittila and Levi in Northern Lapland.
We flew with Finn Air via Helsinki to Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland. Door to door a journey time of just 5h 15mins including the lay over at Helsinki airport which was 1 hour. Helsinki airport is very modern and a first-class operation with computerized immigration booths meaning we were processed through security very quickly. Our flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi departed from the same Terminal building and we only had a very short wait to board our connecting flight. Honestly, it’s the most straightforward connection I’ve ever experienced, changing planes is a breeze.
On arrival in Rovaniemi we were greeted by our fun and charismatic colleague and host Mikael Rissanen, Sales Manager for Arctic Incentives. Once we collected our essential snow suits and boots from the Lapland Safaris office (temperatures reached nearly -30C during our stay!), we transferred to Bears Den, a luxury lodge in the wilderness, 30 minutes drive from the city. The lodge was ours privately for the evening (it can host groups up to approx. 40 pax). We were greeted with a roaring log fire, drinks and canapés before we donned our gowns and headed for a group sauna – the ultimate ice-breaker for our group (if you’ll excuse the pun!). We all got super hot in the sauna (with our swimmers on I might add, the Finns don’t wear anything!) then dashed to the nearby lake which has a hole cut in the ice with a ladder – we each plunged in up to our necks and out again before dashing back in the sauna in fits of laughter! Sauna is a Finnish tradition and the hot/cold experience is apparently good for the circulation. Well, it was good for a laugh for us, and certainly an experience we will never forget!
We stayed 2 nights in Rovaniemi at the Santa Claus Hotel, a leading hotel for groups in the city. On our first day we visited the Reindeer Farm and Husky Camp, experiencing reindeer sleigh rides and a 1.5 hour husky excursion which for some was the highlight of the trip. These amazing animals love their work and there is nothing quite like having a pack of 6 dogs pull you along a track in the wilderness, the scenery was stunning and another unforgettable experience.
We visited some key hotels and venues in Rovaniemi including the Arctic Light Hotel, which has 57 bespoke guest rooms, it’s the top choice for incentive groups. It gets booked up well in advance so a good lead time is required to secure rooms. We had our photo taken with THE Father Christmas at Santa Claus Village (of course!) and then had an enchanting experience at Santamus Restaurant in the village. This is a venue created by a well renowned and hugely talented Finnish musician, Matti Korva. With an indoor forest setting, river running through the restaurant and accompanying bird song music it makes for a unique and calming atmosphere for a dining experience. Matti greeted us with a musical performance that blew us away. The culmination of our visit was seeing our photos projected onto a waterfall in the restaurant which was very moving!
On Day 2 we visited the Arctic Snow Hotel located 30 minutes from Rovaniemi, here you can find the much acclaimed glass igloos, a popular experience for incentives groups enabling night sky views and a unique way to watch the Northern Lights. Or you can stay in the Snow Hotel itself which offers a wide range of different accommodation options and dining options for groups up to 200 pax in their Ice Restaurant. We then transferred to the stunning ski resort of Levi which took about 2 hours, a chance to catch up on emails and some sleep as we had made the most of the Rovaniemi night life the evening before! After checking in at our home for the next two nights, Lapland Hotel Sirkantahti and meeting our British colleague Natalie from Lapland Safaris, we ventured out into the wilderness on a snowmobile safari which was a fantastic experience coinciding with the most beautiful sunset. That evening we had a delicious dinner at the highly acclaimed Steak House Pihvipirtti before checking out the legendary local Levi nightlife!
On our final full day it was time for another unique experience, a visit to Levi Rally Centre. After a safety briefing by Finnish Snow Rally Champion Jani Ylipahkala we all got the opportunity to drive a high performance BMW rally car around a snow circuit which was an amazing experience and huge adrenalin rush! We all had a go at three different activities in total having our laps timed. The other activities were ‘Funny Car’ with opposite steering (hilarious to watch and participate in!) and driving an ATV around snow circuit. We all loved the rally centre experience, it’s a real must for any incentive group!
Next it was on to Lainio Snow Village. Each year around 20 million kilos of snow and 350,000 kilos of crystal clear natural ice are used to build the spectacular snow village which changes shape, size and design each year. Covering an area of approximately 20,000 sq metres the snow village consists of a snow hotel with 30 rooms and suites, Ice Restaurant, Ice Cocktail Bar, Chapel, an ice slide and a vast network of corridors featuring stunning ice art and sculptures. It’s a Finnish Lapland stunning masterpiece!
Following a site visit of Hotel Panorama which is Levi’s premium hotel, we embarked on a snowshoe excursion down Levi Fell. We had no idea how much fun this activity was going to be! With state-of-the-art snowshoes attached, we were able to walk off-piste and experience the most stunning and dramatic scenery as we made our way down the hill to Levi, often sliding on our bottoms for steep parts and on our backs for the final snow shute slide which was the source of much merriment for onlookers! Once safely down we headed straight for a local bar for our après-ski wind down.
For our final evening we dined at Restaurant Saamen Kammi, a traditional ‘earth lodge’ and one of the few true Sami restaurants in the world. With a roaring fire as the centre piece and some warming Lappish food and entertainment it made for a cosy atmosphere. We then partied into the night before our morning flight departure to LHR. We were all exhausted but exhilarated by an unforgettable few days exploring Finnish Lapland, it certainly is a very special and unique incentive destination!