• BLOG
  • Where In Finnish Lapland I Would Like To Go Right Now

    Tiina Kivelä

    That time of the year again, especially since this summer my Lapland trip sum is zero. My social media feed and WhatsApp chats have filled with pics of freshly picked cloudberries, the last rays of midnight sun, the midnight dips in the lakes by which the wood heated saunas spoil the lucky ones.  The smoked fresh water fish, endless gravel roads in between mellow height fells and in the background the silence and clean air one can only experience in Lapland…

    Yes, I miss it and the messages don’t help it. It’s the time of being homesick, and dream of good old Lapland summer trip.

    If I am lucky, I get to make it this year already. But if not, I can always dream. And I thought it would be fun to share with everybody my dream destinations and activities in Lapland for summer / early autumn season.

    Maybe you get to go there before me even. Pidä hauskaa!

    Rovaniemi

    First, to land smoothly, I would start my trip in Rovaniemi, to enjoy the best of this small yet lively urban centre of Finnish Lapland. I would take a room (with sauna) in Arctic Light Hotel and wake up the next day to the best breakfast in town. Then, I would stroll around the town and by the river. Visit Korundi and their excellent museum shop, and have a coffee break in Chocodeli.

    For lunch, I would decide between Yuca (mexican), Hostel Cafe Koti (the coziest ), Roka Street Bistro (the best truly Lappish bistro menu and the best risottos in town)  and Kauppayhtiö (for the best burgers, therefore the best for slightly hangover days).

    I would also take a walking/running/biking trip to Ounasvaara hill, the urban outdoors playground in Rovaniemi, and then roll back down for sauna (and maybe palju in Hostel Cafe Koti’s Mökki roof terrace) and after bike/hike/work drinks in either in the wintergarden of Arctic Light Hotel or Yuca again (the best margaritas).

    Finally, I would end my day with dinner in Roka Kitchen & Wine Bar or Pure Pizza, sleep the second night in Arctic Tree Hotel before the next day before continuing further; either to Hiidenkirnut (Devils churns) in Rautiosaari village, 25km off from Rovaniemi city or all the way to my original hometown Kemijärvi (on the better side of the Arctic Circle).

    Finnish Lapland Food Roka

    Pssst. If you are looking for real luxury experience in Lapland, take note of Rovaniemi based Luxury Action and their new private wilderness experience, the Octola lodge. It’s something I would do if someone else wouldn’t be doing it already. Because it’s the Lapland experience I got as a birth gift and which I am always happy to see others getting in any way they can.

     

     

    Ylläs & Pallas-Ylläs National Park

    Ylläs (Ylläs Ski Resort and Pallas-Ylläs National park) – few hours by car from Rovaniemi and with direct flights to nearby Kittilä Airport and night train to nearby Kolari – was in 2019 named as the best outdoors destination in the voting by GoExpo Fair. Mainly for their excellent mountainbiking infrastructure and development plans.

    Currently there would over 200km marked trails for mountain biking (enduro, downhill and gravel grinding) in summer and 100km in winter (fatbiking). From midsummer to end of September the Ylläs Gondola (up to 719m) would also serve especially the DH bikers and bike park is also found from the resort area.

    And for a real wilderness bike adventure, I would steer my bike to the trails in the national park (please note that only specific trails in the park are allowed for bikes) and the wilderness resorts of Harriniva Hotels & Safaris, in example Torassieppi and Jerisjärvi, in where you also find excellent restaurants with truly lappish, local delicacies.

    For sleeping well in Ylläs, I would finally like to try Aurora Estate Boutique Hotel in Ylläsjärvi.

     

    Tiina Kivelä

    Saariselkä, Urho Kekkonen National Park & Utsjoki

    Like in Ylläs and Pyhä, also in Saariselkä the neighbouring national park, in here the Urho Kekkonen National Park (UKK) is now allowing mountain biking on some of its trails. And what even better, my favourite bike tour company in Rovaniemi, RollOutdoors, has also opened their second branch in the Kiilopää wilderness resort near Saariselkä, offering rental bikes, service and guided tours on the trails of national park and around.

    The fells here aren’t too big but the magnificent wilderness and almost endless trails – many of which follow the natural reindeer paths in not so straight flowy lines – make it one of the most unique biking destinations there currently is. In here you would easily feel exactly as small, humble and enchanted as anyone experiencing wild northern nature as it’s purest form. Not many services around though, so keep your back well stocked with necessary repair and orienteering devices, as well as clothes for any weather and enough food and water for longer than expected tours.

    While the wilderness here is endless, good accommodation, restaurants and other comforting services and products you still find plenty enough in Saariselkä resort, in where also the best northern lights show
    on top of Kaunispää (=beautiful head in Finnish) waits for you, if you are in place at the right time, from late August on. And in winter, you find the longest toboggan run (lighted for the polar night) in Finland from the top of Kaunispää down to Saariselkä resort centre.

    Ps. While going as far north as to Saariselkä,  one should also consider driving a bit more up north, in example to Inari, where the center of Sami Culture, Sajos, indigenous peoples music festival Ijahis Idja and unique local culture are waiting to be explored. And if that is not enough middle of nowhere, drive to Nellim in the Russian border, and spent a night or two in the Wilderness Hotel Nellim. 

    And all the way up to Utsjoki in this direction, one would find even more wilderness, the magnificent Kevo canyon and finally the border to Norway and direct road to the Barents sea.

    Tiina Kivelä

     

    Pyhä-Luosto National Park

    This is the mountain resort and national park in Finnish Lapland I call my home resorts. Pyhätunturi (Holy Hill) and Pyhä-Luosto National Park. Here have I skied the most, hiked the most and even biked the most. Although for biking it only got better after I moved away, when some of the trails in the Pyhä-Luosto National Park were opened for mountain biking too.

    In Pyhätunturi, the skiresort/village,  you find traditional (to Lapland) log cabins and housing, a hotel, many rental cabins and apartments, few restaurants and the National park info centre Naava. And in the northern end of the national park, in Luosto, you find another quiet charming small village, tiny amethyst mine and one of the nicest old forests in Lapland.

    This is a great place for hikers, runners and bikers. For short bursts around the fells or up to the tops to see the midnight sun and enjoy great waffles with the already mentioned cloudberries (in ravintola Tsokka on top of the Pyhä fell), all day hikes over many fells – like the Noitatunturi (Witch Fell) hike to the left side fell in the pic below – or traditional two day hike (35km) hike from Pyhä to Luosto – or other way round – stopping on the way for night camping or sleeping in a wilderness hut (reservations from the national park service).

    Tiina Kivelä

     

    Currently, I have no tickets booked but after writing this… I do hope I find some time before the first snow falls on these fells. There’s something magical in Lapland which always stays with one, no matter where you go after. And the phenomenon has even a name: Lapin taika.

    Magic of Lapland.

  • Badi
  • How To Do Wellness – Frutt Lodge & Spa & Sauna

    Melchsee Switzerland 2019

    Melting the pains away – the best alpine & Finnish way – in Frutt Lodge & Spa.

    So, I’ve become a spa person. (Or maybe just old, though won’t admit anything.) A good, clean, quiet spa (and sauna – more than else a good sauna) kinda person. To balance the life well, as I’m also more frequently the runner-skier-biker semi-physical worker kinda person.

    And slowly – yet with a great intention – I have become a Swiss spa person. (Very slowly really, because Swiss spas require good Swiss budget. Which I luckily have now.)

    Finally literally even, since earlier this week  I tested the Berglauf Engelberg track (9km up – and down – with 1200m+ vertical) resulting in pretty (read very) sore legs in real need of sauna and spa. Yet first, I joined my friends on their Via Alpina multi day hike from Engelberg to Interlaken.  But since I didn’t have time for as long hike as my friends, I took the chance, skipped the Tannensee – Meiringen stage and directed my sore legs to the Melchsee-Frutt direction after a hike from Engelberg to Engstlenalp and night in the cozy, Wes Anderson’ish hotel Engtslenalp (more of which some other time). Knowing there would be a pretty good spa to try get a good cure for my pains.

    And oh boy, did it do it. Very well indeed.

    In addition to offering effective and lasting cure to my sore legs as a spa (they were like newborns on my way back home) Frutt Spa (in the Frutt Lodge & Spa complex by lake Melchsee in Central Switzerland, not far from Lucerne) also seems (read feels) to have the best Finnish sauna I have ever stepped into (funny how the Swiss seem to know very well how to do good things of wood –saunas included).

    Offering unique alpine wellness, the frutt spa pool and the saunas were topped with good wood (including the smell and carvings) and cows crazing outside the big windows opening to the lake. Lucky me (for once) also got the saunas and spa almost all to myself on this day – note how you can visit the spa as external day quest only by request, 40,- for an admission– and could walk away with mind and body relaxed, simply cured and amazed by the experience.

    Next time gonna come by bike though. And book a room. Because after sauna like this, a good sleep or easy lazy roll is way better than the long hike I did to get back home with the last lifts in the Engelberg side.

    Finnish Sauna Frutt Lodge & Spa Switzerland

    Melchsee-Frutt

    Frutt Lodge & Spa Switzerland 2019


    Where: Hotel Frutt Lodge & Spa, 1920m above sea level, Melchsee-Frutt, Switzerland (map)

    Ps. Note how a spa or hotel visit in here can be combined nicely with a multi day hiking, mountain biking or trail running tour from/to Engelberg, Meiringen or Stöckalp direction (only for a limited period in summer you can drive to Melchsee-Frutt).

    And while Frutt Lodge & Spa is a very stylish place, it’s still true to the alpine lifestyle. So, in here hiking boots and mountain bikes are better accessory choices than stilettos and Teslas.

  • Engelberg
  • Engelberg – Food & Drink Edit.

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

    Long time no stories. Sorry for that, it’s been a bit too much lately. But now, since my very nice sunny free days last weeks resulted in many nice hikes and – unfortunately – injured ankle, I have time to get on to the first top tips for Engelberg.

    And because I mainly hike (and run and ski and bike) to eat ( a lot and well), I thought it would be good to start with the best end points for nice tours in the sunny side of the Engelberg valley. Also known as the Brünni and Fürenalp side, with the south faces and sunny terraces, with great mountain views and trails for many kind of activities.

    As an extra, I’ll also tell where you get the best coffee in town. Good deal, right?

    Brunni – The Sunny Side of Engelberg

    First of all, there’s Brunnihütte at 1860m, SAC mountain hut & restaurant, which can be reached by foot, bike, skis in winter. For the not so fresh legged ones its also reachable by Brunnibahn and one additional lift from the Engelberg town. Up near the hütte, you also find easy category Via Ferrata and good hiking and other activities for the whole family. And from Brunnihütte itself you may get a bed, breakfast, lunch, dinner, beer or just cake and coffee.

    Also note it’s accessible by lift (normal ticket CHF29 one way, CHF44 return) so especially on sunny days the place and especially terrace may get crowded (for which I have a better restaurant tips below).

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

    Below Brunnihütte and a bit above the village there’s Flühmatt restaurant, my current favourite one. Accessible by foot, bike or skis in winter it offers great food and drinks and excellent terrace with great views to Titlis & co.

    Flühmatt is also fairly close to the Ristis station of Brunnibahn, yet I do recommend earning the food and drinks by hiking, biking or skiing.  From here, you may find the best Älplermagronen of the Engelberg area (haven’t tested them all but well I have tested many all over Switzerland and this was definitely the best one of one of the most iconic Swiss foods you can get) enjoyed alone as a single portion or as a shared bowl for the number of the party.

    Flühmatt Engelberg Tiina Kivelä

     

    Fürenalp – Difficult Via Ferrata & Amazing Panorama

    Moving from Brünni further on the valley to Fürenalp (1850m), yet staying in the sunny side, you can hike up past Alpenrösli and Stäfeli (offering also restaurants and cheese) in the Surenpass direction, or take the difficult category Via Ferrata all the way to the Fürenalp bahn top station and restaurant with the same name.

    From here, you may also get the Älplermagroni but also Chässchnitte aka Käseschnitte aka lots of cheese on a bread with ham and wine and egg. And of cours many kind of drinks, coffee and cake and Kaiserschmarrn, the traditional fluffy pancake dessert of the alpine region (the Kaiser- name comes from the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph 1).

    Even though also accessible directly by cable car, I really recommend first doing the hike, via ferrata or bike, and only then the food stop (to gather enough appetite for these heavy yet yummy specialities). After the well deserved break, you may then save the knees and very well fed belly taking the Fürenalpbahn down to the valley floor (payment in the valley station, CHF14 one way, CHF19,50 return, ski/hiking season pass is valid in here) or stay the night in the mountain hut.

    Engelberg Tiina Kivelä

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

    Apéro ! The Best Swiss Food Related Tradition

    The Italian Apero is known almost everywhere, but very few know that Switzerland has the similar aperitivo tradition, which I have taken to like a lot. In apéro, there’s traditionally local finger food like bread, cheese and various meats, pickled cucumbers, wine or other apéro drinks and good company gathering for the afterwork, pre dinner or just to have some snacks together. And while the traditional time is after office hours before dinner, around 5-7pm, you may also get quite similar for lunch or afternoon snack, with the names like Regionale Trockenfleischspezialitäten mit Bergkäse.

    Normally swiss apéro is best when shared, but after injuring my ankle I have also taken it as my solo event, on side of keeping my foot up and enjoying the good weather in my balcony. Unfortunately ,I have no pic of the excellent ones you find in the Swiss restaurants (in Engelberg try the one from Zum Schweizerhaus restaurant a bit outside the village centre) so you have to deal with this one from my “don’t know how long I stay in this place so no point decorating this” balcony.

    The wine and almost local mozzarella from the nearby Entlebuch biosphere were excellent though.

    Swiss Apéro

    But First & Last & In Between – Coffee

    Engelberg’s in Switzerland, but it’s also one of the most Swedish places on earth. And while Verbier is the higher class Stureplan Swedish place in Switzerland (pardon my raw characterisations), Engelberg is the hipster cousin.

    With cute Swedish boutique hotels, real skandinavian ski bums (more than one Finnish too) and Swedish owned excellent coffee roastery with cool graphics aka Roastery Engelberg.

    You may get the coffee (drinks) or beans or coffee makers (no nespresso here) from their own shop in Dorfstrasse, or spot the coffee served in local hotels and restaurants and  too homes. The latter only if you’ve been invited or have your own here though.

    Comes with climbing and skiing and other outdoors chat, like every good mountain coffee stand. Oh and Nitro Cold Brew. The best trendy thing happening to coffee right now (my own honest opinion).

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

    Tiina Kivelä Engelberg

     

    Ps. Don’t Forget The Local Bakeries

    You may have your own favourite trail snack but yet I would recommend you always check in every village your (hike/bike/run/ski/whatever) tour starts, passes or ends the local bakery (or bakeries) in addition to the restaurants and coffee stands.

    For the best bread and croissants (mandelgipfeli for me in zentralschweiz). This way everyone wins – you get a delicious local snack and the local bakery gets enough business to thrive, hopefully year round. Which kinda goes to any local product and service there is, in your hometown or favourite resort and activity destination.

    The local the better.


    Where: Engelberg (map) : Brunnihütte / Flühmatt / Fürenalp / Roastery Engelberg / Bäckerei Stöckli for the bakery